Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Punk rock old lady

She looks German - short blond hair, streaked to disguise the grey. With her son, who sort of looks my age, perhaps a decade younger (I'm 46 unbelievably when I think of it - don't know how I got that old). She is wearing lemon Bermuda shorts and a teeshirt of multicolours with pineapples all over it and necklaces with beads. What I'm really looking at is her makeup. Her eyes are a multi-coloured extravagance - blue nearest her eye, then orange and finally yellow up to the eyebrow. Matched with orange lipstick. It's bold. It reminds me of my punkish days in the early 90s. I miss being that bold. I used to channel a look I had seen on Siouxsie and the Banchees. I had bright pink hair at the time and had to paint my eyes so that they didn't disappear under the colourful mop. I did a blend of bright pink at the outer edge and red into the eyeline, with a long and thick black eyeline and a lot of black mascara. I thought I rocked. I was on the tube one day with my mum, crowded we were hanging onto those dangly things (remember those?) in the centre of the carriage. A Rasta man leaned over my shoulder and said to me, I don't normally like women with a lot of makeup on but if anyone challenges you, tell them you are emulating the beauty of the birds, much to his girlfriend's displeasure. I thought, yeah! That's it! My mum was just concerned about the girlfriend but we were getting off the next stop. I feel like it's time to rock the beauty of the birds again. 

Monday, 22 August 2016

West London Oddities

The flamboyance of a Worker dressed in blue pinstriped suit, colourful shirt and tie, with a handkerchief in the breast pocket. Styling this with a moustache with curled ends and a smile. 

Wealthy older man standing outside his flat, dressed for the warm weather in a black jellaba with embroidery round the neck and down the front, long stripped trousers, Birkenstocks and a shawl. His white hair and beard died coppertone orange. Couldn't decide if he might have had ginger hair originally or just likes red hair (like I do - which is why I dye mine red). 

Customers eating outside Bill's restaurant on the way to the tube. One pairing includes a woman who has brought her cat with her - it's on a harness leash, is sitting on her lap, and is one of those hairless breeds that looks sort of Siamese. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

The taste of 1978

Today at Pop's we have mostly been channelling 1978. He came down wearing his white jeans that I remember from the 70s - he sewed patches on them. And then he opened a bottle of wine he had laid down in 1978. Mostly it tasted thick and winey (not my favourite but I'm not a connoisseur).


He was cooking chicken fried steaks - comfort food from his youth. 

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Morning smiles

Getting onto the westbound circle/district line platform at Victoria for the inevitable wait for a circle line train, was greeted by a strong Jamaican accent welcoming all the lovely people, telling us to make like Bolt because the train was ready to leave. Moments later a change of staff came down including a fierce looking steely grey haired man who dragged Carl off to give him a telling off - I've told you so many times, Carl, calm your messages down

What the managers of TFL don't seem to realise is that the comedians and unique announcers bring a much needed lifted spirit to those of us trapped on the underground. 

Big up to Carl.

And at my destination there was a number 9 bus (new style route master) with the conductor riding the platform with the door open. I remember the joys of old, waiting to disembark from the old buses, hanging onto the pole in the middle of the platform, hair blowing in the wind, face like a dog with its head out the car window. Small things...

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Telephone box

It's been decades since I frequented a telephone box (I was a fairly early adopter of the mobile phone) - we used to use the one in my granny's hamlet (only facility it had, other than dilapidated stone buildings without rooves that the sheep sheltered in). 

They seem only to exist now for tourists to selfie in and for hookers to ply their wares (asses, tits, poom-pooms all decorated with stars).

Views from the escalator

Red patent leather brogues with a white sole, worn with rolled up black jeans and no socks. 

The rabbit and the bear

On a commuter tube in the morning. Victoria line to.... A woman sits tucked into the arm of a huge man, shorts and sneakers, big beard, tufty fringe standing up, puffy eyes from sleep. She is reading a book, mouth slightly ajar. She turns towards him, her teeth protrude slightly, she leans over his massive shoulder, craning to kiss his cheek, and nuzzles him with her nose. 

