Friday, 30 December 2005

All I Got for Christmas

So Christmas, holiday of great overindulgence, greed and gluttony, overspending and generosity.

The present thing was fun and then cooking up a storm went with a breeze. It was only later when that heavy stomach feeling started to set in. Not from badly cooked turkey (being a vegetarian, while I cooked it I didn't eat any), but from something else, something indeterminate (perhaps alcohol soaked currents and raisins in a variety of forms) but I have been sick as a dog since Christmas day.

On Boxing Day I had a temperature of 100.5. My eyesockets felt hot. I've been lying pathetically around my sisters house, taking up more bathroom space than is strictly fair, groaning, sipping water.

Its passed now. I'm testing out food and staying away from all things christmassy - mince pies (currenty/raisin/alcoholy), christmas cake (currenty/raisin/alcoholy), christmas pudding (currenty/raisin/alcoholy), alcohol generally, chocolate (and you know how bad that must be for me). Sigh.

Roll on the happy new year (possibly teetotal which will put a great dampner on our idea of first-footing to all my sisters friends in Cupar - I so wanted to be able to be the embarrassing sister tripping drunkenly through people's thresholds with a slurry HAPpy New Year brandishing lumps of coal and first foot gifts (tradition in this part of the world).

We've had a white post-christmas which is nice for a change. Enough for snowball fights (feeble stomach making me a poor shot and an easy target as it turned out), but not quite the right consistency for a whole snowman. And in town I'm pleased to say the young Dundonians are still running around in their shirt sleeves, bare midriffs and inappropriate footware (don't appear to own a coat between them) - glad they're not letting the side down by getting all sensible!

Saturday, 24 December 2005

Merry Christmas

Wishing merry christmas to one and all, I would have posted a very nice picture of downtown Dundee with Christmas lights and everything but I unfortunately brought the USB connector for the wrong digital camera so I can't. Sorry!

Friday, 23 December 2005

Trouser Mishaps

Bails, Amy (my sister) and I were rushing into Tescos to get the makings of Christmas dinner. Suddenly Amy let out a feeble, "I'm really I'm stuck" and Bails and I turned to find her with her flared trouser leg caught in the shopping trolley's wheel. Unfortunately we both collapsed into hysterics, unable to assist in any way until the tears subsided, by which point Amy was more than a little cross with us for just standing there but her plight had been seen by the trolley-man who came rushing to her rescue, "there's nothin' fur it, you'll have to tek your troosers off". Her face went pale for a moment until she realised he was joking. She is persistently telling us off for just standing there, we are mercilessly teasing her about flappy trouser legs and trolley wheels.

Thursday, 22 December 2005

Christmas Travel Chaos

Travelling at anytime is stressful but at Christmas there's the added pressure that everyone else is doing the same. GNER to Dundee. Too many bags to carry easily (Christmas presents can take up a lot of extra space).

My seat booking was printed off a fast ticket machine that was in need of a new ribbon and it was impossible to quite make out the number accurately but I thought it said 34A in coach B. When I got there the seat was actually booked from Peterborough to Dundee. I sat there anyway. All around people couldn't find unreserved seats, couldn't fit their luggage into the meagre racks, or crush their plastic bags, rucksacks and coats into the overhead storage.

Arriving into Peterborough the family withe the actual booking for my seat arrived. Since there were four of them and one of me, I was left seatless. Throwing myself on the mercy of the conductor he had me sit in another empty seat. Until the person arrived who's seat it was (the crush from Peterborough had a hard job getting themselves seated), so he told me to sit in the last empty seat on the carriage. As I sat down the seat owner arrived.

Throwing up his arms he took my baggage and said, "you're coming with me". Gathering up all my gubbins, wishing everyone a merry christmas we set off. Through all the carriages, past disapproving eyes and baggage stacked to bursting, at the doors, in the aisles (much to the conductor's disapproval - health & safety), past the snowboarders standing for the duration, past the man smoking out the open window (on a no-smoking train). Past the restuarant car currently serving first class customers (blue blazers and ladies in red lipstick with maggie thatcher handbags). And finally desposited me in first class.

He put my large suitcase into the ample luggage rack, and left me, refusing a tip but showered with thanks, to sit with the rich folks and the business people (a first class ticket somewhere in the region of £300 for the same journey as I took for £95). Quiet. Far removed from the throng, chaos and cattle herdiness of the economy journey. Here people were reading their complimentary Times newspapers, doing work on their laptops with their complementary cups of tea.

Rich men wear flat fronted navy chords for casuals, or neat jeans with blue sweaters over shirts. No tracksuits. No baggies. No teeshirts.

The stewards bring sandwiches from the buffet car and are endlessly attentive. Free water, tea, biscuits. Waiter chat.

Rather than being crushed in the seat I was free to contemplate the scenery in peace. I found myself contemplating how to never have to travel coach again.

Sunday, 18 December 2005

In Contemplation of Young Love (sort of)

She's tall and lanky standing at the bar playing provocatively with her hair. He's managing to be both laid back and attentive - nonchalantly draped across the bar but leaning in. They smoke the same cigarette. He reaches around her and draws her close.

A jazz band takes over from the DJ - slightly more mellow than what he was playing, less edge. Bails says she's liking it better - she can pretend she's in a film, set in a dark (true) smoky (not terribly) drinking hole (true).

The young couple go off, home presumably, no need to continue this courtship pretence - being as how both parties are clearly very into one another.

Bails remarks she has an awful feeling she might start going through a less fussy phase if she doesn't get some action soon (its been a while).

As the jazz gets more frantic the table behind move on from their obsessive fawning (two girls, 4 chaps - the girls competitively fawning over each guy and then settle on one in particular who has to withstand wandering hands from all directions, not that he was complaining, it just didn't look like he was enjoying it that much) to amateur pornography taking camera phone pictures down the shirts of the girls. When one of the girls goes to the ladies the other reels in the catch - dragging him over to sit in the same chair as her, arms all over him, head on his shoulder. On her return the other girl knows she's lost.

Saturday, 17 December 2005

Fright Night

What started as a cheeky drink after work at the George in Borough - after-work suits crowd, gradually petering out to the desperados (single, or hard drinkers, or works-xmas do's) - ended like a scene out of From Dusk til Dawn in Belushi's. Very occassionally good for an after-everywhere-else-has-shut drink together with a cheesy 80's soundtrack. We found ourselves crushed into a corner with the place overtaken by a faux bling monstrous crowd who I was half expecting to morph into vampires any minute. After one of our party accidentally stepped on the toe of man wearing white shoes and was met with an eye stare that said if you don't apologise now I'll club you with my bottle of beer we decided it was time we slipped away and found our beds. Only then did we find we had missed our transports home by minutes and had to do that horrible thing of travelling into town in order to come back out again in the freezing cold (always forget how cold it feels at night, in winter, when you've drunk a little too much but no enough too much to obliterate all senses and the buses are on their night schedules).

Wednesday, 14 December 2005

Drawn Woman

  • Drawn lips, exaggeratedly eccentuated bow, outlined fuller than the reality, filled in with heavy colour.
  • Drawn eyebrows, sharp thin brown liquid line, arched angle in the middle. Defining a line that doesn't exist in the natural invisible blond eyebrow. No shading to soften the line.
  • Drawn line over the eyelid.
Outlined face.

Sunday, 11 December 2005

Buncefield Explosion

I woke up this morning and looked out at the strangest light. Winter trees bathed in sunlight against a black sky. I took pictures (the difference in colours is from two different cameras - the first two pictures are digital camera the third one is from my phone's camera.

