Friday, 11 December 2009

Se Fendre La Pipe

In my final year at school, the dramatists made the journey to Sydney for a holiday course at NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Arts). All thoroughly enjoyable, and enormously fun for us seventeen year-olds. Every evening we would see a play of sorts, some very good, others tedious to the point of soporific. By far the best evening was a Comedy Store, I know few of us had ever laughed so hard, nor probably will I do so again.

That was in 2005 and in the last four years I have wanted to see more comedy, but the opportunity never seemed to arise. Or possibly the lack of motivation! However, in the last week I have seen three comedy shows, almost evening out the mean to once per year.

The first was to see Dylan Moran, a favourite of mine since I was twelve and first came across Black Books. Thankfully those tickets were posted by a friend on Facebook, who had foolishly got her dates wrong. Within a week they were mine. The only problem then became finding somebody who had heard of him (an idea that is complete anathema to me), and was free on a Saturday evening. At the last minute, a friend's brother answered the call. And Moran was really very good. Essentially playing his character from Black Books, one wonders how much acting was required for the role. For me, half the hilarity is in his lovely Irish lilt, half lost in his half empty glass of wine. It was surprisingly thought-provoking, too, as he attempted to persuade us all to pursue more pleasure in life. I think he thought the journey becomes easier by escaping London, which could well be right. He advocates a life fallen into, stumbled across and as numbed as possible by alcohol. And why not?

The second was to see Frankie Boyle, the controversial Scot who makes sure the editors at the BBC have their work cut out for them. This was a properly intimate performance at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. Probably little more than fifty people in the audience to see him preview newer material. Foolishly I sat right in the light in the second row, in his direct eye line. Now I am hardly politically-correct, and I love the edited Boyle, but so much of his material was... Shocking! He kept referring to his typed notes, which gave him a very casual air, and then he came to his section on "Abuse for Hecklers". Nobody had really heckled thus far, so as I was directly in front of him, he pointed at me and told me to heckle! My father would have been perfect, but all I could manage was a rather flustered "Oh erm, get off!" I don't even remember what the abuse was, but I'm sure my cheeks were blushing permanently the rest of the night. He was quite ill-prepared and I'm sure he couldn't wait to leave. I was picked on later, and this time I do recall what he said, but modesty prevents me from repeating anything!

Unbeknownst to us, the following preview act was Russell Howard. I love Russell, his humour is so innocently schoolboy-ish, his use of voice and constant movement are just so endearing. To me at least. I always enjoy watching him on t' telly. I think possibly it's the whole West country thing, a place I hold very dearly in my heart. At any rate, him previewing material straight after Frankie Boyle - not an opportunity to be missed! Of course it was all sold out, but the same had been said of Boyle's show, and there were certainly empty seats. So we waited, sitting by the river, watching the traffic crossing the beautiful Hammersmith Bridge. Returning to the studio minutes before the show was scheduled to start, we did our very best puppy dog faces, and lo and behold! Two tickets for Russell Howard. What luck! I practically danced into the studio, though swiftly stopped as I felt the whole audience's eyes upon me. How embarrassing. I mean, not really, but nonetheless, after my verbal abusing by Boyle, I was quite keen for a lower profile this time. Oh he was fantastic though! After such bleak, black humour; the bright, energetic joy that Howard brought was just magical, and he has cemented himself as one of my favourites. I will certainly recommend people see his tour.

Heading home with a most uncomfortable jaw, but in a delirious, Cloud Nine-esque way, it was another reminder to me of the importance of spontaneity, of always asking, and of not giving up. Frightfully cliché I do realise, but I suppose they are called clichés for a reason!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Listlessly Listing

Opening my diary at random, I came directly to an entry labelled "Week of Action". Recognising my pretentious jargon, I tried to re-familiarise with the person who was writing at the time, to remember the difficulties he faced.

At this point, my role as an Au Pair could no longer continue, courtesy mainly of the credit crunch. As mine was a live-in position, this meant drastic change was afoot. My home for a year was to be no more. In many ways I knew this was a good thing. A year is a long time at twenty, and for some time I had thought about moving on. I had seen, done, learned so much, but perhaps it was right to finish at that point, before too much monotony set in. So the action required involved finding a new job and somewhere to live. Difficult enough to find one of these in a short space of time, but two... I do remember finding this enormously hard to juggle. I think a year of living and partying had left me with little reserves and therefore little breathing space. Most claustrophobic.

However other actions where required that week, too. Things were very busy at Drama School, with lots of words to learn for an upcoming performance. Committing words to memory is obviously an essential part of acting, but each time I would leave it dangerously late, and wonder how on earth I managed it the previous time. I expect I would tell myself to not think about it, but to do. The precedents probably left me over-confident, and I have often been concerned about my hubristic tendencies. With best intentions, I was attempting to get "ahead of the game", by learning those lines as soon as possible. I think I must just enjoy writing lists, because there was absolutely no possibility I would be prioritising words over accommodation. The very idea is laughable, but there it is, in the list. Writing lists makes one feel pro-active, productive, professional - just pro! However it does not; at least not in my case, translate into action and achievement. But the intentions are always there. Can one get through life by good intentions?

The final item on the list of action related to a fellow nanny. A stunning but sporadic friend from home, who came by an ostensibly good position with an upper-class family. I say sporadic because for months we would speak all the time, then suddenly for almost a year I would hear nothing. It was at the end of one of these nothing periods that she contacted me, and naturally I felt rather a friend of convenience. However when in a new country, one must take advantage of as many friends and contacts as one can. And in the course of the year, she and I became good friends once again. However, her behaviour one evening left me utterly appalled.

