Saturday, 30 June 2007

Book List

Sometimes I read alot, other times I read nothing. Recently I've been reading a lot. Brought on by being away and returning to the long and dreaded commute. It's only saving grace is the time it provides to lose myself in a book.

Tracey Chevalier, Falling Angels. Very much liked Girl with a Pearl Earring. Enjoyed this too but not as much. Interesting because it is written from the first person from all the major characters in the book. Viewpoints of the story.

Elsa Schiaparelli, Shocking Life: the autotbiorgraphy of Elsa Schiaparelli. Birthday present from SH who went to the Surrealist Exhibition before coming to my party. Schiaparelli writes in a mixture of 1st person and 3rd person. Doesn't concern itself with dates and analysis, more a flavour of life.

Manju Kapur, Home. Wished I had read this when on holiday in India. Gives a good sense of the country and Delhi and a woman's family life there.

Rachel Cusk, Arlington Park. On the back is a quote by James Lasdun of the Guardian, "a gripping, at times funny, often rather beautiful book". This is not an 'at times funny' book. This is a depressing hate-filled book of unfulfilled women who hate their partners. It is relentless in its gloom and a chore to read.

Jane Harris, The Observations. Liked it, a bit too much speed towards the end.

Isabel Allende, Portrait in Sepia. Passionate, engaging.
Lynette Wallworth @ BFI

We went for a meeting yesterday to see what the BFI has to offer (great access to clips of British cinema and television). They have an exhibition called Hold: Vessel 2, 2007 by Lynette Wallworth. You take a white bowl and enter a dark corridor where 4 light beams fall to the floor. Hold the white bowl under the light and suddenly your bowl is full microbes, then fish, then stars. Reminiscient of watching rockpools and playing in streams with those nets on bamboo poles.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Fleeting moment

In the back of a black cab speeding along Kingsland Road a middle-aged man's head is pressing facedown into a corner. As it goes by and pulls away I see a woman's hand clinging to the seat back. Two people in a long embrace lying on the backseat of a cab. Taxi driver no doubt casting furtive looks in his rear view mirror (rushing to get to the destination before it goes any further).
Public Transport

Today was a day of transport woes. Started with a morning bus ride. Nice to start the day gently, reading, as the bus negotiates the empty bus lanes. Sadly we were stalled behind a jack knifed lorry next to Hatton Gardens. The only way to rescue the commute and arrive at the meeting on time was to jump in a cab for £8.

On the way home, I waited for a bus to take me to ceramics class for 45 minutes. By which point I had 15 minutes to get there. Had to beg the bus drive to let us on when he finally arrived - he thought he was full, actually it was the fact that people hadn't moved down inside. So being late by the time I arrived at Elephant and Castle I rushed down onto the tube and found that the next train was due in 8 minutes. 8 minutes! No way I was getting to class on time.

Towards the end of the class we became aware of something going off outside on Blackstock Road. Two early leavers came back saying it was a riot. On finding a first floor window to look down from it turned out to be Algerian football fans celebrating with fireworks (hand held, spinning off in the street), chanting, singing. The road got cut off. The college evacuated the building and we slipped out the back door.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Southbank Centre

A man with a false nose eats crumbs out of a paper bag bathed in the dim yellow glow inside the Royal Festival Hall. Mostly they are cleaning and packing up around him. Chairs stacked on tables.

The clouds are dark mauve in front of deep ultramarine. Lights dance on the black Thames. The gorms look down from the corners of buildings all around the Hayward Gallery. I discover an easier route to the bus stop, round the back of the gallery. There is an exhibition of sheds on the lower ground. As I get there the bus arrives. The sambuca is rolling around my belly on top of the (too) large Mexican meal. Uncomfortable.

The streets are damp. I like the way damp streets reflect the night. Orange glows and white light. Damp nights are romantic like Renoir. London is more beautiful then.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007


Kate tried out a couple of spare chairs in the tea room (trying to find an alternative to the executive director's throne she currently uses, that the pregnant lady finds difficult to squeeze past). Nearly fell off with shock when attempting to adjust the back and the seat tipped forward - felt a bit like an ejector seat apparently. Finally managed to find the correct lever for the back but couldn't then get it to fix in any one position. Gave up in the end. We were chatting about Glastonbury (watched it TV) and Shirley Bassey's wellies in particular - DSB in diamonte down the sides (D for Dame). Then heard a little voice from the wireless telephone reciever. Presumably it had accidentally rung someone (trying not to blame the telephone operative here) who was now desperately trying to attract our attention, no doubt driven to distraction by the inane depths the conversation had fallen to. Then Kate told me about the time in Dulwich when she was attempting to buy a slightly broken umbrella. Couldn't find her purse so James Nesbitt who just happened to be standing behind bought it for her. I always thought he was a nice man (more cold feet than Mruphey's Law).