A rabbit and a bear. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Screenface

Lunch time Holland Park. Route through the park to Kensington High Street. Me and the builders of the neighbourhood are hanging on the benches. 

I'm noticing how many groups of people walking down there together are just face in screen. An orientalist couple. Side by side but locked in individual screens. 4 young men in shirts and chinos striding back to work (I imagine), four phones outstretched before their faces. Two boys and a girl, three phones out. I'm thinking it's crazy people have really forgotten the art of talking. They are probably texting one another.

Later another builder joins our bench. He's very polite. We start talking about the neighbourhood. I tell him I'm sorry they all have to take their breaks in the side of the street. He says they have to, to be able to smoke. Very strick rules in these fancy houses. No smoking, no swearing, no sitting.

Anyway, he tells me these people are Pokemon hunting. It's a thing apparently. It's in timeout this week and everything. Grown people. All over the place. I don't know how you catch them. Or even what they look like but I can tell you - there is definitely one near the outdoor opera at this moment. 

Monday, 18 July 2016

Snot nose

Cute children clinging to the pole in the centre of the carriage enjoying the roller-coaster-ish effect of the train lurching around on the track at high speed. The girl had a trail of green snot hanging out of each nostril. For the life of me I couldn't understand how her mother didn't notice and then I couldn't look anymore from revulsion. 

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Working in Posh Neighbourhoods

OMG they steam clean the pavements in Kensington. Who knew? It takes two men and a double ended machine. Extraordinary.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Ultimate Oxymoron

Camouflage outfit - top and pants, in the colour way of yellow and neon pink - the question in the office was - where are you going to hide in that? Look at me! Don't look at me! Hide in the 1970s maybe. Or against some graffiti... 

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Escalator

It's been a while since I had a good escalator story. But I noticed it a couple of weeks ago and checked it today. At Manor House tube station there are two old escalators flanking a middle one that has been recently renovated. At rush hour in the evening two go up (the left hand and the middle one). Previously I was standing on the left one watching people standing in the middle overtake me. The middle one must be faster. So today, and I don't know why this pleases me so much, but in the race of standing passengers on moving staircases, I chose the middle escalator and overtook 5 people spaced with two steps between each. A significant win and worth the choice, I think you'll agree. 

Friday, 24 June 2016

Fifedom of Londonium

So, now Scotland feels it is democratically unfair to make them leave the EU and so will demand another vote on leaving the United Kingdom. Couldn't we do that too - London (led by its Mayor) could also leave the UK and remain in the EU. What do we think?

Guess what? There's a petition for just that!

Because I'm not the only one who thought it. 

Rich neighbourhoods

I don't know why I'm finding it hard working in a rich neighbourhood but I am. 

This isn't just the City - fancy offices full of men and women in suits - this is a place where the wealthy live and relax. I walk around at lunch time looking for local London colour and vibrancy. I find myself annoyed with the stay-at-home mums with their perfect legs and highlights and blond children. The clean and perfect dogs. The fact that workmen on breaks sit neatly on benches in the park not a peep out of them - covered in plaster dust and being sort of outside the regular residents. I watch a cleaner sweep leaves off the front path of a mansion house wearing a bib apron, the lady of the house flittering about the magnificent front hall. The playboy Arabs letching every white girl they pass. Ladies who lunch, but do nothing else. 

It's a strange feeling working in the office and then spilling out into an adult playground. Feels sort of purposeless. 

!!!

A vote for?? We don't know. Not for strength in unity. All the Brexitiers jubilant all over the TV. Everyone on both sides saying the people have spoken. It was close. 52% vs 48%. Poke in the eye (not quite a kick in the stomach) for the caring liberalism that built the country. London (and Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Cardiff, and Scotland and Northern Iteland) vs the rest of England. How come those with the least experience of living multicultural lives have the sway? 