It was in early December, but already very cold. Her sister and some friends were visiting, and we arranged to all go out. As it was a Thursday, we chose Punk, where we had had many fun evenings over the course of the year, and thought it would be nice to share this with the outsiders. The evening started ferociously badly, as I was kept waiting for ages outside the tube station. I utterly hate being made to wait, and think it most discourteous. Obviously five, ten minutes is absolutely fine and to be expected in a city like London. But almost half an hour? I think not. And I made no secret of the fact I was in a poor mood, which in retrospect was rather graceless. Of course I don't think I was actually rude, just colder than usual. Quite literally. Then one of the friends insisted on finding the appropriate cash-point, for only one would do. Exasperated, I said I would meet them inside the club. Rather low on funds, I didn't want to miss the free entry threshold! Eventually they did find me, and we made full use of the happy hour. Such fun!

Punk is, or was, one of those rather fun and frivolous places. That night there was the usual dress-up box and also a hair stylist. Naturally I wanted to take full advantage of this facility, enjoying several style changes. The friends found me - or so I assumed - terribly amusing, which probably spurred me on. It was also a good excuse to leave a circle of chatter focussed on small-town gossip over cheap white wine. Most dull. I am of course always keen to catch up on news, but London quickly makes anything else very insignificant. When I go out, one of the things I love to do is dance, good music allowing. It certainly was that night, and I tried to encourage people in my group to join me. No deal, apparently. Bored of them, I went by myself and made some new friends, hopefully in a less twee manner. After some time, I went looking for my friends. Absolutely no sign inside. Nor were they outside, amongst the smokers. Unbelievably, they had left me by myself without even saying "good night". I was furious, and appalled. I chose not to think about it then, and returned to the people I met dancing. Much more fun and the night carried on much, much later.

Weeks passed before I heard anything from my friend, and I was so cross I completely ignored any contact from her. The series of events that this incident began have been some of my most memorable. In a strange way I am grateful for her unfair behaviour. But I was not brought up to do such things, and find it very difficult to forgive others for this reason. Again the middle-class demon rears his well-washed head. However I included her in this list of action, because her departure from London was imminent. I very nearly decided not to meet with her, but felt this would be petty. It would not punish her, but myself. So I did, and I am glad I did. We had a lovely evening and I was able to put my grievances behind me. I don't think I will ever be able to see her or the others in the same light I once did, but I harbour no resentment.

And of that week of action, I can quite clearly see that I did manage to achieve things. Perhaps not all of those things on the list, but then lists are dull.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Somewhere In My Memory

December. The darkest (or lightest) month of the year. I am in the shadows, whilst my family basks in the sunshine. It's certainly how I feel at present. How is it possible to entertain two entirely contradictory ideas in one's head at the same time? It is, as the song says, "the most wonderful time of the year"...

The diminishing warmth in the atmosphere is replaced by one in the hearts of people of all ages. Togetherness, giving and sharing and of course over-eating, are hallmarks of Christmas. I have my health and I am not (yet) starving. But equally I feel very saddened, perhaps ungratefully so. It will be my third Christmas without my family and I feel suddenly very alone. It is all entirely my own doing and choice, and of course I could go back. Yet I cannot bring myself to, an inescapable internal conflict I have developed. Hurrah.

My last two Christmases, in France and England, have been spent with surrogate families, both of whom have made it clear I am welcome back this year. Both times were wonderful and I will cherish the memories. Perfect examples of the generosity of this season's spirit. However this year brings something new and exciting again - Sweden! As I wrote last month, another friend got there first by inviting me to Umea for Jul. Naturally I cannot wait, it will be my first white Christmas, but also the first time I will be celebrating on Christmas Eve, which is the custom in Sweden, and certainly with my friend's family. Which reminds me: must brush up on my non-existent Swedish...

So there is all that excitement, plus the joy of the season already overloading my increasingly feeble mind. Then something else looms up at me, and that is the absence I feel. It makes me sad to think that once I again I will not see my family for Christmas. In two years I have seen my Mother once, Father twice and my younger brothers not at all. It was my choice to leave, and that is after all what children are meant to do eventually, no? Perhaps I simply wasn't mature enough then. Or I am overly sentimental? Watching the Home Alone films isn't helping! At least he gets to see his Mummy again for Christmas.

Selflessly, I want a white Christmas, and all my family to join me. I hope Father Christmas is listening! I think I have been quite good this year.

On another note, just back from Istanbul. Sunny and warmer (ish), it was wonderful. Certainly as I was there for Eid, it was my first real exposure to a non-Christian holiday. It was marvellously exotic, but I have no plans to convert. Least of all because of the early morning call to prayer. Church at 11 is much more civilised. But I certainly recommend staying at the Kybele Hotel in Sultanahmet, part of the old city. A lovely boutique hotel with countless lamps decorating the ceilings and walls. Literally thousands of them. Equally good was their food. I'd also recommend the Galata Tower for it's magnificent views, though less so for the restaurant. Another gem, if you're game, is to reach the Western Districts of the city. They house the old Jewish quarter and some beautiful Orthodox churches. Few tourists make it. The other brilliant thing about the city is that, despite its vastness, most things are completely walk-able. The tram is good, but merely speeds up a relatively short walk.

Do try: A Hamam if you are comfortable in your own skin, and a Turkish barber if you are prone to beards and feel adventurous.
Don't try: Any food from a street vendor.

