Friday, December 23

the bus from Bristol to London

is a journey that takes one hour and a half, this is just to get to the beginning of London, if you want to get into the centre of town the bus takes at least another hour to get through the traffic.

Like most sensible passengers I get off the bus at the beginning of London and take the tube

I got on the bus at Bristol on Monday and the driver said You going to Victoria?

I said, Yes but I'll get off at Hammersmith (with all the other passengers)

You're supposed to get a ticket to Hammersmith and you're supposed to pay more to do that !!!!

The whole week went the way of Alice in Wonderland 

After Blind Ken started questioning me about my appearance I became aware that another person was in the house, Ken kept leaving the room to squabble with someone that might have been a housekeeper - should she use a supermarket voucher to buy milk or fish? He'd say what he wanted, come back to where I sat and bring our conversation back to my piratey teeth then he'd change his mind and leave the room again to tell her to buy fish ... or milk.

Clearly she could have been more use in the room to tell Blind Ken if I also had an eye patch and a parrot but I never got to meet her.

Thursday, December 22

Saw this tempting ad

in London yesterday.

In the afternoon I met Ken who is blind and would like someone to go and read to him now and again. 

Ken asked me to describe myself. After I'd said that I was a fairly average sized sort of woman  I felt I ought to try and think of distinguishing features, I described my hair which went down well, then I said that children tend to notice my gold tooth and that I supposed it made me look a bit swashbuckling. 

This bit made Ken visibly anxious

Monday, December 19

my friend is returning to Japan

after living in the UK for nearly two years she now has just two weeks to get everything done. Yesterday she told me excitedly that she had achieved another item on her bucket list:

today I had jam roly poly

Saturday, December 10

Overheard in London last night

I had a vegan breakfast in Whitby then got the train ... seriously double ... no treble beans ... five hours later I could still feel the gas bubbles travelling up my back and coming out of my collar - goodness knows what the other passengers must've thought

Wednesday, December 7

I live near two football grounds and a river

these things can be hazardous:

the river is tidal - twice a month it comes in over-the-road high so I need to keep wellies handy.

The football grounds mean that I can sometimes hear lovely chanting from the terraces but I also need to be careful about when I attempt public transport.  

Last match day I was on an empty tube then suddenly an entire stadium of people poured into my carriage. Sandwiched tight between roaring and singing men was actually quite fun - like a really loud lullaby but then I was coming to my station and said 'excuse me I need to get off' but my feet were a bit lifted off the floor and despite having people trying to propel me from behind I wasn't getting towards the door so they decided to see if they could 'crowd-surf' me me over the top but they were mainly very tall men and it was apparent that I was going to get slapped in the face by dangling handstraps and also I had quite a big handbag which would cause friction and might be undignified - so I declined the offer and went along for a few more miles and several refrains of Lord of the Dance

Tuesday, November 29

The neighbours are comedically awful

Their initial investigations were conducted by inviting me over for drinks and 'nibbles' which was ok, Brenda might be nice but I couldn't tell over Gary's braying. We're British so I had to 'tit' their 'tat' - I asked Brenda to join me in town for supper and Gary decided to join us because he's the sort of man who never misses an opportunity to behave like an arse in public so we had a ghastly time - I nipped over to the front desk and paid the bill before we'd finished eating so I could get home as quickly as possible - I'd hoped they'd noticed that we weren't getting on and we could quietly (Britishly) leave it at that.

... but that isn't to be, I have been included on a very long email list for a twice-weekly 'round robin' update of Gary's latest literary reviews, views on modern music and news of their various family activities

Thursday, November 24

I'm in new temporary accommodation

The house-owner had mentioned that if the front door was left open the next-door-neighbour-in-his-dressing-gown was liable to run in, pelt down the hallway, out the other side and leap over the fence into his own back garden.

I'd figured this could go either way - scary or entertainment - I reserved judgement. 

Chatting with this neighbour and his wife last night I realised that they were trying to decide if they wanted to be friends with me, I'd told them that I normally live in Bristol: 

Have you got a big house in Bristol? 

yes it's a whopper 

and a garden?  

well, more of a park really

Tuesday, November 15

walking through a hideous city building site

near Aldgate East - a woman was coming towards me through scaffolding poles that were taking up the pavement and the roaring traffic was way too close. She looked like she lived on the street and as she was coming straight for me waving a hand that held a polystyrene cup in one hand and clutching a handwritten sign slightly scrunched in the other I guessed she was going to ask for money. We were in a noisy stream of people when she was in front of me I stood still to hear what she was yelling while waving the begging note and I saw the money note and everyone was bumping into us she in a dizzy mix of shock and delight


we high-fived and she went on her way trying to tell as many people as possible

Monday, November 14

My mother and I

were out and about in London  

at the pedestrian crossing we waited until the cars had stopped and the man turned green, by which time a crowd of impatient pedestrians had formed   

the cyclist - a man in his sixties - nearly ran us over because he was busy on his phone and hadn't noticed the lights  

a woman crossing with us said angry things to him   

mum thought people should take a more compassionate view 

there must've been something wrong with him - didn't you see he was talking to himself

My new tooth was screwed in last week

I keep needing to remember that there is no big black gap and I can readjust my smile  

I'm sad about Leonard but can't bear to try and decide on a favourite song to post - so here's a speech  

Tuesday, November 8

I went to Paris to buy a chapati roller

I also went to See Things but I was poorly so only got as far as the roller and a bowl of chips before retiring to the bed of my tiny rented apartment.

Here I gained an insight into another answer of how Parisian women  stay so remarkably slim:

A very small kitchen plus an enormous fridge. Only a very slim person can get into the kitchen with the fridge and then the tiny space between body and fridge only allows access to a small amount of food, the bigger you get the less food available - a perfect feedback loop

Wednesday, November 2

I'm living by the river

it's a fashion hotspot  - this photograph is a typical example of daywear in Putney

Today I walked out in one of my Frankenstein jumpers - an orange one. I had stopped at a frantically complicated traffic junction - a car braked hard in the middle of the intersection, the driver wound down the window and, amid a torrent of honking, asked (in a way that sounded like she did actually want one) where I got that jumper.

