Saturday, 28 February 2004

Dinner in Hackney

On the Way There

So the bus conductress wouldn't allow me to sit on the only empty double seat on the 38 because she was kneeling on it. Dismissively she waved towards other free seats telling me there are plenty other places to sit when I asked her if I could sit down. So I dutifully went and sat next to someone else and then resented being asked for my bus fare cos I'd gotten into one of those stroppy child's moods.


Then when I got off the bus on Lower Clapton Road a car had pulled up to a junction and everyone had gotten out, turned the lights and car off and left it sitting at the junction in the middle of the road. Cars behind beeped to no avail.
The Rastas were having some kind of do at the Round Chapel Community Centre.
A man drove backwards up the road while accelerating quickly causing the backend to be slightly out of control.

On the Way Home

"So did you prefer the cereal we had this time to the one we had last time...?"

Four bright-eyed slick young men strolling up Stoke Newington High Road spied some girls they knew on the top deck. They were signalling: its late, why aren't you at home? The girls were shouting back excitedly: we're getting off at the next stop. The boys won in the cool stakes by miles.

Thursday, 26 February 2004

What's Cooler than Cool - Ice Cold

Tonight is cold in that ice-in-the-air way that hurts the insides of your nose and makes your eyes water. The pavements are freezing and my temperate-city soled shoes are doing nothing to keep my feet warm.

It was a beautiful day, at least it looked like it when I snatched a glance of the sky while looking up from my puter screen. It reminded me of a winter I spent in Wisconsin. I was working with a friend of my father's at the University of Wisconsin Zoological Museum labelling skeletons for a living. I spent my lunch hour playing Uno with scientists and workers from other departments in the basement. I ate the same sandwich every day for six months because the sandwich bar experience was a frantic one and I always got to the front of the queue too quickly to change my order - in the name of super efficiency I just never had time to reconsider the answers to the questions they would bark at me from behind the counter. In the afternoon I would sometimes sneak off to sit in the students study hall just to watch some people my own age, drink hot chocolate and play the jukebox - I liked to hear White Riot, Pretty Vacant (old, nostalgic, reminded me of home) but it was the hey day of Green Day and Hole so we listened to them as well. I learned that if you're a meat eater its a bad idea to reheat hamburgers in the microwave because they tend to decrease in size by two-thirds and come out floating in a pool of fat (totally grossed me out - was quite a few years into my vegetarianism by then).

So anyway, Wisconsin in the winter is more freezing than this. It got cold around November and never warmed up before I left in March. But it was bearable because of the clear blue cloudless skies that allowed the sun to shine. It was nice to sit for a moment in the sun letting the feeble rays warm your eyelids.

I suppose I should mention the snow. Wisconsinites love the snow. It beautifies the landscape (and it does really it does). But I'm from a temperate climate. The joy of snow wears off very quickly. And although I wasn't expected to actually do it, the whole turn the car engine on, scrape the windscreen, clear the drive and sidewalk before 6.30 every winter morning made me grumpy.

Its been very dry and freezing here and I was suprised to see a frozen stream of water sparkling in the gutter on the way up my street.

Wednesday, 25 February 2004

Harriet's Pearls of Wisdom

I keep being reminded of these gross generalisations and flamboyant exaggerations by HS and Bails. And I would like to point out at this moment in time that just because I said them at the time doesn't mean that a. I believe them or b. they are true. However they always sort of make sense at the moment they leave my mouth even though they are largely picked to death once uttered.

The three of us were on the razz one night, the two of them complaining about their inability to meet men - oh where have all the decent men gone, where do the 35-40 year olds drink, etc etc.

I butt in, "Where you two are going wrong is polo necks." HS and Bails look at each other, look at me. (Its winter. They are both wearing polo necks. I on the other hand being the owner of an ample bosom can't get on with polo necks - too much shelf-ing of the chest and can't bear that itching round the neck that I get after a couple of hours - am wearing a sweater with a deep cut v-neck). "If you want to attract a man you need a neckline. Show some flesh."

