Thursday, 30 December 2004

Earthquake Tsunami

One of the blogs I read regularly is written by Fred who is in Jaffna in Sri Lanka. He is blogging about whats happening around him at the moment. Visit him here:

this way please

I can't quite get a handle on this awful occurance. I visited Thailand about 2 years ago, many of the islands I was on are probably flattened. They were only reachable by boat, there weren't many escape routes inland, if there was anywhere to escape to. The TV doesn't begin to aid my understanding. I wonder how many of the people who I met when I was there - the hotel owners, workers, guides, fishermen, restuaranteurs - are still alive.

Went for a walk at my favourite place near Dundee - Kinshaldy Beach in the Tentsmere forest. Love this place.

Love the forest, love the sand and the dunes, love the sea and the light. Its not hot, but its very dramatic and empty. Sweeps the cobwebs out of your hair and reminds you of why its good to be alive.

Tuesday, 28 December 2004


And just in case you haven't heard about this part of Dick and Dom inda Bungalow (Sat morning kids TV) I just thought I throw it into the pot that I find it eye wateringly hilarious. Bails got me into it. The first one I saw was an Old Fogey Bogey - where two elderly ladies accompanied by Dick and Dom were taken into an art gallery in order to compete. They had to shout bogies in turn louder and louder - the loudest to shout was the winner. Its stupid but really really funny. Mixture of their embarrassment, and bewilderment from people around them. Apparently Dick and Dom themselves have done this in theatres and lectures. And they've done it with parents in the library. I'm hoping at some point they'll bring out a video of bogies clips. 10/10.30ish Saturday mornings.

Sad I know.

100 best TV moments - no. 76
Guardian review
Lake District

Bails and I stopped off in the Lake District on the way to Dundee. Staying in Kendal on the first evening we arrived at 6.00 and after resting for a while went out to find something to eat (since the hotel restaurant shut at 8.30 - really not used to these provincial eating times). Most restaurants were closed however - it seems that we were just out of sync with the local dining times. Finally we found an italian where nice waiters took pity on us and let us have their last table of the night. It was pouring with rain, we were drowned. They persuaded us to have a bottle of wine, a starter, and salad with our mains, and to round it off with cappuccinos. It wasn't until we had finished and the bill came that they told us that the card machine wasn't working because all the telephones in Kendal were out of order. Bails was sent off to the cashpoint. I stayed with the waiters and joked about being good at washing up. Some time later Bails came back empty handed - none of the cashpoints were working either. We scraped together £22 in change and they kindly let us off the remaining £7. Which was nice. Didn't really fancy washing up.

Following day we strolled around Kendal, and then visited Grasmere. A place where hardened walkers go on 'hikes' across the hills. We visited Wordsworth's Grave (by chance) and his garden - which Bails said in spring is full of daffodils. Put us in mind of his poem:
I WANDERED lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

The whole time I was filled with images from books by the bronte sisters and costume dramas by the BBC with lovelorn victorian ladies and stiff upper-lipped farming gentlemen. Beautiful in a very British way - dry stone walls, moss, ferns, rain, grey stone houses, rivers and lakes.

We stopped in a cafe in Grasmere for some late lunch. It was full of serious walkers in boots and waterproof trousers with their packs all over the place. All teal fleece, jackets in go-faster designs with accents of contrasting colours and double ended zips. High performance fabrics, glasses that anti-glare. Drinking tea out of stainless steel teapots and reading the paper. Men with a few days beard growth and productless hair. Women with ruddy faces. I felt very much city dressed and out of place. Like the silly city cousins visiting the countryside retreat and having tea with their poor country cousins.

Saturday, 25 December 2004

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

The telly is crap again, two guests are here already - G is watching a video of the Big Labowski (like the film) and Bails is doing the vaccuuming (its 12.15!) because she's feeling manic so I expect it to be a good job. Its a weird one, Christmas, the mania, the shopping... I think I was at odds with everyone today - my only chore was to pick up the hire car, any time I came anywhere near a shop it was like everyone was in desperate need of a valium. The car place was in some kind of disarray and the waiting time was 2 hours late for the pick ups. I chatted with a chinese family who had come by train from Paris on route to Glasgow who were now over 2 hours late setting off. Its quiet outside now.