Monday, 25 June 2007

How much online life can one person handle ?

It started with a blog. A presence definitely but gradually building up to interactions with others. Scary at first but soon became habit.

That led to a need for multiple internet-based email accounts. Personal ones, blog ones, tried a couple of providers. It turns out I find it hard to delete myself.

Then there was mobile phone blogging. Had a now-defunct Phlog account that I sent mobile phone pictures to until a combination of factors put paid to it - spam comments piling onto all the pictures and the mobile phone company helpfully adding borders to the pictures that enable email replies but also ruin the straight from phone compatibility. So it sits there but isn't being updated.

Flickr for photos. Useful particularly when blogger stopped allowing access to ftp.

And then people keep sending helpful links to try. Several accounts in existence that I don't use. Including Buzznet and Picasa and others that I forget. More recently its been Facebook - invited to a fellow blogger so I tried it. Almost immediately discovered a real life friend there. Its hard enough keeping up with friends in RL let alone keeping up with a network of virtuals as well. Perhaps its a step too far towards social-networking - it somehow seems too much like hard work. A little too interactive perhaps.

There are the things I do use. Like a not oft-updated Twitter, which I take to be more like old-skool blogging - more one liners, more directing posts at one another and writing about other people's writing. I find it hard to find something clever, witty and fascinating to say several times a day. And an obsession with Celebdaq where I have managed to make £70K in not too long a time - nothing like making money to keep you hooked. Wasn't so pleased this week to find I'd lost £6500. More of a game than an online life.

And finally Second Life. Here is an obsession if ever I found one. A whole virtual world. Full of freaks (well not all of them, some are just porn star wannabes or have tails and horns and wings) to chat to if and when they interact. You can make your avatar be anything and yet the majority look like american celebrities and goths. Spend most of the time there trying to figure out what its all for, collecting freebies, trying to make some cash (not sure why, perhaps it gives one a purpose) and trying to find something to do. Aimless wandering from place to place looking at stuff. Little interaction (honestly it seems easier to avoid it than having to interact with total strangers about some crappy digital art or something, although sometimes it is funny). Something very surface about it - its about looks, and chat up.

And so I think the blog is perhaps the most real - its about something, I can develop a voice that can have some consistency and be bathed in the truth if I chose - real me rather than pretend me. It doesn't require hours of online chatting to be effective or to build connections. Its not real time which helps.

I wonder if we should clean up cyberspace after self - sooner or later it will be clogged with inactive accounts - dead blogs, accounts and virtual lives.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Its been mostly raining
Ceramics Class

Last week we couldn't unload the raku kiln because we ran out of time. This week we got to see the things that were left in. Some of the glazes were amazing but I have decided this is the ugly term. Somehow everything that I make this term has turned out ugly and or weird in some way.

So there's a thing that looks a bit like a bowel or a turd from certain angles, and the sister of Ugly Pot - a wet slab built thing that won't hold water. Still the glazes I tried out returned all manner of results, the difficulty always comes when you think you'd like to do something again.

10 minute exercise this week was based on the instructions issued to makers for Anthony Gormley's field. Make a figure. It has to be hand-sized and easy to hold, have deep eyes and be able to stand unaided. 10 minutes to make as many as possible.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Tower Bridge

On the bridge in a 78 bus when it raised. The street lifted in the middle the double red central lines running up towards the sky. A tall ship with its sails wrapped up passed through and the road closed up again so we could cross.

Saturday, 16 June 2007


In the rain under a bush a man holds his drenched thin white shirt away from his body. A crack of thunder and a flash of lightning. Presumably he is modest and doesn't want the wet fabric clinging to his chest hair and nipples.


Late at night, on the way home.
  • Red tee-shirt with sparkles
  • Patent leather lace-up shoes with drainpipe trousers
  • Thick calvin klein elastic showing over the top of dirty jeans
  • White pimp shoes
  • Big square 70s glasses and Queen's Guard trousers - thick black wool with red stripe down sides, braces
  • White cap with black writing AMY across the front
  • Hippy dude can't see out of his fringe

Friday, 15 June 2007

Hypothesis: men with open air cars are wankers

NOTE: open air cars (as defined by my sister, aged 8, are ones with soft tops that can be put down in nice weather - she predicted by the age of 18 that I would have a boyfriend who had one - sadly, or maybe luckily if my hypothesis proves to be true, I have yet to meet him).


Blond bouffanty hair, large-stripe shirt with white collar, big shades cruising down Upper Street playing the music ever so slightly loudly. Sporting a big self satisfied smile.

