Tuesday, September 1

Das Sein

I'm preparing for the new term that is rushing up to meet me,  ploughing through texts thick with references to the thoughts of dead men: French ones, Greek ones, Austrian ones and then those German ones and their very special words.

I've sought to lighten my load by interleaving the heavy boys with joy, such as a wonderful book called Evocative Objects by Sherry Turkle (yes that's her name!!)  also  The School of Life chops the likes of Heidegger and Plato into bite-sized pieces for kindergarten philosophers like me.

The mother thrush is letting her son walk around in our garden, she's up on the fence keeping watch. His head is tatty with the remnants of baby feathers and he looks like a drunken uncle at a wedding party, an impression that deepens when a failed attempt to perch on a flimsy branch has him swaying ninety degrees in each direction before he flops back onto the grass. He doesn't fly away when I walk outside and I can see her bobbing around in panic in case I pick him up and eat him.

On Saturday I set off to meet my step-daughter for lunch, passing her father on my way out.

I was wearing one of my re-knitted woolens - it's hairy orange with a la-di-da collar

I said  I'm going to see your daughter

he said  and I see that you're going dressed as a mad woman

Friday, August 28

five word week

saturday: blue dye trousers gardening telly
sunday: papers books neighbours supper
monday: dentist raining drain pipe broken
tuesday: butcher baking caking haircut raining
wednesday: london meeting raining footwear torture
thursday: glad tidings feathers sunny day
friday : raining draining piping blinking broken

art: Kate McGwire at RWA Bristol

Friday, August 21

First thing this week

I was in London visiting a woman who wanted someone to take care of her house while she went away - we got on like a house on fire - it seemed that we had an arrangement ...

... but then her girlfriend turned up and did not like the look of our house on fire at all, no ma'am. Cigar clamped between her teeth she made sure that I would not like to be in this house one moment longer.

Second thing this week I found myself painting two bathrooms for money, one is the colour of dulchey de lechey and the other is mermaid-tail-shiny-green

Friday, August 14

We are at the supper table

the niece wants to whisper something to her mother who tells her that it's rude to whisper

the  4-year old nods emphatically, stares hard at me and says

and it's rude to stare isn't it?


and it's rude to point?


and people don't like being stabbed in the neck either do they?


Tuesday, August 11

The nephew is in Ireland

he is 8 years old.

He called to check that I am taking good care of his cat.

I asked the Nephew if he was enjoying his holiday


What are you doing?

All the things Irish people do

Thursday, August 6

Arrived Edinburgh

niece went on holiday

can't find cat anywhere

Monday, August 3

Today was my last day

at the Brain Surgery

I arrived early. There is a broken bench on a paved area in front of the surgery. It was sunny so I made tea then came back outside, balanced a bum cheek on the wobbly seat and ate my breakfast marmalade sandwich.

Tattoo man has removed the big pieces of junk he used to keep in front of the Surgery including all the pieces of kitchen that were torn out two weeks ago. What remained was a tumbleweedy wilderness of food packaging, broken flowerpots, lumps of dried cement, rotted wood bits, paint scrapings and rusty screws. Long weeds grew between the pavers.

A plastic bag dancing on the wind would have completed the picture but my breakfast bag was pressed into service as a glove so that I could clear away the rubbish and pull out the weeds. My search for a sweeping device in the Surgery yielded a stumpy circular hoover-attachment brush and the final crumbs of rubbish were shooshed into my glove bag at exactly the moment the first patient arrived. We had our last morning together the Brain Doctor and I, then our last lunch. The last patient was one of my favourites, a woman who always puts her child on my lap so that we can draw spiders while she sees the Brain Doctor.

Now I'm off to Edinburgh, another cat ... and the festival!!!

Thursday, July 30

Tattoo Man has left

his home above the Brain Surgery, he's packed his drill and his vests and he's taken the internet with him.

The Brain Doctor, doesn't understand how the internet works and it was a while before I could make him understand that shouting at his computer wouldn't make the emails appear. He  has barely spoken to me since I told him that I would be also be leaving so I find myself missing the sound of boots crashing up and down the stairs and the sight of a too-naked male body bursting into the surgery.

Last night Rabbit took me out for a Last Supper

Tuesday, July 28

Two months ago I watched this great film

about how Cambodia in the '60s was the funkiest kingdom on the planet, how it was so groovy and loved pop music and sex and fun until the Khmer Rouge arrived and killed nearly everyone.

The country is damaged but recovering, 'Not Easy Rock n Roll' is the story of a roaring-woman who is becoming a star.

