Tuesday, April 10

Close inspection of my windows

has revealed more rot than was suspected. A man with a Black Country accent, gold teeth a headscarf and dreadlocks came and took the worst one off to the window workshop leaving a sad boarded-over hole behind, this has coincided with news that the car needs a new radiator AND air conditioning system. 

I must try to  interweave Happy Thoughts among the grim reality of my latest news:
HT 1. I went to see a movie  - 'The Square' at a cinema called The Cube - loved the movie but managed to kick over a full glass of rum as I took my seat

Cheesey* has moved back into our neighbourhood, he appears outside my gate to alternate abusive language with wheedling tones - you and I could get on really well if you'd just give it a chance. On Sunday I was inside the house and heard him swearing at someone in the next road, his choice of words indicated that he was harrassing another woman, I walked out to see him pushing his trolley up the road, he'd tipped over the big rubbish bin in the entrance to her block of flats, she was on the phone to the police saying that this had been going on for weeks.

HT 2. I found some fine-wool-brand-new-never-worn Jaeger trousers at the charity shop - perfect fit perfect length

*clicking on the 'Cheesey' label below will throw up yet more Cheese

Tuesday, April 3

I returned to Bristol Saturday afternoon



and am just starting to dry out at the edges. The first Devon day was drizzly, the second was showery, the third really rather rainy, the fourth, fifth and sixth days poured buckets unendingly. Saturday morning was dry but overcast so I took Old Dog for a trip to Sidmouth - a 1950's seaside town slotted in a valley between eye-bogglingly red cliffs.

On Easter Sunday one of the lodgers locked herself in her room with a medical emergency - something to do with recreational drugs and a bit scary but we've recovered now.

This morning the scaffolders arrived to metal-up the front of our house. The very chatty decorator arrives tomorrow. This afternoon I suddenly hated the test colour patches that I'd painted on the front wall and went rushing around the neighbourhood with a paint swatch book, holding the coloured squares against houses that I think look nice. At the moment I think we're going with 'Frosted Sage'.

This is my 1005th post, I always just miss significant anniversaries so I'll just say now that in three months I'll have been Sandwiching for TEN YEARS

Tuesday, March 27

The Oldest Dog in the World

is currently keeping tabs on me. We are in coastal Devon. Old Dog tries to maintain contact between his nose and my leg at all times just in case I make off with any bones or shoes or go out without him. Old Dog is exasperated by my inability to use the fridge properly - I am simply not  taking out enough things, he's pretty sure there are sausages in there and there is definitely chicken. When I opened the freezer an unsealed bag of meatballs spilled out, bouncing and rolling across the kitchen floor, Old Dog hoovered up a mouthful that had rolled his way, then almost strangled himself trying to crunch them up and swallow the pieces down before I could prise his jaws open.

When not caring for elderly animals I'm looking for paid employment, I am in job-seekers-Limbo,  Dante might have written about this, it is definitely one of the  circles of hell - an endless cycle of ploughing through illiterate/incomplete job descriptions for shockingly poorly paid posts, making applications then being politely informed that I was nearly-but-not-quite-good-enough.

Sadly I was unqualified for the job entitled "Head of Large Objects' at the Imperial War Museum but did seem to have the necessary skills to apply for the post of  'Funeral Arranger' with one of the UK's principal funeral directing companies. The application process included a multiple-choice questionnaire:

Q. 1 - As a Funeral Arranger you will sometimes have direct contact with 'The Deceased' how do you feel about that?
A) Fantastic, I've always been fascinated by dead people
B) Horror, I would not be able to do that
C) I understand that it would be a necessary part of the job

Q. 2 - You will have to meet relatives and friends of 'The Deceased', they might be upset how do you feel about that?
A) Great, I thrive in emotional situations, I would cry along with them
B) Embarassed, people should keep their emotions buttoned up
C) Being upset is a normal reaction to bereavement, I would be sympathetic

Following my success at pressing the 'C' button I was telephoned and interviewed by a Call Centre Person - she knew nothing about the job. When I mentioned that I had not been able to access a full job description or details of compensation/benefits/terms/conditions etc. I was told that those details would be forthcoming only if I was offered the job - I persisted and discovered that I would be expected to own a reliable car and use it to do the job, that I would be expected to be entirely flexible in my availability as I would work rotating shifts including weekends, evenings and bank holidays - but I would be paid only for 20 hours per week, the salary would be around the level of the National Minimum Wage (not quite £8 per hour)

In Other News 

I have discovered a new Hero 
Natalie Haynes is very funny and very clever, do listen to her talk about Sapho on BBC Radio 4, or just check her out on Youtube - she is simply the best Classics teacher ever!






