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. 

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

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

Tuesday, August 22

We picked puffball mushrooms

bigger than a big man's head. I thought they'd be fluffy and full of air but they were surprisingly heavy and wet. As many as possible were sliced and laid out on sheets of newspaper in the hot wooden summerhouse, the nearly-dry slices now threaded and strung across the windows, they look a bit like chicken breast until you touch them and then they feel like polystyrene. 

The house is permeated with an earthy, trufflish odour

Puffball goes golden yellow when fried. Circular pieces fill the pan, like crepes, these cooked are layered between greaseproof paper and are now at rest in the freezer.

My holiday is over 

I have returned to a fancy-pants part of London to finish my studies with Nigel-the-cat in a large modernist house. We have a banjo and Beautiful Art and a view-to-die-for - what could possibly stop me writing?

Saturday, August 5

New Cats

the excitement's died down and I'm back at my Cat Woman day job in London with two fat boy cats - a cross-looking-black one and an anxious black-and-white one.  The anxious one nibbles things in other people's gardens which can result in an allergic reaction in the form of a swollen lower lip which makes him look a bit daft.

I'm in Brixton, which is one of my favourite bits of London and really great for not reading the academic tomes or writing the big essays that I am supposed to be doing RIGHT NOW.

Today I went touring fabric shops with Pam where we got lost in shiny things, she bought several metres of silver embossed plastic tablecloth which she might use as wallpaper in her new bathroom. I bought a metre of silky silvered fabric because the-man-at-home  wants something like tough silver cling film to make a 'sound camera' and this might be the stuff to do it.

Sunday, July 30

Italy: children

The first bit of Italy was Pontremoli which was full of children and ice cream, so delicious and so so sun-burny-hot I almost burnt my tongue and when we tried to go to the seaside there was no room in the sea and then when we did manage to sardine ourselves into the water between all the shiny hologram-and-tinfoil swimwear the children cried because their bottoms got itchy-salty so we had to squeeze our way out of the water and walk like egyptians along the sand among people WHO WEAR HIGH HEELS ON THE BEACH and stand in line to use the solitary shower.

the best ice cream that day was chocolate

During my Pontremoli stay we visited BIG BEN PIZZA an establishment that handed out extravagant amounts of Doritos to go with our fizzy drinks while we waited for the too-much-amount of food that gets ordered by people who are too hungry to think sensibly

the best ice cream that day was blackberry and peach

Italy - Genova

I took a train from Pontremoli to Genova - a port city. People live in  in vertiginous layers up the cliffs around the port - a network of funiculars swish you up to different levels. If you like, you can sashay back down among the palazzos on foot, along leafy, zigzagging footpaths

My landlady was Valeria, her home full of beautiful artwork and movie-set furniture. I spent a day on the funiculars and pathways and palazzos, then, next day, before heading to Pisa on the 2pm train I spent the morning with Valeria on her tropical verandah drinking coffee and eating bouncy smoked cheese from Majorca.

Italy: De'Coltelli's

My last evening in Italy was in Pisa, in a guest house full of large ugly artwork - the owner took one look at me and said

Forget the leaning tower - you need to go to the best ice cream in Italy, here is a map, this is the route ...

I visited De'Coltelli's twice before supper and once after, this is peach sorbet with pink grapefruit granita

Thursday, July 6

I trapped myself in my Gina Lollabrigida dress

I thought that I was going to have to stay stuck and travel to Italy in it and wear the wretched thing all week and that would teach me a fine lesson or two about vanity and ageing gracefully and not eating so much ice cream ... but then a man turned up to remove building rubble and I was able to ask him to help - my predicament embarrassed him but I was too relieved to care.

Yes I am going to Italy - tomorrow at very-early-o'clock, and I was going through my 'Ideal-Me' box of frocks - just in case

still contemplating mortality

Now that Cheesey has vacated his shouting post opposite my house, all the other conversations are drifting back into my windows - yesterday morning I didn't quite catch what the child said but I did hear his mother's response

well - people don't die just because they've run out of breath

Tuesday, July 4

When I meet a new cat

 -  it is important that I put my bag on the floor so they can have a sniff and see what sort of thing I am.

Just as I've been pussy-footing around in London, The Man has been in Chile filming pumas - big grey cats who wear a lot of mascara - sassy cats. 

I watched footage from a recent trip - pumas in their hundreds were creeping up on the crew, a cameraperson might feel a whisker touching their arm then slowly get up to do a controlled crouch-ey backward walk away from dinner time.

This action looked great played backwards but nevertheless I was a bit alarmed - the numbers, the closeness !!!

I was assured there was nothing to worry about

They're just bag-sniffers, they're exactly the same as your cats

Sunday, July 2

I dreamt my room was full of people

On Friday I returned from my London studies to spend a little time with The Man who was home in our house for  a brief moment between his filming trips. The quietness as I turned the corner near my home broadcast the fact that Cheesey was no longer occupying the tree outside my bedroom window. 

The Man left for Sri Lanka yesterday afternoon

While I slept last night a crowd of people wandered in to my bedroom and sat around chatting, laughing, drinking and arguing.  I woke up and challenged them about their intrusion - they said that they'd been doing it for years and had assumed I didn't mind. 

My head, clearly unable to cope with this new solitude, is re-peopling itself when I'm not looking.

Saturday, June 24

my under-the-tree neighbour

continues to expand, there are extra tarpaulins, seating in the lounge area and chequerboard flooring has been installed in the shop where the prize item for sale is a pair of ladies boots. Cheesey's shouting hasn't abated, if there's no-one passing to shout at, he shouts at himself or he shouts across at callers to my house - broadcasting full details about whether I'm in or not - if I'm not in he lets the neighbourhood know when I left the house and by what mode of transport.

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