It wasn't until I set off to town and the boyfiend called me saying had I heard about the blast in Hemel Hempsted. I hadn't. But across the sky where I thought it had been black rainclouds it turns out that it was smoke billowing from a massive fuel explosion.

On my way home the sunset was amazing - light catching the low hanging smoky clouds. I bet after the apocalypse the sunsets would be marvellous.

On the news the scenes were truely frightening - flames still shooting up into the sky 12 hours after the blaze had started, firefighters not able to fight the blaze due to its feriocity.

Link to image of smoke plume from space

Saturday, 10 December 2005

Christmas Tree

So I'd popped into Budgens in Crouch End because it just happened to be there at the point where I was changing buses and saved me from having to come out again to food shop after getting home. As I was packing up my bags I overheard a very irate man trying to get across to the shop assistant that he was very unhappy with the christmas tree he had purchased from them earlier. He had gotten it home and started putting it up and it was leaning. It has to be straight, it must be straight, its no good. The shop assistant mumbled something in retort. Irate man went on, it must be straight, I want another one, get me the manager. I felt sorry for the tree, lying in its trolley, still tied up with the nylon netting, being returned for its imperfections.
Martin Millar

Oh my god. I've just found the website of Martin Millar via Leopard Spagetti (having engaged in an exchange about Eccles cakes at Big n Juicy's). [See me name dropping!]

I absolutely loved his books Lux the Poet and Milk, Sulphate and Alby Starvation, back when I was reading novels for pleasure rather than academic texts for homework [note to self: must go on holiday soon so that I have time to read for fun again]. Great books starring punks and London, if I remember correctly. Pacy. Books I had to just keep reading until I got to the end, and then hit by the disappointment that they were finished.

What chance clicking!
Good Bye Routemasters

There wasn't even a model routemaster in Hamley's this evening.

Friday, 9 December 2005

Tube All the Way for a Change

Misty. Damp cold air. Breath streams visibly from the nostrils. Yellow leaves cling to the lower branches, brightness on a dull day. Over the grass in the park the mist is dense enough to be fog. Silhouettes drift out of it every once in a while as someone walks past.

A rare trip to Manor House to start my journey. Walking down into the station you can smell the renovations - drying grout from the new tiles.

Piccadilly Line people sleep while standing up. And bust in through the doors as they are closing. Different to the Northern Line people I normally travel with - far more jeans-to-work types and far fewer suits (I ride the Northern Line between Moorgate and London Bridge - the home of the City folks). Nobody is reading the Metro (in my direct line of vision anyway) - Piccadilly Line people are more bookish (and not Dan Brown either).

Changing between the Piccadilly and Northern Lines at Kings Cross I thought it could just be dress down Friday that accounts for the difference in dress. But then as I joined the Northern Line there were immediately more suits, and women in smart black trousers and high heels, or, in skirt suits, tan tights and trainers (for comfort on the way in to work). And the appearence of the camel coat. Anyone who was slightly alternative alighted at Old Street (media industries).

Thursday, 8 December 2005

The Christmas Decorations

Its that time of year when the office musters some seasonal good will and drags the decade-old decorations box out of storage. Our students all leave tomorrow. They decided today was the day to get festive. The box sat in reception, squashed tinsel hanging over the edge. Someone put together the fake tree and started hanging baubles on it - they managed about 7 before they got bored and wandered off.

I came down to put some letters in the post and was overcome by the sorry state of it all. If you're gonna do it, you have to do it right (and I have to put my horror about fake trees to one side).

Firstly, the person who took the decorations off the tree last year seemed to have grabbed everything that was stringy (bead ropes, lights, tinsel) in one go and slung it in the box all knotted up. Can't believe it. Spent probably an hour un-doing the knots and untangling the almighty mess (even had to resort to cutting the tinsel out).

Secondly, I couldn't believe people didn't know that you have to put the lights on first. Have to admit to saying so quite loudly several times. It was only after someone else randomly came by and commented that the lights should go on first that anyone paid any attention to me (I was getting quite bossy by this point).

Thirdly, I couldn't quite manage to overcome my aversion to fake trees. Really this tree must now have been missing some limbs, or something. And it doesn't have that smell. Thats really part of the joy of it. It wasn't one of those really fake ones either - made of blue something or other with fibre optic lights in the ends which flicker rhythmically - it was pretending to be a real green tree - made of bent wire and something similar to green-grocer's turfy stuff (sorry, the brain is shot to pieces with being ill and its taken me 10 minutes to remember the word for fibre optics!)

So, anyway, eventually I started to get enough on it to satisfy my own personal christmas tree decorating criteria - no "tasteful" colour theming, no leaving decorations in the box, no minimalism - and managed to cover it so much that you can hardly see the crappy fake tree underneath.

Tomorrow we start on those shiny ceiling cut-out decorations (can't stand them really but we've started so we have to finish). The building manager will have to get his ladder out.

Tuesday, 6 December 2005

Bathroom Train

Look one way - consealer on spots, rubbed in, white loose powder brushed across chin cheeks forehead, mirror examination of nose, pale pink blusher high on cheeks, one sweep across forehead, brown eyebrow pencil darkened brows.

Look the other way - yellowy eyeshadow across lids, white eyelash extender, black mascara, mirror examination of nose.

Then a girl across from me was feeling left out and had to apply shiny shiny lip gloss.

Monday, 5 December 2005

West End Cinema

Having a sudden rush of blood to the head we decided to watch a film up West (wallet screams in agony). £12 whole pounds it cost. At this kind of cost you want to know that the screen will be big enough and the seats will be comfortable. And I have to report that we tried the Apollo on Lower Regent Street for the first time since it was renovated. It had everything you could hope for in a cinema - neon lighting and a floor with ingrained sparkles, 50s decor and a bar which changed colours over time. Not crowded. Not smelling of reheated popcorn. No obnoxious youths, no obnoxious anybody in fact. Fabulous toilet facilities. And big red velvet seats with headresting room and rocking motion. New screen, good sound. Not too upset about the cost in the end.

Saturday, 3 December 2005

Pissed Politics

Some pisshead with a can of super and blue plastic bags hanging out of his coat pockets stands swaying slightly on the bus having a debate into his mobile phone, "99% of British, no English, people want hanging back. They want hanging back."

Friday, 2 December 2005

Outside Starbucks

A schlep of young boys splayed across the pavement, sloping along in converse hi-tops and baggy jeans. Laughing, drinking bottled coke - young teenagers excited to be out of school but trying to play it cool.

A sightseeing bus is empty apart from a lone woman with a video camera making one of those long jerky films of a foreign city's streets which is unlikely to be watched by anyone.

My face reflected against the street outside. Unused to my own reflection. I don't feel I look like myself. Glasses throw dark shadows across my cheeks and under my nose. My mouth turns down, which I don't remember.

Inside, a coffee cup is lifted and for a moment its reflection looks like it belongs to the cab driver sitting in traffic on the street outside.

Thursday, 1 December 2005

December the First

Can't believe we are here again so soon. Have been enjoying the weather - it reminds me of the dark, kind of dreary and yet smouldering of Bleak House. Huddling inside with woolly jumpers and the radiator. Getting into root vegetables. Drinking hot tea, well hot anything really.

Wind and rain. Falling leaves. Wet pavements. Always improves London I think. Less of the stifling, sticky, dustiness of a hot summer. Less stink.

