Sunday, 29 August 2004

Things to Do and See

Its been a packed weekend so far:
  • Saw Carnesky's Ghost Train (my review)
  • Watched The Chronicles of Riddick (my review)
  • Accompanied a pal to buy a sofa at DFS - it seems the fashion is for white leather and extreme salesmanship
  • Popped into Camden Lock and stayed for several hours (definite improvement in the quality of jewellery available since last time I was there some time ago, but probably won't go back for some time - too touristy

Friday, 27 August 2004

Rainy Morning

A travelling funfair in the rain before it opens is one of the most dreary looking things in the world. The rides look old and crummy, paint peeling, false smiles painted on everything. No lights are flashing. No tinny music blaring. No screams. You can feel the ground underfoot soggy, when all the punters arrive it will become muddy. A collection of cheap thrills huddled together in the park.

Thursday, 26 August 2004

Harriet Lives with Janet and John

Or at least that would be nice, instead I live with John and all his waifs and strays - one from spain, one from hungary and one from brazil who only stays periodically. There isn't a strong common language, so there's a lot of spanish, portuguese and charades. Having a conversation knackers me out.

Harriet looks forward to only living with Harriet (which should be happening in September when John goes to Scotland and the waifs and strays move out).

Wednesday, 25 August 2004

Weirdest Olympic Spectacle So Far

Keirin Cycling. There's this man called a 'durney' (or something like that) who looks a bit like a clown in an all in one black lycra suit sitting very upright on a motorized bicycle (like those popular in France). He is put-putting around the track with the competitors following on their non-motorized bicycles, he's gradually getting faster and faster until lap 2.5 when he drops out and the string of cyclists behind fight it out for positions. Nudging and leaning into the opponents seems to be allowed. In the second semi-final there was what one commentator referred to as 'a sensational crash' where the Greek 'lost a lot of bark' (tore his shirt and shorts and scraped his skin off on the velodrome surface) after the Netherlander elbowed him out the way causing him to crash. So, its sort of like watching a race while expectantly waiting for a crash to happen.

Very strange.
Go For It Gels

An old man in a trilby hat with a feather, a flight jacket, shades and a single tooth watches two buggy pushing braods wimmin run up to the doors of a 43 who's driver attempted to pull off without them. They had shouted and then took their buggies into the street to acost the driver. They activated the door from the outside (used to be secret bus driver info) and shouted abuse though the open door. A door fight ensues, driver shuts them, they open them, he shuts them etc. Eventually they launch the buggies into the bus.

"Gowan gels get in there!" the old man says encouragingly, out of earshot, "these bus drivers are a pest."

So they're on the bus, and it disappears into the traffic. The man turns away from the scene approvingly, "I like to see the gels do that. That wuz good!"

Monday, 23 August 2004

Monday's Life Class

Tough class - haven't been in an age and have gotten really rusty and we had to draw the model who just won't do anything interesting.

Before class I had a cup of tea in the Candid Cafe. A bohemian long narrow low ceiling'd affair. Under the huge painting of a nude a man lay across the lap of his companion rattling his keys discussing with her something that had challenged his thinking that day. Two women behind the parlour palm leaned together conspiratorially over a small table. The sun was going down, the light fading through the dirty windows. A brazilian and a man with a Bergerac smirk talk over coffee. The brazilian does most of the talking. And all the smoking. Bergerac is listening his crows feet creased from smiling. Wafts of conversations "...I passed out downstairs but she was fully clothed so I don't think anything why do you want to take the test?...I walk somewhere and I find a baths and I went in and have a turkish bath...I know it suits her very much. She's very good. Its great to draw, you know, the nude..."

Candid Arts Trust: open access sessions and more formal taught courses in both life drawing and painting. Behind Angel tube, Islington - first left down City Road. Contact: The Candid Arts Trust, 3 Torrens Street, London EC1V 1NQ, Tel: 020 7837 4237.

Sunday, 22 August 2004

The Olympics

A sports event that even those who aren't particularly interested in sport watch. We've always been really into it. That and Wimbledon. I preferred it when the winter and summer olympics were in the same year though.