Have yourselves a good one! I'll be cooking turkey that I won't eat!

Friday, 24 December 2004

Christmas Shopping

She sits with a coffee. She has a hard paper carrier bag from an expensive jewellers on her knee. From inside she draws out a blue card box and opens it, carefully lifting the inner card cover and gently shaking the contents inside - most likely a necklace or chain of some sort - to make it hang down in the box. A formation of diamond lights land on her face and dance around as she looks down at the contents. She smiles, and closes the box back up.

Wednesday, 22 December 2004

The Peckham Rye Mouse

A tiny grey mouse darting about between the tracks and the sleepers picking up crumbs and investigating litter. Hiding in the cracks between the loose bricks where the grouting has fallen out.

I like this mouse. I've seen him before. He's very active, fast and really rather cute. I thought he was the only one. A solitary mouse, out in the big wide open space. A refugee from the depths of the tunnels. He does, after all, seem to be exactly like the tube mice - those unlucky souls who never see the light of day, live on old chewing gum and excite the observant passengers standing slightly too close to the yellow line.

As I watched him today, waiting for the imminant arrival of the London Bridge bound train, he suddenly scampered across the tracks followed by a gang of friends. Maybe 10 of them, darting from a variety of directions to many different destination holes. So as it turns out, he's not a solitary mouse.

Outside my office window is a one way street. Southwark is fond of a strange traffic calming system that makes a one way system where there isn't really a prevailing direction - you come off the high road to the first corner and have to turn right, cars coming towards you from across the junction also have to turn left and you can't go straight, go down and then have to turn right again, then right again, then you have a longer stretch of road which crosses the one you turned off originally, and then you have to turn left. Confused? Me too. Have no idea how you get back to the high street if you turn off it and want to get back there. No idea at all.

Anyway. If you turn off the high road and then do a right (because you have to) you get stuck in a file of traffic trying to turn left into the Netto carpark. All these cars drive up to the queue all over the road, don't keep to the left, therefore you have to join the queue even if you aren't trying to get into Nettos. Some of those queueing are just trying to get along the one way system.

Well, its christmas. Everyone is shopping like they are going to holed up for a 10 week stretch. The carpark in Nettos is extremely busy. There is a queue that goes all the way back to the high street. People are sitting in their cars leaning on their horns (like its going to make the shoppers get out of Nettos quicker and get out of the car park). Its the prevailing sound of the week - irritated horn blowing in unison, for extended periods.

Incidentally Nettos smells like chlorine, which puts me off buying anything there incase it tastes like chlorine too. And its next door to a United Kingdom Church of God place.

Tuesday, 21 December 2004

Christmas Give-Away

You're all so lucky! Well actually they've been around for a considerable time now but my allocation of freebies keeps getting extended, so if there is ANYBODY out there who is yet to get one and wants one, please email me at harrietsblogg at gmail dot com.

I have 16, yes thats right 16 free gmail invitations to give away!. First 16 to email me get 'em (I need an email address in order to send the invite to you). (Presuming of course that there are 16 people out there without one).

Advantages: big space, searchable messages, not too much spam. Possible weird things: conversations are saved together rather than in IN and OUT boxes - easy to find messages and replies relating to one another on one hand, different from normal therefore odd on the other hand.

UPDATE (as of 3/1/2005): still got 12, so if you really really want one, you can still have one! Drop me a line!

Monday, 20 December 2004

All Bar One, New Oxford Street, The Beer Goggles

The girl with huge knockers and long dangling silver earrings is holding court for 3 men in suits. Its those boozy after work evenings coming up to christmas when alcohol oils the conversation. She's being very animated on the subject of sex. They are hanging on her every word. Perhaps they all feel that they could be lucky if they laugh loudly enough at her jokes and make sure she knows they find her wit and repartee dazzling. She's trying to explain to Mark that he's still single because of his inability to remain faithful.