On Saturday this roaring-woman appeared on my kitchen-on-stage at WOMAD and showed me how to slice a box of ginger as-thin-as-eyelashes so that we could cook Angry Chicken together.

I haven't quite got over it yet.

Saturday, July 25

the WOMAD festival is on

and once again I am working on the Taste the World stage*.

Yesterday it rained and rained but in our tent we visited India and Bhangra-danced the blues away, then off to Columbia for sunny-day crab gratin then on to the bluesy desert-ty atmosphere of Tinariwen who I am in love with:

1: they are unbelievably handsome

2: they wear beautiful long robes and intense jewel-coloured scarves wrapped in the manner of Lawrence of Arabia.

3: they made an astonishing stew, this is how you make it

ask a Halal butcher to chop 10 lamb shoulders into big boney pieces

fry the meat hothothot till golden all over then add water to just cover the meat, add salt

after 3 hours of slow simmer take the meat from the lamb and shred, you will have one kilo (dry weight) of basmati rice just cooked, combine the lamb meat and some of the cooking liquid with the rice. It will be a mush - that's fine

Add pepper and either 500g of rancid goats butter or 250g of fresh butter plus 500g of grated strong mountain cheese like Comte.

everyone eat from the same pot and drink the remaining cooking liquid because it will make you strong.

* I explain my role in this here, if you click the WOMAD tag underneath here, all my previous posts to do with this event come up

Tuesday, July 21

The Brain Surgery was closed for a while

Because the Brain Doctor went on holiday, before he set off the tattooed man who lives upstairs offered to refresh the surgery kitchenette in lieu of rent.

I didn't know about this  until I encountered the broken-cupboard-mountain blocking the path to the front door.

Inside, on the floor of the waiting room are two large cracked boxes, spilling out the things we preferred hidden: Christmas baubles, mismatched crockery, leaky cleaning products, oversqueezed toothpaste tubes and skanky brushes ... men's underwear!

The kitchenette gapes next to my desk like an enormous mouth with several teeth newly extracted - a little bendy tap is perched on a shiny new sink,  there are no drawers - spoons, knives and forks are piled on a draining board that is made of such thin metal the weight of the cutlery is bending it. Rugged patches on the wall mark where cupboards had been .

There is no longer a cupboard door concealing the pipework under the sink which is a good thing because when I turn on the tap I can see immediately that water now flows directly onto the floor.

Sunday, July 19

Ths is my niece

she is four years old.

This is me and her uncle

the sweetie is for me and the snail is for her uncle who isn't here this weekend which means that she can share my bed.

at bed time the niece is tired and looks like this

I put her into my bed
At my bedtime I tuck her up a little then get in beside her
mostly we spent the night like this
I snoozed intermittently then woke up around 6.30 - her face close to mine

seeing my eyes open - she said

I have been waiting all night for you to wake up

Friday, July 17

Sewing with Ivor and Phyllis

I came home late after a movie last night. Feeling a need to do sewing - I looked for a radio show to stitch along with and found this 1990 series made by Ivor Cutler and Phyllis King. So entranced by their sweet weirdness, I gobbled up 3 episodes and made this skirt.

For people who can't access the link here's a taste of Ivor:

My niece and nephew have arrived for the weekend, the four-year-old insisted on showing me all her jewels before coming into the house while the eight-year-old went to inspect the house, apparently it mostly meets with his approval except that my bedroom 'could do with a tidy-up'

Friday, July 10

In the news

In Bristol a blind piano tuner is in trouble for touching the bottoms of his female employees and licking them.

In London I am taking care of a huge hairy cat, a noisy madam with fluffy pantalooney legs who creeps up on me when I lie on the lawn and licks my armpit.

I arrived yesterday during a 48-hour tube strike and had to join all the rest of the world marching through the city overtaking grid-locked cars and buses. At St Pancras I passed this scene

Tomorrow I shall go to Tate Modern to see Sonia Delauney

Saturday, July 4

The valley of cats

I regularly visit a site where crazy animal accumulators place ads for people to come and take care of home and pets in their absence - all of these are unpaid opportunities

Here's today's favourite:

I am an English woman that has an old farmhouse and barns, over the years I have established a cat rescue/refuge with approx. 90 cats, and kittens ... these need feeding/water bowls filled.. litter trays cleaned and the house sweeping and floors washed

What responsibilities are required of house sitter?

To keep home clean, litter trays clean, food and water bowls clean and filled..

Features of the property and location

(photo of tumbledown barn and a yard full of cats)
An old farmhouse, barns, small garden since I had a landslide.