We spent a Christmas in Paris once - it was so cold and we were walking everywhere - we'd walk from coffee shop to coffee shop (sometimes not terribly far between) drinking that liquid chocolate that they serve for hot chocolate. Thats the kind of weather I like after a warm summer. Until you start to find yourself waiting at bus stops in the middle of the night with your fingers going blue and your nose dropping off.

Wednesday, 30 November 2005

Christmas Shopping

I decided I was going to be early this year. Not for me the dashing round on Christmas Eve. Did very well in the bargain basement of Liberties during their Christmas shopping evening. 75% off. One of the gentlemen behind me in the mother of all queues, purchasing lilaq bed linen, complained that they were missing Desperate Housewives. His companion said just look around. I laughed, pretty desperate I thought (at least I thought I thought, it turned out I said because he came back with a very saucy retort about the decanter I was clutching).

Sunday, 27 November 2005

We Witnessed

15.40 341 Bus. Harringay.

An Eastern European woman got on the bus ahead of us with her daughter and sat down on the front left seat (top deck).

A middle-teenaged girl was sitting in the right front seat, and her friend came up from the back of the bus somewhere saying excuse me I was sitting there, addressing the Eastern European woman gruffly.

"Did you buy the whole bus?" was her retort.

The two girls sat across the aisle from the woman and her daughter bitching loudly about her - the cheek of it, they don't deserve to be in the country, bet they don't even have a passport, wait til they get deported back to where they came from.

Finally the woman said something back, which started a slanging match which suddenly erupted, on the girls behalf, to the point where one of them stood up and took her belt off and threatened to hit the woman's daughter with it. And the woman herself. All the while thwacking the belt on the side of the bus.

The woman said if she did that she would call the police.

And the girl said, "yeah and if they come I'll just tell them what you did."

Shamefully we sat there silent witnesses to the extreme overreaction and threatening behaviour, not quite believing what we were seeing and not quite sure what to do about it. I wish I was certain of my voice and that I could use it to tell the girls to calm down, without causing their wrath to be turned against me. I wish there was a number to call and report these kinds of things. These kinds of things and other things like pickpocketing and stuff. But its difficult to know what to do when if you call the police the perpetrators will be long gone before they arrive.

Friday, 25 November 2005

Homeward Bound

"If I had to pick the ultimate cute guy I've met since September, its got to be Theo."
"Too cute, just too cute, yeah."

There's a man on the platform who's wearing geoffy trousers. His bum is small and his front pockets bulge out on both sides from being stuffed too full. Geoff used to dart about, always late, his pocket bulges rolling over his legs from side to side.

"I love the way Matt gets his hand when he laughs and sort of hides his mouth, like he's embarrassed."
"Yes, I love that!"

Two boys bet on. Baggy jeans, cap with graffiti-style writing which still has the label handing off it in the middle. Drinking stella in tins. Their pitbull shivering in the corner.

"The whole situations with Eric. I don't know what's going to happen. I just wish we could be friends but perhaps that's not possible."

The man wiht geoffy trousers has detailed plans to be in, eating curry and watching Damon Albarn (the one out of the Gorillaz that should be a watch) on Jonathan Ross.

"Patrick..God yes, he looks hot every day."

Two men discuss the train trouble this week, leaves and cold frost slicks. Unbelievable. The trains can't run in any adverse conditions.

"I don't know where I'm going to stay that night. Maybe Nick's house, or Fyn's. Dunno. Maybe if Sara's parents are going away we could all go and stay there..."

Arriving at London Bridge, the doors open and I leave behind the school girl's discussion. Sixth formers I reckon. Probably Dulwich Conseratoire, or something. Last of South London for another week and head off for my weekend in North London.

Wednesday, 23 November 2005

The freeFALL of George Bush

So this lands in my inbox today and ends up being quite compulsive so I had to stop from watching it for hours. Give him a little yank if he gets stuck - he'll fit through any gap. I've yet to find the bottom, if indeed there is one.

Tuesday, 22 November 2005


On the tube to Kings Cross with me today were (in direct line of vision):
  • pimple guy
  • pock mark guy
  • winter sports suntan guy
  • hat guy
  • big beardy guy
  • long leather coat guy who needs to get more zinc in his diet
  • pale green eyeshadow girl
  • pale eye-skin guy
  • "that tirade this morning" woman and her chuckling male companion
  • catching-my-eye guy
  • and security checked backpack guy
It was really quite a crush. Glad to get off.

Monday, 21 November 2005

How to Build a Crane

Not so long ago I was wondering how they build a crane when it would seem they would need one to build one. A suggestion was made which seemed plausible and was bound in fact (witnessing said crane being build counts as primary evidence I reckon). But on Saturday I think I saw another option. In order to build a crane you have a telescopic mobile crane like this:

It's attached to the back of a lorry and has feet which extend out the sides and stand on the ground like stabilizers. So that's that question tied up.

Wednesday, 16 November 2005

343 3:30

Me and a bus load of crazed school girls are riding the 343 from Nunhead to New Cross Gate. I'm downstairs with the olds and their shopping trolleys. They're upstairs going wild on the top deck, throwing each other's bags around and screaming out the window at the passing talent. Particularly a slightly older boy (probably a sixth former) in a black uniform with a natty (to steal a word from my ma's old lingo) spiked hoxton fin do. "OI sexy, love your hair" screeched from the gap in the window, squeals of laughter. Boy turns and looks up at the horde and smiles, more squeals of laughter. Me, I'm glad to get out of there with my eardrums intact.

Tuesday, 15 November 2005

Happy Birthday

To my namesake, Harriet the Tortoise, 175 today.

In the aisle on the bottom deck of the bus is a teabag, escaped from someone's shopping. It's lying flattened from being stepped on and looks like a white kite against a black sky, diamond with its string curled and its tab divided like the ribbons on a long tail.

Saturday, 12 November 2005

Spot the Difference

If anyone has the Guardian today, they might be interested in an article in the Weekend called I am a camera which is spreading the word about moblogs. If you look closely at the pictures they have printed, selected I assume from moblogs across the blogosphere, there's a picture which seemed awfully familiar to me of Rachel Whiteread's installation at the Tate Modern. Compare the picture in your paper with the picture that appeared on my moblog. Its a bit cropped from the top, but I think its the same. Can't check that though because they fail to credit, which I think is somewhat naughty and not in the spirit of blogging.

Here's a link found by Diamond Geezer (I'm trying to stop being so link-shy) about the article. And then because the middle column has been left out I've photographed it myself:

And here's the picture I took:

Wednesday, 9 November 2005

The Coldest Spots in London

Its like a venn diagram - they are either related to work, or to waiting, or to both.
  • London Bridge bus station at the stand for the 141 or 43, when closest to the actual bus stop post. The wind rustles up under your coat from below and whips your face from around St Thomas'. Very exposed because you are sort of on a platform raised above the lower street level.

  • Warren Street, well not Warren Street exactly. I used to work on Longford Street and would arrive at Warren Street tube station and have to cross Euston Road towards what was Capital Radio through a wind tunnel created by the tall buildings on either side of that long straight road. Sometimes felt like you had to cling to a lamppost waiting for the lights to change for fear of being blown away. One of the places where people had to lean at almost 45 degrees against the wind. And then on turning the corner of a building it was suddenly completely still.

  • Junction Road at Archway has some bus stops just before the lights that sit in the shadow of a huge office block with miserable shops half derelict underneath. I expect its the wind tunnel effect again but even in summer its sometimes cold here.