Sunday, 19 December 2004

Weird Things to Carry in a Bag Today

  1. A little dog - on 73 from Kings Cross to Oxford Street - in a smallish bag worn under the arm.
  2. a mini christmas tree - on 19 from Angel to Highbury corner - in a rucksack with the zipper open

Friday, 17 December 2004

The Door Wars

Having rediscovered the Spitz the other night we met a couple of ex-work colleagues (from different works) there for an apres work drink. Its the Christmas Party season and the inside was set up for some mammoth dinners, so we sat outside. In 0 degrees. Fortunately there were gas heaters. And lots of alcohol. It did become necessary to wrap up warm and wear gloves. Fridays appear to be jazz night (remember it has to be with a long jjjjjjjj soft aaaa and long zzzzzzzzz). The band was banished to the doorway between the terrace and the warm inside. They started playing around 9.30, starting with a guitar, drummer and bass player. Later joined by a sax, later still by a trumpet and finally rounding up with the addition of a trombone.

The door was wide. It didn't have a closing arm on it. A seperate part of the restuarant was being hired out by a massive party. They were getting really pissed. They had to use the toilet through the main part of the restaurant. Someone would come along, open the door, come through, leave it ajar and go to the loo. The door would gradually work its way wide open. The band, (most annoyed at first was the drummer), would huff in the middle of their piece and one of them would get up and shut the door. On returning a drunken someone would make it back to the door, fling it open and stagger through it, forgetting to shut it at all. Band member gets up, display of total irritation and slam it shut again. This went on for over an hour.

For some reason when the door was slammed shut, whoever was doing so would shoot us a look like daggers, like it was anything to do with us. We started to find this rather funny. This didn't endear us to the band. The people got more and more pissed. The band got more and more pissed off. We spent more and more time pissing ourselves laughing.

Austin went to the toilet and, having discussed with us earlier, left the door ajar. The guitarist said, "DOOR!" sharply after him but he ignored it. On his return from the toilet the guitarist shouted at him, "SHUT THE DOOR BEHIND YOU" so loudly Austin heard it when he was six feet away. He felt he had to close it properly. Well you would really, wouldn't you?

Wednesday, 15 December 2004

Sleep Commute Work

So I've entered this life of sleep commute work commute sleep commute work etc etc. Only I've been much better at breaking the after work commute with a bit of play. Then the work started to become frustrating and stifling (after just 6 weeks).

Something about them not knowing me and how I work, and what I'm capable of against me not knowing how to work them (long time local authority servants, retirement closing in). Sometimes it difficult to be a new girl.

Then my frustrations were such that I started gathering a list of issues to take to my boss. All valid. All much talked about to other people. (You become that kind of person with one topic of conversation - the BIG winge. Like when someone is planning to break up with their boyfriend - you have to gather as much evidence about it being the right thing to do as possible. Only people weren't helping, they were just adding fuel to the confusion.)

Then a job came up at my old work place. A good job. So I applied. And got called for an interview.

Between finding out about the interview and having the interview I had the meeting with my boss. There came no clarity from this meeting. But I stood on the side of London Road, looking at the row of old houses and thinking about the new neighbourhood I work in, the new organisations, the possibilities, the places I see, the distance I travel.

Next day at the interview I felt like it went ok but that I was a babbling stream of consciousness rather than cool and level headed. Sort of came out hoping the decision would be made for me. It wasn't. They offered me the job with a deadline of 12 noon the following day for an answer.

I hummed. I haa'd. Swang this way then that. Boyfiend and I went to the movies to take my mind off it. Slept on it this way. Turned over, slept on it that way.

