Monday, 31 January 2005

Monday's Life Class

I skipped a couple of classes. So on return, once again it feels like I haven't been in an age. The model was sort of slightly limp in his poses - not exactly exciting. And the pictures are horribly green in photos.

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, 30 January 2005


A man sat on the bus reading the Sun. The frontpage headline shocker said, "Mafia's Plot to Kidnap Clary". What on earth would the mafia want with Julian Clary?
Passing Clissold Park

The teams are getting the Talk. They are in appropriately matching kit despite the fact that its a Saturday norming park game. The dressing room is a tree that grows horizontally out of a slope. All their bags and discarded clothing hang in the branches.

Thursday, 27 January 2005


Today has been a terrible day. Just overwhelmingly bad. The Boyfiend and I went for a meal after work, sat down talked through my day, relaxed. And then on the way home we were talking on the bus, laughing, joking, not swearing or being terrible. Some old woman took aversion to us and shouted at me, "children, children will you go and sit down because we don't want to hear your conversation anymore". Rudely. Boyfiend took offense. Nice middle class do-goody busybody next to her turned around and said, "you should really show consideration for others, some of us have had a long day at work..." Now we may have been a little bit loud (but not like school children released from school f'ing and blinding all over the place, shouting into their mobile phones), but I don't think I look that young, I don't think I was behaving that abominably and I certainly don't think I look like I've been lounging around all day doing nothing - particluarly with a briefcase in tow. All she had to do was ask us nicely to keep it down a little.

Wednesday, 26 January 2005

New Office, New Politics

Reading today's Guardian about office environments where the politics are bad for us (whilst in a cafe down the street which sells great homemade soup) I started thinking about just that.

I came from an open plan office, which while it had massive drawbacks (like not being able to work because of the noise of others), did have social advantages. Here I have my own office, which is nice but means I don't meet any colleagues. I used to work in a place where we were treated like second class citizens to our funders next door and we were all united in our fight against them despite the fact we were all working for different organisations (I worked for the council, then some people worked for a variety of voluntary organisations). Here I'm not even sure if I have any colleagues. I am a sub-business unit of my own, with no other workers in it with me.

My boss is a business unit manager which makes him a BUM for short - I cried laughing when he emailed me about that, which is what having your own office is good for, I suppose. Sadly I am a sub-BUM. Maybe that makes me an upper thigh. I'm hoping I'm an athletic one (like Linford Christie's) rather than an orangey peel one.

Tuesday, 25 January 2005

Whats Happy?

Blue Witch started something. She asked us what makes us angry. We all wrote our answers into her comments box. Some of the responses I thought would indeed make me angry, others merely irritated. Then she asked us what makes us happy.

Anger I can easily identify with its tight throat, seering heat and flashes. Its a very physical emotion. It feels primative - a thing we needed as part of our survival skills toolkit (blurgh educational lingo) when we were stoneage. Stubbing your toe, looking for something you can't find when you need to leave the house, loosing a long piece of writing because the computer crashes, frustrations at stupidity and other's lack of understanding, injustice both personally and at large, my own failures and stupidity. Easy things to identify with a set of physical responses.

Happiness on the other hand is sort of intangible. Is it supposed to be an overarching feeling that is with you all the time, only interrupted by other emotions from time to time, or is it something that touches you once in a while?

There are little things that make me happy frequently every day (first blossom of spring, growing things, good times, funny people, flirting, success, the sky etc etc) but I'm not sure my blank state of mind is happy. There was a time when I was a kid when I thought my blank state of mind and my natural face (unaltered by any emotion) had a mouth with upturned corners. I can't remember exactly when but a long time ago I realised that it wasn't like that anymore. But I don't feel unhappy. I'm not depressed (I know this because there was a time after my mother died when I certainly was as miserable as I have ever been, almost all the time). I have drive and optimism and enthusiasm to keep going on. Am I happy? People often tell me they just want to be happy. But if we can't pinpoint what being happy means how will we know when we are? Or maybe we have to build into our day enough of those moments of happiness that we feel happy overall.

Friday, 21 January 2005

Old Couple

An elderly couple approach the bus stop, a girl moves her bags so they can sit down.
"Na, don't worry yourself dear," says the bloke, "we're optimistic."
"9 times outta 10 we come out and see one going off daan the road. The other day we missed one and another one was coming along behind and we nearly missed it anawl," says his misses.
"There's a chill wind today. What we need is a brazier full o' timber."
A few minutes later another old bloke walks past, "Good day to you, Jim"
"Good day to you, sir," says our bloke, "ow's your good lady wife?"
"She's not at all bad, Jim, thanks for asking. And yourself?"
"I'm well, thank you."