Hopefully I will come up with something equally comprehensive on Umeå.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Time Goes By - So Slowly

My most-loved song of all time is (somewhat embarrassingly) Hung Up, by Madonna. The searing desperation, the entrancing movement, retro glamour and the undeniable call to the dance floor from the icy Queen of Pop somehow, four years on, still gives me the cutis anserina it gave me when I first heard it in 2005.

The line that most hooks me is "Time goes by so slowly". Time is such a curious concept. The first half of my life was probably too primitive to contemplate it, beyond the fact that bedtime was at 8.30pm and whether I could push this any later. Then secondary school, and with it, thought processes suddenly much more sophisticated. The first time I actually thought about it was when, in Religious Education, our Chaplain asked "What is Time?". Naturally, when things are so black and white, my hand shot up and I announced that Sir could read it on the clock above the whiteboard, and see how slowly it was passing. Obviously I said the latter part in my head, but this suddenly became a debate.

St Augustine, in Book 11 of his Confessions, asks, "What then is Time? If no one asks me, I know: if I wish to explain it to one that asketh, I know not."

What IS Time? How does it work, where does it come from? Overloaded, my brain kept me quiet the rest of that lesson. I think everyone has noticed and commented at one stage or another that the weeks have gone so quickly, the working day is passing at a pace to rival a snail. Christmas is nearly here again, when once Christmases seemed so very far away. When danger is afoot, time stands still. Or so I am told!

In modern society, Time is essential to functionality and as such is coordinated on an international scale. Leap years, leap seconds can only make sense when the rest of the world agrees with you and participates. Though our Gregorian calendar is a corrected version of the Julian, it still has not become entirely universal. Globalisation and the internet have all but removed the barriers of time differences, but humans on the whole remain diurnal. Time is argued by scholars of Science, Philosophy and Religion, and many within have vastly differing opinions. In Economics, "Time is Money" is an ethos populated in the City and Wall Street.

"Time is nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once" Albert Einstein OR John Archibald Wheeler OR Woody Allen.

I am aware I have thrown a whole lot of disjointed and barely connected thoughts on Time together, but possibly because this is where my head is at. And also I am short on time (Ha Ha). Which leads me to the thought on Time in a personal sense. We are all aware we have a limited amount of time in the day, and limited lifespans as humans. Many seem to be challenging mortality, but I doubt it will come to fruition in my lifetime. But it does scarily make one value how one spends one's day, and to question life in general.

Perhaps this is the onset of an early life crisis? Or perhaps to merely aspire to make better choices, enjoy and LIVE.

Total mentions of the word "Time" in this post: Twenty.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

No-One Expects A Spanish Inquisition

One of my guilty film pleasures would definitely be the Rom-Com genre, Brit-Rom-Coms in particular. I am sure I can in part thank my Father for this, the man who counts Notting Hill and Love Actually amongst his favourites. Our tastes diverge once the Westerns are reached, which is fine. In fact, I should probably be grateful as I usually used the television void for reading.

One of my favourites would have to be Sliding Doors. I think it is often overlooked as a film... Unsure in itself where it fits into the genre. For me it has everything: London, Gwyneth, Calvin Klein, a thought-provoking premise and an ending left for us to draw our own (hopefully happy) conclusions.

It is the premise that most fascinates me. The what-ifs of life can be all-consuming. The idea that the chance missing of a train/tube/bus/ plane/meeting/whatever could have such an impact upon one's life. The infinite copies of me who enjoyed better (or worse) fortunes than me throughout all the daily minutiae. I think it resonates particularly for Londoners. We all hurry, ignoring our fellow commuters (unless you're a potentially deranged Scot) rushing from A-B-C-A or worse.

Last night I had some very pleasant cheese and mulled wine at The Providores on Marylebone High Street, enjoying people-watching beneath the rather naff Christmas lights. We watched with bemused horror at rather hairy incidents of road rage (definitely not pursuing a career in taxi-cabs now), middle-aged, middle-class ladies falling off the kerb completely trolleyed and blatant attempts to ignore the polite queuing system.

Returning to Islington late in the evening led me to Bond Street station, where an infuriatingly inaccurate timetable board left me waiting amongst the vomiting (and probably worse) late-night passengers for far longer than tolerable. Finally, on the way to my connecting station, I knew I would be cutting it fine for the last Victoria Line tube.

Jumping out and navigating the jostling crowds, filthy looks from enormous, security-guard sized men, squeezing between people and the carriages and then a mad-dash though a labyrinth of tunnels amongst dozens of like-minded others. Breaking into a sprint up the stairs to the platform, there it was! The last train. And a seat too, so civilized. Of course I had to get through the closing doors first. Naturally it is not a wise idea, and is very bad for the trains apparently. Well-practised though, I sneaked through, only for the train to pull away from all the people who didn't quite make it.

It is quite iconic. The doors closing, and that very wicked sense of schadenfreude. Well possibly that is just me, but it certainly gave me something to ponder on the journey home (very unattractive passengers). What if I had missed it, how would I have got home, at what time would I have finally made it, would any good come of it, or something bad? The same for the journey I actually made, would I discover something awful, be mugged, lose my keys... Infinite possibilities for mayhem!

Thankfully, I returned safe and sound and even had a brief chat with my youngest brother. But one never really knows what will or will not be, which is - for me at least - a huge part of the joy. And the infinite possibilities this city possesses. Good AND Bad, but always exciting.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Shall We Dance?

Curiously delightful weekend past, and thoroughly exhausting too. One of my Saturday devoirs is to read the Saturday Times Magazine, if just for Slummy Mummy and Giles Coren. However I found myself incredibly moved by one of the articles.