It feels a lot less secure this morning. I fear for the decisions that were made on the back of the last world war (welfare system, NHS, joined and stable Europe) - have we grown disillusioned with stability? 

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Bus journey

It's wet this evening. Half the tube system was broken this morning so I hopped on a bus from - a 27 bus. It took me up Kensington Church Street towards Notting Hill Gate. Past antique shops, wacky clothing boutiques and children's clothing shops. Yummy mummy Notting Hill rather than Rasta Notting Hill. Then suddenly we are in Queensway, Bayswater and Paddington. It's easy to forget how close these places are to each other.

From Paddington we snake around through Edgware until we pass Marylebone Station and join the traffic going easy on Marylebone Road.

We creep past Baker Street and Madam Tussauds. I looked for him but he wasn't there - in the 70s there was always a man selling huge 4 foot long wiggly balloons to the crowd queuing to get in. I always wanted one in the way pre-teens want things, asking if we could get one every time we passed by. Mum always refused with the excuse that he was a crook and all the ones that weren't blown up would have holes in. It was one of those helpful white lies parents use on their gullible young children - my friend Kate managed to persuade her kids that the ice cream van played its jolly tune when he had run out of ice cream! Only later did I think perhaps it was more about not wanting to find the puff to blow the damn thing up than any truth in the likelihood of everyone having a hole in it. 

Then we passed the loveliness of Regency Regent's Park. Another childhood fantasy that I would live my adult life in one of those fancy cream houses, front doorway draped in columns and friends with whom I'd run along the York stone pavements to the tune of 'old-fashioned millionaire' (there was an advert in TV at the time that played out this desired lifestyle). 

My sister, at the time, predicted that knowing me by the time I was 18 I'd have a boyfriend with an open-air car (y'know, soft top). I was 10 when she predicted this. I'm still waiting for the boyfriend with the open air car to show up (I was 46 last month). 

And then Hampstead Road, turning at the corner of Warren Street, once the windiest place in London when the landscaping didn't exist - only the huge buildings causing their very own wind tunnel which meant at times you had to cling to lampposts while waiting for the lights to change for fear of being blown away. And finally Camden Town where I alighted so that I could continue on a trajectory that at least was heading in the right direction. 




EU Referedum

So the day of reckoning is upon us. Hopefully you have voted and based it on  serious well-researched information and not exclusively media-hyped sensationalism. If not, and you are still humming and ha-ing, get yourself down to the polling station and vote according to your belly-button status. Are you an in-ny or an out-y? 

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Minor irritations

The absolute worst part of working in open plan offices is listening to other people crunching on crisps or carrots. Teeth gnashing crunchy food sets me on edge. Not sure why...

Monday, 20 June 2016

Bigger things

There are more important things to say than the anecdotes that I have been putting up. I just am not sure how I am supposed to say them. 

SH and I went to Parliament Square last Friday to pay respects to Jo Cox killed senselessly in the line of duty. An energetic dedicated MP of the mould that we would prefer all our MPs to be (of and for the people they serve rather than the clever-britches career politicians we have become accustomed to recently). The reaction has seemed very genuine - very emotional interview by Neil Kinnock on the news that was very moving. And the desire expressed by some to mix up politically on the benches for today's recall of parliament, following the suspension of campaigning for the referendum (a welcome quiet in the bleating of one side against the other). 

I don't understand why we are having a referendum - called by a Prime Minister who is now in the side of remain (why would you call it if you didn't want to leave?) - I don't think the world is a better place for holding ourselves separate. People are hankering after the times when Britain was Great (great from conquering and pillaging the countries of the empire - so not standing alone then either). I believe we should be joining together more, not splitting up. 

