Saturday, September 30, 2006

Digital TV

C. is one of the calmest people you will ever meet. He doesn't do stressed, angry or agitated (unless the football/cricket/rugby league is going particularly badly and even then it's the odd shout and spot of pacing). He only uses the telephone for important matters like arranging a run and bowls matches.

So, I was surprised to find him sat on the sofa, tense, with the telephone clamped to his ear and exclaiming about "15 minutes" and "cuts you off" when I got in from work Wednesday.

There is one other thing about which he cares deeply and that is the television. He tolerates NTL with many a moan as we cannot get a signal from Sky. Wednesday was the day NTL went digital with Telewest. The switchover was made and C. was left with no television channels.

I managed not to giggle which is what I really wanted to do and took myself off to the kitchen. I was dealing with a desperate man on an issue I just cannot understand. I gave up trying to find anything worth watching a good few years back. I kept telling myself it was on a par with someone burning all my books.

Failing to get through to anyone at all Wednesday night (I did try once and was apoplectic after waiting for a lifetime to get an "Oh, dear. We seem to be very busy. Why don't you call back later?" and being cut off) C. spoke to someone Thursday and was told it would be up and running Saturday (with luck). Oooh. That's a long time with no sports coverage.

C. rang me at about 6.50am Friday to tell me he'd just picked up the Metro and "they're really taking the piss." NTL had taken out advertising on the front, back and inside covers* proclaiming their wonderful service. Salt and wounds come to mind.

*Photos to follow when blogger actually lets me add them.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


If I hadn't stopped at Tesco
for wine and parsley,

if the 1800 to Shoeburyness
hadn't been cancelled,

if the 1806 to Pitsea
hadn't been too full,

if the District Line
hadn't suddenly terminated at Barking,

I wouldn't have got drenched walking home from the station.

Five a Day

I'm filling in a form and Marmite Kid is on Bitesize.

You always used to have fruit in your office miss. Do you remember when you gave me the hairy apple?

I think you mean a peach but I don't buy them. I prefer nectarines. Are you sure it was me?

You're the only person what tries to make me eat fruit and I know what a peach is.

[5 minutes pass]

Like a plum, miss. But a different colour and hairy.

[I laugh]. Hairy apple! Do you mean an apricot?

Yeah. [Looking bashful]. It was disgusting. No point remembering the name.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Six Months On

The Marmite Kid (you either love him or hate him; I'd adopt him tomorrow if I could) was under strict instruction to answer my phone while I was sorting out a problem in the corridor. He took this to include my mobile.

"Miss, miss. There's a policeman on the phone. I think he said he's a detective."

Six months ago I was sexually assaulted on the tube. I was told today that, in effect, the case has been closed. I think I'd worked that out for myself. Three phone calls in all that time and apologies on each occasion for allowing the file to languish kind of convinced me I wasn't top of the pile.

I have been surprisingly quiet listening to arguments about how our every move is being followed: CCTV, oyster cards. These are the two things I was led to believe could catch the perpetrator. The video footage is apparently crystal clear but he's not known to the police. The information from Transport for London is inconclusive.

I received a follow up email from the Indecency Unit thanking me for having reported the crime as if somehow I was doing them a favour. I'm wondering if it would have been less traumatic not to have bothered.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


I just popped to the shops and had a wonderful glimpse of the sun setting behind the flyover. Shame I didn't have a camera. This is the best I could do from the bedroom window. The sun setting from the east. You can't really see the pink and orange.

For a better photo of the sun rising today from the west click here.

Just one thing - shouldn't we be taking the photos the other way around, Shep?


I've been sat staring at the monitor. All the different funerals I've been to running through my head.

Close friend's dad when we were still at school.

Caroline. She hung herself just after I left for university. (My parents had to tell me of the death of three friends in the space of about ten days).

