Sunday, October 30, 2005

Breath deeply

I am getting rather angry about my inability to add photos to posts this evening. It just isn't happening. The words are ready but the illustrations aren't. They will have to wait.

On a happy note, I came across the Grolsch quiz in the week. Clever Clogs. Answer general knowledge questions against the clock. On my first attempt I was four thousand odd in line to the title. This evening I claimed 13th place with 1772 points. I am DETERMINED to make the top 10. Beat me if you can!

October Half-term Day Six

B., my right hand woman at school, had invited me round for lunch. She offered me two possible routes – the Dartford Crossing (costs £1) or the Blackwall Tunnel (often shut as some complete buffoon in a HGV hasn't read the height signs). Both seemed to require driving out of my way to cross the river. After consulting the A to Z I spotted the nearest crossing – the Woolwich Ferry. Free and every 10 minutes. How exciting!

I only remember having been on it once before – when my cousin's dad's sister get married. They are originally from Kenya – East African Indians. They weren't too happy when he married into a white family but we were soon part of the extended community.

My sister didn't want to leave her shoes outside the temple because someone might nick them, my nan had a white hanky on her head, my brother fell asleep and at the tender age of about 9 I was worried about whether or not I should be bowing up and down along with everyone else? Offensive if I join in? Offensive if I don't? I think I sat in a semi-permanent bend. The service, completely in Punjabi, was interminable. The food afterwards was out of this world.

Anyway, rather than pulling off into Galleon's Reach for the supermarket I continued on the Royal Docks Road. The DLR station came into sight. High in the air above a building site it truly looked like something out of a sci-fi film. The glimpse of water in the docks shocked me. In no way did it resemble that of the Thames (muddy brown). Glorious Mediterranean blue with the Dome and the sparkling towers of Canary Wharf in the background. I wanted to stop and stare.

The ferry was superb. I was happily second in line for the next service. I was glad not to be first. I was surrounded by vans and lorries and I clearly didn't have a clue what to do. I needed someone to copy. You stay in your vehicule and get a lovely view on the brief trip. I was slightly alarmed as we first set off – you go backwards which was really quite disorientating.

I took B's advice and came back through the Dartford Tunnel. Doh! Swung onto the A13 and then hardly moved for an hour. A 13-vehicule accident had shut the road at the next junction. Three hours to cover 8 miles. I had to cancel my night out from my stationary spot. The only tape in the car had REM on one side and Robbie on the other. Both are a bit much after a couple of turns. Still at least I was safe.

October Half-Term Day Five

Well, this is doing my head in. It says it is uploading the photos but clearly isn't. This may end up being posted in dribs and drabs.

In amongst reading and drinking coffee yesterday I did actually plan a walk for a friend from the British Library in King's Cross (once an area known as Battlebridge but changed after someone plonked a statue of George IV on the crossroads of Euston, Pentonville and Gray's Inn Roads) to the British Museum in Holborn (former home of the library). She teaches English Language A-Level and needed a walk that would take in some historical place names and a church for explaining some point or another.

I have walked children from one side of Paris to the other, much to their utter amazement, but you do have to realise that youngsters these days just do not get about on foot. A real shame. Anyway, not knowing how long the walk would take I thought I would put it into practice.
After walking up the road to buy some electricity, and being intimidated by the men in the shop – they make me feel very uneasy -, something in my brain was telling me I didn't want to go to King's Cross but Bermondsey. No idea why but I went with it. As far as my travelcard allows on the Jubilee Line.

Once I'd packed my bag (Ed Glinert, notebook and pens, mini A to Z, camera, phone, keys, ham and mustard granary rolls, apple and banana), I was ready to go. Following a near altercation with a French girl who was emptying her voluminous handbag onto the barriers into an attempt to find her ticket (no-one else could get through), I hopped on board the District Line.

On exiting Bermondsey station I swung right and took a look at the shops. Jimmy's barbers. Payless Food and Wine. William Hills on one corner; Ladrookes on the other. The Castellano Ristorante adding a touch of class. On the other side of a set of metal barriers was a newly-created artscape (we get them all the time on the A13. Total waste of money). Swirling stainless-steel benches, shiny metal bins with mushroom shaped hats. Three coloured gravel swept into moving shapes and sprayed into shape (it didn't matter how hard you kicked it it didn't give). A couple of trees in front of the Kotechas Store, the Bermondsey Tandoori Balti House and the grilled windows of the Millpond Tenants and Residents Association Hall.