An elderly couple on the way to somewhere. She's tall and thin, wearing a brown fake fur coat. Her blue-tinted hair stark against the grey sky. Red lipstick from a bygone era. Very wartime, or maybe 50s. One slight lipstick smear on her front teeth. He's also tall and thin in what seems to be a far-too-lightweight jacket for the weather. His creamy hair slicked back in quiff like affair. A jolly pair, caring, and talkative after all those years.

Thursday, 20 January 2005


A name-change launch party of an organisation we fund took me to the Abbey Community Centre just behind Westminster Abbey. While I was there I bumped into an ex-colleague from Lewisham College Learning Centre days who is now a basic skills tutor for name-change organisation. He has a lot less hair but otherwise is just the same - hippy (in the off-to-Goa-vein), looking like a graduate even though its been easily 5 years. We chatted about the good old days as all ex-Lewisham colleagues seem to do.

On my bus journey home past the gothic spires and gargoyles of parliament and the faintly lit millennium wheel, along the deserted streets of Whitehall up to the grandeur of Trafalgar Square with its gigantic phallic monument to the diminutive Nelson flanked by lions and wind-blown night-lit fountains I wondered what it was about Lewisham that brings out such nostalgia.

Never again will I work in a place where there are so many people of a similar age, with a similar mindset and a common front united against a perceived enemy.

Perhaps thats it. Or perhaps it was the type of people that the job attracted at that particular time - a certain caliber, a certain work-ethic, a certain work-play balance. Or maybe it was our lack of husbands, wives and children.

And despite the fact that we hated it at the time (and spent most of our time in pursuit of change, challenging authority, complaining and plotting our escapes) everyone I subsequently meet thinks back fondly to the friday night benders, camaraderie lunches and great nurturing of talent and skills that occurred there. At least for those of us who have now executed an escape. I have more friends from there than anywhere else, including college and school. And they have all moved onto jobs which are worthy and important with small i's - teaching, regeneration, local government, community & voluntary. Good work. Still I find some of the best of times can be had with these people where going out is a non-planned spontaneous affair of wanton abandon.

The change for me? Happened when I moved into management. Nobody likes a manager. No rephrase that, nobody trusts a manager - because you are naturally on different sides, so to speak. Never again will I be one of the gang, in the know or first on the invite list. Maybe they were just the no-responsibility days, and like childhood they are there to be remembered.

Tuesday, 18 January 2005

Fashion Faux Pas

She was gorgeous. She wore purple stiletto boots to the supermarket and although strutting home with supermarket bags dangling from either arm wasn't exactly the image she was looking for, this was Tuesday night and there wasn't any food in the house. Walking along behind her I noticed the way she placed each foot slightly across the path of the other, sort of like Sarah Jessica in those impossibly high heels she was wearing at the end of SITC. The result of this style of walk is a sort of boom badoom badoom swing of hips from side to side (entrancing, even for a girl - it makes me laugh really). And then as I continued to watch I noticed at the upturn of every foot a flash of white label on the instep. And then all I could see was the flash flash flash of the labels. Really, it doesn't take two minutes to peel those muthers off. It makes expensive shoes look cheap. Now come on, get it together.

Saturday, 15 January 2005

Techniques for Tights-Wearers with Hairy Legs

Explained to me by my good sister in Dundee (where its so cold you really need the extra layer of insulation the hairs give you).
  1. You must choose your tights with care - they need to be opaque (as opposed to sheer) and of a high enough denier (thickness of the fabric) for the hairs not to show through. You really don't want the Mrs Brown (old deputy head of my secondary school) look of long trapped hairs in 10 denier tights, nosiree. I would say you are looking for 40 denier or greater.

  2. The aim of the technique is to get the tights on without pulling the hairs (mostly affects the calf area) backwards which will promote a sort of trapped feeling and encourage the hairs to poke through the fabric (so I'm told). As you can imagine this will not be achieved by taking the body section and pulling the leg sections over the foot and up your leg (incidentally this is a surefire way to promote ladders with your toenails).

  3. So, to the technique itself - you will put one leg on first and other after. Choose your leading leg. Take hold of the tights, gather the appropriate leg into both your hands with your thumbs inside and the fabric held in your hands until you have a clear view of the toe.

