Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Two kinds of men

'There are two kinds of men,' said Ka didactically. 'The first kind does not fall in love until he's seen how the girl eats a sandwich, how she combs her hair, what sort of nonsense she cares about, why she's angry with her father, and what stories people tell about her. The second type of man - and I am in this category - can fall in love with a woman only if he knows next to nothing about her.'

Orhan Pamuk.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A moment in time

I stumbled my way down the stairs in the dark (I've complained to the council innumerable times) and out the door. A bird landed within a foot of me. The proximity surprised me. She looked at me. I looked at her. I was eyeball to eyeball with a sparrowhawk.

Time almost stopped as she sat on the kerb and I stood rooted to the spot. She was so close and so composed. I thought I was going to burst with amazement. I moved thinking she would fly away. She didn't. I left looking over my shoulder wondering if I was hallucinating. It made my day.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Something else to polish

The bowling club dinner dance was unlike any other event I have attended. I was certainly in a minority in that I was under the age of forty. (I think I was on my own in that respect). At a guess there were four of us under fifty.

I found the 'ceremony' fainting bewildering and embarrassing. We had to be upstanding for the President and his guests while they made their way to the top table accompanied by a slow hand clap. Grace took me totally by surprise. I was upstanding for the toast to the Queen but kept my mouth firmly shut and failed to take a swig of my wine. I toasted 'the club' and was again confused by the toast to 'the ladies and their guests.' I was clearly there with C. not the other way around. The most daring thing I did all night was point out we weren't married so my place name was wrong. Emma Jones! Never!

The food was stuck in the seventies (more details here) and the entertainment was keen on the fifties. I have to say they could sing and were just about right given the mix of people in the (very draughty) hall. I surprised quite a few as I joined in with what was termed the London medley - Henry the Eighth I am, Knees up Muvver Brown and the like. Memories of family shindigs on New Year's Eve in Bethnal Green and Hackney came flooding back.

On the way there C. pointed out we hadn't brought a bag for the three trophies. It got worse when we realised he was actually receiving six - three individuals and three perpetuals he would return next year. Someone found us a flat fruit box which we covered with the duvet we won in the raffle so no-one mugged us on the two mile walk home.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Back in the real world

“Citizens of this country will be absolutely appalled” crowed Paula Lawton, resident of Elgin Crescent 'a sweep of millionaires' houses in Kensington', in response to a High Court decision which agreed that a father and his five-year old son had played football together in the road's private gardens. Lawton argued this turned the garden into a recreation ground. West London magistrates had previously thrown out the private prosecution as two people couldn't play football – you need a team. The High Court judges would not, however, allow a retrial as this would be “inappropriate.” (Guardian).

Well, I am “absolutely appalled” - by this woman's ridiculous behaviour. I'm not convinced I know quite how to define a real world but she's certainly not living in one. Perhaps she'd like to stop by here one day. We regularly have groups of 10 to 20 teenagers playing football outside our home. Funnily enough I see this as an entirely normal part of growing up. It means that they aren't hanging around bored causing trouble elsewhere.

Reason for the rain...

...cross country season starts Sunday.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Branching Out

C. believes, probably quite rightly, that I'm obsessed with food. If you want to know what we had for dinner click here.

Monday, November 20, 2006

It'll be alright in 2012

Miserable Monday. Monday Mayhem. Black Monday. Meltdown Monday. A selection of this evening's headlines.

Yes, for those of you who don't live in the capital the public transport system was knackered this morning. But don't worry it'll be first class for the Olympics. Sod those of us who use it every day.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Direct Action

After a wine-fueled strop of magnificent proportions about the ridiculousness of programmes such as I'm a Celebrity... C. agreed to turn over. Nothing appealed to me. I became more and more sullen. C. chose to ignore me and watch Eight out of Ten Cats which I also watched but in stony-faced silence (I think Johnny Vegas made me smile slightly once). Amongst the top five stories of the week were Bond and...I'm a Celebrity.

The story that has stayed in my mind was the call to direct action by the environment minister, Ben Bradshaw:

While saying he would like to see targets for waste reduction spelled out in and included in annual reports, Mr Bradshaw also urged shoppers to force the grocers to move faster by taking direct action. After paying for their goods, shoppers should remove "excessive and unnecessary" wrappers and leave them behind. (Guardian. Tuesday, 14 November).

This probably struck a chord as my mum is obsessed by cucumbers in plastic jackets. She hates them. If she sees a cucumber in its natural state she buys it (whether or not she needs it). I've lost count of the times I've been sent home with half a cue.

Eager to find out what the supermarkets thought of Bradshaw's plan three Guardian journalists were sent to find out. In summary:

Sainsbury's: threatens to call the manager.
Waitrose: comments that Bradshaw doesn't have to work behind a till.
M&S: helps remove the packaging and offers to put it in the bin.
Tesco: seems prepared and takes the packaging.
Morrisons: puts all the packaging into a plastic bag frantically.
Asda: reacts as if it is a perfectly normal thing to do.