Woke up. Definitely going to turn it down. 5 minutes later, no should definitely take it. Concerned at how the new organisation would feel with me going so soon. Huge feeling of guilt, leaving them in the lurch (important upcoming deadlines). Moving would lead to a more positive and sorted environment. Staying would give me the opportunity to see how to make change happen in difficult circumstances. Moving would mean I would have an uncomfortable notice period to work out. Staying would mean I'd have to deal with an unclear vision and defining a new role. Moving would mean going back to dealing with all the people I knew, loved and found difficult in a better-the-devil-you-know kind of way. Staying would mean... Moving would mean... I felt sick. Sicker and sicker as the day went on. 12 past. 12.30 past. Text from my old boss curious about a decision. 1 past. 1.30. I called. I was going to move. The voice said hello, I said I'm staying then I hummed and haa'd. But the minute I made the decision the sickness subsided.

Sometimes a decision is all encompassing. You see good and bad in both sides. Nothing makes it easy to figure out. There are no right answers. Gut instinct isn't working. Sometimes its better not to put yourself in that position in the first place. I'm exhausted but I don't feel sick. Which is good.

Tuesday, 14 December 2004

In the Bleak Mid-Winter

The grey stays all day, cold, misty air, visible breath whisps away over your shoulder as you walk along the street, nose chilled red and drippy. Fingers go white with loss of feeling having been wrapped round the work bag handles all day. The only joy is of christmas lights in the high streets after dark, as I snuggle into my coat and scarf on the final bus journey home.

Saturday, 11 December 2004

Office Christmas Party

The old work one. You know its time to go home when you've partaken of white wine and several tia maria's & coke (my favourite, most sickly, girlfest of a drink - much piss is taken out of me for it but I like it and once, a long time ago, a man asked me what I was drinking and when I told him he said, "Oh I thought you would be drinking something exotic like tia maria", which started me on a phase that I am yet to grow out of) and find yourself in the Medicine Bar on Upper Street and your old boss and bails are so pissed they are losing the ability to stand up and hold their heads up respectively. Being told by some stranger that he can tell you are sober by the fact you can look him in the eye and if it would be any help, or encourage you to stay, he could offer both the girls a line. Gathering coats (bails trying to put hers on upside down and being in that kind of state where you can't figure out whats not quite right) and bundling everyone into a very understanding black cab with quite some relief. Its lovely to get into a cab at the end of the evening sometimes.

Friday, 10 December 2004

Morning Man

Why would you wear a black suit with brown shoes? And a fat knotted black tie (a la footballers)? And a white shirt? And do up the top button (of three) only therefore pulling the jacket taught across the chest? And carry a fake louis vuitton weekend overnight bag? And wear your clothes like you had bullet proof vest underneath?

Unless perhaps you were a copper going undercover. Or a MI5 agent like on Spooks. Or doing some personal body guarding. Or being a funeral director and finding your black shoes too uncomfortable to wear on the way to work, therefore carrying them in your bag.

Oh, so much hypothesis, so few answers.

Wednesday, 8 December 2004

Road Trip

Bails and I are going on another great adventure. We've hired the car already. Its going to be fab. There will be singing along to old family faves (mine include a strange mix of Ray Charles, Dolly Parton and Boney M, it was only recently that we discovered that hers are very similar but are likely also to include Queen).

We've done this before - for some reason we like to do the driving thing, disadvantage is that I'm the only one who can drive.

Most recently we went to France and stayed in a cottage up some single track road 100 miles south of Toulouse. Great countryside. On the way I got a terrible phonecall from the Boyfiend who had just found out his sister had died and in the mind scramble that followed I managed to clip the wing mirrors of all the cars parked on the main street in a town we were going through. Quite some going I thought.

Later in the trip we were on a roundabout when I recognised some people who shared the same morning train as me, not knowing their names I shouted, "Haringey Folks!" loudly out the window but we didn't have time to see if they noticed. Incidentally, on my return to the commute I kept wanting to say to them (they were a young couple - he had red curly hair and she was waif-like, could've been French) how did they enjoy the south of France, but never got up the courage. Finally, I decided that they must have split up because he started only coming to the station alone, had a major overhaul and shaved his hair off.