The war memorial to the Bermondsey dead surrounded by brightly coloured posters advertising the forthcoming Armistice services.

A man walked past wearing a bright blue bow tie.

Heading for the river path I caught a glimpse of the Angel pub. A statue on a bench made me jump. Dr Salter. Local hero. He'd made it his life's work to improve the health of an incredibly impoverished area and has been remembered for it.

He is waving goodbye to his daughter Joyce and her cat. Someone had wrapped pink ribbon round the cat's ears. Looks a little evil to me but then I have never been a lover of cats.
I stood and listened. Hum of the boats on the river. Lapping water. A muffled generator. Clanking dustcart. Seagulls cawing. Metal chipping away at stone.

The water was stronger further round the bend. I watched as three small boats clung together as the waves surged around them in the wake of the city cruisers. Through the gaps in the willow trees the Old Justice was peeking through.

Unable to pass some rather surly-looking builders I took a detour through the Dickens Estate. Part of Micawber House had been transformed into the Prince of Wales pub. Bottle green painted brick work and red lanterns. A tiny place with a normal front door closed to the public. A note in the window reminded patrons that after 7pm under 18s have to leave.

Nicklebey House sports a plaque to Tommy Steele, OBE. Entertainer. Born in Bermondsey and voted for by the people.

Much closer to St Saviours Dock and Tower Bridge I came across houseboats stranded in the mud. Did I know they were there? Had I forgotten about them or just never seen them before? Coverings of plants, tyres and bin bags. A brown paper sack that I wanted to be a fat ginger tom cat.

I love the old warehouses. New Concordia Wharf. Wheat Wharf Apartments. Butlers Wharf. My heart lifts when I see the bricks and the tall windows. There is always the feeling that something is missing. Atmosphere. Too still. Too quiet.

Dodging under Tower Bridge I continued past Hays Galleria, ('Mum, mum', says a boy pointing at HMS Belfast, 'Can we go on the plane? Please, mum?'), until stopped by a metal fence. Back through Hays Gap into Hays Lane where A.J. Pain Waste Management nearly put me six feet under. St Olaf's stairs, too, were filled in by wooden blue containers belonging to builders.

The smell of steamy fish and chips emanated from the Mug House under London Bridge. Little blue and green spots dance under perspex along the pavement.

Apostolides commercial removers were parked up outside the Cathedral. One asleep in the cab; another sprawled across the open back, head on bag, having forty winks.

Over the Millennium Bridge (why do people insist on running at midday in the school holidays and complain that there are too many people getting in their way?) and through the side streets to Ludgate and Fleet Street.

The King Lud which tragically became a Hogshead is now called Leon. But thankfully the Cheshire Cheese is much the same as it was when it was rebuilt after the Great Fire in 1666. (If over 5'4 you have to duck on the stairs. Built when people were generally much shorter). I thought the days of the suits having pub lunches was over. Clearly not if today was anything to go by. All men in groups. And me.

Small box plants in pots were for sale on Aldwych. I was flabbergasted to see a price tag of £75.00. Daylight robbery. £150 to adorn your front step.

C. rang to say he was on his way. Trafalgar Square seemed as good a place to meet as any. Sit and contemplate. Bright, loud and full of laughter. Children (and adults) climbing on the lions and the base of Nelson's Column; perching on the edge of the fountains for photos. Chasing pigeons. I positioned myself on the far side near the newly unveiled Alison Lapper Pregnant statue. The fourth plinth.

I wondered what comments I would hear. With the exception of one woman who, from her accent clearly hailed from northern climes, exclaimed 'It looks like a man', all remarks were favourable and generated some interesting conversations between well to do parents and their children. Others appeared not even to have noticed it.

Through Admiralty Arch and on into St James's Park. A duck was honking very loudly at a seagull. I quite liked the idea that he might be telling him to sod back off to the coast where he came from.