So far:
  • I've been glad that the little american (Carly Patterson) won the individual gymnastics over the anorexic-looking russian (Sventlana Khorkina). Still doesn't quite feel like a sport when the competitors wear glitter in their hair and blue eyeshadow (just a little bit too come dancing). And there's something really unnatural about the bends in their little spines and jerky arm waving between tumbles on the floor.
  • I've been in awe of the massive Phelps in the pool. And sorry the team GBR were such a bunch of whingey whiners. Appalled by Sharon Davis' interviewing technique (asking the Scot who had just failed to make the final if she was going to hang up her goggles and make babies from now on).
  • I've watched the weird spectacle of the table-tennis doubles - minute studied serves and massive overblown gestural strokes. Bouncing around the tiny table full of pent up aggression.
  • I've listened closely to the sweaty badminton and discovered there is no sound apart from the squeak of tennis shoes on plastic flooring.
  • I've ogled the strutting pumped up peacocks that run in the men's 100 metres. Big Testosterone. Fluff themselves up. Stare down the straight. Flex unbelievably enormous thighs. [Even the women's race is the same - these women have better six packs than most men - bodies pared down to bone and muscle]. Massive burst of running. And at the end lots of standing around pounding their chests (with a bit of real men hugging thrown in - arms round, big slap on the back, no chest contact).
  • I've caught the end of the rowing, the win (just) and the tears of joy. And laughed at the fact they are racing in the waters of Skinny Ass [Schinias].
  • I've questioned whether some of the events actually are olympic sports - they may be nice to look at but are they really sport - I'm thinking sychronised swimming, rhythmic gymnastics, beach volleyball (and yes I do understand that its not really about the sport but about the bikinis and bronzed bodies of the lithe female players), to name a few. Perhaps the next introduction could be pole dancing (its difficult, has a degree of skill and keeps you fit, no reason why it couldn't be marked out of ten for execution and difficulty).

Friday, 20 August 2004

Signs of Love No.1
The Hickey

Loved by the school-aged teenagers who need a visible symbol of their 'dating' (much as the ring has become for the engagement of adults) that will last for approximately the same amount of time it takes for them to become bored with one another (two weeks perhaps).

On my travels this week I have seen two adult (late 20s, early 30s) men with hickies on their necks. Worn with pride, no attempt to cover them up. Nasty oval red bruises with yellow outsides, fading speckledly back to skin colour. Definite sign of damaged flesh.

So what is it about these men that their women folk (I'm making a massive assumption) seem to want to eat them alive? Is this a sign of passion, or a gross insecurity which requires them to mark their territory? Resurgence of vampirism?

I suggest a clove of garlic, cut in half, the open side rubbed on the neck. Protect yourselves before its too late.

Thursday, 19 August 2004


Arriving at the doctor's in a torrential downpour, summer coat soaked through, sandals ruined and red hair dye running down the middle of my face (tis a flawed method of colouring that I use but its the only way to get it to be bright and striking enough), the horrible receptionist asked rhetorically, "are you wet?". I managed a no-eyes-smiling sneer in response.

I hate the doctors and it isn't really the doctors themselves its the receptionists. Fascist gossipy old cows the lot of them.

So anyway, during the smear test you normally grit your teeth and think of the cracks in the ceiling until its over. Yesterday the practice nurse (who I think is a little nutty) treated me like I'd never had one before and gave me a very detailed scenario to think about to help me present my cervix in an easily-reachable manner. It went like this:

Imagine you step into a lift and find a gorgeous guy in there but suddenly realise you need to fart (I'm telling you, this would never happen, or if it did you'd actually have to leave the lift) - so what you do is relax your bum and legs so you can let the fart slide out silently (& would you really want to deal a silent, but violent, one into a lift with a gorgeous guy?)

So I'm lying on the bed with a lamp shining up where the sun doesn't usually shine trying hard to get the scenario right but stopping before the actual farting bit and becoming very confused with which muscles are supposed to relax. I end up thinking how high the ceiling is. I was relieved to take my soaked and cold self back out into the street so I could dispense with all the make-believe.

Tuesday, 17 August 2004


I want to find some webspace to hold my pictures and perhaps some other stuff which I can link to from my blog. Who knows a good service? Is webspace what I am looking for (I don't want a hosted domain I don't think)?

Monday, 16 August 2004

Portrait of a City

The Return

An elderly gay couple take a turn in the midday sun on the shady side of the street. They link arms despite the 38 degree heat.

A street person bathes in the switched off fountain. Taking a towel from her shopping trolley load of possessions to dry with.