At which point I realise they are staring at me open mouthed and then erupt into a heated discussion about this little piece of advice. I have to say my most convincing evidence is in the combined fact that I don't own any polo necks but do have the boyfiend, they, on the other hand, have a penchant for polo necks and are both single. Proof? I'm convinced.

While this interchange actually happened a little while ago, I was just speaking to HS about her trip to Paris and she happened to mention the fact that she had been on the Eurostar and spied two women in polo necks with two very nice looking men - which she thought long and hard about in the light of our discussion. I quickly had to point out that once you have bagged a boyfriend it is perfectly reasonable to wear polo necks in their company especially when the temperature is so close to freezing but you can bet your bottom dollar that they weren't wearing them when they met. I think my theory stands.

Tuesday, 24 February 2004

Monday's Life Class

We went back to the basement today - red linoleum floor, low ceiling, no natural daylight. The model was posed and one of the lights blew so we had to concentrate on shadows - there was no choice. I got arm ache from rubbing all the darkness into the paper.

Candid Arts Trust: open access sessions and more formal taught courses in both life drawing and painting. Behind Angel tube, Islington - first left down City Road. Contact: The Candid Arts Trust, 3 Torrens Street, London EC1V 1NQ, Tel: 020 7837 4237.

Monday, 23 February 2004

Sun Setting

Hey its not quite dark yet and its half past 5! Days are definitely lengthening. Hurray!

Sunday, 22 February 2004

Crouch End Crawl

I launched myself unwillingly out into the chill of night having not ventured out all day. Drinking in Crouch End preceded by a lining of the stomach in Mazgels. In the restaurant we sat next to a couple who we took to have been mother and son - he was good looking in a well groomed, manicured kind of way, she was a good 20 years older than him. He reached out and stroked her on the chin lovingly, told her she didn't look her age at all, and ordered 5 mussels each for starters. Aunt? Boyfriend, escort, toyboy? We couldn't figure it out. And over AL's other shoulder was an ugly painting of what appeared to be a penis and balls with antlers that turned out to be a woman with a large behind and a very long back (glass of wine went straight to my head, obviously). AL complained of lacking focus due to drinking too much water (I've heard some excuses).

So having planned the route in advance we headed off to Rocco's. A church converted to a bar (as they are fond of doing these days). We walked up to the door looked in at the roomful of women sitting in sofas against the walls and the one man at the bar in the centre and decided not to go in.

Next stop All Bar One (boring I know but apparently according to my Heat reading friend this is the place in Crouch End where the most C-list celebrity spotting is done (not that there were any in here today, not, of course, that we would have been looking in the first place).

From there quick cross of the street into the refurbed King's Head. Refurbed into a seventies living room complete with curtain room dividers, brown walls, geometric wall paper and japanese flower arrangements of blossom. Heavingly packed. Stood at the bar for 10 minutes while the wall of punters in front of us didn't go down at all and then ditched the joint. Nice atmosphere though.

Ice. We stayed for a drink. It was practically empty. Everyone of was obviously in the Kings Head. Finally ended up in Mono's which was also empty but by that point it was too late to go anywhere else. And the drinks were long and the stools were empty.

Friday, 20 February 2004

A Swan

My office windows are rectangular, long in the vertical and high up. I see three quarters sky to a quarter rooftops. Today's bitter snow-filled clouds are passing right to left as is usual. But unusally today I have just watched a swan fly past. I don't think I have ever seen a swan flying before, especially high in the sky like that. I worried about where it was coming from, although it looked like it was going to Finsbury Park. For some reason I was concerned that it might not have the energy to get there.

Thursday, 19 February 2004

Money moneymoneymoneymoney

(Y'know that song from Cabaret? That's the one in my head today).

I have a cold. Its in the back of my eyes and my sinuses. I'm sitting in my corner of the office being a grouch with a capital G. I've already been accused of being in the grumpy corner. I've put the pink cyclemen back on the window sill just to see if their presence in my eyeline will make me feel better.