Having completed their final exams, the school leavers of South Africa, like those of many other Anglo-influenced nations, celebrate with a Ball. Fondly referred to as "the Matric", which comes from Matriculation (each to their own), I suspect for many it is simply a good excuse for a large party.

However, the article does not defer to this, more visible, group. Instead it focuses upon those living in the slums of outer Cape Town. In Dickensian style poverty, many families live in a single room surviving on less than £10 per week. For this oft-forgotten section of society, the Matric is by far the most glamorous event most of them will ever attend. Many will probably never again have the same opportunity to let their hair down (in a decidedly unliteral way, of course). Most spend months saving. Some barely eat to save the few Rand they can for their dresses, but this is certainly not restricted to the young ladies. The boys also dress to impress. One delighted in finding his father's white gloves he once wore whilst working in catering. Many simply cannot afford to go to their Ball. In some cases, whole villages have chipped in whatever possible. One girl whose parents simply couldn't afford it was helped by her teacher.

The battle just to be able to enjoy a party is phenomenal. Most of the girls on a daily basis wear a uniform of jeans and hooded jumpers so as not to encourage assaults and rape. In their full regalia, barely seconds are spent outdoors before jumping into waiting limousines or Hummers. Goodness knows how they would perceive the overt fashions at the average Oceana. The boys are little braver. One did touchingly say he felt worthwhile, important, as neighbours watched him through chinks in their curtains, in his "Prince Charles" inspired costume. Featuring cane and diamante earrings. Full of self-loathing, I fight my inner snob.

The story that made me saddest of all was of one girl, who was wearing a Buttercup yellow Bo-Peep inspired dress. Apparently a popular style, this girl had struggled incredibly hard to be able to go to her Matric, relying on help from her extended family. However, a long-term illness became too much for her shortly after her big night and she passed away. I mean, I could almost cry now, such is the empathy I feel.

The worst thing is, I must sound horribly twee and patronising as I write. I readily admit to having led an enormously privileged life, for which I am incredibly thankful. And that I have often been lucky. The view of their world from mine is very much in the darkness, so such glimpses do tend to affect me.

Particularly as I contrast the Matric with my own school Ball. Finding a partner - not easy at an all-boys school - then a series of satellite parties before and after the event. All were full of (generally) tasteful glamour, champagne, fun, naughtiness and freedom. Though no-alcohol was a strict condition at the Ball proper, people managed it (or worse) anyway. None of the girls needed to worry about being attacked on their way to the next party, or when milling about in parks or at the beach for photographs. The only severe problems emerged the next day, as several incidents of alcohol poisoning came to light. Unfortunately I was possibly the worst of those cases. The memory fails at about 8am the next day, only to resume at 3.30pm that afternoon. The image of my body in a hospital bed with several tubes attached to me will not easily be forgotten. Nor will that of my collection by ambulance be by my friends!

While I may dislike the fashion, I am incredibly moved by the dedication and hard work whole communities share for that one purpose. To ensure their loved ones have the chance to escape reality for one night, to "have a ball" is one of the most selfless things I have known. I consider myself the lucky one, but again, my school Ball was just another night. It was a very good one, mind, but for them, the Matric is the night. The night they will never forget, every moment etched in dreams and memories.

Perhaps I should think again?

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Houmous and Crudités, or Champagne?

So I am feeling unwell today - sore throat and just generally disillusioned with life and myself. Even writing now, in bed wearing a scarf, I am thinking of all the things that must be done. *Coughs*

Blast. Naturally I refused to expose myself to the elements today, as I blame them for my ill-health. Though drinking the last 4 nights in a row will not have helped. A bottle of wine at home over dinner is fine, but two plus cocktails, followed by a freezing journey home do not good health upkeep.

But this did pose a problem. The fridge contained a couple of  of carrots, half a pot of houmous (week-old), spinach, 2 eggs and a pepper. Oh and a bottle of bubbly. Because that is clearly the priority. I mean what is that? So that's an omelette for breakfast (something I was just never able to master properly anyway) and some sort of dated picnic platter for the rest of the day. On a friend's recommendation, I added a whole clove of raw garlic and a little raw ginger to the houmous. Appetising? Yes/No? If that combination does not shock my system into gear, then there must be something seriously wrong. And the terrible breath others may have to endure will be for nothing. Perhaps the silver lining to singledom, nobody need see the moment of human weakness. Nobody need be repelled more than usual.

Tomorrow, I will have a choice of a carrot or the Champagne. Hopefully I will be well enough to brave the outdoors. Two days without any toast would be unthinkable. Or have I miraculously stumbled across a forgotten cure for the common cold? Alcohol! And as it is grape based, surely there must be some uber-antioxidants up for grabs. Those little hand sanitizers are almost pure alcohol aren't they, so there must be something to the stuff. Yes. Yes, I think if there is no improvement by tomorrow evening, I shall completely empty the fridge. It is almost leading me to hope my condition worsens. Obviously I don't, that would be Blatant Stupidity. Incidentally a character in one of my favourite parodies of Dynasty. I love parody. Done well, few things have made me laugh as hard.

Maybe I should try the old "laughter is the best medicine" lark. I did watch Come Dine With Me, always amusing grace a Mr Lamb. And all the soaps I have caught up with, one of the few joys of illness. Or reasons for a mass-hatred. And investigating the Zeitgeist i.e. Lady GaGa's new music video. She is a cocaine inspiration... Reason alone to do massive, solo binges if her success could be replicated. Maybe if the champagne doesn't fail, I will try that, just call up the old dealer as you do.

Yes I am clearly delirious with fatigue/boredom. Speak anon.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Capturing Claudia and other stories...

