Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year!

So the decade comes to a close. A decade that started in South Africa at an outdoor rave party, if not footloose then fancy free at the end of the very turbulant decade of my 20s (lost love, death, degrees, work, going out, gaining life experience - peaks and troughs, although by the end it sort of felt like there were more troughs than peaks, or perhaps the troughs were deeper). At the close of the decade I have stepped into a proper adult life: home owning, 12 year partnership with the boyfiend and a better job. Sensible achivements all. Also rediscovered a way to have a creative output - started life drawing, started blogging and started making ceramics. I am also an auntie, a nurse and an agony aunt. Still struggling to decide what I want to do when I grow up. Perhaps the next decade will shed some light on that.

So it started with Bails in South Africa dancing wildly in a summer night heat, and it ends with Bails on the sofa at my house drinking champaign and watching Jools Holland.

Happy New Year to You!

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

After Christmas, Before New Year

Dead time between Christmas and new year. Don't really have anything to do, don't want to do anything either. Rain, gloomy, dank. Cold. Had to go to work today. Work neighbourhood is dominated by tourists rather than the usual suits. Work place is only a quarter full. The christmas tree in the main entrance (two floors tall) has not been watered and is showing signs of fatigue - lower limbs are drooping, needles all over the floor. In the street many organisations have discarded them already (chucked into doorways).

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Christmas Cheer!

So, its well and truely over. Turkey was cooked, due to mis-timing it was ready before the vegetables even got into the oven (planning for next time - try not to be the cook and the chauffeur - too long collecting people to bring over meant I wasn't present to direct the helpers to get the veggies on to par boil in time - perhaps an hour of grumpy Harriet while we tried to catch up, fortunately once it all gets under control again the grump goes away). We forgot to do crackers so nobody had to wear a cracker hat, sis's husband didn't have to tape two together in order to get it over his head. Two of the new strings of lights had partial failure shortly after being put on the tree, but not soon enough so they could be taken off and marched back to the shop. Ended the day with 6 (dad, me, sis Amy, her husband John, their kids) on the sofa, broken-back Bails got a chair to herself. Mostly it was dad, John and Amy snoozing; me, the kids and Bails watching Bolt on dvd.

Hope you all had a lovely day and wishing you all a happy new year!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Big Snow

Novelty for me - having a car - we rent one sometimes when we may need to travel around but there won't be any public transport (christmas day for instance). It gets used a lot then for doing the chores like picking up heavy groceries in the supermarket. We drove in. Shopped. Came out - blizzard had started (London blizzard - say 5 inches of snow, in an hour). We got in the car, joined a queue of traffic trying to exit the supermarket. Two and a half hours later we actually managed it. We weren't the only ones - someone texted in to Chris Evans drive time saying they were stuck in Sainsbury's carpark in Hull. Perhaps its the design of Sainsbury's car parks the land over - bottle necks the lot of them.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Bus Queue Rage

47 pulls up at Liverpool Street, empty. The 3rd woman getting onto the bus looks as though she tries to trip up the woman ahead of her. Misses. But she does manage to bump her roughly, barging past to get a seat downstairs. Sorry she says without meaning it and without any eye contact. Bumped woman goes upstairs confused.

Perhaps she got on the bus out of order therefore infuriating the woman who ended up behind her. This is now probably more normal than waiting in line these days at London bus stops.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009


Clear watery grey eyes, brown skin, crows feet crease in a smile.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Christmas Countdown

Deck the halls with boughs of holly tralalala...
  1. I've made a Christmas cake - extra glace cherries, fed with rum on two occasions now.
  2. Bought Christmas cards, will try to send them this year, don't usually get round to it.
  3. Started shopping - got a couple of items down - spoke to my sister today she was picking up her last item. Maybe I'm behind...
  4. Picked up some new wrapping paper - for when I eventually get the shopping done.
  5. Made mincemeat - put in extra orange peel, more cinnamon and mixed spice than it asked for, and decided to put in ground ginger. Gave the mixture a good kick.
  6. Done a reccy at the shops a couple of times (Selfridges, Covent Garden, Tottenham Court Road, Islington Upper Street) - don't like to choose too soon, like to get a good overview before making decisions. Need to scan the product, think about the people for whom something is needed and then rush round like a maniac on Christmas Eve picking it all up and hoping I can remember where I saw it.