Thursday, October 27

I have become fascinating

everything I do is scrutinised at close quarters    

the cats have a dirt tray in the bathroom 

which they never use - because they go outside for that ...

 unless I go in there and don't shut the door really tightly

Monday, October 24

my new best thing to do in London

is to walk along the Thames foreshore at low tide - apart from being outsidey and seasidey, it's as social as you want it to be and the beach is full of exciting things -  it is an excellent sort of party.

The foreshore is basically a long established rubbish dump that gets turned around twice daily in the Thames washing machine. I frequently meet people* who show me astonishing treasures that they have found on their beach walks.

I'm a beginner and my eyes aren't in yet so I'm still at the stage of being in awe at driftwood and old bones, I'm also keen on the phenomenon known as 'Thames Spuds'  - my photo shows one very rude example -  soft London bricks that become 'pebbelised' in the churning water

*people who forage along the foreshore are known as 'mudlarks'

Wednesday, October 19

Since March my dentition has been incomplete

BUT NOW, RIGHT AT THIS MOMENT a new tooth is being 3d printed for me 

I hope they make it out of something tasty 

like toffee 

Friday, October 14

I'm temporarily overhoused

and life will be complicated for a while as I shuttle between a south London house with no pets and the ongoing north London house of marauding all-shapes-and-sizes cats.

both homes are loaded with terrors - in trying to balance which is the most terrifying I came up with a point system:

North London

cats that I need to keep alive - 50

pirate cats that want to come in and pee on my stuff - 20

shaky stacks of stuff that could avalanche at any time - 20

knobs and handles that drop off when I touch them - the toll so far includes the fridge handle, 2 X light switches, 2 parts of the lavatory flush system and the lavatory seat  which is trying to make up for it's wobbliness by being fluorescent - 20

levels of extreme unhygienic uncleanness that I keep noticing in my peripheral vision  - 50

terror toll = 160

South London

super neat squeaky clean (like in a hospital) - 50

highly burglarable - 50

a neighbour who is prone to run through the hallway and jump the fence into his own garden in his dressing gown  if the front door is left open -  minus10

there is no kettle here: the hot water tap does that function and will spurt steaming-boiling water if  you use one hand to pump the middle of the tap three times then twist the pumpy thing while holding a mug under the spluttering stream of lava - 500

terror toll = 590

Sunday, October 9

I am the TV

at night the cats sit on the window sill outside to watch the latest episode of Me

Conversation with 5 year old who has decided that she wants to become a doctor

our lungs are amazing! our whole body is made of lungs; our eye balls, our fingers, our hair...

so what are our lungs made of?


Friday, October 7

The new household

Fred and Ginger are prize-winning visions of sleekness their home is full of toys and play towers

Fat boy and Fluffy are the hobo cats who live outside - Fluffy  is timid and has a very tiny head on her fat grey body, Fat Boy is her father - an enormous tiger-striped champ with a broken ear, his wide eyeballs give him an air of shockedness

I have been instructed to take care of all these cats - there is an entire room full of food for them including a fridge and a freezer packed with prime cuts of beef and chicken from the butcher.

This is Black Pete, the one-eared neighbourhood pirate cat - we are all scared of him

Tuesday, October 4

I'm back at school

the computerised system for timetables etc., still doesn't work very well so there's a lot of tutting going on.

I am catsitting far to the north of the city - in a crazy woman's home. The place is stuffed to the ceiling except for tiny channels of not-stuff that just allows a person, if they are careful, to weave a path through - until today there was no possibility of sitting anywhere or finding a space to stand and chop in the kitchen.

I spent the evening gathering up the dirty underwear which I don't think should live under the dining table even when mixed with Doritos and fag ends. Then I moved a few broken electrical goods and now I have made enough hoovered space to sit nicely with a cup of tea and wonder where the cats are.

Two identical sleek siblings are the bona fide feline residents here, there are also two scared hobo cats. On the half hour a sleek cat snakes through the open window, slides under chairs and table, then with a glance back at me, heads out the door to report to the others what I'm up to now and now and now.

Monday, October 3

I've been asked for more sandwich

here's a round up of things I can remember happening between the end of Spain and the beginning of being back in London:  

unpacking and laundry unpacking and laundry unpacking and laundry

frenetic socialising to make the most of tan and holiday pzazz

attended a weekend conference about the future with 'Play' as one of it's major themes. This included  filmed robot demonstrations - in the 'playful robot' section a robotic puppy is programmed to get infected by a computer virus which makes it behave badly. Then there was a talk about how most people don't actually enjoy 'play' so maybe it's best kept as an idealised concept, religious people do this quite well because most of them think of 'heaven' as a great big playground where no-one has to feel guilty about having fun because they're dead

unpacking and laundry

eating quite a lot of cheese

finally accepted that the stunted plum tree in our garden might be dead - I pulled at the trunk and it snapped in my hand like a big stick of grissini

outings to see family

unpacking and laundry 

Inherited an ancient and damaged rug* - currently working out how to mend it

*rug once owned by a New Zealand homesteader known as Willy Cobbledick, most famous for driving badly  in the '50s

Saturday, September 24

Went to an Catalunyan outdoor boogie woogie concert

met this gang of loud women-with-many-fans-and-one-man

the following day we went to see Vivian Maier's photographs

that was a high point

Best resignation letter ever

Thursday, September 22

Barcelona was hotter than hell

The puppy and I assumed this position A LOT 

I had one great skirt, long and billowy and I wore it constantly  

When it was time to wash it I put the clean billowy skirt out to dry on the washing line which is cantilevered off the balcony -the flat is up at the top of the building.

I didn't put enough pegs on the skirt so when I next looked out of the window my skirt was no longer there.  I went outside and leaned over the balcony - my skirt had caught on the washing line of someone below - but very delicately. Before it blew off again I rushed downstairs and knocked on the door of the apartment and as I waited for the reply and noticed the tumbleweed in the corridors I realised that I was the only person stupid enough to be in Barcelona at this time of year - everyone else has found a mountain to visit.

The puppy and I gazed down at the skirt and decided that it would definitely blow away in the night.

Over the following days I peered down below to see my skirt still just hanging on down there - then about a week later I came in the front door of the building at the same time as a lady with her arms full of ciabatta she looked at me suspiciously and said

where are you?

I said that I was with the puppy in the top apartment

Ah - the two boys - where have they gone?

I told her - then she said

I was in the mountains for two months - I have your skirt would you like it back?