My response? To remind myself to avoid supermarkets altogether. Packaging is a small part of a much bigger problem. After checking the internet for Sunday Farmer's Markets in London I set off for Marylebone on the tube. (The journey there and back was sufficient for me to read and thoroughly enjoy Weedon's Diary of a Nobody).

Smaller than I perhaps expected the market (sited on a car park; wonderful) was not a disappointment. My bags came home loaded with a wonderful array of fresh, seasonal vegetables bought from the people who grew them. I asked the man on the potato stall what he recommended for mash. Did I want “continental mash...smooth and creamy” or “Irish/English mash...fluffy and floury”? Plumping for the latter I came away with a bag of Lady Balfour. “Named after the founder of the Soil Association.”

The apple and almond tart I bought from Pâtisserie Valérie on Marylebone High Street was exquisite and worth a return trip all on its own.

To find a farmers' market in London click here. For the rest of the country here.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Bengal Lancer (as advertised by Billy Bragg). Conversation on the next table. A couple are eating and a friend has joined them while he waits for his take away.

"We go in the Barking Greek a lot...The place opposite the station. They have music in the corner. They're a quartet or a duo."

"Well, are there two or four of them?"

Most people waiting for the tube at Upney are either reading (the Sun) or staring at the backs of the houses opposite while pondering life's big questions (what shall I cook for dinner and is that bloke in accounts going to be a twat again today?). Not so one woman Friday morning.

She was plucking her eyebrows.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

High tensile fencing

The only book I've ever read and immediately thought: this'll make a better film.

Table à deux

The advice given to me by an Old Boy who I'd helped on the DLR was ringing in my ears "don't consort with men you don't know" when a complete and utter weirdo attempted to share my table in a Chinese restaurant last night.

I'm more than happy to share tables if needs must (Cafe Lido Great Castle Street springs immediately to mind) but I was the only customer in a place that seats about 40.

I was rescued by the Middle Son (there are three I know of; never present on the same evening) who suggested rather forcefully he might like to sit somewhere else (where he had to contort himself into a strange position to even glance at me). Middle Son then pondered the point that very few women eat out on their own (and should I care a fig (I don't) he'd have made me feel like the weirdo).

Woo Sang. Lisle Street. Looks dilapidated. Straightforward, cheap and cheerful food with good service. £4.50 for a huge plate of food and an orange juice. Beats Burger King hands down for a quick fix.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Barking Station. Friday. Early evening.

Man abuses train driver as she closes the doors on a tube that's terminating.

She sounds two sharp toots on the horn as she pulls away.

He screams "Bollocks."

We all laugh.

He abuses everyone on the platform.

I am a "f**king four-eyed c**t" on the way down the platform and a "frizzy c**t" on the return leg.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Moving Stairs

I miss the spontaneity of the broadcasts on public transport. Hearing the same message on a loop across the entire system can be intensely irritating and on occasion I'm sure I've continued rehearsing it in my sleep. Pre-recorded announcements seem to be available at the flick of a switch so I'm always glad to hear someone winging it.

7.19am. West Ham. 'Would all passengers please note that dogs should not be taken on moving stairs. They should be taken on the normal stairs. Animals on escalators can be dangerous.'

(I'm just disappointed I missed the dog. Probably some tiny, insignificant little thing; still, I don't know the truth. I'm picturing a majestic Great Dane).

Shelves and Mugs

'My favourite part of most stories,' Sallis said, 'is where they describe where the guy lives. I absolutely love to hear what he has on his shelves and what his tea mug looks like. That's the most important thing in the world to me.'

'Morning in Arizona'. Iain Sinclair. City of Disappearances.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Winter's Coming

I love the smell of chestnuts roasting. I love the sparks that fly, dangerously, off the miniature furnaces. I think, in particular, of the man opposite Charing Cross Station near to Maggi Hambling's memorial to Oscar Wilde. I don't know if it is the same man every year but there is always someone there. Roasting chestnuts tell me winter is coming. Strangely, I have never bought any. Perhaps I might not like them and the experience will shatter my carefully-created winter scene.

Time changes: some London scenes do not (as I discovered today).

In the old days one of the surest signs of winter in London was straw in the 'buses; but there is not much of it now. The chestnut roasters, however, remain: still as certain harbingers of the winter as the swallows are of the summer. At the street corners you see their merry little furnaces glowing through the peep-holes, and if you will, and are not ashamed, you may fill your pockets with two-pennyworth, and thus, at a ridiculously small expenditure, provide yourself with food and hand-warmers in one.
E. V. Lucas. The Wanderer in London. September 1906.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Coming off the escalator and through the barriers on the tube this morning:

"I only use my mobile for real emergencies, things like 'I'm on my way home' and 'have you got the milk?'

For Shep

I am sitting in the referral room. A nice-looking boy presents himself with a slip which reads:

Inappropriate discussion of body parts.

"Inappropriate timing or inappropriate body parts?" I ask smiling.

He reels in mock horror. "Breasts can never be inappropriate, miss."