In the dark, carriages filled with muted yellow light hurtle along the train lines. Tower blocks with dimly lit balconies rise up of the gloom. A shadow walks along. A net curtain twitches.

Sky scrapers in Docklands bright, neon signs. Empty offices bleeding light into the night.

Ghostly pale Tower Bridge, an appartition between warehouse buildings, appears and disappears, its gold catching the moonlight.

Framed window of all-bar one. Crowded inside. A man sits drinking a beer, smoking. A woman leaning in, talks intently to his ear. He rests his forehead on the fingers of the hand holding the cigarette. Bright orange heat. My eyes readjust to the perspective - the woman belongs to a group sitting behind him. The man sits alone. In a crowded bar. Bathed in yellow light that seeps into the street. Reminds me of an Edward Hopper painting. Lonely in a crowded place.

Sunday, 6 November 2005

Favourite London Escalators

My favourite London escalators, in no particular order:
  • Level 0 to Level 2, Tate Modern. One day a boy on the first floor stood silently banging on the glass with great verve failing to attract the attention of some of his party on the up escalator, as we sailed down past him from 2 to 0.

  • Angel Tube, the long one. Because its just so long.

  • Canary Wharf. Futuristic and concrete. Feels like being in the set of a sci-fi movie.

  • Tottenham Court Road. On the one up to the ticket hall, where you travel through the arches which are mosaic'd by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi.

  • Lloyds Building. On a visit during Open House one year, we got to go up to the 5th floor and look down into their atrium. The escalators were those sort which have see-throught underneaths - I'd never seen those before.

  • Trocadero - the SEGA escalator. They're boring and normal at the bottom when you get on, leaning over to watch the nutters on that death-drop ride, coming up and up and up and up into the ceiling of the building ready to be plunged back down at great speed, their screams withering away as they hurtle past you. And then you get onto the long one which takes you past all that, through neon blue hoops. Promises so much more than it actually delivers.

Saturday, 5 November 2005

Remember, Remember the 5th of November

Fireworks on the Thames. Boom from the rockets reverberating between St Pauls and the Tate Modern across the water and through your chest. Brief but marvellous. Didn't get a sparkler though.

Cafe Valerie

Bails and I sat outside Cafe Valerie (eating cake and drinking coffee) contemplating the purpose the man had for his packet of angel wings. Costume for later? Wearing them bare-chested in Heaven. OR, a present for his daughter's 4th birthday. OR, to fulfill his angel fantasy his girlfriend would wear them while naked, rouge her nipples and prance about the bedroom for his delight. Bails felt the latter.

Then an adoring but slightly alternative couple stopped in the doorway. "D'you want to go in?" she asked. "We can go here or somewhere else," he said. She stared adoringly into his eyes, held his hand and dragged him inside. "They've only just met," remarked Bails, "Those adoring looks last about a month when you're that young, and about a week when you're older. It goes with that touching thats all electric". Sweet, I thought, and how jaded we seem.

Thursday, 3 November 2005

South to North: a journey

In the dark on the exposed platform by the station master's door, a little girl no more than 2 feet tall does a shimmy to the music playing in her head. A bit of side to side head action and a little bit of twist going down. Her dad watches for the train.

An estate agent does his patter to a non-plussed man with a record bag over his shoulder in an empty first floor apartment of a newly built block.

A fat blond labrador tied to a bicycle rack outside a corner shop barks excitedly when he catches sight of his owner turning into an aisle inside.

Through a pub window the warm golden glow of light spills out into the dark. Framed in the light a man reads a paper spread out on the table in front of him, slowly smoking a cigarette. The most enourmous spiny cactus on the windowsill beside him.
Pumpkin Lantern

Yes, the pumpkin was a gift to my niece on her birthday. Yes, it sat around on the kitchen top for easily a week. Yes, we had it on Halloween. No, I didn't feel like doing it then. Today. Today I wanted to make a pumpkin lantern. So I did. And we enjoyed it on the kitchen windowsill, yes we did.

It is important when making a pumpkin lantern to make the preparations carefully. Cut the lid off the pumpkin. Scrape out the inside stringy bit. Then spend some time scraping away at the hard pulp with a sharp edged spoon. The thinner the walls the better the glow will be. I once made a pumpkin lantern where the grooves of the pumpkin glowed orange because the walls had been scraped so thin. That was something.

Tuesday, 1 November 2005

Remember, Remember...

Its an over excitable time of year for young people (she says trying hard not to sound like those old pink-rinsed grannies). It gets dark early, there's the build up to the 5th and between the time when fireworks go on sale and actually having a real cause to set them off is Halloween.

So for a while now we've had yoofs hanging around, often with bikes for a quick get away, letting off fireworks along the ground for a horizontal display aimed at scaring bystanders. Wood Green High Road is not the place to be if you scare easily. Neither was the Tate Modern when I was there on Thursday. I'm trying not to laugh at the yoofs (their over-sized baggy tracksuits hanging off the arse end on bmx's that are too small, knees all sticking out at odd angles) while they are armed with explosives.

The joy of Halloween is the little children dressed up as ghouls and ghosties trick or treating with their parents. Sadly now gatecrashed by marauding teenagers barely in costumes threatenly approaching pedestrians and demanding treats (preferring money). Not like the Halloween I was in Madison, Wisconsin, where trick or treating was strickly 5-7pm and only at houses with pumpkin lanterns. We dressed the clapboard house's porch in cobwebs and illuminous skeletons, played spooky music and I answered the door (long black skirt, red and black hair - I wasn't in costume you understand, its just we brits are more somberly dressed) and petrified the poor children while offering them treats.

Later this week I expect the yoofs to start wandering the streets with very poorly-made Guys asking for pennies but meaning pounds so they can buy more illicit fireworks to set off in the street. And finally on Saturday we'll have the official displays, a few oohs and aahhhs and it'll be over for another year. I'm glad its a little colder today, I was thinking that Guy Fawkes Night in teeshirts wasn't really fitting with the theme. It needs a big bonfire, gloves to burn with sparklers and freezing whilst huddling in a good vantage spot on some bridge waiting for the fireworks to start in order to be truly authentic.

Sunday, 30 October 2005

Summer Time Ends

The fall-back extra hour gives us light in the morning but brings the dark prematurely. Going out at 5.00 feels like 7.00pm. Struggling to overcome that hibernation urge to snuggle deep into the duvet with the curtains drawn and a mug of hot chocolate. Outside feels slightly dazed.

The cellophane of several bunches of flowers pinned to the fence of Finsbury Park (marking the site of a death) persists long after the flowers have died and fallen out of their wrappers. A shadow of their former remembrance but still vaguely visible. Close by a lone purple flowered weed grows from a crack in the tarmac of the pavement. A man holds his toddler close to his chest under his sweatshirt which is stretched over both of them for warmth.
Unilever Series

I liked the Bruce Nauman whispering gallery thing and everyone loved the Eliasson sunshine. Kapoor's massive scale was overwhelming. The lifts used the vertical space. And of course it all began with the enormous spider and the towers.

So now we come to Rachel Whiteread - my one time lifedrawing tutor (at Middlesex Poly when doing art foundation). I've always followed her work out of interest. Loved House in Bow, Ghost and also the work that was displayed when she won the Turner Prize. While I liked Monument, the see-through upside down plinth she did for the fourth plinth at Trafalgar square, it marked the use of casting material which keeps less detail than plaster and cement. [There is something subtle and beautiful about the crisp details captured by castings done in such intricate materials (each little crack is filled by the tiny particles in the mixture).] So the fourth plinth work was much more about its invisibility, or see-throughness, but lacked the crisp edges of her previous work - and was a little reminiscent of (as someone pointed out to me) a fox's glacier mint, only lacking a polar bear.