Low slung open top, gold, driven a bit too quickly by a man in a green hoody (hood up), gangsta style, drives the car leaning far over to the side holding the wheel in one hand at the top (like, completely disregarding the 10 to 2 rule).

Coming the other way, man wearing a tight black shirt with pinstripe, sleeves folded up above the elbow, right arm hanging down the outside of the car covered in blue tatts - like sailors ones. Sort of posing in a James Dean-esque manner.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Ceramics Class

Raku firing is like a kind of alchemy that you see before your very eyes. It satisfies the pyromaniac in you with the edge of danger that fire always presents. I've been looking forward to it all week. And I wasn't the only one at class to feel so.

Pots that have been biscuit fired and glazed are put into a gas fired kiln. The lid is closed and the heating begins. Gets up to 1000C. Inside the kiln (spied through the hole in the top) we watch the pots get red hot, the glaze on them bubbles and becomes like orange peel before gradually becoming completely smooth and very shiny. This is when they are ready. The lid is taken off and the hot pots are transferred into sawdust which sets fire with the heat.

30 minutes later the slightly cooler pots are taken out of the sawdust and sprayed with water which starts to clean off the charring and peels off some of the outer layers. What is revealed is crackling glaze, clay that has turned black, copper glaze that has turned from green to shiny copper or looks like petrol. The ugly pot is transformed. Its not exactly beautiful but is rather amazing - petrolly coloured shiny metallic looking - sort of like the inside of shells. And the cobalt oxide is a vivid shade of blue.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007


KB was telling me about the time she and her husband went into the west end, they saw a long queue of people and figured they must be waiting for something good so joined the end. They waited about half an hour before finding out it was a soup kitchen. She said some of the people lining up were well dressed, so they hadn't realised. I wondered whether they didn't notice people with their bedding under their arms. She said not. I asked whether they stayed for their soup. She said they didn't. I cried laughing. Silently, while the head of libraries had a meeting with the stock services manager at the other end of the room.... Perhaps you had to be there...

On a bench in Camberwell Green a woman dressed all in red sits singing, surrounded by long grass that has gone to seed and between lamp posts adorned by hanging baskets dripping with pink flowers. Dog walkers pass behind her on the path giving her sideways looks. Occassionally she stares at them, mostly she sits eyes front, hands folded in her lap.

I walk the walk, with the short people, the tall people, the people in suits, the people who can wear jeans to work, women in high heels, people in trainers, waddlers, fast walkers and those who drag their feet, with men who bundle people in their rush and those with shoes on with extra long toes.

I stand the stand waiting at the yellow line close to the platform edge. Weight on one foot, or distributed evenly with feet slightly apart. Watching the timer as the minutes tick down. I get on the first train even if it isn't an empty one that's just starting out. I leave others behind who choose to wait for the empty 1 in 3.

I balance the balance with people talking in low voices or louder foreign languages, with people crowded and clinging to poles or dangling from an overhead bar. Bodies pressed awkwardly, bumping, bags digging.

Sometimes when I'm lucky I sit the sit, bouncing along with the other seated, reading the paper comfortably, hiding from those standing around them. Sleeping or reading or deep in thought.

Then we rush the rush at interchanges, where the regulars choose an appropriate place by whichever exit or tunnel required to minimise time spent, or spewing from stations. Tripping over the case draggers and slow steppers and people who cut you up.

We accidentally found ourselves in the crowd of the premier of the Fantastic Four. 4 podiums of gymnasts in sliver outfits - one hula hooper, one with a long ribbon, one pair balancing the woman over his head.

Lots of saddo celebrity spotters excitedly crammed up against the press enclosures. Minor league Eastender actors, Harvey from So Solid Crew and his sister, and lower division footballers. Girls scream the names of people they want the autographs of. Next to us a group of boys compare their Jessica [Alba] photos and discuss their strategy for getting better ones when they come out.

Every once in a while someone big(ish) signs a lot of autographs and presses the palms of the screaming masses and poses for the occasional picture head to head with the fans until their publicist moves them on with a strong hand to the lower back, directing them to the TV Interviewers.

We saw the one from the Shield who plays the big stone fantastic four character, and the redhead from Harry Potter (desperately in need of a haircut), Reggie from kids TV. As you can tell I'd make a terrible celebrity spotter - I'd make a terrible 3am girl because while I might recognise someone I can rarely put a name to their face. Unless they are really famous.

we left after finishing our ice cream wondering about the lives of these people who spend their time star struck and screaming, desperate to touch the people they watch on TV, as this somehow affirms their own reality.