  4. Place the toe over your foot and allow the fabric to flow out of your hands onto your foot. (But don't go further than the heel).

  5. At this point, you need to change the hold position of the tights. (Don't ask me exactly how this is going to be achieved, practice with trial and error, is my advice). You need to get your hands into the tights so that the fabric is bunched up on the outside of your hands with your hands on either side of your legs. You will then stretch your hands away from your legs and draw the tights up to your knees, feeding the fabric onto the leg from a position held away from the leg. (Are you following me? No? Didn't think so).

  6. So you end up having brought the tight onto the leg over the hairs without disturbing their natural downward lay.

  7. (And this bit will be obvious to regular tights wearers). Once one leg is on to the knee, do the other leg (since you won't alf struggle getting the second leg in if you draw them all the way up to the top).

Personally, I pefer a shaved leg - much less of this hassle.

Thursday, 13 January 2005

I had a Dream

I was getting married. Sometimes it was a quick wedding with only a couple of witnesses, and sometimes it was a big church wedding. I wore a pale grey dress. He wore a black suit.

The vicar was someone we knew. It was touching and a little embarrassing. The ring was a thin band of etched silver.

I didn't want to go straight to the reception so we were getting prepared in the kitchen. It was our family kitchen (but not like our actual family kithcen, if you know what I mean). My now husband took off his jacket and padded around without his shoes talking to his best man. Once I walked past him and slapped him on the arse in a familiar manner. They decided to go off to the reception, like they were deciding to go to the pub. I still wasn't ready and stayed behind talking to my parents (they were both alive).

When the boys had left I discovered that the ring was on my right hand. Swapping it I noticed that it didn't fit onto my left ring finger. As I tried it the ring snapped.

Then I worried. I fretted because the ring had broken. I worried because I didn't want to go to the reception. Then I thought about my husband sitting on the top table with all the guests and family around, listening to the speeches, but without a bride.

Drinking coffee in a window seat watching the rush hour outside. People walking. In the dark. On the reflective street. Red light across tarmac. People listening to music, phoning, watching me back, chewing gum. A reflection of inside is superimposed on outside through the plate glass. I'm staring. Brain ticking over. Exhuasted. Listening to quiet jazz. Feeling like a broad in a Tom Waits record.
Peckham Snippet

Two middle aged men in puffy jackets come out of Nettos on Rye Lane.
"Chris he dead, he was kilt."
"No, no, Chris is dead, but no one didn't kill him."

And then they were gone. Past the newsagents and along towards the meat and fish shops.

Wednesday, 12 January 2005


Winter sun dappled through silver birch branches warms my eyelids and flickers gold and blue inside as the train trundles through Peckham.
Most Popular Images

Keeping a keen eye on the stats, as I'm trying not to do, I notice that there are three very popular images in the archives of In the Aquarium. The name of one of them is thongs - which goes some way to explaining why its so popular (shouldn't think once found that it really meets the requirements of most who are doing searching) but the other 2 is anyone's guess.

Tuesday, 11 January 2005

Christmas Tree

First thing this morning I came out of the house and turned up the street for the station as usual and noticed that a red bmw was wearing a christmas tree on its roof, kindly left there by a passing drunk no doubt. I wondered if it had scratched the paint work, but not enough to go over and look.

Later in the day a friend I used to work with suggested I cast my eye at page 17 of today's sun newspaper (quite a trial since its not something I ever come in contact with but hey, they have a website and I looked it up). It appears that the principal of the college I used to work for has banned the sun newspaper from the grounds, no student or staff member is allowed to read it. Big brotherly molly coddling of the highest order but she has principles does Ruthie. We have a co-worker who will now have to wrap his contraband newspaper in, perhaps, the front pages of a G2 in order to smuggle it into work with him. So not only will he have to lurk in outside-corners to smoke but also to read his choice of newsprint. It is a rag, however, so perhaps he should read the free Metro instead and save himself 20p (won't get the bare bossoms though).

And finally, rounded up the evening getting dinner in the Salisbury, our local which was bad but recently turned good. Served by a Gordon Ramsey-esque grumpy chef who shouted at the barlady for asking (on my behalf) if the Pasta of the Day (informative description of a dish) was vegetarian or not. While we were there he cooked 4 dinners (2 of which were ours). Getting way above his station methinks.

Coming back up the hill to home I happened to notice the christmas tree had been ditched and tossed between two cars and a lamppost on the other side of the road to the red bmw.