Sunday, August 28

Currently living with a range of beautiful flooring designs

khaki harlequin floor with red braid trim, accessorised here with red chewy

pink-and-white zig zag floor with visible mend

classic monochrome

all floors available with added canine

Wednesday, August 24

I stayed with Mrs Madrigal's daughter

last night in Barcelona*.

She let me into the house,  showed me the bed I could sleep in - which was on this veranda. We exchanged stories and then she disappeared. I'd spotted the kitchen but after she'd gone I needed the bathroom which I knew was behind one of the closed doors along the corridor - the first doors I tried opened onto other bedrooms where young women were reading or doing their hair - we smiled and said perdon/de nada at each other before I closed their door and tried the next one.

I particularly liked these family photographs on a shelf in the living room

*I'm guessing it must be Mrs Madrigal's daughter because I felt as though I'd turned up in an Armistead Maupin tale

Sunday, August 21

I'm packing for Spain

- in preparation for the trip I've been meeting Dolores for a daily dose of language exchange - I still can't pronounce the Spanish word for lawn and she laughs when I talk about fingers or toes so I will avoid conversations involving those things.

Part of the adventure will involve looking after a not-very-young puppy in a fancy-pants district of Barcelona, apparently he can't too walk far so I plan to buy a trolley as a sort of puppy pushchair.

In other news

I have spent the last two years trying to find someone who can mend bits of the house - during this time there have been:
i) the ones who said they'd come to look but didn't
ii) the ones who came to look but didn't send quotes


iii) the one who came and told me that he could fix everything then put a call out on social media to see if there were any unemployed burglars who'd like to come and fix everything

Saturday, August 13

During this week of family meetups

my five-year-old-niece went to visit her uncle-who-lives-in-a-palace 

The palace has shiny parquet floors and is decorated with many glass orbs and other delicacies. The niece and her brother are very lively and nosey people.

The uncle laid out ground rules:
no sliding on the floors, no looking in cupboards, don't touch this or that or that

the niece listened then asked

can we fart?

Friday, August 12

During a family gathering this week

my father and I took turns to relate the story about how he came to visit me in France in the early eighties: I was working as a goatherd in a remote woody-hilly place somewhere near the Pyrenees and had sent a letter home describing the route to get to my hut, it was illustrated with a map and my father used it to pay me a visit. *

it was a good story with lots of adventures  - there was one part that I had never heard before:

My father left me to get on with my goatherding and went off to do a few days walking in the area by himself. The first night he stayed in a B&B then continued on his way. A few hours into the day's walk he stopped by a hedge on a dirt track to scrump a few cherries when a van hove into sight and stopped next to him, there were two men inside - one from the previous night's boarding house, this man leaned out of his window and said   

Monsieur, you left this at our 'ouse

and handed over some greyish white fabric that my father recognised as his own, rather unfashionable, underpants

* the map and another version of this story is here

Tuesday, August 9

on the bus to London

I did knitting and caught up on podcasts -  99% invisible - for a story about the worst smell in the world then a piece about 'sewbots' at Planet Money. Yesterday's best show was Freakanomics  about racial profiling in restaurants if there were shows like these in Spanish I'd be fluent in no time - if anyone knows of any good ones please send me the links.

yes I am still trying to speak Spanish like a native - did I mention that I'm off to Spain soon?

Dolores and I still have our regular spanglish meetings, we speak Spanish one visit then English the next - today was English day and, as she is a professional sportsperson, we discussed the fashion for 'cupping' amongst athletes.

When it is my turn to speak Spanish I seem to always end up talking about insects 

Thursday, August 4

we're plagued with flies

massive bluebottles suddenly appear and buzz crazily around the room bashing into windows and light fittings

tonight I watched one drive himself into a tiny spiders web, the tiny spider was hiding behind a book licking his lips as the fly (which was 10 times bigger than him)  tangled around in the web 

finally the fly buzzed itself free and continued it's noisy flight around the room but this time draped in cobweb like a great big ghost fly

Wednesday, August 3

my jobs-to-do list could wrap twice around the house

this sort of thing has colonised the terrace 

there are days when I sense that the jobs-to-do-list may have reduced infinitessimally 

last week

the electrician fixed my blinking lights.

I told the electrician that I could use some young muscles to tidy up the terrace which has become submerged beneath gigantic tufts of a hybrid-vigour-super-grass that is anchored firmly between the paving stones. The electrician said   

I know someone  

being Welsh his tone is naturally ironic so I was not sure what would happen


A plump sixteen-year-old crept up to my gate clutching a plastic carrier bag full of crisps and orange fizzy drink.  He tickled the grass with a spade for a couple of hours we were both relieved when the rain gave us an excuse to call it a day and head home for chips

in other news

I have fixed 2 sets of broken curtains

Monday, August 1

The Haitians got lost backstage

at the other end of the arena -  a man with a buggy got them rounded up and driven over to our stage, they spilled off the buggy and ran around laughing and kissing us all, there were at least fifty ten people if you counted all the seeing double that was going on.

Meanwhile in front of the stage the audience had been sampling the wine provided by our sponsor and were already pretty happy but they  roared with approval to see a cascade of stoned people arriving on and around the stage giggling and dancing. Their music was fantastic but they weren't up to slicing vegetables - several audience members were pulled onto the stage to help including a girl called Trixie wearing a very short white fairy outfit and crimson hair .

Trixie was able to chop cabbage, twist open bottles of vinegar and fry plantain while band members fell at her feet and grinned at her.