Monday, 11 June 2007

South London Life

A man with a wild afro, unshaven, walks towards the shopping centre at Elephant and Castle with determination. He's carrying a red shopping bag and wearing a pleated summer print skirt that swings with his strides. Across the road 3 big women on their way to work talking in patois stop to look at him. Laughing. One of them hangs back and takes a sneaky picture on her phone camera.

In the bakers I wonder whether it is ok to wear a totally see-through shirt (albeit baggy with folds of cloth) as long as you are relatively flat chested. The builders behind her in their workboots and high-vis jackets watch her respectfully. She takes her bagel and struts out of there all sking tight jeans, high heeled boots and very see-through white blouse.

A man in a football kit walks along dancing, listening to headphones, his eyes rolled back in his head like a zombie from Shaun of the Dead.

Outside the side door of the office there's a dead baby blackbird. Probably not ready for his first flight. Head frozen up, legs disappeared under him.

On the way home an ambulance attends a man who may have been hit by a car near Dulwich Village. He's in the recovery position, blood all over the back of his head. Further on the journey towards Stockwell police interview both parties of a crash - the car has lost its front bumper and is crushed fairly badly, the post office van is crumpled all along its front and side.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Spontaneity is a dangerous thing

Walking past a hairdressers last night I read the sandwich board outside. "Walk ins available, no appointment necessary". I was overwhelmed by the urge to go in. I was welcomed by a gaggle of hairdressers at a reception desk - straightened, bleached, asymmetric, belts with scissors & combs, pancake makeup and leggings. Told to wait. Clear plastic chairs and old magazines. A smoking hive of activity going on beyond the desk (smoking form from hair dye being applied to an asymmetrical severe fringe). My hairdresser finally came to fetch me with upbeat bubbling enthusiasm. Before I had a chance to think I had agreed to lots off the back, keeping length on the front with layers.

An hour later I left with a very-short-at-the-back and strangely long at the front haircut. Two ringlets coming down either side of my ears (my hair curls more vigorously when shorter) not dissimilar to the Hasidim Jewish boys in Stamford Hill. Its sort of a curly version of an angular bob. Modern, perhaps. Bit silly, definitely.

Woke up this morning unsure of why I did it. Struggling to adjust. At least hair grows.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

How to Ruin a Sandwich

I work in a desert. Council buildings surrounded by blocks of flats.

Its saving grace is the oasis of the gardens opposite - recently relandscaped, given those hillocks with trees on and patches of planting that are signatures of modern municipal gardening. They've done lovely things with matching roses - bushes, shruby ones and flat growing antique ones, and droves of lillies.

Outside the room where I work is an alleyway that divides our building from the one stop shop with its roof that looks like it is made out of long strips of gaffer tape. There's a scratch of ground by the side door thats maybe 4 feet by 6 feet full of bark chippings and one dandelion, double yellow lines painted round three sides. Its in a suntrap but they haven't provided a bench.

Our building provides coke-vending and a filtered water machine. Ill served by fetid little shops that cater for the local alcoholics - lots of beer and cheap plonk, pink toilet rolls, biscuits, dried up cakes in celophane and baked beans. And filthy greasy spoons. The closest decent eatery is on Tower Bridge Road - a poncy cafe where a cappucino and small quiche with a frill of lettuce costs £6.50.

Usually I take a trip to the Hair Bakers (so named by people I work with from an incident long before I arrived and passed down in folklore to new colleagues - it took them 3 months to tell me) a couple of times a week. Normally a jacket potato with cheese. Today, a warm one good for sitting in the park, I choose a sandwich. Cheese and salad on a big white roll. All the ingredients were fresh - soft roll, crunchy iceberg lettuce, tomato. But somehow the sandwich was ruined. Something to do with the unimagination used in putting it together, made by a person lacking in tastebuds. Happy to eat bland. Served up something that promised much and delivered little.

Someone could od a roaring trade outside our building with one of those bicycle-drawn coffee shop like they have at Highbury and Islington station. Breakfast coffee and croissants and a decent lunchtime sandwich.

Friday, 1 June 2007


I'm waiting for a delivery. Its coming between 6.00-9.00pm. On a Friday night. Strange, but at least I don't have to wait in for it during the day tomorrow which, cross-fingers, looks like it might be a good one. I've mowed the lawn so I don't have to do it tomorrow. And continued my war against the bind weed that has impinged on my garden boundaries - never had bind weed before and its proving to be a sneaky customer. It sends up tiny threadlike tendrils that wrap themselves around other things (roses, grass stems, anything) and grow their delicate seeming heart shaped leaves. Below the soil they have sprouted from thick monster roots that have driven themselves through the soil over great distances sending out tributaries across and down. I've been digging, gently lifting yards and yards of these roots. And still the tiny tendrils appear. One day, one year I hope to eradicate it. Maybe.