Still to do:
  • Get a Christmas tree (need a tall but not too bushy one I think)
  • Decide where to put it - don't have a natural place for it at present which is not in the way.
  • Shopping - actual purchases rather than window shopping.
  • Food shopping - when the time comes

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

West London Ladies

A bit footballers wives bling used to shopping in Harvey Nicks and Harrods, others some sloaney hair and pearls. Lots of expensive handbags.

Not like the North East London girls I'm used to - primark rip-offs of designer gear, bling in the cheapest possible sense, keen on the Croydon face-lift and achingly straight ironed hair.

Different parts of London have clearly distinct feels. I've grown accustomed to South London, also a bit more eastly North London, but I've never really come to terms with West London. A bit too posh, a bit too spoiled rich girls.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

if you are on a fold up bike with small wheels do you really need to wear a go-faster aerodynamic helmet and all the special cycling gear?
Dramatic things for men to do with their look

"So, are you trying to be a cowboy?" She was looking at the newly sported full mustache that took a turn down the sides of his mouth. Not enough to look like a gay biker. Not enough to join into a goatee. But enough to for cowboy style. Ought to be worn with cowboy boots and spurs and the gait of the saddle weary. Chewing tobacco and spitting. Denim. Possibly a jacket made of suede with fringes. Definitely needs to be in the bleaching Californian desert. Not so great a look in smart slacks and loafers strolling around the Tooley Street office.
"Its men's health week," the cowboy explains.
"You're growing a mustache for men's health week?" confused.
"Yes! I didn't mean it to get so.. so... wild!"
"Yes, wild west!"

Friday, 20 November 2009


Rush hour, way home, on the train. Phone rings. Don't recognise the number so I don't answer it. Message from someone saying Bails had an accident. Agreed to meet at the hospital. North Middlesex. Arrived at the A&E department. Bails had not come in yet. Sitting waiting - sign said 3 hours. Man with a painful stomach is hunched over, his head on his hands on the back of the chair. His wife is sitting silently next to him. His son (who I suspect has the wheels) is chatting to a different patient and his girlfriend. I presume they are friends. The waiting is excruitiating. The son keeps sneaking into the restricted area and coming back with reports. Two women sit chatting loudly, laughing. Can't tell which one is the potential patient. Lots of people are using their mobile phones, even though there are signs all over the place forbidding it. Eventually I am too restless to stay sitting down anymore and stand in the queue again to ask whether Bails has been booked in yet. At first they say not but subsequently it turns out she is here.

8.00pm. Inside the restricted area there are curtained off cubicles and a central station. Its not like ER. Not quite like Casualty either. There is no sense of urgency. Lots of student doctors in strange smart outfits. Every once and a while someone gets up to see one of the patients in their curtained area. It seems that the doctors wear stethescopes. Nursing staff don't.

Bails has hurt her back in a gym accident. Some kind of weight lifting accident. She's lying still on the gurney. Stretchered in.

10.45pm. No doctor has come to make an assessment of Bails' case as yet. I ask the nurse at the station if there is a queue and if so where are we on it. She is irritated by me and looks at me accusingly. She grudgingly looks up the list of patients. 2 ahead of us. Other people who were waiting with me outside come and go. One of the female doctors looks like she has been up for 24 hours straight. Huge bags under her eyes. Grouchy demeanor.

12.15am. I decide to ask again where we are in the queue. Next it turns out. Took an hour and a half to see 2 patients. One of the other nurses asks whether anyone has been to see Bails yet. No I say, with some irritation showing. Its now late, I haven't had any supper. Finally at 12.30 the doctor comes and asks lots of quetsions. Bails is sent for an x-ray. X-ray comes back and 3 doctors stand around looking it it. One noticies a fracture. Everyone shows a degree more urgency. This is a serious injury. Shouldn't have been left for 4 hours on the trolley. Finally a doctor is assigned, Bails is fully assessed and admitted to the trauma ward. Its 2am.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Sunday Morning

Weak winter sun hangs low in the sky. Standing in it the warmth is on the skin is hugely uplifting. Catches the yellow leaves and twinkles through the droplets of water that are hanging off everything.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Public information messages

Please be considerate to your fellow passengers and keep personal audio music and mobile phone conversations to a minimum.

Weird old fashioned messages on the train. Why is it that announcements and messages always feel rather out of date? I wonder if the man who used to do the announcements at New Cross is still there - a suprisingly tiny neat man with a voice from the 50s. I hardly ever refer to my mobile phone any more - mostly just phone, occassionally mobile, never together.