The woman in the Haitian band was the danciest and had many many silk patterned scarves  tied around her waist which she dispensed liberally along with perfume and many kisses - my scarf is blue stripey with flowers and a rude fruity smell, apparently it contains a lot of voodoo so I have put it in a nice box for safety

Friday, July 29

I wore emerald silk

to attend the festival

looking around the market area there was a table piled with old costume jewellery which I picked through and found some earrings to go with my favourite daisy necklace (which I was wearing as you can see from this picture taken near the best food stand)

The jewellery seller sidled up, looked at me and then at the earrings I'd chosen and said approvingly  

Ah yes, I can see that you're a fan of early plastic

Other things

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Thursday, July 28

Vine leaves were the biggest challenge

I live near Turkish supermarkets and various sorts of hippy shops and imagined these to be the least of my problems but it appears that Bristol is experiencing a World Leaf Shortage (and I needneedneed them for WOMAD see my post from two days ago)

I returned home leafless to meet the new electrician who arrived before I'd had time to clean the grease off the broken kitchen light that I hoped he could fix

at peak panic a chum appeared and we both busily phoned potential vine-leaf vendors while watching time running out on shop-opening hours

at the latest moment a leaf supplier was discovered and the person with a bike had to cycle to the other side of the city to buy pickled foliage while I washed my embarrassing light fitting and made tea for the electrician

Tuesday, July 26

A naked man was in the road

two doors down from the friend I was visiting this evening

it was raining so I wondered if he was making the most of the free water but then I saw the mattress wedged half-in-half-out of the open front doorway of the house - maybe it was throwing him out for being unfaithful

he saw me looking at him and said

I forgot to put it out earlier

Monday, July 25

to make Kale crisps

tear up dry raw pieces of kale leaf without any stem, rub them over LIGHTLY with nice oil and lay the pieces out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and bake in a moderate oven for about 5 minutes.   When you remove them from the oven you must EAT THEM INSTANTLY they are delicious for precisely 30 seconds ... at 31 seconds they are foul

I'm all about food this week

WOMAD starts on Thursday - this is the 10th year that I will be shopping, chopping and hopping around for this musical food event

This year's big challenge has been to find a ewe's cheese like one used in Romania to make a rustic dish called Shut-up-and-swallow. I am also looking for live clams, garden eggs and several shades of yellow/green plantain

three years ago Babylon Circus made this film about their experience of Taste the World

*if you click the 'womad' tag below all previous posts on this annual extravaganza will appear

Saturday, July 23

The Man cycles to the pub on Friday nights

he meets other people there, they drink pints, talk about car engines and catastrophise about Brexit

today he told me about the previous evening and said that he thought that his daughter might eventually want to join in on the Friday night pub merriment

why do you think that?

well I asked her along and she gave an excuse rather than just said no - it'll probably take a couple of years before she does though

Friday, July 22

An abandoned steel chair frame

arrived at our house 5 years ago

I gave it an new coat of red electrical wire  which faded and became saggy and sad 

luckily i was recently given a few miles of knicker elastic by the underwear factory down the road  - chair is refreshed

Thursday, July 21

Doloresand I visited the river today

She produced special oily ham from Spain and I supplied a pair of pears. We ate our picnic listening to a roaring weir and squealing children then I picked my way into the river for my first dip this year.

Wednesday, July 20

from the end of the garden I could smell hot jam

and figured that my neighbours must be processing some of their abundant fruit.

then I remembered that I had put plums on the stove to stew - the burning jam smell was coming from my kitchen ... 

Friday, July 15

Kale Mountain

I'd photograph it but the pile of vegetation arriving from next door has got to the point that I can no longer push my way into the kitchen, there's also lettuces, raspberries and a cabbage the size of a big man's head

In Other News

I've been scraping the rust off my Spanish - listening to Spanish radio through the computer and language exchanging with Dolores - in this dayandage we should be able to meet in a clinic, have wires attached to our heads and download each others language files but unfortunately we are still poor so we meet every day for one hour: Spanish on Monday, English on Tuesday and so on for ever until one of us leaves the country.

Tuesday, July 12

So I made a gooseberry ice-cream

but I can't get it in the freezer because it's full of the wool that I've been hiding from the moths

so I haven't actually made ice cream at this point - just a sort of cold fool!

Monday, July 11


arrived on my doorstep today, plus raspberries so soft that I have already squashed them into some cream and dates for my tea

Saturday, July 9

While I was in Wales

the Man started putting out food for Mrs Bird. 

I was hanging out clothes this afternoon and she came hopping around near my feet - the Man said

she wants blueberries

I put some blueberries out on a plate

no you have to cut them up, she likes them quartered

I did this then turned my back to do some other chores, when I looked back at the plate the berries were so cleanly gone that I was sure that it must've been the Man eating them and pretending - like he used to do the Tooth Fairy. He came out behind me and looked at the clean plate

she likes some cheese after blueberries - shave a little Parmesan for her

It's like Santa Claus all over again

Friday, July 8

I was in Wales

and seeing a tiny charity shop, I went inside, it was crammed full of the sort of items that might be left after a garage sale had finished, all piled in that way that the removal of one thing will bring an avalanche of plastic beakers, blankets and jigsaw boxes down on the large woman on the sofa in the middle of the jumble who was staring at me

then a cross woman came in

My daughter's just bin yer, she bought these curtains off you and she wishes she never 'ad - she wanted plain and these are patterned and they don't suit 'er room at all - will you change 'em?

sofa lady indicated the other two curtains available - a single stained shiny boudoir curtain and a torn stewed-gooseberry throw. Curtain lady and I dos y doed in order that she could get into position, inspect them properly and decide which would look better in her daughter's room.

I'm nuturing a growing obsession

with bacteria - the more I read about them the more I love mine. Ten days ago the dentist made me drink a suicide cocktail of antibiotics and I've spent the intervening days growing a replacement microbe population.

In scientific experiments, lack of gut bacteria makes mice unhappy and listless - they won't bother swimming to safety and that definitely happened to me - I too forgot how to swim to safety without my biome.

This enthusiasm for all things bacterial might not be making me the best company at parties - best avoid me until I'm past the honeymoon phase of this particular relationship.

In Other News

Summer popped briefly in to the UK last month - then we had a referendum - Summer buggered off leaving Squally Showers to punish us for being pillocks.

Our political landscape has become a surreal farce with various overgrown schoolboys running away to hide behind their mother's aprons while peeping out to point and laugh at the Punch and Judy show going on in the Labour party. Our next Prime Minister will be one awful woman or another awful woman, which might be better than a series of awful men - but not much.

A Happy Thing

Mrs Bird still  pops in to nitpick about the state of our kitchen

Saturday, July 2

is there a word for the opposite of talent?

Inabilities doesn't seem right I want to call it 'anti-talents' which might be an infection caught from a year in academia where making up words is de rigueur

Friday, July 1

my gum is stitched up

the wrist magically normal again

I paid my mother-in-law a visit - her back is bad and household chores are accumulating.

The job that most needed tackling turned out to be ironing - it didn't seem fair to mention that I'm the world's worst ironiste so I got started ...  

After a while we decided that I might be more usefully employed in the garden.

So that I wouldn't feel bad about the ironing, mother-in-law listed the two other people (both children) who are worse at ironing than me.