Most of the people I know are descendants of immigrants from one time or other. This debate has become one all about immigration - people from places with an immigrant population of less than 2% being most concerned about migration - which seems ludicrous to me - media-hyped-up fear. Those people here from other places doing jobs that British people prefer not to do for wages they won't work for. Unfounded fear and xenophobia. This country is built on the shoulders of immigrants. It's what I love about living in London - that it's a proper melting pot of people, and flavours, from all over the world where we can express our individuality in whatever way we choose (within reason). 

So I will be voting to remain IN Europe. I think there is greater strength in a union than there can be outside of it. 


Wolfgang Tillmans (photographer) statement about why he got involved in the EU Campaign http://tillmans.co.uk/

Big n Juicy on the referendum.

Hello Israel

And I don't know how come or what caused it but there has been an ENORMOUS spike in visits from Israel this last week - 11,700 visits - the first time Israel has ever made it onto the top 10 audience countries. So hello to you all! 

Wet feet

It was pouring. Have you got your umbrella he asked as they got ready to leave. I was thinking it's only two short walks either end... Looking out it was actually pouring properly and not just drizzling. She still went out in sandals. Dropped at the station. Kiss goodbye. Honked at undeservedly by irritated taxi driver. Got to the other end. Umbrella up. Still had dry feet until the last 20 metres entering the street on which she worked which slopes at a steepish downhill gradient which had turned into a river with no possible dry routes. Wet feet. It could have been fine. She just so wasn't into putting on tights and closed toes shoes in the middle of June...

Friday, 17 June 2016

Nudity

So we used to look down on people's flats from our office in Peckham and see into bedrooms. I have written about it before. Now in this office the view has been on to more obscure apartment windows. Until I noticed the long leggy limbs of a blond arranging herself in the window. Seemingly naked. After a while you could see a strip of nude-coloured skirt fabric. So not a life model. Wasn't even sure it was a girl - the body being impossibly tall and the hair really fake. But a later pose was face to the window and clearly she was a she. Skinny. In a flesh-tone underwear shoot.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Second week

More than one person has greeted me and said jokily, "that's good you've come back for a second week". It piques my old interest about how come they haven't been able to keep a person in my position for terribly long. 

On the tube a lot more. More due to, fewer changes, quicker journey. I get a seat and read. Today a man is standing over me talking to his mate about the Victoria  Line, video shoots, styling the shoot and getting coffee before their meeting. He is a neurotic. Even standing he can't be still and shakes his leg persistently so that his whole self is in a perpetual jiggle, his change tinking hurriedly in his track suit bottom pocket. He sits down at Warren Street until the female voice announces the next station will be Oxford Circus, and when we arrive they get off. Dragging after themselves a smell of sort of milk and biscuits. 

Friday, 10 June 2016

Week one

Been exhausted by the newness of it all. Similar process, protocols, types of people but somehow the unfamiliar and understanding dynamics and relationships and behaviours really takes it out of you. It's the change of pace that is proving most difficult to turn down. I hadn't realised how fast my working life was going before. Still I hope I'm making a good enough impression...

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Its different here

Gone are the tiny import/export businesses, cacophony of hair and nail salons and mixture of whole food cafes and greasy spoons. In its place there are extremely expensive apartment blocks, houses in tasteful shades of cream or white with bay tree sentries and red geraniums. Mercedes, Porsche and Ferrari are parked along the street. Boutiques for chandeliers, women's lounge ware and antiques. The high street is full of medium and high end chains, far removed from the Primark and Peacocks of Peckham. Little Lagos probably continues with its hanging about, smoking, drinking lariness while I am astounded by the mass of au pairs  dragging little boys in boaters and short trousers along the road, weaving between the ladies who lunch and Botox to a point where their swollen lips and stuck fast masks give them away. A joy ride for an elderly Arab in an antique white Fiat cinquecento, whizzing down the high street with his fat cigar hanging out the window. We are not in Southwark anymore.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

New job

So I started yesterday. Most lovely is the shortened journey - a mere 50 minutes as opposed to the old hour and a half. But it's different in the West End - the tube is full of tourists and shop workers (as opposed to the bankers and business workers of the northern line) and I keep finding I am walking faster than the crowd - looking at their feet and wondering how, when wearing trainers, can the pace be so slow. I am able, in my clicky heeled sandals, to overtake an entire corridor of people on the wrong side of the staircase up to the westbound circle line at Victoria and I was never the fastest walker on the Noerthern Line. 