I follow a guitar player, girl with a hockey stick, and a tall man with very short legs, off the train at London Bridge. Its a bit chilly today - first day of the year when that I've put on gloves. Definitely winter now - although the garden isn't quite up with the season - still have hardy geraniums, roses, and the occasional rock rose bloom, one left over japanese anemone blossom.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Shoe Sizing

A woman on the tube had a pair of boots still in their box. Black 41 written on it. That's my size. Back in the days when they first introduced European sizing to Dolcis (shoe shop of choice when I was at school) I used to wear a size 40. This was equivalent to a 7. It turns out that that is actually closer to a 6 and a half, so they round it down to a 6. A 7 is now a 41. Gargantuan feet.

Sunday, 8 November 2009


Gross jobs I did today:
  • Picked up dead rat from the lawn (cup of tea, wandering around the garden as I like to do on a Saturday morning, horror as I came across a rat carcass - probably the prey of a local cat or perhaps fox). Shovelled it into a bin bag while trying to control my gag reflex.
  • Unclogged the bathtub plug-hole (I have long hair that comes out in the wash). It looks like one or two hairs but when you pull them out there is always a huge clod on the end that has to be dragged up. More controlling the gag reflex. I'm getting quite good at it.
  • Cleaned the wheelie bin. I noticed there were rice grains in the bottom of the bin, then realised they were wriggling around - maggots - ugh. Sometimes the bin doesn't get emptied properly. Ninja gag reflex control. I am a black belt. Nothing will make me puke today.

Things I was using to keep my mind of the dirty jobs:
  • Fox sunning itself on my neighbour's shed roof.
  • Beautifully golden orange leaves of the Japanese weeping cherry.
  • Roses still in bud, in November - it doesn't seem normal.

After dark it was cold and misty - perfect Guy Fawkes weather. The smell of bonfires and fireworks hung in the air. Constant boom and fizz of fireworks exploding, sometimes the whistle of a rocket.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Halloween Party

A party - haven't been to a party for some time - the day brightened up and was unseasonably mild for the time of year. Perfect for an outdoor party with a fire. Hosts have a firepit in which they were burning wooden palettes - making a raging heat, kept getting that fire burn thing - hot on one side and cold on the other. Then the fireworks were let off from the garden wall. Home fireworks displays always seem a little dangerous - but they all went off without event. First fireworks of the year. OOO, Ahhh, ooo.

(and one of Bails, for Harry, thrown in)

Monday, 12 October 2009

Smoke Firing Course

Weekend course delivered by Jane Perryman. Drove over to Suffolk - heavy rain. Leaves of gold and red. We took bisqued pieces ready for smoking (10cm or 25cm limit in size).

We did 4 different types of firing over the weekend. Gave a good idea of what can be achieved.
  1. saggar firing - black
  2. saggar firing - salt
  3. sawdust firing - overnight
  4. fast smoke firing

For the black saggar firing we prep'd pieces by doing some wax resist, wrapping in tin foil and piercing it, wrapping with string - all ways of resisting the smoke. Pieces were then further wrapped in tissue paper and packed into old paint tins, gaps filled with sawdust. Lids were then put on tightly and they were packed into a gas kiln and fired over night to 900 degrees.

My favourite result was from the pierced tin foil resist. Still had a bit of white clay showing through, smoking was very dark.

Saggar firing with salts was the only firing that introduced some colour. We prep'd half the peices by soaking them in a salt solution for an hour (water, table salt dissolved until the water would not hold any more. These pieces were then dried. Again we prep'd peices with resists - wax resist, string. Pieces could also be wrapped with copper wire, we put in some seaweed (some I wrapped over the pot with copper wire). Copper carbonate was liberally dusted over the pots as we packed them into metal and ceramic saggars along with more table salt. These saggars were more loosely packed with sawdust. Lidded but with a gap and packed into a gas kiln. Fired overnight to 900.

Liked the colours and flashing this produced. Dramatic. Really liked the lines made by the copper wire as well.

The results of the overnight smoke firing were not very exciting on my pots (mostly just black) but on other people's they had some interesting flashing from the smoke and resisted by digging parts of the pots into sand. It was a fairly dramatic firing though - lots of fire, later lots of smoke. Huge kiln to fire in - lots of pots all together. Fast firing however, did get me some drama. Pots were treated with resists again - resist slip was used this time - prep'd the day before the firing so the slip could dry thoroughly. I wrapped pots with string, feathers and honesty seeds and painted over resist slip. Where the slip was the smoke was resisted, and where there was other material the smoke from it burning was localised. The firing was done in metal bins or braziers packed with newspapers loosely scrunched and fired until the paper burned out (about 20 mins).