This piece is made of casts of cardboard boxes. Cast in some white plastic-type material. Multiples of the same castings. Stacked in a number of ways across the space, chaotic and neatly, creating walkways. I liked the towering, and the vistas. But somehow was disappointed with the obvious repeats of some of the castings and again the less crispy feel of the material. Sugar cubes came to mind. But I suppose that in itself - that something so big can bring to mind something of a tiny scale - is interesting. And that's kind of what I felt - it was interesting but not as awe-inspiring as some of the other exhibits. But then again I was also not feeling well, so perhaps I'll have to go back.

Lynn Barber Observer
Adrian Searle Guardian

Saturday, 29 October 2005

Salisbury Friday Night

Crowded bar, all the nooks and crannies filled with the weird and wonderful of Harringay (2 rs and an a to differentiate it from the borough).

The band is resting. A woman, who may be a man (they're in the back room a bit far away from me so I can't quite see), wearing a silver sequined frock and feathers in her hair takes up a guitar looking uncomfortably restricted by the tight long skirt. Singer in a long red dress coughs slightly away from mike. Silver frock strikes up first - deep resonant blues comes out. Then the red dressed singer joins in.

Like many pub bands the instruments and vocals are all competing with each other making the music rather unsubtle and noisy. Or perhaps they are used to a a larger auditorium.

Friday, 28 October 2005


I love a spin on the eye. Not really a spin, a revolve. I love to see London expanding as you slowly move up over it. Love the river bending in a way you don't notice when you walk along its edge. Love the sky over the city. Love sighting the landmarks of your neighbourhood far away, and the favourites elsewhere (Post Office Tower, Battersea Power Station, Lloydds Building, Gherkin). And seeing the great buildings from above like a plan rather then just their fancy facades - amazing how far the old GLC building goes back.

Clash of Holidays

A trip to the supermarket at this time of year means having to contend with the weird clash of christmas and halloween specials. A bit like the film the Nighmare Before Christmas, where the holidays get all mixed up.

Thursday, 27 October 2005


A thought passed my wondering mind as I sat contemplating the clear blue sky, that in the future (in fact, probably not too distant future, actually those of you with children probably now) we will talk about the time when computers didn't have mice and always had a black screen with flickery green writing and you had to know a raft of commands which you typed at a c prompt. And the most exciting thing on it was pacman - a rudimentary computer game without graphics. How alien!

The eighties. There was always some 80s film where the geek got the girl in the cocktail dress with big shoulder pads and big bow on her ponytail, and they had to break into a bank or something and crack the codes on the computer which was huge and had a tiny screen. Yuppies. With big computers and gigantic mobile phones. So dated so fast.

Saturday, 22 October 2005

Sunday Drivers

I've only just noticed (because I avoid the tube like the plague outside the working week) that the weekend underground suffers from the same weekend lethargy as the roads - sunday passengers. Lacking purpose, direction and familiarity the users dawdle, splay across the corridors and fail to move swiftly away from the top of the escalators. Altogether makes a hardened-commuter's journey majorly frustrating.

Its also interesting to see the corridors full of tracksuits rather than grey suits and coats. How colourful people are on the weekend.

Thursday, 20 October 2005


I saw a play on Friday, the kind of play that urges the creative juices and at the same time makes me question what I am doing in a job that is basically about monitoring contracts leaving me feeling stifled. It was curious, mysterious, and exciting. It wasn't in a theatre and required you to wander around the 'set' making you, as the audience, part of the action.

In searching for the spelling of Proust I came across this very useful page about Russian Gymnastic terms (roll on the olympics, I'll be able to get a good handle on that sport now!).

The smell of marijuana hangs heavy in the residential back streets of Peckham on the path between work and the train station. The trail of somebody no longer there.

A mini metro screeches up the street at speed, skimming across a puddle which sprays up over the pavement. Swinging into a u-turn and racing back in the direction it came from.

Raindrops spatter on the ribbed plastic platform roof, a tinkling dribbling sound like a rainstick. A man spits noisily onto the train tracks.

The sky is dark, purple and yellow, electric, expectant. Storms coming.

Wednesday, 19 October 2005

Morning Flirt

The man, well boy(ish) face on a body which had been concentrating on upperbody workout in the gym, was wearing cream slacks and a black tee-shirt. He was giving the eye to the woman opposite him (both on the lean-against buffers on the tube). He had one arm outstretched holding the pole high, good for flexing the muscle that had purposefully been developed in the bicep. He stared hard at her, with the flicker of a smile on his face. She had auburn locks and a jean-jacket but was old. Now I don't mean that in the manner a youth would (30 passed her by a long time ago), she was middle aged, her eyes had crows feet which never smoothed out, and the greys were showing in her roots. She never noticed his intense gaze. Which was a shame, I think she'd have liked it.

Friday, 14 October 2005

Blogger Spotter Extraordinaire

A long time ago I wrote about a man typing in Tinderbox with a caps lock on the wrong side of the keyboard. Stephen from O Poor Robinson Crusoe thought it might have been him (I think it was the first time I became aware of his blog).

Today I went into Tinderbox for a coffee before meeting some friends I passed a man with curly hair, writing on his laptop. I had an extended look. He was familiar even though I didn't know him. And eventually I went over and said hello, I recollect a photograph of himself on his blog I think. And it was Stephen.

We had a conversation about blogging and the virtual community. Remarkable always that you can strike up a conversation with a stranger (in old terms) because you have read their words on the internet. It automatically makes them seem like people you know, even though you have never met. He felt that the term vertual community didn't really convey the familiarity of bloggers who read one anothers blogs, and I think he's right. There are people I know, who I barely exchange comments with but who I feel some weird sort of attachment to. There are others, who I have met who I consider to be friends. Some of whom have subsequently stopped blogging and who I miss a great deal. The uncomfortableness of being strangers is overcome because you have read a blogger's words.

Then we talked about the England game.

Sometimes I love blogging. Connections across the world (and the city).

Thursday, 13 October 2005

The Mouse and the Hoola Hoop

Peckham Rye mouse makes a treasured find. A hoola hoop, likely lost by a school child on their way home, devouring a salty snack to keep their teenage body going until dinner.

He carries it over his nose. Not dissimilarly to when you stick them on the ends of your fingers. Good food for a mouse.

The troube is that the hoola hoop won't fit through his house opening. He carries it up, and although his body shrinks to fit through the slit between two bricks where the cement has worn away, the hoola hoop steadfastly refuses to go through, persistently falling off his nose. Several attempts later and he sits down to nibble some off.

Finally sliding it through a gap underneath the brick.

Tuesday, 11 October 2005


A solitary woman in a floral dress presses wadded tissues into her red rimmed eyes to mop up tears. She sits on a bench at the far end of the platform, almost out from under the iron train shed. Not too far away a railway worker fiddles with the train doors of the driver's carriage and collects his things.

Monday, 10 October 2005

Monday's Life Class

Hard today. Don't know whether its because I found the model hard - difficult to get a handle on the angle sometimes, or whether it was just a difficult-to-draw evening.