Friday, 20 May 2016

Last day of work

It's the last working day of an 8 week notice period that has been a bit of a marathon. I sit here in the window of a cafe watching pink blossom flurry in circles on the street in the sunshine on my last Peckham lunch hour. 

We were inspected by Ofsted this week. In my last week. It felt like all the bad karma I have developed in life flopped down on my lap - informed on Friday 13 May (my birthday). It worked out OK in the end (results are confidential) but was a very intense end to my 12 year tenure. 

But now with the marathon almost over the details of Peckham are playing over in my mind. The mass of trendy cafes that have sprung up since the overground came from shoreditch to here - there was only one over priced homemade cake cafe here when I started. Feeding the arty Hoxtonites who are moving in. Clashing culturally with little Lagos and their cloth, hair, nails, gracious and beneficial back room churches and live snails. It's definitely colourful. And I've enjoyed that aspect. 

Friday, 18 March 2016

Hearing the blues

Gradually become aware of blues music, heavy twangy electric guitar and black male voice drifting up from the street. Remember the last time I was attracted to this music enough for it to break through the concentration on the screen - it was summer,  I looked out and it was emanating from a  little two-door black hard top MG parked outside our building. I think of this car and listen to the music. I want to be in a dark bar, drinking thick whiskey, tapping my head to the strains of the music, it transports me from my office. I look out the window. There is the little black MG. An arm reaches out of the car, slams the drivers door shut, starts the engine with a roar and drives off. The silence in the room is deafening. The clock ticks. I make a coffee.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Return to Thatcher's Britain

My overwhelming memories of the endless Thatcher years were of striking teachers, striking miners, war mongering in far off places and abject poverty for a growing underclass living in cardboard cities that spread out from the centre across the city. 

I witness begging on my tube journey home three out of five journeys - heart wrenching stories from a variety of people needing hostels and food. In the morning a different kind of begging - sellers of packs of tissues to feed themselves and their children. Equally heart wrenching. A recent trip to see the London Lumiere on some of the coldest nights of the year - homelessness like the 80s in doorways along the strand and all over the West End. We came across a soup kitchen with a queue of people going round the corner being given food just off the strand. Regular beggers at all the stations I use, even in the outer areas. 

It didn't take long for the carelessness of Tories to take hold again. 

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Locked

Unusually a gridlock at the end of my street - cars from both side roads bullying their way into traffic on opposite sides of the road, lines of cars on the through road stuck behind buses trying to pass one another. 

White van drives up to the stuck traffic on my road. His frustration overflows. He honks loudly for a long time then smacks his steering wheel.
"You fucking imbeciles - couldn't fucking wait, had to push through and NOW look at you - gridlocked. Absolute. Fucking. Assholes."

In the middle of the gridlock school children spill out of cars trapped at 8.45 to finish their journies on foot (I do always wonder why they aren't walking anyway - we had to and were probably fitter for it). A tiny space is inched as the traffic lights onto the main road far down the street go red once more and white van joins the queue towards it. Walking I reach the main road far in advance of the cars in the gridlock. 