Wednesday, March 14

the oldest cat in the world

is my responsibility this week. She has become so fragile and bony that I am almost afraid to stroke her, she creeps gingerly up to me then complains loudly that there is not enough food or her water needs freshening - I fear the effort will see her off.

Last night I dreamed that I went down in the morning to find her stiff little body on the sofa. 

Sometimes I stay in homes that are so full of pillows and cushions that there is no space for a body, this house was moderately cushioned but had an amplitude of odiferous things -  'linen sprays' - I didn't even know 'linen spray' was a thing -  pots of sticks dipped in scented oil, jar upon jar of scented candles on every flat surface.  

My sister had a theory - they must be really farty!

Tuesday, March 6

before Christmas


my ears, nose and cervix were inspected in the appropriate medical establishments. Yesterday the orificial examination circuit was completed with visits to the dentist and the colonoscopist. Inside the colonoscopist's inspection chamber the kindly nurse asked me to take off my own clothing and put on some stiff navy shorts with a velcro'ed flap around the sitting area, they were labelled 'Dignity Shorts' Once again Edward Lear provides an appropriate illustration

Friday, March 2

The Beast from the East arrived in Bristol yesterday

it came in from London with me. By the time I'd skidded the car into our road the kerb was no longer visible. I had to park quite a way from the house, the blizzard forcing me to comedy-walk to our front door. Already the kids were out with sliding devices to polish the hill outside our house.




Monday, February 26

The weather was just mad today

I woke to thick blobs of snow rushing at the bedroom window, ten minutes later the sun was out, blue sky, dry pavements. I dressed and walked for 40 minutes down the road during which time I experienced two arctic-blizzard-blazing-sun bi-polar weather cycles

In other news

I'm listening to Portrait of the Artist  as a Young Man read by Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes - it's the ideal accompaniment to a big wallow in a hot bath

Sunday, February 25

The bus stop was by a hairdressing salon

in the front part there were two lime green sofas, in the window a beautifully typographed hairdressing menu offered 'Japanese Straightening' in two varieties along with other, more exotic elaborations.

I was transfixed by a beautiful Japanese woman  reading a magazine, the blonde sections in her black Japanese-straight hair were tucked behind her ears creating yellow triangles, then I noticed the man behind the counter, massive like a Sumo wrestler. Green-haired, his ear lobes had the sort of piercing that makes a really big hole and held what looked like the spooney parts of soup spoons.  Edward Lear popped into my mind at this point, which is why I have illustrated this story with the Dong and his luminous nose

I've had loads of culture this month





the latest was a visit to the Southbank to see the revamped Hayward Gallery and a massive exhibition of Andreas Gursky's massive photographs. Before seeing the exhibition I went to hear Ralph Rugoff, the Hayward's Director discuss the photographer's themes, framing is a recurring theme, he photographs humans and their stuff contained in a series of boxes within boxes; buildings, cars, offices, rooms ... they all have windows - frames through which we can look at the stuff and at each other.

After the talk I went to look at the photographs, on the way to them I took this one - eat your heart out Gursky!

I'm staying in London this month, visiting culture, taking part in an arts residency and continuing my anthropological research on the Thames Foreshore*

There's socialising to do here too. Last night at supper my friends were loudly denouncing Phantom Thread, a movie I'd thoroughly enjoyed, it's about a very British sort of weirdness, revealed in a way that only a foreigner can manage - according to my friends the only thing good about it were the flowers - an element that I had failed to notice.




* The Thames foreshore is the term for the beaches that appear when the Thames is at low tide - lots of people go there, they do beachcombing, walk their dogs, look at remains of boats and Saxon fishtraps - it's a temporary seaside place


Sunday, February 11

Walking down Kingsland Road last week

I heard a man's voice hiss
  

move your dirty body out of the way  


I was going at quite a clip anyway, it was a broad pavement and he actually couldn't walk any faster than me so we were going along side by side.  I wasn't sure I'd heard correctly so I said

Sorry?

He looked sideways at me and scowled and managed to walk a little ahead of me so I could get the best view of his stained and unpleasant sweat pants.


He was around 30, a lot bigger than me and clearly an Angry Man so, although in theory I'm all for calling people out and standing my ground etc. I figured that this might not end well for me - it was becoming a stand-off - so after walking beside him for just a couple more minutes I crossed the road and we paralleled each other for the next mile until he turned off.