Friday, July 3

The aftermath

There was a big party last week - For one whole month I was clearing clearing away ... everything untidy and/or embarrassing out of sight, cleaning the house, tidying the garden, making room for us all to squeeze inside should the rain come ...

And then it was over - the withdrawal process has involved:

i)  physical infirmities

ii)  cooking experiments  -  a horrible bread salad, some dull cake, nice chocolate/rhubarb/biscuit thing, baked apricots, walnut biscuits and a terrific baked custard (lavender and honey if you're asking)

iii) un-mending - in the first case taking a shirt with too-tight sleeves, snipping it into a short-sleeved shirt, then a sleeveless shirt, then a sleeveless shirt with roomy armholes, then a binful of tiny bits of cotton

In between these performances I am making the house normal again.

Thursday, July 2


1.  a coarse, open fabric of worsted or cotton for flags, signals, etc.
2. patriotic and festive decorations made from such cloth, or from paper, usually in the form of draperies, wide streamers, etc., in the colors of the national flag.

3. flags, especially a vessel's flags, collectively.

Origin of bunting 1735-45; perhaps orig. “sifting cloth,” hence bunt to sift ( Middle English bonten) + -ing

The bunting started last Monday, I triangled damaged tea-towels and bedlinen, zig-zagging across the living-room-sewing-room then pushed out of the window and over the garden

Bristol is thoroughly bunted, now I am heading for Swindon...

Wednesday, June 24

Surprisingly warm weather

has led me to leave the front door open at the Brain Surgery. This is mainly to alleviate the scent of decay that hangs around us.

A surprising number of patients are concerned that this will lead to gangs of n'er-do'wells thundering in and ...?

I wonder what these Bad People might do

Nobody knows

I reassured one man that we would be safe because I was, in reality, a policeman masquerading as a receptionist - he said

Yes - you look like an actress!

Sunday, June 21

For Father's Day

here's my dad playing with a cat  and my mother playing a supporting role

Thursday, June 18


I have been offered an opportunity to study for a Masters at a Prestigious Institution.

This will involve Big Changes and me spending a lot of time in That London*.

My friends have greeted the news with gratifying levels of congratulatory excitement 

The Brain Doctor made a phlegmatic enquiry as to when I intend to leave him

here is a graph indicating where we all stand on the Fear/Excitement Continuum

* if anyone reading this has tips or contacts for weekday lodgings in London do let me know

Monday, June 15

Refreshment Events

Last week I took tea with Bird Lady, we looked at her carpet moths and then we walked on the path encircling her garden. She tests how good her legs are by doing ten laps of the garden which is the exact same distance as from her house to the shop, that way she knows if she's OK to go out for buns.

Today I met my new New Best Friend for coffee - a sculptor - her current work in progress is a large heart, knitted in sections while travelling on public transport or when taking coffee with friends

She produced a right ventricle while I ate a piece of parkin

Saturday, June 13

Today we are mostly crying

Violin practice in All Hallows Church, Easton

The rain has been heavy since last night.

This morning I found tiny eggs on the ground and a torn nest hanging under the hedge. Two squashed shells each containing a perfect baby robin lay next to a single unbroken egg on the wet black soil.
Pink and each one the size of my index fingernail.

Then I went to a church to listen to a choir singing songs so beautiful that I cried all over again.

After the choir, a music teacher used the residual audience as a rehearsal opportunity with her young pupil - more tears.

I seem unable to turn the taps off - I'm currently taking a break from boohooing at the telly.

Friday, June 12

Building Site Art

A building site has emerged on the next street, the posters were informative

Juno: everybody has hard hats

Aradiya: It's the school. It's a big big school and it's not going to fall down. I do like it.

Thursday, June 11

There's a new bike in town

Not sure if he's staying or just passing through


Ice Boy is leaving

I shall miss him grooving around the house in my sweaters and making his multi-stack-Scooby-snacks.

Ice Boy arrived with no clothes apart from the ones he had on, his sister took him to a shop and filled many bags with vegetables and tomato sauce and underpants and t-shirts.

Instead of bringing a suitcase, Ice Boy brought his bike which he checked on to the plane at Iceland and flew all the way here to Bristol. Ice Bike is baby-blue-and-white and ... like a dolls' bike. First day in the UK Ice Bike gave up the ghost, a pedal dropped off and it hasn't been used since.

