Thursday, July 19

overheard conversation

I came across this in one of my old notebooks

Three women are sitting at a table under a tree outside a café, they have tea and cakes, one of the women is asked about her new boyfriend   

So what’s this man like?
He’s the hairiest man I’ve ever seen - hairier than a monkey
hairier than Robbie Williams?
I’ve never seen Robbie Williams
He’s really hairy
Yeah hairier than that – when he was in hospital the nurse drew back his sheets and screamed

I'm being interviewed in a hairdressing salon

between the sinks are small mountains of bosomy torsos and manly sets of legs

phantom limbs stick out - waving or drowning or kicking the air

one of our volunteers inherited the contents of a vintage shop, these mannequins will go in our sensory room

our conversation is overwhelmed by the religious service going on in the care home lounge which is also a coffee shop. The hairdressing salon-slash-office is a glass-walled cube within the lounge-slash-church-slash-coffee shop. 

when the congregation shut their eyes in prayer we sneak out to investigate the sensory room

it's along the 'willow' corridor

care homes use plant names so they don't have to say 'dementia' too much, other homes refer to patients with dementia as 'bluebells', the same way some people say 'fudge' instead of other, ruder 'f' words   
we stand in the doorway of the sensory room, it's empty except for a row of chairs and a rainbow-coloured-fibre-optic-disco-light 

we'll bring in herbs and then people will smell the mint and it'll remind them of sunday roast lamb dinners

I think of the willow people feeling the boobies and manly trunks when the mannequins take up residence

Friday, June 29

I'm basically a mermaid these days

recent trips to Devon have offered many opportunities to get in the water and in Britain it can be a bit chilly. My first sea dip in May made me dizzy and my hands felt like they'd been stamped on - for some reason this makes me feel heroic.

I've also been walking along the river Dart. Today I found a good skinny-dipping spot. Being naked seems to automatically join people into a sort of club, pleasantries are exchanged in a manner that doesn't happen in 'textile situations'*   

*I'm practising this new context for 'textile' since I discovered that's how naturists refer to people who wear clothing, such as this naturist report on a campsite on Slapton Sands

"...a really good site, with what must be unique co-existence in this country. Large field with views to the sea - top two thirds of site textile, bottom third naturist, with just an open post and rail fence to mark an informal division. No gates, and the fence is open to drive / walk round at both ends. Very easygoing and relaxed. All facilities, apart from a fresh water tap, are on the textile side, so need to dress to access them."

image: Barry Lewis - Natural Theatre Company in London

Wednesday, June 13

Cat repair person for hire

I've returned to Devon to look after a cat called Edna, I was here a couple of months ago. Edna was a gaunt, trembly old thing when I arrived but after just 10 days in my care Edna turned into a lovely shiny thing, her tembliness became bounce, she had plumped up nicely and her owners exclaimed with joy about the new, improved cat waiting for them.

I seem to have discovered how to work the cat reset button

I'm not saying I can mend a properly broken cat, my abilities lie in fixing those slightly manky cats, the ones that have gone a bit boss-eyed and keep forgetting to clean themselves, or the ones that over-lick one area of their body, also the bony neurotic cats that shiver for no good reason and I'm pretty good at eliminating asthma attacks. I've had no luck with dirty-protest cats like the Bum-Crayoner but I do think there might be a call for a professional cat-plumper-and-polisher (feline-smoother/cat valet?) - I'm working on my marketing for this new business

Thursday, June 7

In a room full of people. I am talking about mudlarking

a woman came over to us she unzipped her handbag and started rooting through it

I live at Walton-on-the Naze where the coast is full of shark's teeth - look I've got one in my purse

Tuesday, June 5


Scenario 1 : an almost empty charity shop this morning  
I am examining curtain fabric, an exotic-looking young man is standing near me, he is examining a denim coat and keeps exclaiming

Oh look sheep fur ... it's lined with sheep fur ... even the arms are lined with sheep fur  

I put down the curtains, look at him and put my hands inside the coat sleeves. He looks sheepish and modifies his claim

No ... there's not really sheep fur in the arms ... but look at the sheep fur in the body 

I open the coat fully, indeed the body is lined - with tan teddy bear fabric. It is a beautiful coat and would suit him. I say that he must have it. He declines - unsuitable weather.

Scenario 2 : a crowded waiting room in the hospital this afternoon.   