Top row - 2 min drawing, 30 second drawing. Second row - first drawing of the evening (15 mins), then 10 mins, and finally 40 mins. Last drawing of the evening came together in the last 5 minutes of the pose when I shaded his whole body in rather hurredly.

Want to buy a drawing? See the lifedrawing gallery for details or email me.

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.

Thursday, 6 October 2005

Of Hairy Bottomed Builders and Other Construction-Related Questions

Coming into London Bridge there is a congregation of cranes - they are on the building site close to the London Assembly Building (colloquially known as Ken's House) and they are likely to be building some glass office buildings. But the question that came to mind whilst passing was how do you build a crane? They are huge. They have those massive concrete blocks slotted in the back to balance out the weight of the lifting arm. How did they get those blocks up there? Surely they'd need a crane to lift such weight. Do they build the crane from the ground up, bit by bit? Or do they have an array of ever increasing-in size cranes to build the BIG one? You see, I've never seen a half-built one.

"Do you remember Paul?"
"Paul Booth?"
"Yes, he and his girlfriend were walking under a site like this one day and a piece of scaffolding fell on her head."
"Did she survive?"
"Oh yes, she's still alive. I was just thinking about it because of those planks going up."
"Yes, but better that than a hairy bottomed builder falling on your head."
When I eventually got off the bus, some time after the place where the scaffolders were throwing up their scaffolding (a painter & decorator friend of mine once confided that he was a little intimidated by scaffolders because they were nutters - liked chucking the poles up to one another and working at the fastest speed possible), I was intrigued to find that what I had imagined was going to be a suave Mr Big-alike (a la Sex in the City) and his elderly mother, turned out, in fact, to be a large middle aged posh man in a large herringbone tweed jacket (black and white large checks, rather loud) and his elderly mother.

Tuesday, 4 October 2005


Its not normal. Mice we are used to, busy little creatures speeding across the floor under the tracks, occassionally across the platform (saw one last week trapped on the platform of the Jubilee line - unable to get back down until the platform doors opened). But this morning as I stood waiting for the next Northern Line train to arrive at Moorgate (it had been announced, but took about 5 minutes to actually appear) a pigeon nonchalantly sauntered along the platform edge, wary but not too frightened of the people waiting behind the yellow line. Every once in while he would inch towards what he thought were crumbs, so long as the passengers didn't move their feet. Eventually it became too much and he flew up to the station roof looking for a perch, coming to rest on the train indicator board.

The Northern Line is one of the deepest, and at Moorgate has been underground for some time. Where he came from I can't imagine. Did he ride a tube train and hop out here (its unusual but not unheard of - on my train to work a couple of weeks ago a pigeon got trapped in a train to Beckenham Junction, but felt quite at home sitting on the handlebar of the luggage rack). But I would be suprised if he managed to do that in the morning rush hour - there aren't many commuters who would be happy to share a carriage with a grubby london pigeon, particularly as they are uncomfortable sharing with so many other humans. Or perhaps he flew down the tunnels. But there isn't much space between the trains and the walls and I would be suprised if he had managed to come so far without being crushed. Or maybe he took the escalator down from upstairs.

I wonder when the station staff will notice, and who they will get to catch him and bring him back to surface.

Monday, 3 October 2005

Partial Eclipse

It was overcast in Peckham until 10.15. But when I went to look out the window, thin cloud was covering the sun just enough to make it easy to see the moon passing in front. A bright sphere with a dark sphere crossing over. The sun, a crescent that we normally associate with the moon. Lovely.

Saturday, 1 October 2005

Couples Night

It appears to be couples night in the Medicine Bar (well unofficially). Or maybe the new accessory of choice is a boyfriend (babies and dogs are, like, so last year).

A guy sits on a stool by the bar, she sits on his lap. His hand has slid down her crotch, and stays there for some time. Another couple come in and while waiting to be served start snogging while leaning on the bar. Later they stand close together. He runs his hand over her bum. Then he slowly rubs up and down her arms with his big hands. She puts her fingers into his front jeans pocket and reaches down inside. At the other end of the room a couple of boys in cowboy hats dance on a table.

Bails decides that the male quiff is making a comeback. I think its been hard for them to ditch the Hoxton fin, having gotten used to high volume hair men need some other towering style to take its place.

Friday, 30 September 2005

Look Into My Eyes

I was passing the opticians today and popped in to make an appointment. They gave me one immediately. It has been two and a half years since my last appointment.

They do that thing where they measure your current glasses, them make you look into the machine that has the road with a hotair balloon on the end which goes in and out of focus. Then they took photographs of the back of my eyeball. The optician did all that repetative stuff. "Which is clearer red or green, and now? Look at the dots they will be slightly different, which is clearer 1 or 2. 1, or, 2. Read the top row for me. And the left. Which is clearer red or green? And now? Which is better, 1 or 2. And now, 1, or, 2. Can you read anything from the second row, etc. My eyes are the same as they were before. Which is good - they are stable. And my eyeballs are healthy. (bet you can't tell!)

Then wandering around upstairs I bought some new glasses (wallet goes ouch).

Thursday, 29 September 2005

Autumn Continues

Its been a funny day. Sort of cold after the heavy rain last night. But clear and fresh. Blue sky. Walking out of work is a relief. A cat strolls along beside the new builds that are taking some time to sell. There are sunflowers with droopy heads and weird but lovely ironwork fencing. There's people hanging around, moss growing on concrete and drinkers enjoying a beer outside the Bar Story (breakfast and broadband it says outside but its never open on my way to work). An alcoholic crumples his brown paper bag and hurries past. Under the arches the chairs are there but the african ladies are not. All summer they have been there after work, sorting leaves in baskets, in african print dresses with huge puffed sleeves, children racing around. Nobody buys a Big Issue from the man with the intense blue eyes.

I sit on the train between a girl eating miniature pringles and another who sits like a man with her knees wide apart. A man getting on at South Bermondsey licks his lips at the sight of her. Grey greasy hair.

Walking to the exit at London Bridge behind school girls in uniforms with ponytails. Usual difficulties passing through the station concourse against the main flow of people.

In Cafe Nero the staff are being exceedingly slow. I think calm thoughts strongly in order not to get irritated. Drinking cafe mocha and eating wafers that melt in the mouth waiting for the boyfriend to arrive so we can go to the circus.

Wednesday, 28 September 2005


Platinum sky weak sun behind clouds, more glow than shine. Autumn is here. We've passed the equinox. Days are shorter than nights. The nights draw in.

Monday, 26 September 2005

Blogger Spotting

(Like celebrity spotting only a bit more elusive).

First it was Dave from the now off-air Clear Blue Skies, on the underground at Bank. Then it was Diamond Geezer on the towpath of the Regent's Canal, near Camden. (actually thats misremembered - met DG first and Dave second but I like it this way round).

Today it was dave (small d) from London Calling, on his bike turning into New Oxford Street (I'm fairly certain it was him) - I was sitting in Starbucks having a coffee when I spied him. It was about ten to five and I wondered what he was doing out of work so early (forgetting that I too was out of work this early - I had been at a meeting and felt there was not enough time to return to Peckham before going home time). I waved but since it is probably safer to watch the road than peer through the plate glass of the shops he didn't see me. That was you wasn't it dave?

UPDATE: Tuesday evening - spotted Mr.D of Aprosexic at London Bridge on my way home.

I'm really getting good at this blogspotting!

Sunday, 25 September 2005


London Bombings from Under the Carpet

Pops has been having the sister's bedroom replastered with the aim of redecorating. Under the carpet, which they laid when we moved a couple of decades ago, he found this page from the Evening Standard dated 3 December 1980 (used under the underlay for some reason). It sort of felt poigniant to find this now - it could almost be a headline from now.