All pots were washed and cleaned off and shined up using beeswax polish.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Train Journey Home

I'm starting to like this journey - overground from Liverpool Street to Bruce Grove. Train goes over the rooftops and the sun sets in the West as I pass by. Good view of the sky which is a bit of a luxury in the city.

Similar views, different days.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Friday Afternoon

Its been a long week.

Wednesday we had a fire evacuation - whole building trooped out. Escape stairs are a bit narrow so we on the third floor had to wait until the 1st and 2nd floors had already got out (think we would have been toast if it was a raging fire). We mustered under the third floor mustering point - a person holding a placard (printed page stuck onto a bit of cardboard box duct taped onto a broom handle) reading 3rd floor mustering. It turned out that someone on the third floor had been making toast. It set off the fire alarm. We were reminded of the protocols of the office on our return.

Friday mid-morning the community sports team landed to do their admin. Mostly this meant chatting [up the admin girls from community safety team], sitting on tables, bantering and generally causing a commotion. Their presence in proximity to the females caused other males who normally have priority to saunter over and flex their muscles. I wasn't sure which group were dominant in the end. We, the grumpy women, watching the spectacle decided we needed one of those signs that they used to have at the swimming baths - no running, diving or bombing, no heavy petting - illustrated appropriately. It would only need minor alternations to make it appropriate to the office.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Oxo Tower

Celebrating Susanna's birthday at the Oxo Tower Restaurant. We ordered a round of margaritas, unusually muddied with pineapple, fragrant but still sharp, served in wide-mouthed long stemmed glasses with salted edges. Weird foody word associations - french knickers - my instant thought. Gallery Lafayette, Paris, flesh tone net with black embroidery and scalloped edges, transparent and dainty.

All the courses were served on square dishes in groupings of three, drizzled, trailed or dotted with dressings, sauces or foam. Carefully chosen and blended flavours.

The table next to us ordered the to-share souffle. The dessert serving waiter held the spoon of walnut ice cream against the warm crown so it melted enough to slide off the spoon when thrust into the body of the pudding. Leather trousers - always suggestible and sexual, however they are worn. Normally raising concerns about them uncleaned for their lifetime able to stand on their own in a corner. Once - there was an Australian with blond dreadlocks, leather trousers, very forward in the Coal Hole on the strand. One of the first days that pubs were open all day from 11.00am. Eleanor, Gavin and I in there early. Met the Australian. He rubbed his foot up and down my calf under the table. Ages later, dark, he dragged me outside, snogging on the doorstep - the doorman told us to move on. We snogged all the way back to Acton Town, up to his flat over a shop...

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Annoying all the neighbours

Actually scratch that, all the annoying neighbours is really the title of the post.

Warm weather in Autumn is lovely. Great opportunity for clearing up the garden, giving it some attention before it all starts to fall for the winter. Chinese neighbours across the garden are having a kareoke party. They start praticing early to get in good voice. Luckily for them they all sing as well as one another - nobody will feel they must hold back because they have a worse singing voice than the others. Unfortunately for us, they all sing incredibly badly. And they like to sing through a microphone so it floats across all the gardens. Cruxifying candles in the wind, careless whisper, strangely country roads, and numerous power ballads which were not quite recognisable.

My next door neighbours (family of women, nan, mum, three sisters, one boyfriend and a granddaughter) were having one of their tidy-the-house saturdays which end in a roast dinner cooked by or advised by nan. The sisters have tantrums, even though they are old enough to know better. They also have a dog who comes in for a lot of stick - always being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Eventually I mowed the lawn to get some peace and quiet.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Grey Day

It was grey when I woke up. Grey continuing as I left for work. Raining by the time I got into the office. Not enough light to make me wake up fully or shake off the slight depression that inhabited my head since awaking. Drops spattered on the window of the office. Canary Wharf disappearing into a misty grey gloom. Coming home it was dark at 6.30. Getting off the train on the way home it started to rain, heavy thick rain like buckets of water being chucked out the window. Drenched. Drowned rat. Glad to be back home but hoping that going to bed early will clear the fug. Autumn is here.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Lost post

Flawed plans - forgotten notebook, scrawled the latest rambling on the back of a receipt. Something about the joys of teenage humour, two boys/youths having an elongated private joke which made me laugh but I can't remember how it went now because I screwed up all the old receipts that were floating about in my bag's wallet pocket (where I keep said wallet and change purse and USB sticks and keys) when it started feeling like drowning in little papers. Forgetting that the latest post, of which there haven't been many, was scrawled on the back of one of them. Tossed. Lost.