Once C. had bought his new trainers and shorts (Run and Become. Would recommend it to all. You can try on as many pairs as you like and then go and run around in the arcade outside), we retired to the Albert in Victoria. From there to the Two Brewers in Monmouth Street and a Chinese restaurant in Lisle Street.

What a painful scene on the table next to us. A young East London Indian, his girlfriend – late thirties Hampstead liberal with a face ravaged by either drink or drugs - and her precocious daughter aged about seven (named after an American state). They clearly didn't have two pennies to rub together and did nothing but squabble. 'You're not even my dad. You're the wrong colour' turned to tears when mum said he wouldn't be staying the night. 'Why not? I want him too' with a stamp of the foot. I was trying to work out how to pay without offending them and C. swinging for me. (£12). Having a nightcap elsewhere C. said if he'd been on his own he would have offered to pay...

Thanks to my cry of 'RUN' at 21.04 we managed to charge up the stairs at Fenchurch Street and onto the 21.05. I spent the ensuing 15 minutes to Barking trying to get my breath back. A lovely day.

Friday, October 28, 2005

October Half-Term Day Four

Mainly spent drinking coffee and reading Frankenstein. An excellent book which I would guess most people think they know the story of but in reality don't.

What's the name of the 'monster'?

Monday, October 24, 2005

October Half-Term Day Three

I have been reliably informed that the wardrobe in the bedroom is for clothes. So, I started today very much in the same vein as yesterday, by cleaning. I divested the floor of its attire – five possible options: wardrobe, ironing, washing-bin, charity, dustbin – and did the resulting ironing. (Major achievement). I then hoovered the carpet. Wow, the bedroom even looks bigger.

I popped round the corner for some loo roll and a newspaper and waited for my dad to arrive. He has done remarkably well. Made redundant 5 times since the age of 50 and still working. He got a job against all the odds this year – redundant at 64 and in employment within a couple of weeks in his field (carpets). Since then he has gone on to a 3 day week. A chance for him to do some jobs for me and for me to pass on some money.

The council alleges the windows they fitted last year are double-glazed. I will even admit they look that way but the draft is major. Dad has been brought on side to put up curtain poles and the cheapest curtains we could find to back up the very nice blinds I already have. Tomorrow he'll be draft-proofing the cupboard which houses the electricity and gas pre-payment meters which lets in a gale. I only have central heating in the front room and the hall. Both are crap. The bedroom must resemble the arctic in mid-winter.

I started reading Frankenstein even though I was very tempted to start Bloody Foreigners first. I love the story of immigration into England especially London. It's what makes it so great.

I've rounded up the day by making beef burgers of the highest order. Steak mince, onion, red pepper and parsley. Lovely served up in toasted buns with lettuce and mustard mayonnaise. Beats Mc Do and Burger King any day.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

October Half-Term Day Two

I am not tidy and cleaning gives me a headache but there was nothing for it. Today I had to do something to the flat before C.'s patience with me ran out.

I scrubbed the bathroom and kitchen; put away all the books on the floor; threw away all the old newspapers; and, hoovered the hall and the front room. Phew. (Unless you have an absolute aversion to these things you will never understand how hard all that was).

When I finally got around to reading the newspaper I was highly excited by the article in the Review about St Etienne's film of the Lower Lea Valley, What Have you Done Today, Mervyn Day? . The very area I went through by train last night. I recognised the picture of the abandoned scrap yard and blocks of flats (until they installed security doors C. used to run up and down them). I laughed out loud at the graffito on the blue bridge 'FUCK SEB COE' (says it all).

When I saw mention of influences from Cohen's London Nobody Knows I knew this was a film for me. All I could think is when is it on? Where? While the PC fired up I tried to think who would go with me? Geordie J? The Gardener? Pat? To hell with it; if I could get a ticket I'd be there on my own.

Once on the Barbican website, I clicked on the link and was instructed to choose my seat. NO! There were none left. I can cope with watching the film without listening to St Etienne live afterwards (I have no idea what 'post-acid house beats' fused with 'Sixties British pop' sounds like) so looked for alternative dates or venues. Nothing.

I am determined it will be out there somewhere. I am now on a mission to find it. Help will be greatly appreciated.