Monday, June 27

Owchy time

the IN/OUT of Europe referendum has stirred up an underbelly stew of misery - we're still reeling from that debacle.

also my wrist has been malfunctioning - today I went for a cortisone injection at the hospital which was really really hurty. On my way home from the hospital there was a limping man who was hurting a lot more than me and really needed the hospital so I turned around and we walked back there together with him using me as a walking stick and it must have looked like a very funny three-legged race because the path was all pot-holed and we stumbled like a pair of drunkards.

Tomorrow I am having more dental work done but afterwards I shall go back to London and look after my favourite cats while my bruises go yellow and purple.

In other news

The Birds have tolerated us poking about in their garden for long enough and have started visiting us for a good nosey around. Mrs Bird, appalled at the standards of housekeeping among humans, comes in every day to try and tidy us up. Mr Bird sometimes comes with her but he usually gets tangled in glassware or computer cables and makes things worse so she usually leaves him behind to look after the children. This is today's visit

Friday, June 17

Where to start?

there were cats and now there are none

there was school but that's  finished for summer

I'm sort of back in Bristol but keep going away - that embroidered rendition of Clifton Suspension Bridge was discovered on a visit to a Stoke Newington junk shop on wednesday with my fairy-godmother-aunt who haggled mercilessly to buy it for me. After the f-g-m-a left I met my tutor and asked him if our exam results were out yet

yes but I haven't worked out how to publish them

visited Holy Island with the Man to see the priory and the upside down Hobbit boats

then to Scotland to see my sister and the nibblings where a discussion of future careers was going on:
adult: you can be anything you want
five-year-old : can I be a Wot Wot Hoo Ha?


I feel the need to draw your attention to this poem about hermits

Monday, June 6

It was like the Sleeping Beauty House

While I've been up in That London for the last few months the dust snuck in and blanketed the house - slightly less in the places where someone had brushed a space to eat at the table or torn a path through the cobwebs on the stairs.

But I'm back and banging moths out of their sexy revels in my jumpers, degreasing the stove, taking the bindweed off the pinks and marigolds in the garden and getting my sunny sunshine clothes out from the under-the-bed-boxes.

It's lovely to be home

Saturday, June 4

I've come back to Bristol

the garden is full of slugs and I'm shaking moths out of blankets as the Man appears - I tell him that we're besieged

no he says, we're popular

Saturday, May 28


Gary makes sure there's no funny business with the knives, Brian and Nigel cover the exit -Barbara is sitting on my feet

Friday, May 27

being held under strict surveillance

I'm under house arrest - will smuggle out messages when I've finished the tunnel

Friday, May 20

cat polisher

Two weeks ago the toothless cat had starey fur that was a bit sticky-feeling and off-putting and she also really really wanted a lot of hugs - so gave her a rub down with a slightly damp towel like it was a gigantic mother's tongue and put in a bit of regular brushwork with a soft rubber brush ... she's come up all lovely and shiny. 

I'm hoping that the owners are going to be ok with this new shiny cat when they come home because maybe they like sticky cats and they might just think that I've broken her

Monday, May 16

On Friday we said goodbye

to our friend Simon,

he hadn't been that keen on music* so there were no hymns or any kind of singing, instead we told stories about him that made us laugh because he was the funniest man in the world, he saved butterflies and kept a supply of food plants in his garden for distressed caterpillars and he would chase people up the street with the litter they'd dropped and wave it in their face - which sometimes got them angry and he had collections of bits of old motorbikes and interesting bicycles and big mechanical pencil sharpeners and his yard was full of the bee hives that he'd made because he kept rescuing bee swarms - once he inadvertently upset one of the hives and made a bee so angry that it chased him inside and upstairs and managed to follow him into his bedroom to sting him.

we'll miss him

*He went to a concert once  - the Rolling Stones - and slept through it

Tuesday, May 10

The other cat is perched by my ear

she purrs constantly - a rumble accompanied by the wobbly creaky-squeakiness - like an old fashioned pusher lawnmower

Different cat in the bag

This one is also sitting on my pencil case

Saturday, May 7

I left my jacket on the sofa

when I came downstairs this morning it had been turned into a cat's nest and one arm was covered in sicked up hairballs  

I read until cross-eyed then walked out across Highbury Fields which were teeming with frisbee-playing youth. I should've been happy in the sun and the smokey barbeque air but an enormous gloom has descended.

Friday, May 6

the man came home

but today I had to return to London - another cat sit and a study binge before exams.

I am looking after a pair of rescued cats, one of them is already sitting  in an alert position in my half-unpacked suitcase, the girl cat has neither teeth nor tail and talks incessantly - naturally I am already very fond of them. 

We're in Highbury which is quite posh and appears to be a lesbian hotspot

Thursday, May 5

The man is on his way home

the man is on his way home

the man is on his way home

from switzerland where he has been visiting these exact same ants

An Irish Sisterhood Practise their Defence Skills from Ammonite Films on Vimeo.

in other news

last year I wrote a post about the man going out to film a woman and her dogs who'd discovered bioluminescent worms in their french garden

the bioluminescence film is now ready and can be seen on english television on monday - here's a clip

Monday, May 2

Too much going on

exams next week - scary   
houseboat study continues - great   
a death - tragic 
home -  messy 
weather - changeable/British 
friends - brilliant-but-not-enough-time
end of first school year - emptiness looms
job-hunting - grim

Tuesday, April 26

Tomorrow I am back at school

but today I am in Bristol  - we sat by the fire, me mending jumpers while my Japanese friend, K made a patchwork quilt and we spoke together about everything:

I showed her the holes in my jumper and made a crying face
moths ... moths make me sad

she thought I was talking about moss and looked puzzled, I explained about the creatures that eat my jumpers
aaah yes in Japan sometimes I think I can hear them in the roof space

That turned out to be mouses so I mimed an evil tiny flying nibbling thing  

Saturday, April 23

Vienna was full of cake and sun

and I spent last Saturday walking beside something I took to be the Danube until I looked at a map and realised it was just a canal.

Returning to London, the Thames houseboat research continued, we visited a squillionnaire who owns three large houseboats - one for himself, another for his offspring and a third for guests, afterwards we visited the lady who had run the boatyard for 30 years, we told her that we'd just met Mr Threeboats. She scoffed

Him - he's an idiot!

