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.