Monday, 10 January 2005

Monday's Life Class

Its been a long time - but I went back despite being absolutely knackered. Drawing a model we've drawn quite a few times but who has good shapes when posing. Started putting broad strokes of ink on the paper and then drawing in pen over the top leading to ink bleeding through itself where it was still wet. Quite liked this effect. Very much like drawing 30 second drawings with a thick sponge as well.

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, 9 January 2005


SO the bus driver was being a jobsworth and not opening the doors until he was right outside the bus stop, despite the fact it was spattering rain and all the potential passengers had walked the 10 metres up to the bus while it was stuck in traffic. While we tutted at the bus stop a spanish man came back and wondered out loud to Bails, "why are the driver's here so like this? They have no hearts".

Once we were inside the bus he continued to talk to Bails and then bent over to pluck the biggest coin off the floor, and then from behind her ear. Then he dug three balls out of his pocket and kept us guessing which hand they were all in with his slight of hand tricks. And finally wowing us with his scarf disappearing tricks. Bails thought he was nice. And when we got off at Selfridges and went downstairs to have a coffee she told me how he did the scarf trick (her brother is a magician) - with a secret thumb covering pocket thing to stuff it into, with clever slight of hand and tricks of distraction those of us not-in-the-know won't notice. Anyway, shortly after she explained all this Derren Brown walked by. Magic (apart from the fact I find him exceedingly creepy). Spooky.

Saturday, 8 January 2005


So we'd drunk long cocktails in a Mexican bar in Charlotte Street. I had a pear and elderflower martini. Bails and Heather each had a Rosemary's Baby which came with rosemary sprigs in them, Bails got a couple of needles, Heather got a whole sprig plus a bit of twig. Personally I think theirs would have benefited from having a morello cherry in the bottom to gradually waft a red trail into the drink - just for the whole macabre scene to be set appropriately.

Emerging from the downstairs bar a little tipsy in the cool night air I nearly walked into the gate (failing to look in the direction I was walking) and Heather standing at the top of the steps was rammed by a man falling out the door of the restuarant. Much discussion was had, as we stumbled work-bag laiden along the street, about where we should eat. Too much italian, looking for something a little more challenging, staring at a restuarant whose sign read thai METRO Bails asked, "what kind of food do they do?" That'll be THAI then. We plumped for Japanese noodles.

Friday, 7 January 2005


Well we're not really having any but the low cloud is racing, big bits of ash (or it could be torn up plastic) fly past the window and in the background the sound of a tarpaulin being thrashed against its scaffold.

Thursday, 6 January 2005

The Man With Rockers Hair

Got on at South Bermondsey and caught a glimpse of himself in the window (mirrored by the black sky outside). He thought it was looking a little flat at the back where he maybe slept on it. So he sits down and fiddles with it a bit to help puff it up. To me it just looks like thats the way it grows - all long ringlets growing forwards overwhelming his face which is a tiny triangle beneath huge black curly long hair.

Wednesday, 5 January 2005

First Day Back

Getting to work today was painful. With lead in my legs and cloud in my head I peeled myself off the bed, dragged myself up to the train station and through the interchanges. All around me the others made it feel like I was on my way home after a big night out on the town catching the first tube home - people were dishevelled, staring, sleeping, slack mouthed and tired. We're all a bunch of zombies.

New Year. Happy. At 8.00am today most definitely NOT.

Tuesday, 4 January 2005

The Ol' Christmas Giveaway is Now a January Sale

A couple of people have come in with 'late' requests - just in case there are any others wishing they'd been quick - you still have time!! You want a gmail account? I can make your wish come true! (Honestly - trying the hard sell now. Still got 12).

Drop me a line at [harrietsblogg at gmail dot com] and one can be yours!

UPDATE: 6 down, 10 to go.

Monday, 3 January 2005

Things I'd Forgotten About Driving (and some things I never knew)

Some time ago (and I can't remember exactly), its likely to have been around 1999/2000 I was in a car accident with my dad's little automatic Renault 5 (black shiny paintwork - very beautiful little car that I liked to keep clean with those jet wash things - it wasn't fast but it went from A to B). I was coming home from dropping off the boyfiend at about 1.00am driving along Stapleton Hall Road past Victoria Road when I noticed out of the corner of my eye that a car coming along Victoria Road wasn't going to stop at the junction and sure enough he slammed into the back right-hand side of my car forcing me over a metal bollard into the brick wall of a house. Happily I was only superficially injured - whiplash, sore ankle and lower back injury which is mostly ok now if I remember to sit correctly. The car however, faired badly and was written off. When the boyfiend arrived at the scene of the crash it was all I could do to stop him knocking the block off the other bloke (good job the police got there first). Anyway, pops has never replaced the car and neither have I.