We are careening towards the end of the financial year. I think thats an appropriate description of how I feel. I feel like I am running down a very steep hill trying to ensure my legs keep up with my head. I dream of invoices. Rubber stamps with dates and dollar signs in the eyes like a cartoon. Then I've got the hoops out to jump through - I'm practicing tossing them up to the ceiling, doing a roll, catching them and passing them over my body and stepping out backwards with pointed toes.

Ughhhhhh I HATE this time of year. (I was never fond of maths, I'm not an accountant, never wanted to be an accountant, how did I end up with this to do, whinge, moan, doesn't really require creative flair, good job the calculator has huge keys on it.....)

Wednesday, 18 February 2004

February Skies

The light below the dark grey clouds is electric in that way that makes everything crisp and bright - picked out by the sun's light but not bathed in gold rays. In the distance there is a troubled line where the dark grey meets lighter grey clouds - rain is falling over there. It makes it seem dryer than dry over here. Everything is still as can be. Trees point up towards the sky without waving, their branches and trunks green and amazingly orange brown. Its the calm before the storm. We will be lucky if there isn't a downpour any minute.

Tuesday, 17 February 2004

Hoodie Youth

I was following a hooded youth across the footbridge on my way home in the drizzle this evening. He had perfected the affected walk of Flash Harry from Belles of St Trinians. Flash Harry's theme tune played in my head. He was a nervy boy and kept turning round to look behind him and then scurrying on his way, his hands dug deep in his pockets. Very Flash Harry. All he needed was a trilby hat and a long hide-anything-coat and he could've walked onto the set.
The Eyebrow

I'm letting my eyebrows grow. I've had a bald patch in one of them for ages now (years even maybe) - its not that I've plucked them to death but there was once a long stray eyebrow hair that pointed the wrong direction and in fear of getting grandad's overgrown hairy catapillars I plucked it out. Shockingly it left a gap. So I'm not letting myself pluck at all until the gap is grown over. I'm quite pleased with myself because I'm going about looking not quite as kempt as ususal. The gap is closing. Slowly. I'm even coping the the stray hair pointing the wrong direction. Its best not to look at myself in the mirror with my glasses on!

I love eyebrows. I can fall in love with someone just for them.

Monday, 16 February 2004

Monday's Life Class

So having lived through the weekend, staying in bed all Sunday, I found amazingly that I had some fluidity today. Wasn't drawing exactly what I saw but let it all go loose and didn't worry whether I was doing hands and feet or following the instructions to the letter. Did enjoy the session though which makes a change from the last few weeks. There are still too many people at class - not enough room between boards to swing a cat let alone stand back and look at the drawing progressing, but still.

Candid Arts Trust: open access sessions and more formal taught courses in both life drawing and painting. Behind Angel tube, Islington - first left down City Road. Contact: The Candid Arts Trust, 3 Torrens Street, London EC1V 1NQ, Tel: 020 7837 4237.

Sunday, 15 February 2004

A Walk in the Dark

I watched Lost in Translation alone this evening. Afterwards I walked through the back streets to get to Tottenham Court Road trying to avoid the saturday night out crowds. Too sad for words today. So I made a picture blog instead (sorry its been so pictoral recently, words will come back soon).

Friday, 13 February 2004

How to Make a Pair of Shoes

Mules to be exact. I have spent the last two days learning how to make a pair of shoes. This has comprised two long days and many different techniques. How I ever managed to work all day in the workshop at college now defies me. My feet ache, my legs ache, my back aches. But I do have a totally unique handmade pair of shoes to show for it.

  • Pattern choice, choice of materials, pattern cutting. Covering and finishing heel. Covering innerboards.

  • Closing - sewing lining and upper together. Attaching lining and upper to innerboard: stretching and tacking lining, glueing lining in place, moulding on toepuff, covering with upper.

  • Stretching and tacking upper. Glueing upper in place. Corking bottom.

  • Attaching sole to heel, then glueing sole to base of shoe. Nailing on heel. Glueing in sock.

  • Finally at the end of two very long days one pair of finished handmade shoes.

Course delivered by Prescott & Mackay (74 Broadway Market, London E8 4QJ). 020 7923 9450 or for more details.