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Lumiere London 2016












Thursday, 14 January 2016

Trafalgar Square

Coldest night of the year. "Meet me in Trafalgar Square at 6.30. Dress warmly."
He panics as the phone loses power. "Go somewhere wait for me. Tell me where you are. Maybe order something." She looks around. Decides.
"Bottom of Trafalgar Square. 4 lions around Nelson column. South west facing lion - looks at cafe Nero - I'm in there. It's the road that goes towards Piccadilly."
She drinks hot chocolate. Thick and warm. Bought from a Barista who made the drinks and transferred the payment to his on-shift-coming colleague. "The señora had a grande and the señorita had a small." The new colleague tried to charge the señorita for both drinks until she said they weren't together.
She sat in the window waiting and warming her fingers. Watching the traffic wend it's way round Trafalgar Square and the crowd gathering to see the exhibits of the London Lumiere. Plastic bottles in the fountain

Monday, 11 January 2016

David Bowie RIP

Absolutely shocked and strangely devastated by this news. It's making my stomach upset... Maybe we never expected such a weird oddity to age (although we occasionally saw him older) or be anywhere close to death, or other mortal worldly states. 

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Belated Happy New Year

Been back at work for two manic days - full of enrolling students and left over building maintenance from last term. 

But in the most welcomed time off I have had for an age, we did have a rather marvellous time and I forgot to say Happy New Year to the world at large. 

Best present to ourselves was a new mattress which made getting out of bed increasingly difficult - didn't surface at all on New Years Day following the celebrations at two parties - getting home at 4.30am after the panther secretly threw up - far too generous portions of rum given on the final lap. I didn't manage to drink most of mine after being commandeered to dance with a talk skinny woman who was trying to attract the attention of her partner by engaging in some girl on girl play (dancing mainly, and I seem to remember some forehead pressing and fierce staring)... 

Back from the weird and wonderfulness  of a Christmas period wholly played out at other people's parties where the only pressure was to be pretty and entertaining (I made the panther a necktie that matched the dress I made myself - in a sort of bronze fabric - appropriately shiny for the season - a Christmas bauble of a dress). It's all back to normality. Colder, but with lengthening days. 

Happy 2016. 

Eyebrows

As a fan of the eyebrow (I have been known to fall for a person on the strength of their eyebrows alone) I am having an anti-reaction to the fad of the heavily drawn on version sported by some women in recent months - those which are not just filling in the blond or patchy versions but are fiercely drawn with a high arch and squared off inner eye ends that give a sort of Cruella De Ville fakeness to the face. It comes after the fierce pluck fad where natural eyebrows were plucked to within a millimetre of their lives, and goes with the over-groomed male eyebrow in attraction terms - i.e. most unattractive in their fakeness and particular trying-too-hard style. I blame celebrity adoration for this live of all things fake - hair extensions, collagen lips, fake nails, drawn on brows, coloured contact lenses. Cheap versions of all these things add to the plastic-fantastic looks of women at the moment. Kim Khardasian has a lot to answer for. 

Friday, 11 December 2015

Ann Veronica Janssens - States of Mind

 

So into a room filled with carbon dioxide vapour, so thick you couldn't see past about 30cms from your face. Totally lost instantly. No idea of size of space. Walk around hands out in front of you because you suddenly can't sense the space at all. People loom out of the mist into your tiny sphere of vision and disappear back again. Hear voices. See no one. Ghosts and shadows materialise into human forms. The mist has coloured light through it, as you move round the room the colours blend and merge. And then hit a wall, can inch round the room to the exit.

At the Wellcome Institute until 3 January.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Frances Ross Duncan



29 July 1943 to 10 December 1995
20 years ago today. 

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Over- emotional

Having an attack of over-emotionality that I can't exactly explain. Two huge tears crept out when I was reading about a couple who had twins the first one of which died at birth due to a defect they had but they donated her organs. Then this evening a man stood in the carriage and made a speech about going to dalston to stay in a hostel and he'd appreciate any contributions including left over food and I got a lump in my throat thinking about him and humanity. My paper is open on the pages about Cameron calling to be allowed to start bombing Syria. Bomb them before they do us - never minding about the kind of retaliation that could bring down on us. Fight them in that country when the threat to us is more than likely already living amongst us here now.