Alexandra. She made the tabloids. Died of skin cancer at the age of twenty-two. I watched her grow up. Our neighbour's daughter. Needless to say the tabloids made the tragedy worse for the family by exaggerating and fabricating.

I've mentioned just a few.

I remember at all of them railing against the ostensibly Christian service at the Crematorium. Finding it hard to cope with the perceived injustice. All young. Everything to live for. (Funerals are always fill of clich├ęs and platitudes). Hating the harsh cruelties of life.

My aunt's funeral on Friday was so different. She was a committed Christian. District Commissioner for the Girl Guides. School Governor. Member of the PCC and an integral part of the Mothers' Union. The beauty and tranquility of the village church overwhelmed me. IThe first time I have been to a funeral where the vicar actually knew and loved the person about whom he was speaking.

The service was a reaffirmation of life. There was no sense of tragedy or injustice. Through the grief there was a genuine celebration of all that is positive about life. I'm still smiling now at the thought of my quirky, funny and perceptive aunt. I didn't need to go to Devon to remember those things. They will always be with me.

I went for those who are left. Peggy was one of seven siblings aged between 60 and 78. I imagine them all on a sheet of ice. It has become thinner over the years with different scares and illnesses – Peggy was overcoming the severe onset of Parkinson's on a daily basis – but no-one fell through. Until now. There's a hole in the ice that will spread and the others will follow. It really does scare me. I don't know my uncle but my other aunts I know so much better because they live in London. The biggest scare of all is my dad. He's always been there for me and one day I know that will change.

I tried to explain to C. last night but I couldn't really articulate what I wanted to say. I got annoyed and decided to open the new Granta laying on the kitchen table. Issue 95. The front cover shows a black and white photo of a dad at a table with his three children. Loved Ones. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Phone Conversation on the Train (1)

Mobile phone conversations on the c2c seem infintiely more annoying than those on the tube. Probably something to do with the train itself being quiter and the fact you don't suddenly whizz underground. I realised the other day, after learning all about a global divisional manager's pregnancy ("I told them I want my bonus to cover my annual childcare. If they really value me..."), that most of these aren't actually conversations but monologues. The person on the other end doesn't seem to get a word in edgeways. A snippet from tonight's gem.

Overheard on the 18.09 from Limehouse to Shoeburyness.

I 'ad to go to f***king Next to buy a pair of f***king shoes. We was well spannered last night and our shoes was shitted up. Some f***ing thieving pikey f***king nicked 'em, didn't they? F***ing pikey bastard! Four pairs we left in the porch. All f***ing jacked. Steve did his bollocks off. 'Ad to come to work in me suit and trainers. Felt like a right f***king dick on the train.

(He was wearing a pair of trousers, an off-white polo shirt and a grey zip-up cardigan. With shiny new shoes).

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Overheard on the way to the tube

A man with two small children talking to his neighbour.

"I'm going to tell 'er when she rings tonight. Get on the first plane 'ome, love."

"They've not bin bad 'ave, they?"

"Nah. Good as gold just I gotta work. It's 'ard looking after 'em as well. All the getting ready in the morning...after work. Too much."

The neighbour, a big black woman, laughs a deep belly laugh. "Welcome to the real world. Millions of women every day all over the world do that for years, mate, with no thanks. That's made me laugh, that."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

This one's for Jay

I am not suggesting you are 'dumpy', Jay, but I spotted this in the Independent this morning and thought of you. Can you sing?!

Here's one for any aspiring hobbits out there.

Next Monday, a nationwide hunt begins to find 20 suitably dumpy creatures to appear as extras in next year's West End production of The Lord of the Rings.

Applicants will face an X-Factor-style audition for the roles of Pippin, played by Billy Boyd in the big screen trilogy, and friends, where they will be required to sing two songs and display "hobbit-like tendencies".

According to a press release for the auditions:

"The producers are looking for male and female actors and singers, aged between 16-35, who must be under 5ft 7 in bare feet.