We had been sifting through newspaper cuttings in the library going back to the fifties, there were many stories concerning glamorous-looking students, actors and writers who lived on the houseboats in those days, I wondered how accurate this image of houseboat tenants was

When I arrived in the boatyard (the early '70s), the houseboats were mainly occupied by old women, very well educated women, their boats full of books, interesting women who wanted to be left alone

In other news
spent last night with some girlfriends dancing to Prince songs

Thursday, April 14

Back in Bristol today

walking through town it's hard not to notice the huge increase in homeless people. One neat, nice-looking older man walked up to me with a box filled half with nettles and half wild garlic

would you like some wild garlic, I've just picked it in Leigh Woods ... I'm homeless these days

foraging seems a whole lot better than standing around selling Big Issues but I worry about animal contamination when I can't see where the garlic gets picked so I let him fill my bag with nettles and then spent an hour cursing him as my hands got stung to pieces preparing it.  Cooked up with lentils, lemon and coconut it's delicious but my hands are still fizzing.


Wednesday, April 13

One of the boats we visited yesterday

(the one with the muddy burglar under the bow)  was 'pratically given' to the owner's mother in the '60s when she was an art student. I hadn't really understood what was going on when he said that she used to have to get up in the night to pour concrete into the hull and stop water coming in - this aspect of boat life was clarified by an elderly lady today:

you had to bail every day because the wooden boats were so leaky, in 1974 a woman gave me her boat for fifteen pounds because she'd come to hate it. I bailed both boats every day and got hers fixed up, then sold it for three thousand pounds and took off to South America but my lodger sublet my boat and the sub-letter wouldn't bail - I got a call to say the boat had sunk but I still had the mooring and a thousand pounds so I bought this boat - this one's got a steel hull.

Tuesday, April 12

Today we started interviewing houseboatees

as part of an effort to record people living on boats on the Thames before they all get wiped away by property developers.  Newspaper clippings from the sixties tell stories of louche living and bawdy behaviour but we'd heard that the rising cost of moorings had respectabilised boaty life and that we'd find none of that sort of thing these days.

As we got to our first mooring so did the police - to evict a conman who had got into a houseboat on the pretext of doing repairs then locked the owner out and refused to leave. Four years later he was now taking his belongings, one armful at a time, to a waiting car several yards down the road.

We continued on our ways and spent the next hour with someone who told a story about the police helicoptering over his boat one night, shining lights in at him and then finally knocking at his door because a burglar had been seen running into the lowtide mud, rolling around in it and then wriggling in under the bow of the houseboat.

As we left the boat we saw the conman, he had filled the car to bursting and was continuing to pile his bags on the pavement around it and having an argument with the driver about how they were going to fill the car and also get in and drive it away.

Monday, April 11

blanch a whole cauliflower

then chopchopchop the florets and little stalks into crumbs  

mix with  tahini, cinnamon, good oil, saltpepperandlemonjuice 

chochopchop roasted walnuts, hard boiled eggs and  parsley  

mix that into the dressed cauliflower crumbs

cover the dish with butter paper and put it in the oven you just switched off, next to the almost-cooked roast salmon so that when Rosa turns up one hour late it will still be delicious 


the point is to have enough of the cauliflower dish leftover to fry up the next day - if you want to feel that it's a whole new thing add chopped anchovies and sprinkle with crispy breadcrumbs

Sunday, April 10

two full days off the boat and I'm still swaying

or maybe the motion is what seamen call 'tacking'  - possibly I was a boat in a former life and, having discovered my roots, I'm trying to get get back there.

In other news

A reunion lunch at the family home yesterday - seventeen of us squashed round a table intended for six-to-eight in what-used-to-be-the-garage, shepherds pie and carrots for everyone followed by an assortment of cream pies. Once everyone was in place at the table we were locked into a sort of chinese puzzle - no-one could leave the room unless everyone rotated in the correct order.

After lunch my nephew continued an eternal wrestling match with his other auntie which is now in it's sixth year and my gappy-toothed niece declared her love for a magenta-haired cousin, imprisoning her in one of the bedrooms for the purpose of telling monster/princess stories.

Friday, April 8

I adjust quickly to being on a boat

but I am becoming more and more vertiginous when I leave the boat and walk around on this good earth

so I've decided to leave the boat for good 

I'm feeling a bit sad about this

but not a really really sad because I have come to look after my favourite cats and there is a proper bathroom and it's warm 

the tortoiseshell is currently leaping in and out of my capacious handbag and Wheezy has made a nest out of my pajamas

I woke to the sound of running feet

lots of them passing by the barge there was also a sort of commotion.

Assuming that a crime was happening I stayed put and then forgot about it. Once I'd persuaded the damp firewood  to catch fire, I put the kettle on and wandered into the park. There, under a large gazebo, was a man in a Puffa jacket tidying away thermos flasks and bananas. I asked what had just happened

It's the Nike race, they should be at Kings Cross by now

Thursday, April 7

Notes on camp:

barge life is basically camping - issues that are insignificant at 'real home' suddenly loom large;

what goes in:

the quantity of stuff you carry to camp - you must keep this quantity in your head because if you could barely carry the stuff you arrived with and then you acquire more stuff - something has to 'disappear'.

what goes out:

I carried  quite a lot of food and tea to the boat - putting it into my body is simply hiding it from view - the way things work on the boat means that I have to plan my café visits strategically.

Luckily, there is a municipal swimming pool close by - combining bathing and bathroom addresses my major camping issues in one fell swoop.


The boat has solar panels - if I manage things well (and if the sun shines sometimes) I have power for lights and batteries - so far I'm handy with that.

For heating and cooking I've been using the woodburning stove - I've been trawling the park daily to pick up kindling and any other useful wood but to be effective logs are needed, there was a small supply when I arrived and I've used those up.

This morning I bought a sack of the logs at the nearby garage and now I know that London wood is, by weight, more costly than diamonds and that my lovely stove suppers are costing more than I imagined.

Wednesday, April 6

Today there were visitors

we ate satsumas while waiting for our crumpets to cook on the stove

Tuesday, April 5

in the evenings

the man who lives two barges away from me on the canal takes a double bass and a chair to the park railings. 

