Sunday, March 26, 2006

Birthday Girl

It was pointed out to me at school that most people of my age demand an expensive meal or a few drinks for their birthday. When I said I was very excited about going to the zoo the question "how old are you, 32 or 2?" was posed.

I've shared my birthday with Easter before ( I was 16 and in Germany at the time) and now with Mothers' Day. I'm not sure that it makes much of a difference (except that I had to ring my mum back to wish her a happy day as I forgot when she rang me).

I have had an unusually low number of cards this year - I am hoping it is to do with the fact my birthday has fallen on a Sunday and the post here is crap. They amount to 2 - one from my parents and one from Colin.

Presents to date are:

1. a traditional stove-top espresso maker
2. The House of Doctor Dee. Peter Ackroyd.
3. Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky. Patrick Hamilton.
4. Divine, strokable notebooks.
4. Nigella parmesan grater.
5. Nigella blue colander.

Cooking, reading and notebooks. Just about sums me up!


Possibly one of the most overused phrases in the English language is “I don't know anything about art but I know what I like”.

When Pat first mentioned Dan Flavin's lights I wasn't sure it was for me. I read good reviews but still was not convinced.

Another well-worn saying about not judging something until you've seen it/read it sprang to mind. So when Pat suggested we paid a visit to the gallery last week I agreed.

Very unusually (read unheard of) I felt rather seasick on the tube and felt the need to buy some chocolate (very rare) from one of the kiosks at Embankment in the hope it would make me feel better. After the embarrassment of asking if they had a marathon(!) I nearly broke my teeth on it. Clearly, it had been a cold day. I had to use my back chompers to break into it.

In the Starbucks adjoining the gallery I spotted my second famous person of the evening. The first got on the tube at Monument and I had a vague recollection of him being a tv presenter. I have since worked out it was Ross Kelly.

I've had no luck with the second – an actor. Older, biggish, round glasses, slightly scruffy/eccentric looking. There was possibly a third person in the Thai/Chinese restaurant that rounded off the night. Pat informs me he bears a passing resemblance to Rufus Sewell. I wouldn't have a clue...

The Flavin retrospective was everything Pat told me it was. Excellent. I've got the white walls in my flat but not the huge space or the clutter-free environment in which these pieces shine. You've got until April 2nd.

Monday, March 20, 2006


I've long campagined for those of us stuck in flats to be able to fill the orange recycling bags given freely to houses in Barking. We're serviced by the same dustcart but for some unfathomable reason aren't entitled to use them (even though the council is having a green campaign at the moment and attempting to up their recycling rates).

Walking to the tube this morning I started looking jealously at the recycling bags waiting for the refuse truck. By the time I hit the station I'd recognised three things:

1. The bags were full of convenience food packaging, tins and plastic bottles.
2. I use very few tins and exactly none of the others.
3. I am in danger of becoming a food snob.

I am thinking of changing my campaign to one for composting for flats. I'm sure my carrot peelings would help the roses in the local park along.

Things You Overhear

1. Calling your children by a biblical name rather than Tyrone or Tyreece means they will grow up good (young lad; 87 bus from Barking to Romford).

2. Imported, out of season strawberries are still good for the cellulite round the bottom of your buttocks (twenty-something Scouser; Tesco, Canary Wharf).

3. Although there are too many f**king foreigners asking for directions in London, you cannot ignore them just in case you go to their country (late-twenties, East Ender; Matter of Time pub, Mile End).

Oh for a camera

Don't you just hate it when you see the perfect photo but don't have a camera to hand?

Dolphin pub, Mare Street, Hackney. Irish but with a large Vietnamese contingent.

A Vietnamese man of short stature (about 5') wearing a massive Guinness hat, swigging a pint of the aforementioned, fag hanging out of mouth, dancing his own version of a jig.


Oh My God!

When I wore my hair down on Thursday it elicited a variety of responses from my form class including "groovy", "wild" and "oh, my God!".

Unfortunatley, I hadn't been there for registration the previous afternoon and quite uncharacteristically they'd been naughty. So, I had to do Ms Angry - I am've let me down etc.etc. Their shoulders sagged, their heads dropped and their eyes were downcast. I finished with "And does anyone have anything relevant to say?".

S., who has very severe learning difficulties, put his hand up. "Is it important?" I scowled.

"Yes. You look very beautiful".

How can you be angry at that? A blush and a fit of giggles and it was all forgotten.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Having my hair cut has always been something of a traumatic experience. It's not for nothing that older girls at school used to shout 'birds nest' as I walked past.

It's thick, curly and very very frizzy. I came out of a hairdressers on the Kingsway in Swansea about thirteen years ago resembling a prize poodle.

It should, therefore, come as no surprise that my hair only gets the chop annually or even once in eighteen months. And yesterday was the day.

My mum and sister kept suggesting I go to a family friend who does a good job on their barnets. I wasn't convinved. My mum's hair is fine and straight. K.'s much less curly, much more controllable and most importantly she actually invests time in looking after it properly (something I am too lazy to do). I used to babysit for the person in question. Is she really old enough and sensible enough to do me justice?

I think J. was more nervous than me and thankfully this meant she did not throw caution to the wind (which is what usually happens when scissors meet my hair for the first time). The results are good. Exactly what I wanted.

She charges a tenth of the price of Tony and Guy and her pug sleeps on your lap, purring like a cat, while she goes about her business. How many hairdressers can you say that for? I'll be back in March 2007.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Upton Park

I was led to Upton Park a few weekends ago.

A search for local, independent bookshops on the Internet brought up the Newham Bookshop which I remembered having seen from a bus years ago. I thought it was a council information point (goodness knows why).

At about the same time, I saw a letter in the Guardian referring to the planned demolition of Queen's Market to make way for an Asda. This was first mooted a good couple of years ago and I had forgotten all about it.

I thought it my duty to get down to the market and support it. I did expect to see evidence of some kind of campaign - posters and petitions - but this amounted to a small A4 sheet of paper pinned to the upright of a fruit stall reading 'SAY NO TO ASDA'. This was something of a disappointment. The market wasn't.

Is Asda going to sell you a bag of calves' feet for 99p? Half a goat? Exotic fish, fruit and veg? Probably not.

I have to be honest here and say that I could not buy meat or fish from the market as I am a fussy bugger but the fruit, veg, herbs and spices are a marvel to behold - and cheaper than the supermarket for the most part. The customers are a remarkably varied lot but share the same enthusiasm for filling up their shopping trolleys (I defy you to find more in such a small space; I'm determined to find a modern version - I can't be doing with the old-fashioned tartan-type). An old white woman remarked to an incredibly ill-tempered man sharing her table in Percy Ingles "We're a dying race. Isn't change a wonderful thing?". He did not concur.

The bookshop is everything its fans have said it is. Compact but with a wide range of books and a knowledgeable member of staff. I thought I was going to have to order my Beer and Books choice (Raymond Chandler's Big Sleep) as it didn't appear in the fiction section. The young lady behind the till appeared to magic a copy out of nowhere. Wonderful.

The only thing to marr Upton Park has to be the football team. I shall have to try to forget the fact we were attacked after a game (Big Dunc equalised just before the whistle to draw the game; didn't go down too well with the home fans) and in a moment of madness, following a different match, I punched a racist fan on the tube. C. and his brother had to remain silent for the remainder of the journey as they didn't fancy anyone hearing their Northern accents and working out they were with me.

According to the Friends of Queen's Market website which I have just discovered the 25th March is a political action day. I can get my fruit and veg, buy some books and have a good old rant against Labour. How exciting.