The only driving I do now is in rentals - mostly in foreign countries - France, America, South Africa or vans to help pals move house (don't know why but I'm about the only driver I know in a circle of friends in need - maybe I have a lot of fearful friends of nervous disposition, or something).

This Christmas hols Bails and I rented a car to go up north. At the car hire place on Christmas Eve after a 2 hour delay they persuaded me to get an upgrade (from a small car) to a Peugeot 307 Estate (don't know WHAT I was thinking - I've never driven a car that big - a van yes but not a car). Its a nice big car. Wide. Long. Hard to see the front end and the back end for parking. Comfortable though. Space - tonnes of the stuff. Pockets - full of them - lots of space for rubbish and cds. Powersteering (now theres a true revelation - can spin the wheel with one finger the steering is so light). Can go at great speed with great ease (staying within the speed limit was really quite a task of will). My fears with such a big car included parking the damn thing, getting through narrow gaps, having to turn around. All of which were much less of a problem than I imagined thanks to the powersteering.

So from our journey up and down the country I remembered some things that happen on the road that I'd forgotten about:
  • Speed limits. Ever heard of them? No? Neither have the majority of people on the motorway, making it seem safer to go with them than against them. However some people drive considerably faster than the speed limit - especially those in Audi's, Mercedes and Volkswagen polos or golfs, and anyone in a sports car, particularly the mid-life crisis middle aged man (sorry about the type casting). Best to let them get on with it.

  • Some men hate to be overtaken (cat and mouse games ensue).

  • Its horrible to be stuck behind something that you can't see round - having to trust the driver ahead to be signalling appropriately. And there are an awful lot more things that you can't see round - not just lorries and coaches but four wheel drives, jeeps and those cars with stupid high roofs with tall windows.

  • People have forgotten how to use indicators (if they ever knew).

  • And the joy that is remembering those people who believe that driving up your arse with their lights shining in your mirror is the best way to tell you to get out of their way.

  • Fast lane hogs who have to cut across all the traffic to make an exit. Plan ahead springs to mind.

  • Stopping distance. Did you swot up on that bit of the highway code? Or bank on the likelihood of being asked that question as minimal (oh the good old days of that part of the test being a couple of questions from the examiner at the end). All I have to say is we saw a couple of multi-car crashes, although not terrible ones.

  • Lane weaving boy - zig zagging across the road and back again in an attempt to get ahead.

  • The tres considerate habit of cutting back into your lane too soon after overtaking particularly in snowy or wet conditions spraying your windshield with lots of road residue.

  • Fifth gear - having been thoroughly back-seat driven by my sister I embraced 5th gear properly (having only ever had a car with 4 gears before, and living in the city, therefore not needing a 5th, and only being taught on a car with 4 gears etc etc I rest my case). You live and learn (though the merciless ribbing was not necessary, really, never one to miss an opportunity my sister).

  • Never, NEVER, overtake a gritting lorry. Even when he's in the hard shoulder and you're in the fast lane two lanes away (hopefully they won't notice the dink in the windshield made by that very big piece of grit that flew across the road and hit us (now I'm sure that there ought to be a machine that measures the size of grit and extracts the STONES, but maybe thats a future technology).

  • Watch out for walls when reversing under pressure. Full carload, new years eve, dark. What can I say? Guilty - the bumper scrape they will notice but hopefully that will distract them from the windshield.
Boy its good to be home. Back to public transport. Much less of a responsibility.

Saturday, 1 January 2005

New Year

We were in Edinburgh for Hogmonay, standing in the street wishing they were better organised having wandered around for what seemed hours amidst loads of people intent on getting smashed on cheap cider or beer.

We watched some breakdancers on a stage for a while. After them was a performance by the nuttiest dance troupe I think I have every seen - several women in a variety of tarten getups (couple of kilts, couple of other skirts), dancing in a folky/scottish dancing kind of way but a bit avant garde to say the least - lots of big pants showing, in a variety of colours - blue, black and red. A bit of rolling around simulating sex. Weird music. Never really seen anything like it.

And then we saw some fireworks. Beautiful and brief. Which I think is the best way these days - a big bang with lots of colour.

And we concluded that we are being rather bar-humbug about the new year thing and shall stay in next year (not keen on the pissheads, it turns out).

So, happy new year to you all, I hope its better than last year.