After another fabulous post from Mrs Trefusis - - I had to take advantage of the final day of the exhibition at Colnaghi in Mayfair. Sorry, did I mention the subject was Claudia Schiffer? Dragging a rather tired ex-colleague along, promising something fabulous and unstrenuous, along we went. Thank goodness, I loved it. But why did I love it?

I am not sure whether I love it because it is Claudia Schiffer, or because it is something very close to those in the fashionable circle, because I think I should, because I am just pretending, or, because I just genuinely liked some of the art for its own sake. Naturally the former and latter form my exterior, but I wonder whether, armour pierced, it merely is a question of snobbery? Thankfully in this case I can unreservedly say I did really like some of the pieces, and not necessarily because of the muse. Amazing though she is. The Jason Brooks pieces are certainly a testament to bravery. The above link not only offers a glimpse at some of these works (unfortunately no longer on display), but also a glimpse at their subject matter in human form, posing alongside.

Artistically sated, my friend and I did one of those rather pleasant walks with no sense of purpose or direction. Criss-crossing the streets and narrowly avoiding speeding taxis, an encyclopaedia of subjects were discussed, stories started, half-swapped, forgotten and re-started again many syllables later. It is wonderful how in the midst of the grey morass of people, cars and city, a little bubble is formed inside of which is a wholly unconnected world. I think there is more magic to the world than we give it credit. Spells and potions pale beside the human mind. Naturally, our subconscious (is it pluralised?) knew when we would hunger, and it deposited us outside one of my favourite spots at exactly the right moment. (Sorry, cunning plan? Nonsense.)

I like good food. That is to say, I like food done well. It need not be anything remotely fancy or expensive, (think sausages, proper Butcher's ones are delicious and will hardly break the bank) just of reasonable quality and well cooked. Mrs Marengo's does not serve sausages, not even the vegetarian kind. They DO do very good vegetarian burgers, as I have previously mentioned. And omelettes. Haven't bothered with a great deal else, because you see... It is all about the white chocolate and pistachio cheesecake. As a child I turned my nose up at cheesecake. Quite literally, so my mothers tells me, and at a great many other foods as well. I found it too, well, cheesy. NO longer. This is quite literally a heaven on earth. Do try it. I ought to try other things, but I just cannot bring myself to. And I justify that by asking myself: "Well why must I?" Why indeed.

I believe I mentioned my friend was quite tired. So I did what all good friends do - went back to her house and had a late supper. And Prosecco. And even a little Champagne. Poor thing she must have been so tired of me. She is a very good actress though, because I barely noticed it if indeed, she was. To top that off perfectly, we sat down to Audrey Hepburn. Initially aiming for one of the classics, Roman Holiday or Sabrina, we decided on a forgotten member of the collection. One neither of us had seen, Paris When It Sizzles. What an interesting, funny, surreal treat it turned out to be. And with my old friend Tony Curtis playing a rather funny supporting role, I think it could become one of my favourites. She does look emaciated in this film though. But in an endearingly delicate and pretty way. But it is just SO funny, and the film within a film within a film that we, today, are no longer strangers to, must have made quite an impact. I think a perfect Absinthe film. Or possibly vodka. But some spirit accompaniment is highly recommended!

I would love to replace all (or at least several of) the talentless, lecherous nobodies who seem intent on bombarding us daily with their dull, self-important rubbish with another Audrey. It is, after all, nearly Christmas!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

God Jul!

Or how one says Happy Christmas in Sweden.

I know it is 6 weeks early, but I am spending Christmas with my friend in Umeå, north Sweden. She has just posted a picture (albeit of miserable quality) of the snow, now beginning to settle. Having grown up in a Mediterranean climate, snow is something psychological. A childhood of hot Christmases... the clash between the carols, the decorations and the story of the birth of the Lord himself, with the reality of opening presents in 40 degree heat. I am convinced it is somehow damaging. My younger brother has never even seen the stuff in the flesh - nothing wrong with that, of course, but I do rather feel he is left out.

And of course snow has many downfalls. London in February after two days of snow is a good example. But that night of the first of February 2009, there was some wizardry about. Something very enchanting about this great city being silenced by a white down. A childlike instinct led me outside to Fitzroy Square, and what a sight. Cries of joy, snowballs, armies of snowmen, friends and complete strangers together being playful and having fun. I hadn't been so touched for some time. Naturally I joined in the revelry and made some fabulous friends. One of whom had the most adorable lisp. Was the lisp the highlight or the snow? Who knows.

At any rate, I eagerly anticipate the ice skating, skiing and snow mobiling of a Swedish Christmas. Hejdå!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Ich hocke...

Since arriving at the Hill of Crouch, I think I have begun to settle. It is quite fun exploring a completely foreign area, learning the best walks, cafes, restaurants - the all important familiarity and all that. Certainly yesterday I was enchanted by the season as I wandered along the Parkland Walk. Though a sign indicating Richmond Bridge 26 miles away did bring on a wave of nostalgia. Through a gate in the garden of my new home, I could walk all the way to Ally Pally, or Alexandra Palace as most non-staff would call it. Quite, quite magical. Like a secret, very long garden in the middle of London that is practically deserted. A very good Wellington boot opportunity, particularly with all the mushy leaves underfoot. And some giant puddles! Such fun. Splish splosh!

To be perfectly honest that remains the bulk of my achievement. Rather pathetic really, a 3-mile "trek". The problem is my frequent procrastination. I am so dreadful that I don't think I will ever manage to do much with this life. Which is utterly silly as the next is hardly confirmed. Very well I see your point, the joy of tomorrow.