Thursday, 12 February 2004

Tube Mice

I had forgotten the delights of morning tube rush hour. Standing in a crowded carriage with strangers' bodies pressing against yours at strategic points: bum to hip, arm to back, arm brushing head, breath on neck ...

The crowd decreased at Kings Cross. A mother with four special needs teenagers got on who were lacking both in spacial awareness and some balance. Toe dodging ensued.

As we travelled along one man's visible distress showed in an increasingly vigorous manifestation: first he was humming, then drumming fingers against the light as he held the pole, then rearranging his bag and coat, then slight twitching, then neck rolls, then severe twitching and watch checking, neck goes red, finally arrived at Warren Street where he got off - much to his own relief I expect.

And I can't stand those people who lean on the pole so that you can't hold onto it - its not a leaning post, its a handrail.

Finally I found a smile (it was getting to be one of those kinds of journeys where I was thanking my lucky stars that I didn't have to do this regularly anymore). The man reading the BBC Leadership Programme paper suddenly got to a chirpy tune on his walkman and started on-the-spot dancing and mime singing.

And after all that even the air of Oxford Street felt fresh and sweet.

Monday, 9 February 2004

Monday's Life Class

It seems I'm just getting worse. I think the stresses of the day were too much today (interviewing all day) and the coffee didn't help. So today only two out of the 8 drawings were worth even contemplating showing here. Still no breakthrough yet. Sigh. Looking at the first drawing again - I've made him look like he's missing an arm. And the shadow on the lower right side of his body is all a bit odd. Humph. Perhaps I need a holiday.

Candid Arts Trust: open access sessions and more formal taught courses in both life drawing and painting. Behind Angel tube, Islington - first left down City Road. Contact: The Candid Arts Trust, 3 Torrens Street, London EC1V 1NQ, Tel: 020 7837 4237.
Cappuccino Moment

Sitting drinking cappuccino made with coffee that is too strong - hard tasting coffee that offends my pathetically delicate palette - I've never been able to cope with full-on flavours like thick hard coffee, matured cheddar, blue cheese of any kind, tea stirred with iron girders, game foul or flesh.

I love the frothy milk thing about cappuccino. Its the best bit - slightly solid so you can eat it off the spoon, milky flavour full of bubbles so lighter tasting than straight milk.

I sit waiting for class wishing the coffee was a weaker blend. A woman in a wheelchair comes in. Everything in the cafe is stacked against her. The counter is over her head. The waitress has to lean over the till to deal with the money. Even the sugar is out of reach. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to be in that position.

I've had to over-sugar the coffee to make it drinkable. Its so strong it has dyed the froth medium dark brown as it hangs against the side of the cup.

I'm sitting in a part of the cafe that is a sound tunnel - the floor, walls and ceiling are all covered with pine planks. Everybody has to walk through it to the larger seating area. Its amazing which are the heavy-footed people. Worst is a very stylish beautiful young woman in a black mac and three quarter length flares whose stiletto-bound footsteps shake the table.

A woman has joined my table because there is nowhere else for her to sit. She enjoying a hot chocolate and an egg mayo sandwich. She popped the almond croissant afters into her bag guiltily for later. I think she's an academic - she's got those half-moon glasses for reading held round her neck by a chord so as not to lose them anywhere. She's reading and annotating a paper. Once she's finished the sandwich she brings the almond croissant back out. Tearing fragments off and placing them in her mouth, dusty and moist, her fingers covered in oil from the almond paste, sugar and flakes of croissant pastry. She doesn't look up at all through the whole coissant. She has the most amazing shiny hair.

There's a man across the aisle with his laptop plugged in. He has a down-turned mouth. I wonder what he'd look like if he smiled. His face would be lifted 10 years I expect. He's busy on a document of some sort, but he's not a typist. He does a version of three finger typing. 3 on one hand, 2 on the other. He uses the little finger of the right hand to put the caps lock on. I'm finding it strange that the caps lock is on that side.

And as the time clicks onto 6.48pm I have to gather my things and head off, leaving the cold dregs of the hard coffee.