"Hairy toes and big feet are an advantage." Splendid!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Equality for All

'I enjoyed making the programmes.'

Cherie Blair comments on her broadcast for the government-funded channel Teachers' TV (all about her work as a human-rights lawyer; dazzlingly televisual apparently). The £3,000 she was paid probably helped encourage her enjoyment. (Observer).

I seem to remember being paid oh...umm...aah...absolutely nothing for the two programmes I appeared in.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Forgive me for feeling a little confused when it comes to fish.

The government recommends we eat 'at least two portions of fish a week including one of oily fish.' Yet, we are increasingly told not to eat this, that or the other species of fish due to declining stocks and damage to the ocean.

I also have my own personal issues to deal with here. I'm terrified by bones and am incredibly squeamish about taking any seafood out of its shell. (With the exception of prawns. I can even twist their heads off raw without shutting my eyes now). Obviously not helped by stories like this.

Why am I mentioning all this? Thanks to a reminder from City Slicker we passed through Hays Galleria Saturday morning as the Oyster and Seafood Fair was setting up. There was a quiet, purposeful atmosphere and faint whiff of the sea as crates were unloaded and wares artfully displayed.

Don't worry if you missed it – get yourself off to Billingsgate fish market – London's ancient, almost-daily fish fair. You do have to get up early but the experience is worth it.

Tuesday to Saturday 5.00am - 8.30am
Sunday 6.00am - 8.00am (only one shellfish merchant open - John Stockwell Ltd - Please telephone them prior to visit to ensure they are trading)
Closed Monday
NB the market is closed on Tuesdays following a Bank Holiday Monday

Children and shopping trolleys are not allowed. Ball games are not permitted either.

Don't forget to check how sustainable the fish is before you buy:

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Dodgy shelves

Shep has declared himself a 'bookshelf voyeur.'

My bookshelves are not dodgy but the photo is. Blurry. Very blurry. I couldn't be doing with taking another and loading it up. It's at the end of the holiday photos. I don't have the patience to go through the whole thing again.

Shepherd's Warning in Barking

6.30am yesterday. The shepherd's warned me but I'm not sure why. Nice day.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Weekend Widow

Sundays are for running. Saturday afternoons have always been sacrosanct during the football season. C. goes nowhere unless it is to actually watch the football. This year the fallow weeks were filled with bowls. As in bowling green and old people. He asked if I would go and watch if he made it to a final. I saw no reason not to agree.

He is universally adored as the baby of the club. In this his first season, he made it to three finals. And he finals.

Reading on Kos

Unlike Shep I put very little thought into my holiday reading. I am ashamed to say that I simply went into a local chain store and picked up 3 for 2 offers from the nearest table. (This is unusual behaviour).

Ed Glinert's East End Chronicles is excellent. An already bustling area brought to life through events described in fascinating detail. Some of the stories are well-known, others much less so. I can't wait to read it all over again and start tramping the streets.

I'm never quite sure what to make of Paulo Coelho. I bought The Zahir because I liked the cover. Coelho makes some very perceptive comments and some of the ideas had me nodding in agreement. Others, however, made me cringe. Really cringe. I left it amongst the Mills and Boon stacked on a table in the apartment block. It was quickly snapped up.

I think it was at Hadleigh Castle that the Gardener said I should have been an anthropologist. (I constantly bombard him with my observations on people I've seen, things I've overheard or conversations I've had with total strangers). But the word anthropology scares me. It conjures up stereotypical images of African villages and the bizarre stories my friend G. relates to me every so often. (She shared a house with anthropology students at uni; never again). My opinion has been amended slightly thanks to Watching the English by Kate Fox. Had I been completing Doug's tag on books this would be the clear winner for the book you wish you'd written. It is superb. I think reading it abroad, surrounded by a certain type of English person, made it all the more poignant. It shows the English in all our painful glory.