Today, at least, I was productive. I had lunch at Borough Market, which involved a delicious selection of Tapas. I think the tapas fad is long dead, so I hope people will not think me painfully behind, though I rather skipped it before. I am just not so keen on it for some inexplicable reason. It has lots of elements that on paper I should like. Yet I avoid all things Spanish regardless. Perhaps I am just suspicious, being such a franco/italophile. And I'm purely speaking culinarily. Which I do pronounce correctly. Even if it makes me sound archaic, I don't care. The "u" is as in "moon". Orrright?

I so rarely go to London Bridge area, it has such glorious views and makes one feel quite the tourist. Well me, at least. It is such an industrious centre, the smell, the wind, the cranes overhead, St Paul's, The Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Tate Modern... The energy is so strong, so invigorating. One feels so insignificant, yet enormously empowered. I am currently working on a business plan for a new bank. Recessions are the best time to begin them, and I am sure I could compete with the likes of Barclays and Lloyd's.My only problem is the lack of capital, so if anybody would like to invest, do please let me know. I would reward well with shares in the company! And I think with the sale of parts of Lloyd's coming up soon, there's space to capitalise. Name also open to suggestions.

I then spent the afternoon shopping in Kensington, spending hours in Hornet's on Kensington Church Walk... Just the most incredible shop. I don't see any need to shop anywhere else now. They have everything one could possibly need, and nothing outrageously expensive. By everything I do mean in a very conservative, Balmoral-esque way. But frankly I feel very on trend in tweed and velvet jackets, and dearly wish my head would fit hats properly. Alas mine is outrageously small, suited to visors and a plastic fedora I once danced in for a school performance. And I didn't even get to keep it. The problem was all the bags. I forgot how impossible navigating London with lots of shopping bags is and in particular at peak-hour on the tube. Thankfully I stumbled upon Ottolenghi, which I had never heard of before. What stunning food. My mouth is still watering, and it certainly hungered on this tube journey for a most delicious white chocolate cheese cake with raspberry coulis I decided I couldn't leave unsold. Pool little thing, he did need a home. Apparently my choice was a very male one, as in a common male choice. I did point out that biologically this would ring true. Unfortunately my helpful assistor was not of Anglo heritage and any vague humour was lost. Shame, I know. But it was delicious.

And now long gone.

Monday, 2 November 2009

January 24th

I planned to do pieces in retrospect. Opening up my diary randomly, I came to the 23rd and the 24th of January 2009. I cannot decode my notes from the 23rd (a total of 5 supposedly significant words) so naturally that left only the particularly cold winter Saturday.

The birthday of my Swedish friend Nina, it was unusually busy. Some time beforehand I volunteered to help Lucinda with Kit4Kids at one of the halls in Barnes. The early morning was unfortunate, but other than that it was a simple matter of manning one of the clothing stalls. My retail experience was blatantly obvious, and I thoroughly enjoyed charming all the yummy Barnes mummies. At the height of the credit crunch, I think they were expecting a much stronger showing, at least a more useful politician:citizen ratio. Thanks awfully Lib Dems. An enormous help, I am sure.

My brownie points won, I got on with the rest of the day. Mainly costume choosing for the evening. I don't recall the theme (I invariably bend them), but it led me to white everything bar a llama wool waistcoat of interesting colours. Visible in fact, in my profile picture. . A-ha! I found it in Memories of Mortlake a very sweet shop run by a German lady, trying to sell a very bizarre accumulation of "pieces". One's rubbish is another's etc. Certainly helps satiate one's inner voyeur.

Being my friend's birthday, her choice of dinner venue. She is vegetarian, an ism I follow part-time, though less and less of late. So therefore the cuisine is something I enjoy, but being me I know where it is reliably good, inexpensive and in a good area (IMHO of course). She chose Blah Blah Blah of Shepherd's Bush. A rather serious mistake, but there's only so far one's influence stretches! While pleasantly decorated, the service was PAINfully slow. Despite being the only people there, the staff seemed entirely uninterested. From memory we ordered at 7pm-ish. Fine, though we had been there almost an hour already. Naturally by that time + wine, people are hungry, and getting irritable. Of course we are all adults and able to control ourselves, but as time went by, things deteriorated.

It turned out that half the people there weren't really friends of Nina's, but more people that had gathered together through friends and had asked to come along. Most of the people there, she disliked immensely, but with mutual friends and in the hope of avoiding awkwardness, the poor thing graciously allowed all these effective strangers to her dinner. I didn't help by bringing along my best friend whom Nina hadn't met, though I am assured we were the most welcome there by far. Here's hoping.

Finally at about 9.30pm our food arrived. Passable, but after two and a half hours of hunger pains anything will do. Certainly NOT worth such a weight. And too late to avoid outbreaks of rather emphatic debates. The worst began with a flippant comment about whisky. I had said something along the lines of:

"Good whisky should be enjoyed with a very slight splash of water," or something similarly pretentious.
This prompted some backlash, followed by ferocious support from the BFF. Then an incredibly nasal, Australian voice rang out:
"I like my Jack Daniel's with coke."
"Oh my god, what a classless individual!" blurts out the BFF.

Oh dear. The classless individual in question stormed off, pausing at the stairs to shout "Are any of you classless individuals coming with me?!" before disappearing. The stunned silence was punctured suddenly by half the table reluctantly deciding to follow her. This left four of us: Nina, her boyfriend, BFF and myself. Bless the birthday girl, she laughed and said how relieved she was most of them had gone. Mollifying my mortified friend, a little at least. Left with all the wine, we carried on merrily.