How to defend oneself?



The painter Rose Wylie depicts HRH Elizazabeth First disguised as a piece of furniture to keep attackers at bay. 

On my way back from the Rose Wylie show I visited the Wallace Collection. I recalled hearing a captivating interview with Tobias Capwell the mueum's Curator of Armour and a man with his own collection of custom-made armour - he does a lot of jousting, I remember his comment that one doesn't 'wear' armour, one 'operates' it - it becomes a prosthetic device, I found this intriguing so I went for a closer look.


I found this piece of Lady Armour - also handy for the after-fight Fetish Ball

Sunday, January 21

An elaborate celebration cake





was my contribution to a birthday party last week.

Slabs of lemon drizzle sponge cake, jars of homemade lemon curd, a vat of lemony creamy cheesecake, a pot of lemon/vanilla frosting, boxes of paper pasted with crispy thin shards of bitter chocolate and a tub of lemon peel that had been turned into candied yellow ribbon - all these things needed to be kept separate and cold ready to assemble on party day  - Party Fridge (see previous post) was my dearest friend in this endeavour. When Neat New Fridge arrived a few days ago, I cleaned up my dear friend, wrapped her so she could still breathe and then I placed her in the wood store - ready for the next party.

Friday, January 5

Two years ago

we hosted a splendid party which involved a lot of cold meat and jelly. To boost my cooling power I bought an extra fridge. 

When the event was finished and everyone had eaten the leftovers I was going to give Party Fridge back to the charity shop from whence it came - but then our lodgers found it handy and it stayed, Party Fridge is a little too high to fit nicely anywhere, so stands awkwardly in the corridor outside the kitchen, as though waiting to be asked in.

Party Fridge was too large for the next lodger who bought Baby Fridge to put in her room, lodger has left but Baby Fridge remains. I want to get rid of them all 

but not until I have bought and installed the correct fridge 

The correct fridge arrived this morning and I realised that I am currently able to say that I have an embarrassment of fridges

Saturday, December 30

The Christmas drive to my sister's house





takes us past Biggar and the famous Hogmanay bonfire which is in the middle of the high street and positioned alarmingly close to buildings. A few days ago, I stopped to take a photo of the not-yet-finished fire pile and spotted someone who looked local so I asked him if there were ever any problems


Not really but we board up the windows of the big house just in case 

Here's a lovely account of Biggar bonfire naughtiness 

wishing you all a peaceful, happy, healthy and delicious 2018

It was a family Christmas

in Bonnie Scotland.  My niece created her 'Occasion Outfit' by repurposing a neck warmer, a cake box and wrapping paper. 

Sunday, December 10

Celia Pym mended my vest

Last month I took the vest into the Victoria and Albert Museum in Kensington. Celia had put out a call for members of the public to bring in items for mending as part of an artwork. I thought the moths had eaten my vest very artfully and I wanted to frame their artwork.


I love the basket stitches she has used and I love the way the darns look like raining clouds and I love those pink patches on the outlier holes around the hems.

On the bus in London yesterday

I sat facing the long bench seat at the back of the bus. There was a man at the far end of the bench, next to him there was a family - a little girl in party clothes huddled in her mother's lap. At the next stop a jolly man carrying a saxophone in it's case took the seat next to the family and directly opposite me, he smiled round at everyone and leant into the child, making a comment about her rosy cheeks. The child shrank back - the waft of alcohol was strong from where I was sitting. The mother explained to all of us that they had just had to leave a pantomime because the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk frightened her daughter. We all commiserated and saxophone man took a bottle of whiskey  from his pocket and sucked at it. At the next stop the family got off and saxophone man pressed me for information about where I was going and what I was doing in London, I gave a polite amount of response and declined his offer of a go at his whiskey, there was silence and then he said 'It's hard being human isn't it?'

Saturday, November 25

We're just about getting on top of the cleaning

A month ago builders came to smash down a stone wall outside our back door, as there was nobody inside the house they didn't think there was any need to shut the back door while they were working, so when I arrived home two weeks ago our home had been turned into the Sahara with drifts of sand reaching up to the top of the house.

Last week The Man arrived from Mongolia with bags of torn trousers and many types of thermal underwear, including woolly longpants  so heavy that I can't lift them on my own. These articles have been in a production line of washing and draping to dry then sorting into drawers or piles for mending.

I might have already mentioned that I am very keen on mending. I have a Massive Fan Girl crush on Celia Pym who currently has work in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Celia is a textile artist who specialises in visible mending, she also trained as a nurse, inviting hospital staff to bring loved but worn or broken items to the anatomy department, she mended them and this became an exhibition.