We set the scene however in South Africa. Bails was living with a boyfriend out there and I went to visit - we hired a car to drive down to Addo Elephant Park from Cape Town. Great driving - empty roads, beautiful scenery, fantastic hostel type places. When we reached Addo we kept pulling up to view the elephants, at the watering hole, tonnes together in a group, running etc, for some reason (as is common with a hire car) I couldn't get used to the fact the horn was one of those central plates on the steering wheel and I kept leaning on it and tooting the horn - kept getting the worst looks from everyone else around us. I was mortified. Bails on the other hand, couldn't stop laughing. And I did it more than once. Then it started to rain, and the tracks turned to mud. A nice man from up front in a four wheel drive got out and told me how to drive in such conditions - don't ever hit the brake and go very very slowly. So we inched around the park. I was concentrating so hard by the time we pulled into the carpark I forgot to brake and drove into the wall. Bails practically pee'd her pants.

On our way from there to Port Elizabeth we got caught for speeding through a village. Quite unintentionally. There were some strapping police officers with a speed gun. I held my hands up, and offered to pay, without question. I think the combination of my accent and my willingness to cough up led to them letting me off with a (not terribly) stern caution ("don't let me catch you doing it again") type thing. Nobody could believe it when we got back (300 dollar fine apparently).

So, hopefully none of that this time. But we are looking forward to it.

Saturday, 4 December 2004

Shoreditch Fridays

Bails was tired but met for a quick drink after work. When we met she suggested the Spitz. Haven't been there in an age. We ate. And drank a bottle of wine. After sitting there for an age trying to finish the slightly acidy wine a live band started up. Jazz. A trio of guitar, sax and drums. The drummer was stroking his drums with those metal basting-style sticks and looking out the window at passing beauties (as opposed to paying attention to the job at hand). Eventually a double bass player arrived and joined in. We left before the slow melodic jazz (has to be said in that breathy voice, hard J, round a and long zzz) got the better of us.

Once out in the street we decided on going and getting one for the road. Fatal last words. Nipping round the corner through the back end of the Truman Brewery we nipped into the Big Chill, partner of the Cantaloupe. Where we stood round watching the young people cop off.

A Mick Hutchenson-alike with snake hips and a white cotton sweater kept dancing up close behind his girlfriend while breathing into her hair. He wore his hair carefully in order to hide his receeding hairline.

In a space that was suddenly created by an exodus a man came to dance, on his own, in his own world, doing his own thing. He danced the dance of a man who had spent many summers raving in fields, and this was obviously one of his favourite tracks. He had arm movements, foot moves, full body action, motion from side to side, diagonally and up and down. When it was over, he vapourised, as if into thin air. Two public school graduates and their girlfriends watched, not really sure if in disbelief or awe.

And finally, at midnight we caught a taxi home.

Thursday, 2 December 2004

3 Men and a Funeral

The men are somewhere between 30 and 40, jovial, coming from work, two white, one asian.
"So it was Tuesday?"
"What did they do, burn him?"
One guffaws, "Cremate him, you mean!"
"yeah, isn't that what they do to christians?"
"Well... I'm going to be buried, but we're catholic."
"I'm not catholic but I'm going to be buried as well. Got me plot sorted already. Its a family one, first there's me great uncle, then there'll be me dad, and then me... Unless of course I die before me dad, then we'll be the other way up..."

Theres a woman with a ring of bruise around her bloodshot eye. A look of pain shot down the carriage and she cluthces her book to her chest and disappears into her inner world. Unconsciously she raises her forefinger to the cut over her eye and traces the scab. At Highbury & Islington the sallow man standing close to her leans over and says quietly, "I'll see you later" and steps out of the train. She turns as he goes and the rings on her left hand (engagement and wedding) glint in the dim light.

Wednesday, 1 December 2004

Famous On the Side of the Road

Clive Anderson standing on the side of the Highbury Corner roundabout, after dark, chill of night air. Steps forward as a silver car approaches and stops to pick him up. Inside a woman with long wavy blond hair smiles. He is in navy blue, sort of slight on the bottom and wider on the top. Blending into the background. Instantly recognisable, but definitely not catching one's eye.