Ice Boy says that he's going to give it to a charity and I asked if he was fed up about bringing a bike all the way to the UK and not be able to use it

No not at all the bike box was huge, there was so much space - I fitted many boxes of Cheerios in around the bike

Saturday, June 6

I have new neighbours

they are two men who are not as young as they'd like to be, one is filmstar handsome, the other is fair-haired and puts me in mind of Winnie-the-Pooh

A stone wall marks the boundary between our properties, it is built to waist-height. On top of this wall is a broken-saggy trellis and a heavy tangle of ivy - someone is coming to build a new trellis and I must take down the old one along with the vegetation. I called to Pooh when I saw him through the ivy curtain and I warned him that we would soon be very visible to each other but only for a short time.

Then I took down the old fence and it was so exposing like we were in each other's gardens and then my step-daughter walked out of next-door's house talking to the filmstar neighbour who, it turns out, is her new boyfriend.

My stepdaughter makes the proper introductions between us - the two men  are not so much younger than me but because one is the boyfriend of my stepdaughter I am cast as the mother-in-law and they are very polite and careful.

A new trellis has been erected but it is currently bald, we can still see through into each other's gardens quite easily.

This morning Pooh brought all his friends home after a night out clubbing. I was outside, watering the garden, hanging up washing and listening to their chatter and their disco music until they all passed out - except Pooh who was standing on his own near the new trellis with a cigarette and a can of beer, I was also near the new trellis so I said hello - he looked surprised and confused and he pulled up his t-shirt to scratch his big stomach in puzzlement and the smell of alcohol and chemicals was so strong that I was intoxicated and then he tried to talk to me - through his haze he was remembering that I was someone's mother and inbetween words I couldn't quite grasp I heard him ask if I'd like a cup of tea and a sandwich.

We continued each in our sides of the garden trying not to look at each other but it is so difficult not to look, he is fascinated by my washing line and my scrubbing of the outside table and I am trying not to look, his belly is still exposed and he is making the sorts of breathing sounds that tell me he is feeling more and more ill and I have to try really hard not to be a mother and tell him to go to bed with a good drink of water.

Tuesday, June 2

Style tips

Today my favourite patient came to see the Brain Doctor, Bird Lady  is several hundred years old, her hair is orange

I do it myself  ... henna ... costs nothing ... then chop chop

I admire her raspberry scarf

I spend no money on clothes except cashmere, I threw all my skirts and dresses out a century ago now I just have trousers and cashmere ... it makes everything so simple

We have arranged to take tea together next week...

Saturday, May 23

One of the nicest things

about Hairy Cat's home is that the backyard is totally private. Also the whole of the terrace opens up to reveal - A JACUZZI!!!!

This morning I washed in the outside shower then listened to my favourite podcast from the tub in the sunshine.

Friday, May 22

I'm back in Crouch End

with Hairy Cat who has aged since my last visit - a baby compared to my friend Rebecca's cat, The Hairy One is just 16 years but I think that still adds up to at least 100 cat years.

He's crotchety with arthritis and renal problems but I've got the hang of how he likes his food and which bits I can stroke AND NO PICKING UP OWCHOWCHOWCH!!!

Crouch End is part of London and I shall now go to see Art - in Bloomsbury a girlfriend has lined a room entirely with folded coils of fabric and this afternoon someone will sing in this room.

Wednesday, May 20

My bike was stolen last week

and I've been pretty glum about that.

The Man accumulated several bicycles last year after he snapped one, then got it welded and then bought a few more off Gumtree so I was hoping there might be something in that pile for me.

When I told the Brain Doctor about the theft he was sympathetic and said

I've got just the job for you - a nice little Raleigh, it's a spare no-one uses it - you have it!

I said that's very kind but I think I'm fixed thank you.

A week later I've discovered that none of the Man's big bike pile are roadworthy, so - after walking several miles and remembering how slow feet are when you've got used to wheels - the Brain Doctor repeated his offer today

Come on! - that Raleigh is sitting around my house doing nothing, it's just the job for you


He went very quiet and when he was between patients I said
that bike -will your wife mind if you lend it to me?

and he said

Actually it is hers, I probably shouldn't let you have it


I still share the control panel at the Brain Surgery with Rabbit, sometimes the Brain Doctor picks up a call when one of us is out on a break, I can tell when this happens because appointments are blocked in with wavy patterns instead of patient details.

Yesterday when we got to the bit of the appointment book with a wavy doodle there was no-one waiting to be seen in the surgery

I asked the Brain Doctor who the doodle signified

A new patient
Do you know him?


Do you have his number?

he talked so much, he just rambled on and on for so long I couldn't bear to ask him to say anything else

This was the point that Tattoo Man came downstairs in his vest to update us on the status of his internal bleeding
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