October Half-Term Day One

The sky, gently glowing orange and pink, was mostly obscured by banks of static pale grey cloud. The Silverlink platform at West Ham was obscured by the hordes returning home.

Anxious that we might miss the train which skirts round the edge of Zone 1 to North London we ran down the stairs, up the escalator and down the next flight of stairs to be faced with a sea of people and an announcement that the train was running approximately seven minutes late. Spotting the train heading in the opposite direction we jumped on and changed at Canning Town. We boarded our train calmly and chose two seats together. We had avoided the scrum at West Ham; the surge at the doors, the well aimed elbows and treading on toes.

Hackney Wick, derelict but for the council blocks, soon to be transformed for the Olympics. I've yet to meet a positive local. Lost allotments, warehouses and higher council taxes. 'What's in it for us?' they cry plaintively. (No-one is listening).

At Dalston we wrinkled up our noses as the smell of rotting veg, fish and meat wafted across from the market and through the train doors. The well-known market serves the Afro-Caribbean community; many a strange item can be found.

The Portuguese girl next to me was reading a textbook: Parabolic Solar Thermal Conditioner headed Chapter 4. I was really rather impressed. English is my first language and I didn't have a scooby what that meant.

We were quite taken aback on reaching the Wetherspoons at Highbury Corner. Full of drinking Gunners. A sight we hadn't seen for a while as, I think I am right in saying, this was their first Saturday kick-off at the traditional time at home. I wonder how different the atmosphere would have been if City had equalised after Pires's theatrics?

There were very few women – just a handful. The groups of men were interesting. They didn't look like they went together. Different backgrounds and clothes but all drawn in by the lure of the beautiful game.

I had to forgo my pint of Guinness. I cannot drink it from a plastic glass. I opted for a red wine. It tasted like vinegar. I was transported back to my student days – cheap plonk drank from whatever was to hand.

Walking down Upper Street in search of food we glanced in the shop windows. I mused on who decided it would be a good idea to advertise tasteful silver jewellery by surrounding it with plastic fried eggs.

Le Mercury was a first for us. A French bistro serving very reasonably priced food. A little rushed, particularly so for the French, but enjoyable. It makes it onto our mental list of good eats. I ordered in French and was relieved when the waiter replied likewise. I'm scared that speaking it so infrequently now it'll disappear.

The Kings Head, a charming pub with theatre in the room behind, was too full so we stopped for a post dinner drink in the less atmospheric Slug and Lettuce. It too was busy but I have an eye for a departing couple and we were soon seated.

A thoroughly pleasant way to start the holidays.

Friday, October 21, 2005

What should have been

Lots of things have caught my attention, had lots of ideas and done lots of things but have I blogged on any of them? Have I heck. I am amazed that I am quite as calm and with it as I am. The new job has been one almightly challenge. It has tested me on a daily basis and I think, for the first time ever, I have truly realised the enormity of what I have achieved. (I've always been a little modest apparently).

This is a snap shot of what you should have known:

1. Closing Oxford Street to traffic. This happened a few weeks ago and I had no idea it was planned. When mum and I stumbled across the road blocks I was ecstatic. Street performers, bands you name it, the road was filled with entertainment. I was particularly taken by the Punjabi-Celtic drummers. Overall I hated it. The pavement and road were so jammed it was nigh on possible to get up the road to Selfridges (sorry Pat - food hall is great). I started wishing for the buses and taxis.

2. After commenting on the old boy sans poop a scoop we saw another tying his dog up outside the newsagents (I was merrily munching on double egg and chips in the caff). He was carrying a rather amusing child's blue bucket and spade for the purpose. I love it.

3. My first visit to the Design Museum. The very same friend who took me to the ICA for Born In Brothels. Again I didn't know what I was going to see. Robert Brownjohn exhibition. Brilliant. The poster and Midland Bank adverts Watching Words Move were superb. You have to see it to understand and unfortunately I cannot find an example on the web. It's on for a while - it's worth a visit.

4. Not taking my camera on the aforementioned jaunt to the Museum. The light was magnificent in the shade of Tower Bridge.

5. St. Peter's Barge. The floating church in Docklands.

6. Wallace and Gromit. Thoroughly English and thoroughly enjoyable. Until I moved (backwards) from Upminster (thoroughly Middle England) to Barking (BNP stronghold) I had an allotment. I was never tempted to grow a prize anything but I do understand how protective one can be of produce.