The IRA bombings were destructive - buildings were blown up, attempts made on the Prime Minister's life, politicians, parliament and military targets were attacked, people were injured and killed. They also led to the rubbish bins being removed from the underground and train stations (anyone remember when you could put your rubbish into the bin on the platform - they were sort of narrow and slotted into the wall), everyone being on high alert for abandoned bags (much more so than anywhere else in the world - I remember travelling to France and being quite paranoid about the luggage left unattended while people bought tickets, went to the toilet, etc.), checking under the car for bombs (not sure how real a threat this was to ordinary folks but pops said they did that for a while), the Post Office Tower's revolving restaurant being closed to the public (a personal disappointment of mine - promised a visit when I was 5, it was the target of a bombing before I made it), and eventually the introduction of the City Mile boundaries where traffic continues to be checked.

Our city has been altered by terrorism for a long time. We are edgy, unfriendly even (as tourists frequently complain), unwilling to get involved. And yet, when in crisis, we show our brave faces, help strangers, feel comraderie and get on with it.

The tubes are no longer empty as they were soon after 7th July, I don't find myself scanning for suspicious people with backpacks as much. I have for many years, avoided the tube as much as possible, preferring the view and relative comfort of above-ground travel (not as much playing sardines, lurching along nose in the armpit of somebody, unbearably hot all year round). My tube travelling is through necessity and amounts to 3 stops daily. But I suppose the scariest thing is that the tube and therefore common people are the target this time rather than politicians or military personnel or buildings - which I suppose makes me personally at risk. And the fact that it is people who are the bombs and not suspicious packages - much more difficult to be wary of and much more difficult to stop if determined.

Tuesday, 20 September 2005

Bus Journey

Regular going home time. Bus. Bank. Lots of suits. Rushing.

A girl gets onto the bus and sits down next to me. She's carrying a big bouquet of lillies. Talking on the phone she says, "do you like lillies?...some stranger just gave me two bunches... yes it was a nice gesture...oh I don't know if he fancied me, it was strange...but I hate them, the smell, its just horrible."

The friend doesn't appear to like them either. I'd love to be given flowers by some stranger I thought, and lillies are spectacular - big flowers, dramatic. Lovel...And then I was distracted by the sight of a very tall, well toned body walking past the window in nothing but some lycra shorts. Shorts that leave nothing to the imagination, a la Linford Christie and the lunch box debate. I expect its the done thing with a bod like that but really, it was very distracting. Totally lost my train of thought.
Monday's Life Class

well its really been a long time this time. But it felt good to go back to drawing. Absolutely packed class which seems to be the norm these days - long since it was six of us over the summer. We did a lot of short poses, 5 minutes with the usual exercises - single line drawing (without taking the charcoal off the paper), not looking and one which I got quite into - drawing with the opposite hand to normal - the middle row are done lefthanded which gives some subtleties which I need to try to get in my right handed drawing - different weights of line, slightly awkward and therefore edgy line, which is actually really nice. Then some 30 second drawings. And finally a 35 minutes drawing (the dark one) - which I started by doing a lefthanded sketch in an attempt to keep the quality I liked about the 5 minute drawings. Not sure it worked but still.

All original drawings £25 excluding postage and packing (A1 sized). Or althernatively, A4 sized prints for £5 excluding postage and packing. For further details see the lifedrawing gallery or email me.

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.

Thursday, 15 September 2005


She was good but not that good. She managed to get eye contact with everyone who passed by. They engaged with her enough to have to react - many smiles, many no thank yous, hardly anyone did that thing where they hunker down into their jackets and pretend not to notice. But she didn't manage to actually get any of them to take a leaflet. Well some kind of financial times free newslettery thing actually. Her technique was flawed.

There is an art to leafleting. Not many people know this but I spent a good deal of time during my A levels outside South Africa House picketing for the release of Nelson Mandela. I honed my technique there. The trick is to both hold up the front of the leaflet so people can sort of see it, and put one out towards them at hand level so that they take it almost accidentally as they pass by. This requires that you have an armful against your chest facing out, and work with the other hand to distribute.

She was holding them high to show them off, but not working on the distribution angle.

I've discovered I have many efficiency tecniques saved up in my mind from doing mundane tasks - like the way to speed up photocopying when you have a three hundred page manuscript to copy (in the days before self-feeders), how to fold a letter to fit a window envelope when you have to stuff hundreds, and other massively tedious office chores.

Tuesday, 13 September 2005

Beer in the Morning

Two men standing at the bottom of the pedestrian railway bridge at Haringey Station drink beer from those long cans wrapped in blue plastic bags. One beer each. 9.00 in the morning. Discarding the empties, they catch a train north. They don't look like street-drinkers. Smart casual. Clean trainers. This is the second time I've seen them do this.

I don't know why, but it totally disgusts me.

It reminds me of the dim and distant past when you'd emerge from a friends house (after partying all night, having swigged the very last remaining dregs of some warm flat beer) to be confronted by the stark reality that its daytime, everyone in the street is wide-eyed and bushy-tailed and you by contrast have makeup smeared across your face, yesterday's clothes on, eyes squinting against the sun and that vague yeasty smell from drinking too much. Feeling like a total tramp, you have to make your way home through this daylight discomfort zone. (So much better to go home before these contrasts become apparent).

Saturday, 10 September 2005

The Hedge

The owner of the privet has grown it into a marvellous hedge which lines his property boundary and arches over the gateway to his front garden. He's been generous and allowed it to grow beyond his boundary and across his neighbour's property edge. It has so far reached half way over his neighbour's gate, at which point it meets the neighbour's own privet. The owner keeps his privet well shorn, neat with sharp edges so it looks solid - a foot and a half thick.

The trouble rests with the neighbour, who doesn't keep his privet in the same manner, in fact lets it grow wild and leggy reaching up to the sky with stray branches. So the neat hedge goes round one boundary (over the gate), across the second boundary and half way over that gate where it is met by a sprawling overgrown mess.

Sort of spoils the effect.

Train views. Between two buildings, a white one and and a brown one both flat-fronted like warehouses, is a strip of black tarmac with a patch of rain dampness drying slowly. In the middle of the tarmac a girl in a lilac fleece stands brushing her hair with a cylindrical brush. No cars, no people, no activity, just her, on her own with no one around.

Thursday, 8 September 2005

A funny thing happened to me on Friday

I got offered press tickets to review David Farr's Julius Caesar at the Lyric Hammersmith. Based on the reviews I write. Which are short. And not terribly informative, I generally think.

Anyway, yesterday was press night. Press get a couple of free tickets, a free programme and drinks laid on in the interval. We swanned about as pretend-press should. But then we went in too early in our enthusiasm. (Very un-press, as it turns out).

Watched the crowd arrive. An amazing Joan Collinesque elderly woman with pulled back hair and big puffy curls stiff as fiberglass (in jet black), red lipstick and eyebrows arching halfway up her forehead. Then we started playing spot the press. It wasn't until the lights went down that they got their notebooks out, giving themselves away.

In the interval it became clear that the world of theatre critique is largely male, with heavy eyebags and a penchant for crumpled checked shirts. Unless they are the fasionatta writing for women's magazines when they need a large carrier bag with string handles filled with purchases from selfridges, a burberry umbrella and lip gloss. I'm exaggerating for effect - they weren't all like this but there was a majority sort.