I sit by an elderly Indian lady, she is dwarfed by the enormous wheelchair she is sitting in. She rolls up her trouser leg to show me her knee, she says that now she always wears trousers:  

Sari is very elegant but it collects a lot of dust between the legs as you walk 

Scenario 3 : with The Man and His son at supper this evening

Strawberries and cream are on the table. The son puts strawberries in his bowl and then cream ... a lot of cream ... then more strawberries... then more cream
I put too much cream in, so I had to add more strawberries, but then there wasn't quite enough cream so I had to add more ...  it's a delicious circle

Thursday, May 24

Footwear Coordinator Wanted

at the  Royal Shakespeare Company   - can my newfound passion for pockets expand to a general aptitude for sartorial appurtenances? 

'... As Footwear Coordinator, you will be reporting directly to the Head of Costume Props, Footwear and Armoury  ...'  

... and of course I know so much about armour   

art  shoes by Gwen Murphy found here

Sunday, May 20

The new job went tits up

turned out I didn't fit

A uniform had been ordered for me but hadn't arrived by the time I started.  I fashioned an approximation of 'The Institutional Style' and at the end of my first week I was summoned to the Principal's office and told that my uniform should not have pockets, could I please find a less pocketty shirt. 

I tried to make the case for pockets:
•  easier to steal stuff 
•  ability to carry tissues/drugs and issue these to people who need them

The Principal remained adamant on pocketlessness so I snipped them off  and she said I was being silly and that might have been the beginning of the end or maybe the end had started right at the beginning and I couldn't tell

Tuesday, May 8

Jobs jobs jobs

The Natural History Museum is looking for a Curator of Meteorites but too late for me  to apply because I am now employed to bring Art to the Bewildered at a specialised facility on the edge of town. The Bewildered includes myself, the rest of the staff, the residents and the visitors

Despite it being in my job title,  I've stopped using the 'A' word, too many people find it frightening or annoying,  if asked what I do, I've learned to say that my job is to make life more interesting, no-one seems to be able to argue with that.

Data Privacy Rules are being updated - I'm not even allowed to write myself notes anymore let alone tell you what I'm up to, so details will be scant I'm afraid. 

Being part of a big work crew again after two years in anthropological study is delirious. My colleagues all  seem exotically fascinating - there's Big Doreen who told me off on my first day for standing on the wrong mat, and Mousey-Cat who keeps asking me really really sweetly to do 'little jobs' for her. Toya takes up all the space wherever she is, she's covered in tattoos and spends the entirety of every break in the tiny staff room having Facetime with her boyfriend or, in the event of internet breakdown, telling us all about what he-said-she-said last night and the night before, there was a brief moment when she stopped to draw breath and Helga, a young Finnish nurse leapt in to veer the conversation away

I would like one of those tattoo sleeves but for my leg - just one

me: would you call it a tattoo half-a-trouser?

elderly nurse: I don't understand, how can you have a trouser tattoo?

me: Actually it'd be more like a one-legged pair of tights - a tattoo stocking

Toya: .... he says he's taking me out for dinner tonight and I said well I'm paying and he said ...

Friday, May 4

My sister has been sending me fringes

photos of fringes that she might adopt as part of a new hairstyle - what did I think of this one? ... or this one?   

yesterday, there was a photo of the final fringe, in situ on my actual sister's actual head - it was GREAT!!!

Then she went to pick my niece up from school.

The niece looked at her new mother, clapped her hands over her mouth and ran back into school, the teacher went in after her and found the child sobbing - because her mother's fringe was sooooo beautiful

When my niece had calmed down, her mother said that she could also have a fringe if she wanted, the child was beside herself with delight and they popped into the hairdresser on the way home, she thinks hairstyles are like tattoos

Will we stay like this forever?

The nephew on the other hand was less keen, he thinks the fringe is ok as long as his mother keeps walking and there's a wind to blow it up a bit but he doesn't like it when she's just standing still. He is making plans on how to deal with unwanted still hair.

Thursday, April 26

The House painting is finished

The painter disappeared and promised that the scaffolders would be here, today at nine sharp to take the scaffolding down. Because the scaffolding was pinned to the wall some unpainted spots on the wall will be revealed, the scaffolders promised they'd spot them in, paint man worried that they'd not bother - I had to be here when they arrived to ensure final painting touches happened.

Two loud, crashy, bum-cracky blokes finally arrived at 2pm, all sweary about having been sent to do the dismantle on their own, they weren't going to finish the job today and they were going to be really smashy and messy about what they did do.

Unluckily for them I was by now a whole lot swearier and smashier ...

Ok, so I found a job

but I'm also still looking ...

this is for a job at Splash!


We require two Photographers to shoot children with their parents in our swimming pool concessions located in Guildford, Kingston, Crawley and Woking. The job is sociable and enjoyable...

or this, for an art teacher in London 


We are looking for teachers who are experienced with young teenagers aged 13-16, and can solve their problems...

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


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. 

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