Having caused enough trouble for one evening, the BFF departed en taxi, while we headed East for Electrotherapy IV. A new-ish charity night begun by a friend of mine and still going strong, though in a new location at Elephant & Castle, I believe. We didn't stay long. Just long enough to dance a little, but my music tastes had moved on, I must say.

During said dance, this friend came up to me and unbuttoned my shirt, telling me it looked frigid and that I would never get a boyfriend if I carried on like that. Well! What presumptuousness. Firstly, who is to say I don't already?! And secondly, boyfriend... You can't just assume these things! It's as offensive to a man as the assumed pregnancy of a woman without child. Well so I assume, anyway. Possibly this put me in less of a mood for the evening, and we cut things short, Nina and her then boyfriend heading to Canary Wharf and myself to seek bagels and then the night bus to Stratford.

Have I now learnt anything? Ayo Gorkhali.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Cirque de Harsh

I'm so rubbish, I wanted to do these at least every two days. I think it barely averages out at that! Oh well, things have been hectic-ish.

The weekend was grand, stopped by Ghost in Farringdon for catastrophe du moment, Jodie Harsh's travelling Circus night. Was enormous fun, though mainly because I consumed far more than at William & Son. Had I not, I doubt I would have enjoyed myself so much. As it was, I was there to see some friends performing in fabulous Union flag bodysuits with bunny ears. I kid not, they form part of an army in Bishi's One Nation. To (possibly, whosoever can predict these things) storm the charts soon. I don't even know what it sounds like, I was too busy dancing on a platform to indiscernible bass.

The crowd was equally indiscernible. Who are they all? An uber-fashionistic, wannabe, out-there generic, "avant-garde" attempt at cool. I can hardly talk, but I was at least the sole person (so far as I could see) wearing a poppy. And I judge people who don't wear them. Which is difficult today, because my poppy disappeared yesterday and I haven't found them anywhere to replace it. And I worry others judge me.

"No no," I protest as I feel their glances, running over my bare, naked, poppy-free lapel.
"I lost it, I'm getting another, point me in the right direction, don't judge me, please. I am one of you, I truly am! Believe ME!"

And so on. Because it IS important to me. Particularly as our soldiers are still fighting so far from home and on our behalf. I don't think there could be many people with no connections to this and former conflicts. And I think it is very important to recognize their sacrifice.

But I digress. A good night, but I fail to see the hype. Pretentious drag-queens and an overweight man wearing little more than tights does precious little to inspire (and at worst puts one off food). But all in the name of fun I suppose, and admittedly I paid nothing to get in. Equally someone at the bar looked after me, even creating a drink out of... Well I think he said Rum, amongst other things. It must have been lethal, because I woke up the next day on the floor at a friend's in Southgate. Grand!

A day in bed and then ready to face Part 2. A charming night at the Lexington, courtesy of fiancée Treacle. She is an amazing DJ, though admittedly if you dislike Northern Soul you may find it a tad dull. But then who would care, you would be ignored.

A dull live band, sneaked-in Vodka and then some Champagne later, there was much rejoicing. I much preferred it to Circus simply because there, nobody paid much attention to you. At Circus, it feels like the whole club is staring at you and making its judgement. Which is fine, and quite amusing. But not for every evening, if you don't mind.

Toodle pip!

Friday, 23 October 2009


The 2009 Pen of the Year is a marvellous hand-woven horse hair instrument.

And should you wish your own stallion to be immortalised, pluck some tail hairs and send them off to Graf von Faber-Castell, a charming member of the German aristocracy. He knows the only woman in Europe who hand-weaves horse hair. Fabulous.

Sans doute, I owe William & Son for this introduction. They put on a grand evening... New cocktail from the Connaught, a Handwriting analyst, people in Polo costumes - endlessly charming. Naturally, regulars to such events have heard it all before, but I am not. So brag I shall! I learned from the analyst that I am: brave, bold, prefer to be organised yet appreciate spontaneity. And that I am quite honest, I don't hide. True-ish. Effectively, it was a lot of compliments and whosoever wouldn't feel flattered?

Unfortunately, the quantity of champagne had a peculiar effect on me. I had no idea excess consumption of alcohol had such symptoms. Where on earth have I been? Most things were amusing, particularly the recession-proof stock at William & Son. The Perfect Pencil is a joy of modern engineering. Perfect indeed, it is naturally high-quality wood, with a special lead that will not break (quite so easily, anyway). But most entertaining is the inclusion of in-built sharpener and replaceable eraser. It really IS perfect. And you would hope so at £175. I did love one spokeswoman telling me "Everyone can afford it!". Yes of course they can. Absolutely. The logic... faultless.

Regardless, a must for stationery fetishists. A must.

By the end, the vision becomes foggier. However I take consolation from the fact I was invited to dinner afterwards by complete strangers. And I went gladly, like the sheep I am. I must therefore have been somewhat amusing, still. But it was all perfectly lovely. Of that, I am sure. But then what isn't perfectly lovely about late-night wanderings through Mayfair. I'll tell you what. Nothing.

Dear William & Son, let me know should you be recruiting!

Answer Time

Well done BBC. However, I think it's rather easy for a sophisticated, left-leaning, Question Time-watching audience to vilify Nick Griffin. Frankly, it isn't necessary as he scores spectacular home goals the second he speaks. (Hurrah, sporting metaphor!)

I doubt that much of the QT audience has ever even contemplated voting for the BNP. It would surprise me if many of its core voters could describe the programme in any detail. And I think that what happened on the television this evening is part of the problem.