Visible mending shows the patterns of wear, the way that our clothes work with our bodies, how these and our bags, shoes or clothes become extensions of us - if these things are good at keeping us warm/dry/comfortable/happy then, like a beloved body part, they should be maintained for as long as possible.

Friday, November 17

It's going to hit minus twenty five degrees in Ulaanbaatar

Mongolia. The Man has travelled one thousand and a bit miles beyond Ulaanbaatar which I guess means one thousand and a bit miles even colder. He has been looking for snow leopards and for the last two months he has remained unshowered, unshaven and layered like a Baklava in silk thermals and camel thermals and woolies and fur-lined boots all topped with a long Mongolian Man's Coat with a special-sash-that-you-have-to-wear-with-these-coats-or-it's-Bad-Luck.


Once a week there was an underwater satellite call during which I could just about grasp that he's walking really far and up lots of hills carrying really heavy things and he tells me facts like every Mongolian he has spoken to has admitted to inadvertently licking a metal thing in this fierce cold and needing help to get separated, also Goat Fat Stew is delicious and alcohol made with fermented mare's milk is 'quite nice but tastes like goat'.

The Man reckons that the walking and the weight of the kit and the weight of the clothes combined are reducing his body weight but he can't tell because in all these weeks he has never unwrapped those layers. That's two months without a shower - and I get to welcome the smelly hairy marvel home tomorrow night.

In other news
a film about ants and Sir David Attenborough will air on the BBC on 8th December Xmas -ish - look out for it if you can, I shall probably mention this again. 




Saturday, November 11

It has been a very sad week





on Monday we held the funeral for the wife of our friend who died earlier this year. This woman was my neighbour and a very kind friend, she looked exactly like a Modigliani painting come to life. We used to take tea in her elegant yellow lounge and she would invite me to join them for delicious family suppers and we used to go together to look at art and other lovely things.

Sunday, November 5

I have an arthritic thumb joint

I've heard that turmeric can alleviate the inflammation. I wasn't sure how to make it a regular part of my diet until my recent stay in Stoke Newington - a neighbourhood with a lot of cosmopolitan green grocers. A couple of weeks ago among the cascades of plantains, yellow dates, and dozens of UVIs* I spotted some nice-looking fresh turmeric, I bought a few knobs and took them back to experiment. Hand-grated turmeric is not kind to the mouth.

Luckily Stoke Newington is also the sort of neighbourhood where people like trends, the juice trend is over and these monster machines are being thrown to make way for 'Nutrient Extractors'.  Walking around the neighbourhood looking at my bright yellow hands I thought - I need a juicer - and like magic there was one on the wall. 

This beast has changed my life,  turmeric juice can be added with beneficial effect to EVERYTHING (I make a batch and freeze in ice cube trays) - the mashed turmeric fibres in the outbox are good in flapjacks.



*Unidentified Vegetable Objects

Thursday, October 26

sometimes when I open my mouth

  Margot Leadbetter from 'The Good Life' leaps out.




Last night, walking past my local trendy burger establishment, I looked in the open hatch where boxes of food are passed out to the delivery bikes and stood transfixed as a hip young man poured gloopy yellow cheese sauce onto chips then sprinkled gherkins and jalapenos all over it - this was what I wanted for supper - I went in and stood in the queue.

A whole vocabulary has sprung up around this particular sort of food place that I find off-putting - calling shredded meat 'pulled' doesn't make it any less horrible. The other popular word  is 'dirty' which I assumed meant putting 'pulled' meat or gravy on top. Standing in line in this hipster burger bar I read on the menus that they were offering 'dirty' burgers' and all kinds of other 'dirty' stuff. As I got to the front of the queue, I noticed the slogan emblazoned on all the take-away boxes announced 'Shakes, Dirty burgers, Dirty Chips'. Feeling the need for clarification I asked the man in the backwards baseball hat what they meant by 'dirty' 

it's like, unhealthy stuff

why aren't your shakes dirty? 

That wouldn't sound good

Tuesday, October 17

in a bookshop today

I was browsing and selecting a few greetings cards while the guy behind the till gave the girl stacking shelves an account of what kind of a wild party animal he is, it wasn't convincing and I zoned out until I got to the till and tried to pay for my cards, it took a while because they continued their conversation, he rang up the total and took my money without looking in my direction:

... so does she identify as gay or bi?