Let's hope that with half-term on the horizon (next week) I night keep up.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Summer's Evening

Last night I had my usual performance with the central line at Bank. The severe delays of 5.30pm were only minor delays by the time I left the pub at just gone 11pm. Oh joy.

It was book group evening. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Attwood. Provoked some excellent discussion. The point of the evening (and the day), however, must be the weather.

Now, at 6.45am when I got dressed it looked a little murky and misty. Possibly a bit of a chill in the air. How wrong could I have been?

Wearing a (fitted) v-neck jumper, wool skirt, fishnets and boots, I was clearly over-dressed. I spent the entire day complaining I was too hot and had too many clothes on. (Cue S. (pupil) I'd say we don't mind you taking your top off but I know my brother nearly lost his balls when he called you babe). I still did not require my coat at twenty to twelve. We're not guranteed that in the summer let alone autumn into winter.

I think we're being lulled into a false sense of security. The winter is going to be an absolute bugger.

And Another Thing

Why is it always me that stands up for the expectant mother?

Frequently, I am not the closest person to the pregnant woman but everyone else in the vicinity seems to be studiously inspecting the floor or their fingernails. It annoys me that I am compelled to offer my seat when other people are much closer and given their office clothes have probably sat on their arses the whole day long.

There was something else about people on the tube. I've forgotten it.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

What's wrong with the tube?

I should be accurate. Things aren't necessarily wrong with the tube but the people using it.

This one is obvious. You do not charge on before I've got off. I did myself a mischief the other day shoulder charging a woman who refused to move on the platform. I can only hope that I hurt her too.

I-pods and movable music things. Note here please the word PERSONAL. For you. On your own. I do not want to listen to your music first thing in the morning. I make a point of not sitting near anyone with headphones. Should you sit next to me and pollute my atmosphere, I will tell you.

Food. I love it but not stinky greasy-fried chicken, burgers, chips or kebabs. Scoff them before you get on.

Lazy bastards leaning against the central pole. You hold on to it not place your entire body against it so everyone else has to sway around and smash into each other. I do admit to digging my knuckles into other people's backs should they lay on my hand. You deserve it.


I mentioned very recently my saunter to the tube station early in the morning.

Today, I noted an older man in a donkey jacket walking his sandy-coloured, wirey dog. Slightly ahead of me.

Before I knew it the dog had shit in the middle of the pavement and the bloke had walked off. Rather nervously, I called "excuse me" and then again louder. I wasn't acknowledged so I caught up and repeated my rather polite and feeble "excuse me".

"Didn't know you were talking to me".

"Are you going to clear that up?".

"F**k off".

"It's disgusting. It's bad anywhere but there's a primary school here. You should clean up after the dog".

"F**k off".

I rather weakly attempted to finish our encounter by informing the gentleman I would be calling the council. I think you know what his response was.


We were absolutely shell-shocked when we were informed on a Monday morning a couple of weeks ago that one of our colleagues had died at the weekend. In tragic circumstances.

We later found out he had committed suicide. It was so hard to come to terms with as we pride ourselves on being an open, honest and sharing staff.

The funeral was today. In our managers meeting this evening we started with a minute's silence. We were encouraged to recognise his absence and to think positively about his contribution to the school. I feel bad saying so but I knew that if I thought about it I would cry. I thought about all the list of things I need to do and what I was cooking for dinner. Not nice but a coping strategy.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Kitchen Diaries

I love Nigel Slater. I make no bones about it. The man is a god and I would be happy to eat his food all day every day. I am even considering sending him fan mail (something I have never done before. Ever).

His latest offering is the Kitchen Diaries. What he cooked and scoffed for a year. Very nicely written commentary with recipes and beautiful photos.

I got to thinking. I could entertain the three people who look at my blog with what I cook and eat. I could introduce them to my ideas of seasonality and could encourage myself to break with my deathly link to the supermarket.

I attempted to photograph last night's chicken and spinach curry with rice. Someone (C.) had stolen the batteries to my camera. It wasn't to be.