We, laiden with bags, suitcases and a mirror, wait on the side of the Gran Via Ferdinando for a libre cab to whisk us back to the airport.

Not looking forward to the hours of stale still air, cold or hot cabins, plastic wrapped food to be eaten with tiny plastic cultery and the remains wiped away with chemical-laced freshening up towels. When we will be back from our lifestyle fo sleeping late, strolling to get breakfast in a cafe, wandering around town looking at buildings and streets and popping to the beach after lunch, showering sand out of our hair and suntan lotion from our bodies before walking into the old town for a late night drink. Back to a variety of realities - new job; honest straight talking in the current job; and the mundainity of regular life. Back from a brilliant blue intense sky that heightens colours. Buildings painted brilliant yellow, ochre, red or green and not looking over the top. Back from balconies dripping wiht trailing plants, cactus' and blinds hanging over the edge to protect the room inside from the sun's heat. Back from sleepless nights tossing and turning getting tangled up in the sheet unable to promote a breeze from strategic opening of windows, no breeze but the smells and noise of neighbours drifting in from the tiny shaft all the windows open onto - ones alarm, ones discussions, ones radio, ones first cigarette of the day, ones meaty breakfast. Back from the sandy beach, swims in a warm sea, sun bleached hair coarse with salt and sandy to the scalp. Back. Sigh.

And in Madrid waiting for our connecting flight my eyes are killing me from the assault on the senses the airport has become - lights, flourescents hard and harsh, shopping frenzy to rid yourself of the last of the euro coins that can't be changed back, acrid smoking points drifting all over the place adding to the dry membrane of my mostrils, people, people, people, voices in english - don't drift into the background like a hubbub - all conversations register in the brain because its the first time in two weeks when I understand those around me, endless cavernous airport malls tiled in away to enhance perspective. Eventually with a headache pounding in the back of my eyes I take off my glasses and shut my eyes against the world, when I open them I am in a blur but its the only way to drown out some of the noise.

Saturday, 14 August 2004

Cathedral De Valencia

Tucked between streets and buildings and smaller seeming on the outside than the inside stepped into the Cathedral de Valencia onto a stone floor highly polished through thousands of feet smoothing it as they walk. Windows high up let a warm light drop onto the congregation. Not glazed they are filled with thinly sliced veined marble.

Around the outside of the main area smaller alters where people pray to their particular patron saint, iconography, paintings and sculptures, and in the one to St Martin a relic - a mummified arm.

The lighting of candles has been replaced by a system of dropping a coin into a box which automatically lights one of the electric candles by the side of the chosen alter. I sometimes light a candle in the memory of my mother but this doesn´t seem quite the same so I don´t do it.

Nuns run the postcard shop. In a side chapel an amazing vaulted ceiling and huge chains hung around the room.

Later sitting eating paella at a roadside restaurant watching a mother and daughter together at the next table I feel sad that I will never know my mother as an old woman. Dad sometimes says he is glad not to know her all withened [not sure how to spell this] and old but I don´t know, I think there were years of knowing still to be had.

Thursday, 12 August 2004


From the bus I see a couple on a motorbike pull up. The guy is sittingh behind as his girlfriend drives the bike. She has long plated extensions and is wearing a pair of those running shorts that curve up at the outer leg seam. Her boyfriend has his big hands on her tiny waist and a big toothy grin from ear to ear. At the lights he sits back and she balances the bike by resting her feet on the ground. He flicks her braids out of the way and runs a finger down the back of her neck. She turns her head to talk to him. They laugh. She rests her hand on her thigh which is clenched from supporting the bike. He slaps her leg and then grips her waist again. He´s loving it. She´s loving it.

Monday, 9 August 2004

Evening Drink

Sultry night spent in the Old Town. Streets with ornate buildings, balconies & shutters, sometimes painted seaside town colours, sometimes cracked and falling down netting on the outside to catch debris, wrought ironwork. Narrow streets linking churches and squares. Bathed the orange streetlight glow.

Sitting outside the bar there is a light babble of a foreign tongue trilling off the tongues of groups of people enjoying leisurely drinks. It rained this evening but it hasn´t cleared the air. I´m sitting still and am still beaded with sweat.