He puts the chair and the instrument over the railings then climbs over and settles down to play

Sunday, April 3

Barge life

is very tranquil - I am on a stretch of canal near an enormous park in East London, sunlight sparkles off the ceiling and it's all very beautiful. Last night I cooked my sweet potato supper in the woodburning stove.

Yesterday I walked across to the main road which is lined with Fancy-Gifts-for a pound-shops, pawnbrokers and counselling services, shops with shutters-down-long-closed and 50p burger bars. 

Today I crossed the park to a universe where everyone is slim and accompanied by stylish children in Bugaboo pushchairs, in this world the cafés are smart and vegetables organic. I purchased two of the most expensive sausages in the world and took them home to pop them in the stove for lunch.

Friday, April 1

Tate Modern

with mother-in-law having coffee. The actress Judy Dench is being discussed and she says

you know she's my twin? 

same birthday? 

same age, same height - five foot exactly, I'm keeping a close eye on her to see if she shrinks

Thursday, March 31

Despite being keen on neither Opera

nor Philip Glass, I had really enjoyed a recent production of Aknaton, so I accepted an offer to go and see a Harold Pinter play at the Old Vic this evening*

The show started at 7.30 - at 7.35 I was standing alone in the foyer watching a fuzzy version of Timothy Spall on the foyer screen. I hadn't been able to contact my friend who had my ticket and who I thought was meeting me early enough before the show for supper.

A thought crept into my head and I walked up the road to the Young Vic where my friend was waiting for me to join her for the show that started there at 8pm. It starred Jane Horrocks so I guessed that it would be an acting thing but it turned out to be singing and dancing thing - the sort of thing that I really don't like.

Also, before all that, my bus from Bristol to London waited in the bus station for seventy minutes before its driver turned up - I don't feel that I've had the best use of a beautiful day 

* I feel the same way about Pinter as I do about Opera - one day I will like them and then I'll know that I've grown up

Wednesday, March 30

I've been home

and I'm still here, seeing friends and the Man and sniffing round the house throwing out all the potatoes whose sprouts have encircled the larder and doing laundry and filling an enormous bin bag with my most stupid shoes (actually I kept the MOST stupid shoes for just-in-case) and then hefted them down to the charity shop. Then I wrote my next essay for school and I have forgotten to get my hair cut twice and I've been wearing my freshly knitted tank top and skipping in the spring weather.

Today I walked up the steep hill to my house as two young women were coming down - one of them handed me a daffodil as we passed each other. 

Tomorrow I return to London I will go and see The Caretaker at the Old Vic and on Friday I will take charge of a narrowboat on the canal - for one whole month I will be a Bargee

Wednesday, March 23

I ushed a film this evening

It was a film about economists and fiscal irresponsibility.  Usually I can shut the doors once the event starts and sit peacefully in the lobby but the older men in the audience were nodding off and the auditorium was periodically rent with the farty sound of raucous snoring. So my duties included Snore Control which involved creeping around and poking anyone sleeping too noisily.

It was a long bus journey back to my hipster loft with the taupe-coloured-cats-that-match-the towels-and-carpets. The Snoring Control made me hungry so I just have eaten a tin of sardines (straight from the tin of course) I now realise that was a big mistake and I am going to be eating those fish all night and the kitties want some too

Tuesday, March 22

never live far from an eel dealer

This one is opposite the end of my street

Monday, March 21

Sping is here

also noted by the local primary school

Exotic Matter

- a weekend event run in a trendy East-side location by continental young men in fashionable trousers and cardigans.

The proposal for the weekend was incoherent and the attendance fee extremely inexpensive, leading me to think two things about it:

i) it would be bad

ii) I should at least go look-see 

The event location was an hour's walk from where I'm staying via a section of London's canal system that I was previously unaware of - that in itself was worth the entrance fee.

The event turned out to be a brilliant combination of imagineering about future materials, revelations about the exotic-ness of everyday things and hearing some truly impressive people discussing their research into the subject of futuricity, materiality and weirdness.

moral of this story: I am taught several lessons in a very short amount of time and realising, yet again, how I never learn lessons that I should've previously learned about making assumptions etc.

Friday, March 18

I went to the Coliseum

 a building so gorgeous that I was dazzled at once when I walked in and then double-dazzled by the show -   Akhenaeton.

The night out was a treat offered by a dear friend who slipped some salmon pink silk culottes into my handbag while we were sipping Chardonnay in the Coliseum bar -  she'd found them in a charity shop up north and thought they were very 'me'

here's a trailer for the show

In other news 

I have moved to an über-trendy location in Hackney, the local butcher shop is fitted with mahogany-faced refrigerated cupboards - in the evening it becomes a restaurant where people sit on high stools at the marble chopping counters sucking bone marrow, discussing chitterling and comparing face-hair products.

The new cats are excitable blonde bushbabies, bouncing off furniture and leaping improbably high heights as they stalk and pounce on each other. We are housed in a heavily securitised city loft within sight of a long-established eel-pie shop  - the sort that used to serve people who worked on slagheaps or collected nightsoil for a living.

Monday, March 14

Foot Foot

is as soft as a very soft thing and she's all mine for the next 3 days

In other news I am about to embark on a survey of Thames houseboats - the weather was dazzlingly good today and I spent it drifting slowly upriver with people-who-know-things pointing at dutch barges, lighters and clippers. 

Friday, March 11

In the morning I will leave the monster house

I'm anxious about leaving this place super-correctly with everything properly clean and locked up and I've quadruple-checked that I'm leaving on the right day because I muffed my entrance by arriving a day early last week. All very embarrassing, I'd been given a key the previous week so I just barged my way in while calling out to the kitties and then there I was in the hallway and looking up to see two shocked faces peering down at me from the upstairs bannister.

Luckily I had somewhere else to go and I just went away and arrived again the next day but the cats have made no attempt to hide the fact that they think I'm an eejit.

I think I'm looking after a little deaf cat next week but the owner doesn't want to meet me until the day before she goes away and there's always the possibility that one of us is a mad axe murderess.