Things I Saw

I quite like walking to the tube in the mornings. I saunter; swinging my packed lunch and reading book in my bag (red and blue with a pig's big round face). I glance around me and smile. There is often little to see. Other people are in bed at 6.50am.

A cat feasting on a pot of yoghurt and some chicken bones from a black plastic sack.

A man, complete with too-short trousers, canvas record bag, shaved head and hat and who screamed Hare Krishna at me (not literally - we're talking appearances), carrying a red bucket of steaming hot water on the tube to Canary Wharf and then onto the Docklands. He alighted at Island Gardens same as me. Where was he going? Why had he carried his own water with him for the past 15 minutes or so? (Not that he had that much left - he was slopping the water everywhere. I narrowly avoided an accident with my new chocolate brown suede boots). Bizarre.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

London on Film

We must have looked a curious group. The Gardener clad in a black linen suit (with handkerchief) and shiny black brogues. The squat Geordie, J., and S., a massive hulk of a woodwork teacher, in their everyday casuals. And me. The baby of the bunch and the only girl. We were united in our wish to see Norman Cohen's the London Nobody Knows – a rarely shown 1967 documentary based on a book of the Daily Telegraph column by Geoffry Fletcher.

The screen is tiny with old burgundy velour chairs. A blast from the past (minus the fog of cigarette smoke). The projectionist is visible behind you. (S. did raise the question as we left: 'do you think there were fleas?).

The film did not disappoint. The dry wit and total Englishness of the narrator James Mason made it as he escorted us around the lesser-known areas of London. Chapel Street Marker, a derelict music hall, disused Victorian toilets complete with goldfish in the tanks.

The highlights for me were the South Bank – Wren's cottage with a glimpse of Bankside – now all the vogue as Tate Modern – and much more amusingly the egg-breaking factory (What? Why?How? When?) - and my beloved East End. The Yiddish singer. The drinkers in Spitalfields fighting over a bottle of meths. Writhing eels. Pie, mash and liquer.

Unfortunately, the evening was marred by the second part of the double bill. The World of Gilbert and George. F***ing hell.

What I knew about G and G before the film: gay artists, wear matching suits (always), have a beautiful Georgian house in Princelet Street (scene of the aforementioned meths fracas) and subject of a piece of graffito on the windowsill of the nearby mosque – GILBERT AND GEORGE ARE WALLIES.

What I now know: I am unable to articulate.

Absolute drivel. I struggled to stay awake. I completely lost patience as on at least seven or eight occasions i though 'thank God, it's finishing' only to have been completely fooled. I am not a religious person but I found myself praying to anyone, anything to just make it stop. The Arts Council should have demanded the money from the grant back. Atrocious.

Gilbert and George are now officially hated. It'll probably be years before I have the opportunity to watch London Nobody Knows again. If the opportunity does arise, it'll be viewed on its own so I can leave with happy memories. As is stands it has been overshadowed by a far inferior production.


My dad rang this morning. He was listening to Radio 5 where they were hotly debating the topic of blogs. He asked what I thought was the most common subject for a blog. I hesitated. So many blogs, so many different likes and ideas. Tell me, I said.


Is this true? I've yet to come across a site on wool, patterns and needles. I have to admit to being very surprised.

I haven't checked back over a year but I am quite certain that the Hobbits Journal has not mentioned knitting. But he wrote a very nice appreciative piece about my intermittent blogging so I am reciprocating. For news of life in Nottingham (NOT the capital), TV and a truly in-depth knowledge of music (which puts me totally to shame) click here. It's good!

Saturday, October 01, 2005


I really am a morning person - you either identify with that or you don't. Lie-ins are unknown to me.

There is something very special about gazing out the kitchen window at the crisp blue, cloudless sky. The sun is playing with the still-green leaves on the trees. A few leaves have escaped - turned yellow - and are skirting across the vivid green grass. Starlings, crows and wood pigeons take it in turns to pick something up for a meal.

The tubes add to scene as they rattle past. They only disturb the tranquility when they are not running. Conspicuous by their absence.

A beautiful scene I hope you'd agree. Surprisingly I live on a council estate in east London. In a couple of hours time ferral children will be kicking footballs at my window, inflicting more damage on my car and creating general havoc.

Long live early mornings.