Attacking this group of people for their "un-PC" views is unconstructive and ignores the fact that it is a significant number of people who share this view. What is the natural instinct when one is being "backed into a corner"? I think it will only increase their support base. The mainstream has given the BNP a major PR coup, because none of them really (Baroness Warsi excluded) tackled the main issue that garners Griffin support: his stance on immigration. I believe the vast majority abhors racism, but I am sure many find it difficult to discover their neighbourhood is no longer what it was.
There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with this change. But it is human nature to fear the unknown. The fact that so many embrace it is clearly a positive sign. At any rate, it would be hubristic to ignore the views of such a large number of people, though Baroness Warsi did appear to offer a much more legitimate alternative in the Tories. They must be utterly overjoyed at having her as a spokeswoman, though her electoral failure then subsequent "promotion" does provide more ammunition for the BNP and it's anti-mainstream party propaganda.

As Bonnie Greer said (albeit during the hilarious 'Let's not talk about the BNP for 5 minutes' period), "That's called Democracy. It ain't pretty, but it's the least evil we human beings can make." I rather think that sums up the whole debate. Hmm?

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Having spent the morning almost entirely devoted to Rachel Weisz and her previous 5 years of living, perhaps you will forgive me for being less than taken by her. But you simply will not have to. If anything, I love her more, she is just breathtaking.

I am also encouraged by her use of stalking to land her role in A Streetcar Named Desire. "Nothing illegal," is more than a green light for me. I am a little amateurish though, I don't think I could compete with the competitive world of the insane. I might be eccentric, but I mean, you know and all that, what! However if even Sir Stephen Fry could engage in covert operations over a school-ground infatuation, then - actually I have done that already. Possibly most of us have, at that age. Or is it simply His Lordship and I?

While clearly I haven't the will to actually go through with the nonsense (Heaven forbid), I can return to my over-admiration of this ravishing lady.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009


Now that it has the name...

I have been thoroughly enjoy the BBC's latest Austen adaptation, Emma. Perhaps it is a sign of my age that I am enjoying the 'modern' feel. Which is odd because I have always viewed myself as a purist. Quite conservative and all that. I think it's possibly more to do with a burning desire to return to a life at Highbury.

Oh bother the biscuits have all gone! I turned my back not 10 minutes ago, too. And La Roux is playing. Oh dear La Roux, such... joy. Or joie, I suppose. I don't think the name very fair, The rusty one is actually two. It should really be Les Roux, just to be fair to whatshisname. Though possibly he isn't redheaded. Oh dear.

In Emma (and oddly I do this for many period pieces), I have tried to decide which character I should be. Obviously I couldn't decide. I think none really, but I just like the idea of swanning about in riding gear 24/7. I am on that note hoping to go riding next month. One has to plan these things, you see! And actually I have realised how long it has been. Quite long.

Presently I am of Reduced Circumstance. It makes things difficult, but I am sure I don't need to remind people struggling on the supposed tail-end of the recession. At least most of you have somewhere to live. I currently do not, and it really is a pain. Generously, I have been allowed space underneath a roof, and with the current weather I am enormously grateful. But how awful to have live in the shadows of gratefulness. So straitjacketing. And to constantly feel indebted. Possibly that makes me more of a Miss Bates type. How dull! I truly hope not. Constantly tittering about endlessly, insufferably trivial subjects. Ho! Well at least the dour middle-aged woman part rings false.

And I like to think I have done some interesting things thus far, am significantly more worldly than many far older than myself. Then again what does that matter? It is all so highly subjective. I am frequently accused of snobbery. The bearer of 'hatred'. It is probably justified, but the face-value is just that, isn't it? Underneath my cold, uber-middle class exterior there does lie something... less Frigidaire at the vest least. I do like italics.

I think what my aim in starting this was to begin a retrospective upon myself. Just for my own benefit. At least here the thoughts will not clutter various notebooks and Moleskines. Because there are many. And countless doodles as well. My, I am good for timewastery.

Because of my RC, I also have an abundance of free time. Time for which I have lots of good ideas, but nothing will get done without the necessary motivation. I will try to implement some sort of regime, but who is it accountable to? Oh yes, such a handsome chap too. But therein lies the danger. I have often though about writing, but fell at the first hurdle. The beginning. Even at school my essays would not get off the ground without an introduction. That does sound obvious, but many people would complete the main body of work first, before finishing at the beginning. Ah confusion.

Many bloggers seem so effortlessly cool in what they write, why do I sound like a bizarre mash-up of Mrs Thatcher and The Famous Five? Well I soldier on regardless...

Today I noticed from the window by my desk an odd cigarette shaped thing, spouting smoke from its summit and creating a rather eerie setting for the Newburgh Quarter. Naturally I went to investigate before lunch. (Which was entirely delicious - Aubergine Burger with sweet potato chips at Mrs Marengo's on Lexington St in Soho. Naughtily indulgent considering the RC but so worth it. And it sated a craving for sweet potatoes I've had all week.) Turns out the cigarette was a thermometer in a rather shrewd publicity game. The upshot being that whatever the London temperature, that would be your discount on purchases in the shop. Above average temperatures notwithstanding, I don't envisage a sudden heat wave leaving Soho dehydrated and mal-coordinated (I suppose that role has been filled), and therefore much more prone to buying more luxury fashion items. But I must admit, I quite liked the idea.

I'm sure it's been done (possibly several times), but I don't think it detracts at all. So best of luck. And equally to the consumer should the mercury rise above 15*.

So to embrace said mercury (about 8* I think), I say adieu.