I did a bit of shopping

then caught the bus back to the monster-cat house. It was a busy bus and I sat next to a woman who was muttering angrily, I thought she was just a regular mad person but then I caught some words about kids and biscuits so I agreed wholeheartedly and we were soon best friends exchanging information about our tea habits:

first thing through that door I make a cuppa 

me too 

with plenty of condensed milk


and if I go anywhere on holiday my bags are full of teabags and tinned milk

Thursday, March 10

a large polar bear bean bag

has been moving around the house.  I usually have to step over it when I come in the front door, I put it back on the piano stool and in the morning it's been dumped in the hallway or the kitchen. At night after I've gone to bed I can hear frenetic cat activity - I took this to be the cats playing or fighting which seemed strange as the lady cat seems to spend most of her time snoring on her bed-on-a-pole

Last night the male cat demonstrated that the polar bear bean bag is actually a very hard-working sex slave, also the rug ... and the blanket I had put over my legs.

Wednesday, March 9

monster cats

at the new place - the lady cat exudes a muscular air of menace, right now she's snoring loudly but when she's not snoring she's glaring at me from her bed-on-a-stick, if I walk within a foot of this panoptican, she swipes at me with her slashy claws. The boy is more feminine and mews at me incessantly - they both want to know what I've done with their people

I'm somewhere near Dagenham and I'm finding it pretty exotic, the local shops are multi-purpose, selling food and non-food items, in interesting combinations. The shelves are packed with English-ey tinned things that I'd forgotten existed: potatoes, curry, cling peaches and evaporated milk. There are also loads of not-English-ey tinned things like ackee and saltfish. Sacks of many different brands of rice are piled high against the windows and the freezers have pizza and ice cream one side and bags of exotic fish the other - I got two big bags of frozen anchovies for £5.50 just because I could, I'm now stuck with how to eat that amount of fish before leaving on Friday*

*I'm under strict instructions to feed nothing but Whiskas Cattameat to the monsters

went to post office with parcels

at the counter my attention is riveted by a sprawling handwritten list of 'Useful Numbers'

a box has been drawn around one particular number, the heading in bold outlined caps


Monday, March 7

I've moved east

on the bus to my new home I sat across from a woman dressed up to go out; careful make-up, nicely done hair, a big shaggy zebra coat that tied at the waist. On her bare tattooed feet she wore blue carpet slippers with images of poo on them.

I couldn't stop staring at her feet, trying to read the tattooes, also the slippers-coat combo was interesting 

but mainly I was trying to de-code the poo.

I travelled east for most of the afternoon, to the far reaches of London - this new place contains a high level of sleepwear-as-daywear: fluorescent fluffy bathrobes, fun-fur pajama bottoms, slippers.

Can anyone tell me if this is a 'thing' (the poo, the sleepwear) or did I just stumble across an East London version of Zombie Day 

I have new monster cats, the lady cat sits on top of a bed-on-a-post and tries to flay me with her claws when I walk past

Sunday, March 6

Mother's day call to mum-in-law

she tells me that my father-in-law had a nosebleed that got out of hand last week so if they venture out these days they go prepared.

we were at the theatre last night with our pockets full of torn up underpants just in case it happened again 

she misinterpreted my concerned noises

it was all white underwear, nothing gaudy

Saturday, March 5

joining in with student socialising

I was invited for chilli  along with some other classmates by a fellow student who put it out over the facebook

any time after 3pm   

I arrived at 4.30 by which time the inviter was a little stoned, no-one else had arrived yet

we shared a bowl of chilli in the living room - the sofa was made up as a bed and there was also a bed in the room (London student houses look for maximum occupation)

a housemate was having noisy sex above our heads

the anti-empiricist

i counted an apple and an orange
it came to two  
this was on tuesday  
by thursday it was still two  
but at four minutes to ten  
it was three 

hello i thought, i'm on to something 
and continued counting  
but it was only three that once  
i must've made a mistake that one time

ivor cutler

from the jelly mountain series on bbc radio 4 which can still be heard for a few more days here

Friday, March 4

Today was gorgeous and sunny

I took a bus to Wapping and walked west along the Thames. 

There's a part where you turn a corner and suddenly see Tower Bridge and the Shard and City Hall and loads of boats with tall masts - in that sunshine and the blue blue sky it was dazzling. 

I had just recovered from my initial dazzlement and resumed walking when a young French couple came around the corner, I knew they were French because he went totally over the top and shouted

(that's French for wow!)

and then more noise and then silence while she shrugged and went


and he stared at her and there was an argument which got louder and I heard him say

Non, on n'a pas ça a Paris

and then he walked off

Tuesday, March 1


there was an academic seminar, the panel game sort where people take turns to speak for a few minutes about their research. From my limited experience these things are attended mainly by people with NHS haircuts and sensible shoes but this one was enlivened by two women, one who had come dressed as a Superhero and another as a sparkly land-mermaid.

I have finished knitting a tank top, it has a red neck area and a pink tummy area dark grey-and-pale stripes in between

Monday, February 29

today I played hookey from school

to attend a textiles masterclass, by the fabulous Faye McNulty who makes slinky devoré fabric interlaced with thermodynamic ink that glows when you get warm. She also made the massive batik sails for Yinke Shonibare's ship in a bottle that sailed across Trafalgar Square last year and  she makes wild runway creations for the fashion shows.

I have come away clutching recipes for acidic dyes and discharging dyes and instructions for how to burn through the threads of a fabric to reveal an underneath layer. Also I made some very pretty pink and green silk fancies

in cat news
If I leave the valise on it's side with the sections unzipped the cats can slide between the layers and hide while also peeping out to watch me knitting

Wednesday, February 24

Hell is other people

    The Divine Comedy - is a firey road trip where Dante and his friend Virgil  go to various places and look at bad naked people on fire. The Botticelli drawings depicting the story are currently on in the Courtauld Gallery and it's brilliant, the link doesn't show the best pictures which is why I've had to make my own version - I particularly like the one where bad priests have been plunged head down into boiling pits of pitch with their feet on fire - Dante has spotted one that he recognises and is trying to say hello.

I also enjoyed the image of soothsayers being punished for trying to look into the future - they've had their heads pulled off and put back on - backwards.

Mainly I've enjoyed how Dante deals with all the horror: at the beginning when it's really monstery and flaming he's clearly screaming like a girl but he soon gets used to it all - here he is in purgatory which is not as bad as hell, this is where people can atone for their sins, like this proud person who can't stand up properly because he's bent under the weight of lots of rocks - also the man is naked, there's nothing to help the chaffing so he's probably really uncomfortable, but there's Dante again trying to make chit chat.

[this blog looks better if you view the web version]

Tuesday, February 23

When I see this shop

I'm near the school and it's time to get off the bus
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