Sunday, 8 February 2004

Night Sky

Its night, dark has fallen. The sky is covered with dark grey formless cloud. As I sit at the computer looking out across the street there is a gap in the terrace where the canal passes. On the next street the houses are in silhouette against an amazing pale pale greeny blue strip of sky where the clouds peter out.

Friday, 6 February 2004


Here is a fridge that is older than I am. That was bought by a couple in a department store in London where the sales rep thought they must have a family of five to need a fridge this big. A couple who had no children at all, but half the pair was american.

I came home and saw it sitting outside our house and was sad. Its old and worn out but I've known it all my life. Its history and its being chucked out.
I h8 Ikea

Last time we were there HS bought 8 Flak boxes that go with lids but they had none. Apparently at the time I said I bet its a ploy to make you have to come back again to get them when they come in later. HS wasn't convinced by my sweeping generalisation on their marketing strategy.

This time she had to go on her own (fortunately I was at work). In search of the flak box lids she found that while last time there was a stack of boxes but no lids, this time there was a stack of lids but no boxes. Who would really want the lids without the boxes? And wouldn't most people (if not absolutely everyone) want boxes with the lids?

HS is now convinced I was right. And is really really annoyed by this marketing ploy. They won't even let you advance order the missing part and have it delivered. In fact we can't really understand why they don't open an online ordering system.

She's got middle class junkie chic - bleached blond hair, not washed today, the back is stringy with grease and the roots are showing through. She's wearing a fake fur leopard print coat that matches her hair. And she's doing her face as we go along. Old green clinique compact containing a shade too dark for her to give herself colour, a sponge so old its full of powder in that cakey way they get. Red lips. Perhaps that tart chic instead.

Wednesday, 4 February 2004


My head was full of many things. I took a bus ride to let them run through.

A young man got on at Albany Street. He knotted his vertically striped scarf in the 90s way of two ends fed through the loop end. He looked like a student. I always wanted to live in the cream houses round the edge of Regent's Park. Wide pavements of flagstones, smooth and beautiful. Looking out over peaceful landscaped gardens.

I love to walk in the park from Regent's Canal to Great Portland Street. Especially in the rain with a large black umbrella. Like a Renoir painting. Grand days of pursuits before leisure and hobbies like shopping.

You smoked a cigar and looked pleased as punch rolling it in your fingers and puffing on it like a fat cat. Afterwards we walked - through to Covent Garden and Leicester Square, down Lower Regent Street. Searching for excitement as all the places chucked out. Eventually ending up in St James' Park and paddled under a weeping willow.

Today is a day when I used to go driving. Sitting in the car listening to music worth driving to, touring the city - empty streets of Smithfield, Moorgate and Bank. Bridges. Roundabouts. In the early hours. Just driving. Today I've got the itchy feet of the bored. Good day for the long open roads of California, deserts, wide skies and nobody.

And finally when my head is empty I sit on a bus going home. Passing the familiar. Just looking without thinking. Someone peels an orange and eats it. It smells lovely, citric and fresh. A woman is asleep with her chin resting on her chest, snoring. Outside a newsagents the evening standard's grabbing headline is Murder of a Family - first pictures. Will we never tire in our quest for the sensational. I can't believe what the headline actually says. Does anyone want to see that stuff really? Bright yellow patent leather stilettos with huge black heels.

The world suddenly feels small. I must DO something this weekend.

I feel reflective in two senses - analysing situations, thinking things, and mirrored, if I reflect back the world around me it will find me invisible because all it will see is itself.
The Man and the Fat Dog

As I was crossing the pedestrian crossing at Highbury Corner today there was a elderly man having to drag his dog across the road as it dug its heels in in a classic display of obstinance. The green man was flashing, the cars were threatening to start moving off, the dog didn't want to cross the street. It was one of those little-ish dogs with black curly hair, fringe was over its eyes and floppy droopy ears. It was a battle of wills that was only won by the man picking it up, putting it back down and pushing it on its way. I laughed!

Tuesday, 3 February 2004

The Birds

On the way to work this morning, the day is grey, the ground is damp.

The bus goes past Finsbury Park. Part of the park is really flat and largely without trees. On Sundays lots of men (generally) play football on this bit.