The waiter knows more English than we do Spanish. He has hair slightly longer than chin length centre parted, thick eyebrows, gentle seeming open expression. Two middle aged women are drinking some kind of orange cocktail from wide-mouthed cocktail glasses. Two stories up a couple sit facing each other on their balcony. He isn´t wearing a shirt. They have dry-land plants growing from pots and a string of CDs hanging off their awning to scare the birds. Two beardy men sit down next to us, black hair, glasses, beards. One is drinking coca cola (universal fizzy pop), the other something medium brown in a wine glass with ice - he´s wearing a communist teeshirt and is smoking slowly, the smoke escaping form his nostrils and mouth as he speaks in a deep resonant voice.

There is only noise, no conversations because of my lack of understanding. I interest myself in visual things - what people look like, how buildings and streets look, writing. Having started to read without understanding I keep asking Bails pronunciation questions and grammatical questions about word differences (like a child with a million whys) but she doesn´t have the answers yet.

A young man walks he baby past in a perambulator, not shirt on, baby playing with the rattly thing strung across. A couple on a scooter, she´s wearing a red and white printed shirt with a string bag over her shoulder, the shirt billows in the back draft.

Four gay men sit down. They are smoking and laughing. Out of the corner of my eye I see the one with his back to us pull his lime green teeshirt low and slip his trousers off and quickly pull some shorts on. He was either not wearing any pants or has a g-string on but in the flash the quick change took its hard to be sure. I´m drawn back to our conversation. Then he changes his shirt. One of his companions sees my wide-eyed glance and says with broken English, "he´s hot".

And finally at the end of the evening we are chased from our bar by the man HS had been watching for weirdness who suddenly lowered the newspaper he was holding at an odd angle to reveal his willy that he had been rubbing while watching her watch him.

Sunday, 8 August 2004

Whore Count

Don´t know why it is when you travel as a londoner (perhaps its just me) but I notice the scummy stuff as well as the beauty of the place I´m in - pickpockets, homeless, piles of rubbish etc.

On the way to El Saler beach today we saw 6 prostitutes standing on the side of the road. On the way back (at 8pm) we saw 24. All of them young and black. Tarty with peacock green eyeshadow, gold shoes and exposed nipples. Sad.
How to Get a Suntan

  • Aim to arrive at the beach at 15.30 (too hot sooner).
  • Scout a position on the beach, hoping that its far enough away from the carpark so as to deter people from sitting right next to you but close enough to the sea.
  • Towels laid out in a row.
  • 3 basted bodies (not really - suntan lotion applied, factors 8-30 depending on skin type).
  • Front roasting 20mins.
  • Turn.
  • Back roasting 20mins (plus reading book).
  • Cooling sea dip - wave jumping, bit of a swim.
  • Suntan lotion slathering, trying (unsuccessfully) not to get sand mixed in.
  • Front roasting 20mins...

Saturday, 7 August 2004

Spanish Lessons

Sadly there will be no more Spanish Lessons because we lost the phrasebook. We are seriously stuffed linguistically. Living in a bubble.
Friday Night Saturday Morning

White clouds pass slowly over a black sky. The air is cooler now, not cold but not hot enough to draw a sweat either. Six floors down on the street cars race frantically up and down the road. Wheels on tarmac. Friday night frantic. The fountain outside the flat was turned off hours ago. A homeless man sleeps on a bench beside it, all his worldly goods packed into a shopping trolley. Our windows are thrown wide open and the shutters are up, the breeze is lovely against my skin. Fresh like is never is in daylight. Crickets. I´m finally yawning with tiredness at 2.30am. I can see the two towers of the Quart in the close distance. Old city gates. And shacks built on the roofs of the buildings opposite with a cluster of TV aerials on top. One star glints in the sky above the orange glow of the city. As I stand at the window to lower the shutters (to avoid morning heat) I see the moon bright in the night sky. Half a moon. Cut exactly in half.

I lay awake listening to the sound of the road. Hopefully it will lull me to sleep. Usually the TV does that. Cars accelerate from the stop lights and just manage a gear change if the following ones are green at the other end of our block. A street washing truck is going down the EMT Taxi lane (taxis are liable to stop in it but I don´t know what it stands for). I know if I went and looked that I could see up and down the Gran Via Ferdinando with its stop/starting traffic held for blocks by traffic lights.