She says queer but she also says she doesn't actually like having sex with anyone

I haven't had sex in a million years so I think I must be asexual

me too 

he handed over change, then looked at me as if to say - are you still here?

do you want a bag with that?

Wednesday, October 11

I was minding my own business





at a café in London yesterday, I'd been there ten minutes before a Man-who-knows-everything came and sat next to me. He was elderly and, despite the continental-effect dark glasses, black beret and trench coat, he was clearly east-end-london born-and-bred

I know all the best places I do, wanna know the best value pot of tea in London?

turns out that it's in a café by the Hoxton peace mural

three quid for a massive pot and you can stay as long as you want

He did actually turn out to know everything and I have several good tips on things I must do this week - here are a couple that I'm willing to share:

a) get the best view of St Paul's
Marks and Spencer's on Cheapside, go down in the food basement at the end of the day, they'll be marking down all the food to stupid prices so it's worth going just for that, but wait till sun's just going down and there's no-one on the escalator and then up you go and St Paul's will loom into view in a very impressive way

b) see anything for two hours for free 
At the back of the BFI, sign in to the Mediatech at the back and it gets you access to an unparalleled film library - anything you want two.hours.for.free

Saturday, October 7

The house has been crumbling with loneliness


while the Man and I have been away these last two years. I've been trying to attend to some of the issues and earlier this year I turned my attention to our very sad laundry room. I asked a builder to take away the remaining tilework, remove the radiator, take up the tiles, lay a concrete floor and set up a new worktop and shelving. There was the usual game - he said he'd come in April, finally making an appearance  in June - perfectly timed for me to progress from being fed up to sheer gratitude that he arrived at all. His work was mostly great - except for the bit about the floor. I'd asked for polished concrete but builder-man hastily dumped some screed (not quite enough) and left it looking like lumpy cookie dough. I arrived home before the floor was dry and spent several hours scraping down the lumps, I've painted it with a bold design in the hope that the uneven surface is disguised. The room was dark and dingy with a single tiny window but my cunningly placed mirrors have amplified the light - and do you like my jolly appliance-hiding curtains?

Wednesday, September 27

Spain was delicious


the hothot sun and shinyblue sea were wonderful, but the day after returning home my skin reacted with fury to the fresh British autumn chill with an outrage of hives and I've been looking like a red crocodile for the last week.



Saturday, September 16

I made a bit of effort

before heading into town yesterday. On the bus I sat near a man about ten years younger than myself. He was missing several teeth and his ears were stuck on to his head in a startlingly perpendicular manner. His eyes were a bit swivelly and I could see he was having a job pulling focus -  finally he managed to stabilise an image of me and held my gaze for long enough to say

Cor - you must've been right glamour back in your day

Friday, September 15

It's all done





Two years of planning and scheming to get on to a post grad in London, how to arrange finances to live/study in one of the world's most expensive cities

Two years of books and lectures and arguing and writing and exams and papers

The chef d'oeuvre was handed in on Monday -  the rest of this week I've been like one of those astronauts who falls out of a rocket and has to spend the rest of his life slowly spinning round in space.

It's my birthday next week, I'm heading off to a Spanish beach for a few days for perspective readjustment therapy

beach art by Jamie Harkins


Tuesday, September 5

I've cocooned


What Do You Call A Fly Without Wings? from Ammonite Films on Vimeo.

I'm like that bluebottle larva locked in a hard shell shuffling my molecules around trying to make something of myself.

That's what writing the the Big Essay feels like.

I'm staying in a dowdy ground floor flat on a busy road, the weather is dreich and there's a gloomy fat cat who doesn't move - he's like a furry companion cocoon. 

it will to stop soon and I can go home.

Sunday, August 27

This week it's Clapham

with kittens in a flat where the rooms in the building amplify every shuffle and sneeze to the point that a person walking around in a normal manner sounds like a drunk elephant and a man in the flat upstairs is bellowing his story about trying to have drunk sex last night in the car outside his home. I listened to the full account ...  she was hot ... having to run into the house to get condom ... not finding it ... breaking a few things ... going back to the car ... waking the girl up ...   

at last ... they were in a tangly undressed mess on the back seat 

and his phone rang      

and he answered it    

it was his mum  looking out of his bedroom window and wondering why he was still in his car and when he was going to come in

Thursday, August 24

Nigel and I are getting on famously

I know he likes me - last night he turned up in my bedroom in high excitement and spent an eternity arranging the back half of a mouse perfectly centered on the carpet - all ready for my breakfast 

Today I'm showing him how to use the kettle and tea bags
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