There are seagulls standing around on the flats. Not just one or two but hundreds. White birds sitting against green grass. Remember the Hitchcock movie The Birds? How the birds sat on the ground all around the house (before they started coming down the chimney). Thats what it reminded me of. And as I walked from the bus stop to my office the wind caught my coat and scarf and whipped them about my person as if grabbing them. And I had to struggle to keep them around me.

Monday, 2 February 2004

Monday's Life Class

So the struggle goes on. Just can't seem to find the next level at the moment. This week we had the model who perfers to just sit there. We've drawn her a lot and I've sort of lost interest in her form. However we worked on 10minute poses until after 8 when we did a long one for the rest of the session (50mins). Concentrating on shadows. We all had to move back (which makes me draw smaller), concentrate on the shadows and get in some of the room. It at least looks plausible, even though it wasn't one of my favourite drawings. Soon (I'm hoping) I'll have another breakthrough. Getting tired of all this drawing angst!

Candid Arts Trust: open access sessions and more formal taught courses in both life drawing and painting. Behind Angel tube, Islington - first left down City Road. Contact: The Candid Arts Trust, 3 Torrens Street, London EC1V 1NQ, Tel: 020 7837 4237.
On How to Make Patterns for Shoes

Now it might seem like a hair- brained overly ambitious scheme to most people but I just wanted to have unique and original shoes made to my design when I wanted them. My mind was full of shoes from the V&A from times gone past with fabulous heels and ribbons instead of laces, black uppers with red heels and all manner of things. So I enrolled on a day course in how to make patterns for shoes which claimed would give you insight into how this is done and told you bring along examples of what you would like to make patterns of - so you could be given pointers in how to do it.

I understand the need for precision and planning because we are after all building a three dimensional function object from materials that start off flat. Having done a degree in 3-Dimensional Design I know all about making flat things into three dimensional functioning objects - I studied metals - the ultimate in this kind of magic is the art of raising by which you carefully hammer a flat circle of metal sheet into a perfectly formed bowl shape - see below my 2nd year raising project - not finished in terms of it lacks the finishing touches of patina but certainly all the raising was done.

However the process of making a pattern was laboured out over an 8 hour day. Starting with covering a last (shoe shape that you build shoes on) with masking tape and then marking it up with the hanging points from which you can draw on the design. Then after lunch transferring this masking tape off the three-dimensional last footshape and making it lye flat on a piece of paper. Now it is sometimes the nature of these types of classes - hobbyists, bored house-fraus and pre-degree arty student types but it seems none of them had spent much time wielding the types of equipment used in the art of shoe patterns - namely masking tape and scapels. I really didn't think it needed to take this long, really. We were made to design a court shoe - those types of shoes that lady lawyers wear - very simple rounded front slip-ons cut from one piece of leather. And this is what I ended up with.

Its all very nice - interesting to find out how you make a flat pattern from a three dimensional object but ultimately a totally futile exercise. All lasts are unique - so if I did bother to decide to make the shoe up I couldn't because the pattern I have is for a last that belongs to the course owners. Shoe making is a dying art and very expensive. You must buy lasts from the last makers. If you want an off-the-shelf number they have them in the factory. If you want one made to fit your foot it'll cost you dear (and this is partly why I wanted to do this). But you will need a different last for every different height and toe shape of shoe you want to make and boots are a whole other ball-game. Then you must go to the heel makers for the heels. They are supplied to fit the last. Then you attach the heel onto the sole - go to the sole makers who will make you a knife-thingy to cut as many hundred out as you want even if you only want 2. Then you need inner-soles - to keep the shoe strong - go to the inner-sole factory - they will make you another knife-thingy. Then you can cut the leather for the outer and inner sock and hopefully find someone to sew it all together for you because finding an affordable post-sewing machine is seeming more and more unlikely.

So, by mid-afternoon my ambition had been totally crushed by the reality of it all. I will never make shoes to my own design because it is just a too-expensive and long-winded exercise. And if only they had made that clear in the first instance I would have never bothered. I still have two more days to go - the making up course. Sigh. I hate dashed ambition. Its so disheartening!