Friday, 6 August 2004

The Spanish Hooker

From the yellow bus on the way back from the much more pleasant El Saler [el seler] beach (the sea was how the med ought to be with a strip of green by the shallow and blue after that, it didn´t taste of oil and there weren´t fag ends instead of shells) there in the middle of a roundabout in the middle of nowhere standing just in front of the long golden grass drinking from a water bottle wiht her head tipped all the way back was a local whore. Enormous breasts squeezed into a red and black lace up corset bustier, white hotpants with her buttocks hanging out. We couldn´t decide whether she would provide services in the long grass or perhaps in a nearby carpark.

Thursday, 5 August 2004

Spanish Lesson No.3

Sitting in a cafe outside the internet shop a pregnant woman came up and started talking to me about the telephone [telefonica]. After much blank looking and her trying to explain and point it transpired she wanted to borrow my pen:

¿Puedo (can I) coger prestada (borrow - with the female a ending) su (your) bolĂ­ (pen - shortened version)?
[apologies for no pronunciation lesson today]

So having lent her my pen, she went over and had her telephone conversation, wrote down her number and returned it to me.

Wednesday, 4 August 2004

Spanish Lessons no.2

On the second day after we shopped at the supermarket, ate lunch at the flat, rode the bus to the beach (aside: we took the wrong bus and ended up at a beach which wouldn´t win the cleanest beach in Europe award - had tonnes of fag butts and the water tasted like oil. Tomorrow we are looking for the much nicer El Saler), laid in thesun, swum in the sea, looked at the beachside market and listened to the worst-band-in-the-world practicing we came home and ate dinner.

After dinner we felt like a drink. It was coming up to be 11.45 but bars open late here. Strolling over to the Old Town we found plenty of bars. Picked out one. Sat down. On a hot and sultry evening at 1.00am in the morning the drink of choice has to be asked for thus:

una ginebra [hinebra] con tonica [toneeka] (a gin & tonic) (and then say please which I can´t spell although I know how to say!)
Spanish Lessons no.1

When setting out to the supermarket for the first time in the general direction a woman with supermarket bags appears to be coming from it is a good idea to swot up on some phraseology. Our route took us along a tree lined avenue called Erudito Orellana where we followed the apparent direction of other similar shopping bags. When the supermarket still didn´t appear to be jumping out at us, Bails (who has been learning spanish for about six lessons since being in Argentina) asked someone. The ´conversation´ went something like this:

¿Puede decime [pwedeh detheermeh](can you tell me) donde esta [dondeh esta](where is the) suupermercado [soopermerkado] (supermarket)?

None of us had a clue what he said in reply because he talked very fast but we got the gist of what he said from his gesticulations.

Footsteps in an unfamiliar apartment. Footsteps with sand underneath them. Carefully treading as if not to make too much noise. They are coming from either next door or upstairs.

I turn the light back on to reassess where I am. I spend some time looking at the ceiling. Square around the edge, cornicing very intricate but not flowery more ancient greek influenced. The circle in the middle of the room used to have a candelabra hanging from it, the hook is still there. Electric light was introduced and fed through a drilled hole in the ceiling off-centre at the edge of the central piece. All the rooms are like this with the electric overheads jutting through like they were done yesteday, unfinished and off-centre.

I listen to the road. Cars - familiar but these are spanish sounding ones. They are the same cars but they sound foreign. Or maybe the road sounds foreign. Interspersed with the urgent sound of scooters bombing up and down the street. Very spanish. Boys in t-shirts and shorts but no helmets. Throwing limes at pedestrians.

Its too hot to sleep. Stifling even at 1.00am. The thin white cotton sheet feels heavy on my body. Haven´t had time to acclimatise yet.
Clouds Over Spain

Clouds build like huge mountains out of the sky below. Water vapour becomes tangible entities that look like stalactites and stalagmites. Cloud falls off a ledge or is covered by wisps of cauliflower florrets. Ever increasing fractals. Sun shines on them like white gold and in the shade they become irridescent blue, eerie like glaciers or icebergs.

And travelling down the plane cuts into it and mist wicks past the window instantly instangible again lacking any body or form. Descending from clear blue daylight into night dusk below.

And looking up at the cloud above it is dark and grey, layered and flat. I was told off for taking pictures out of the window. Sort of feel like everything is being forbidden now. Not allowed to capture the weird view only seen when up above the clouds in a plane.

Arriving in Valencia was a relief. Travelling took all day literally, mammoth queues and endless stuffy airports.