So anyway, now I have to write a review, and I've gotten all nervous about it because its for reality (albeit an experiment), rather than for the intangible blogosphere that barely notices them normally. (Its here).

How did that rhyme go? Julius Caesar the roman geezer squashed his wife in a lemon squeezer.

Tuesday, 6 September 2005


I heard a joke today during Man Falling Down.

A man goes to his tailor complaining that his trousers are terribly uncomfortable and never fit quite right. The tailor asks him, "what seems to be the trouble sir?" The man says its his five cocks. The tailor measures him up and says they'll be ready in a week. A week later the man comes back and the tailor sends him into the fitting room to try on the newly made trousers. "How do they fit?", he calls into the fitting room. "Like a glove," the man calls back.

Perhaps you had to be there.

You probably also had to be there to find the thought of a judge residing over the court with an oven glove on his head funny (oven glove was pretending to be a wig). Honestly we cried laughing.

Wednesday, 31 August 2005


I've finally finished. Its taken me months. I've forgotten how to write them and I have no idea what they should be like (I've had to hand them both in without having either back so have no point of reference). Still I can think about something else now.

Friday, 26 August 2005

Retirement Leaving Do

Work leaving dos. Funny things. Retiring is another strange thing. Can't imagine what it must be like to wake up the day after leaving a job you've worked in for 20 years and realise that you have nothing to do today. Must be strange. Unless of course its like a great weight lifted.

Librarians - often quiet people. I'm not naturally a quiet person. I don't wear grey cardigans and glasses. Oh no. Actually I do wear glasses. I try to steer clear of cardigans though.

I've got a head full of stereotypes and I've worked with librarians for years. They are not all true but sometimes slightly. Tonight there were some definite librarian-types about.

My boss was a librarian and he's just retired. The do was in one of the libraries. Nobody did the music, which was sort of a shame. But the food and drink was plentiful. In the speaches one of his colleagues made a joke about his favourite colour being beige. They even baked him a beige cake. There were lots of long bobs with fringes, some dodgy dentistry and some not-terribly-modern-glasses but nobody had resorted to spectacle chains.

I used to work with a librarian who had been demoted after he threw a telephone at a colleague in a fit of rage. He was moved to another site. He wore the same sweater for a whole year. It had a hole in it slightly off centre toward the bottom. And when he got stressed he put his finger in his mouth and bit down on his knuckle. Funny though, when on form. The woman he threw the phone at was also a librarian - spiteful and bossy, would sit in the office and fart silently but deadly enough to evacuate the room. Then there was the woman who I was certain did her makeup on the train because it was usually all over the place, until one day I got into work early and bumped into her in the ladies leaning over the sink to see into the mirror and still making a absolute mess. Oh and the woman who's ambition was to be a librarian from the age of 11. I always struggled with the thought of what do you do when you've achieved all your ambitions?

(With apologies to all librarians, especially the ones I know and love.)
Make Colour Art

Colour after Klein - more time wasting.

Thursday, 25 August 2005

The Dreaded Haircut

Hair salons fill me with dread. The thought of the mundane chat, hot chemically smells and fashion victim divas trolling around means it takes a good couple of weeks to build up to making an appointment and that will be several weeks over the time they always tell you to come back.

I blame it on my mother's hairdresser. She was called Elaine and left the salon we used to set up her own business where she visited her clients at home. She had a huge afro perm which she had worn since the 70s - days of Hair the musical (which is having a comeback incidentally). Anyway Elaine once said I was looking terribly old fashioned (during my pink phase in the early 90s), when actually I was early for the next round of mad colour (always a trend setter, in my own mind). Style fascist. So I avoided salons for a good long period.

I either cut it myself (never a wise move but since it was pink and scrunched to a straw-like crispiness it probably didn't matter too much) and after that I let it grow.

Finally, when I was in the world of real work I went back to the hairdressers and sported a short cropped number which meant I had to go back every six weeks to maintain its sharpness. I never really settled on a favourite salon so instead would look for a salon with an on-the-spot appointment so I didn't have the time to worry about it. And some disastrous haircuts came out of those pit stops. There were tears, and running home to wash it immeidately, and too much blow-dried puffiness.

Now its longer I only go when my split ends get so bad I'm in danger of cutting them off myself. I've been to Tony and Guy's in Islington twice now and despite its attempts at uber-cool I've actually come out with hair that I wouldn't mind going out in. Did have to engage in those uncomfortable conversations as the hairdryer roars (they ask you a question, you answer, they say pardon?). My hairstylist (that is, I believe, the preferred term) looked about 18 but apparently had been hairdressing for 10 years and was about to embark on a change of career - studying to become an optometrist.

Wednesday, 24 August 2005

Its been a long time

Since I...
...laughed so much my stomach hurt
...was having such a great time I forgot to go home and the sun came up
...shrugged the weight of the world off my shoulders
...went to a hot country for pleasure
...saw a great movie
...wrote a poem
...was truly inspired
...felt warm sea water

I'm having a bit of a time at the moment feeling stuck. Its sort of inhabiting my brain and my physical self. Like walking through treacle. Or stodge in the belly.

Sunday, 21 August 2005


A wedding party spills out of the Town Hall. We watch from our vantage point across the street behind the bars of pub's garden.

The bride is in cream lace, the bridesmaid in a matching mauve satin. One of the men was attempting to outdress the bride in a powder-blue flared suit and a cowboy hat. They threw some confetti and then arranged themselves for the photographer, who rushed around pointing (purple teeshirt and long greying hair).

Gradually the party dispersed on the way to the reception. Powder-blue suit went off to collect his beaten up red BMW. Bridesmaid and several members of the party piled in and he drove off. The only person left was the bride. Who then ran off round the corner, presumably to get into the wedding car with the groom.

Friday, 19 August 2005

Txt Journey

Rain spatters on the canal water by the Gainsborough Studios. Two women share a lingering kiss on the street corner oblivious to the drizzle. the plane trees are shedding their bark - the newly exposed wood yellow and green in the damp looks like giraffe skin. Passing by Clissold Park the funfare continues to be dreary despite the flashing lights and gaudy paintwork. Dog walker in a long green macintosh with an array of hounds in all sizes struggles to scoop the poop of one of her charges.

Tuesday, 16 August 2005


A little notice popped up on our intranet at work. I remember way back (I was thinking the 70s) going to visit this amazing tunnel of coloured light on the Southbank. Wearing a coloured cape, wondering around finding people lolling around on the floor, watching the colour of the walls affect the colour of the cape.

Toady at 7.00pm Dreamspace was very empty, its much larger than I remember - more like large cavern than interlocking bubbles. And Maurice Agis, the artist, was there with his family perhaps. Space, colour and light filled with the sounds of Stephen Montague.

Perhaps its because my memories of it are good but it isn't as awesome as it was back then - I want a little more. It reminds me of Anish Kapoor's huge Marsyas (in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern) and I want something as awesome as that. Its just that I notice the tiny tears in the fabric, and the footprints all over the surface in places like someone has run up the columns (although its probably the installers), and I'm acutely aware of the surface of the ground under the sculpture. But it is intriguing all the same, and if you haven't been before its worth a visit.

Afterwards I strolled along to London Bridge and came across the Earth from the Air pictures up against the fence of a building site. Truely awesome.

So I looked at them for a while and listened to a band playing summer soul with a sound reminiscent of the Brand New Heavies called the AllStars (according to More London). All thoroughly summer evening.