Our apartments – very, very basic but very clean – were right on the beach. It is amazing to go to sleep and wake to the sound of the waves lapping the beach. Very therapeutic and an ideal setting, perhaps, to read The Sea by John Banville. A mesmerising novel about memory, grief and loss. I'm sure this too will become a favourite.

Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy turned out to be a must given I was totally surrounded by Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture in the resort of Kardamena. A very important book. I thought it would probably make me feel depressed but it actually made me angry. Women as sexual objects have not only become completely mainstream but the whole idea is touted as being empowering and liberating. It's a return to the dark ages. Everyone should read this book and act.

Given my mad dash to buy books and fling them in the suitcase I did very well. The Accidental by Ali Smith is another book that I loved. I smiled a lot while reading this. Poignant and dazzling. I wonder what it would be like to have an Amber descend and change my life.

Last but certainly not least was a collection of short stories. The Fahrenheit Twins expertly written by Michael Faber. Utterly compelling stories which also happen to be really quite disturbing. I readily identified with the quote from the Independent on Sunday on the back cover: 'I dread to think where Faber gets his inspiration from, but there's certainly no shortage of it in sight.'

Saturday, September 02, 2006

I am firmly of the opinion if you can drive like a Sicilian in Palermo you can drive anywhere.

Kos has one main road running from Kefalos in the south to Kos Town in the north. Smaller roads, less well paved in many cases, lead off to the coast or into the mountains. There are few cars and all is well with the world.

Until I come face to face with a bus coming round a bend on the road to the Asfendiou villages. Driving in a city does not prepare you for reversing round a bend on a mountain. Not to mention I'm on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road in a car that is so quiet you can't even tell if the engine is running (approximately fourteen years younger than my loyal jalopy). The bus driver looks incredibly bored as he stares at me making feeble attempts to get out of his way. I don't panic (much). A German tourist stops me from hitting a ridiculously parked car. The bus passes by.

I was firmly of the opinion if you can drive like a Sicilian in Palermo you can drive anywhere.

View of Tingaki salt lake and neighbouring island from Zia

Andimachia Castle built by the Crusaders in the 1300s

Friday, September 01, 2006

What's in your packed lunch box?

There are at least two Britains.

This is reinforced on a daily basis when reading the newspaper.

Parents pack focaccia and sushi in lunch boxes.

Where the bloody hell is this? Roughly two-thirds of my form group are entitled to free school meals. The other third are lucky if they get plastic ham slapped between two slices of doughy white bread.

I intend to ask them on their return next week what they think focaccia is. My bet is an STD. Any other offers?


As a child beaches meant a day trip to Chalkwell and Leigh-on-Sea. (Mum doesn't do Southend – too tacky). These are incomparable to the beaches on Kos. Crystal clear water in place of murky sewage-infested gloop; fine sand instead of mud flats.

Sunny Beach near Kefalos


Tingaki is my favourite. Past the sun loungers is a narrow sweep of sand dotted with short trees which provide not only shade but somewhere to keep your belongings sand free (you hang everything from the branches – always watch the locals). Even a scaredy-cat incompetent swimmer such as myself can walk out for what seems miles without a care.


The English seem to have caught onto the idea of suntan lotion. We saw very few bright red people (usually older men with big bellies) but they still don't manage the beach with the same style as the Italians or Greeks.

The English: arrive at the beach once their hangover has worn off.
The Italians: arrive at the beach by 9am.

The English: refuse the shade of a parasol and lay flat out in the sun during the hottest part of
the day.
The Italians: sit under the parasol during the hottest part of the day and take frequent dips in the water.

The English: have some food with their midday beer.
The Italians: drink water with their midday food.

The English men: leer at all females in a bikini and make stupid comments to their mates.
The Italian men: walk up and down the shore and let the women look at them.

The English: leave the beach at 4pm to sleep before partying all night.
The Italians: leave the beach at 6pm before having a kip, eating a decent meal and partying all

I was born in the wrong country.