Friday, 28 August 2009


Today was the sort of day that I speak to the boyfiend and he is having torrential rain and I'm having glorious sunshine even though we're in the same city but on different sides of the river.

On my way home I'm on the train that goes overground to London Bridge - good view across the London towards the North. I can see a huge traingle of dark grey cloud and in the distance over Parliament it looks like rain - misty downward lines. Round the edges is golden sunshine. Off the train walking through the station it starts raining so hard its coming through the roof and raining onto the platforms, hammering down. Standing under the bus terminous outside the station there is a downpour on one side and one of the steeling grey skys lit by bright sunshine on the other. Two rainbows form - a bright clear well defined one tightly arching and a feint one arching over it.

Nearly home at Bruce Grove the light has dropped even though it is an hour or more before dusk, the sky is dark dark grey with that weird yellow electricity tinge. I'll be lucky to get home before the deluge. I run to catch the bus, the driver kindly waits for me. As we set off a crack of lightning flashes across the underside of the clouds. And again later on. I worry about lightning striking the dead tree in my neighbour's neighbour's back yard. Before I get off the bus huge drops of hot rain start to fall. The ground is quickly soaked, puddles form fast. I get in just before I'm drenched.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Recording Life

20th century had an explosion in the mechanisms for ordinary folk to record their lives - the sepia studio photos of our grandparents (with running trophies, with siblings in white dresses with wide black sashes, wedding photos of the bride and groom); 8mm film of funny family events (funny smiling people running round in strange environments, dark colours, oddly flat); photograph albums (poorly labeled square photos with white edges, scratched, curling - mum as a child swimming in a pond wearing a woollen swimsuit, young dad leaning proudly leaning against his first car - reportedly dark and light green with chrome, or standing next to his plane in the navy, granny as a girl with long hair in ribbons, babies from all over the family, graduation pictures, yellowing and fading photos from the 70s - slightly too short flares and fake fur jackets); slides (dreaded grandad slide shows of a variety of badly-composed groups of relatives on their trips to South Africa, interspersed with pictures of the local flora, grandfather in his shorts safari suit, aunties and uncles with their feet, head or half the group chopped off the edge of the frame). This was the heyday of capturing the family's history. There are still enthusiasts from whom you can pick up a slide projector to see the old stuff. The photograph albums are tangible weighty tomes dragged out for viewing together, old stories oft told entering into the folklore of family.

Now everything is digital, throw-away, kept on the computer. I'm worried that we will loose a mass of social history because we don't back up our data well enough, or we hate all the images and trash them, or the computer busts and we loose it all, or the media will become obsolete and therefore un-accessible. I forget how nice photograph albums are.

Thursday, 20 August 2009


London's serious cyclists stream past the bus stop - all Lycra clad, rucksacks, go-faster-helmets, some with rear view mirrors on, courier bags, reflective strips, single speeds, panniers, cleats. Then a girl rides past on a sit-up-and-beg bike wearing a summer dress that is wafting up in the wind so you can see her knickers. A bit 70's flake advert.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Age Appropriate Activities

I think I'm going to die. I will be 40 next year and I've just spent lunchtime in the canteen at the Unicorn Theatre listening to a 50 year old talk to a 41 year old about getting older (this did include divulging their ages). The 50 year old was talking about clinging to his 20s in the past but now does the garden and other age appropriate activities. He still manages to get to a few gigs each year, but nothing in comparison to the number he used to go to. I look at them and they look like adults. Grown up people, who have proper magazine houses and perfectly organised lives. Adult in a way I don't think I am. I don't feel I look like them at all. I'm probably deluding myself. 41 year old was waxing lyrical about her weekend spent travelling down memory lane in Wakefield, old haunts, B&Bs... I hope I never get that old.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Open Plan Working

Plus points: swanky new office near London Bridge - close to Borough Market, better lunchtime eating, clean, new, nice lavs, cool. Negative points: lots more colleagues in an open plan space, many of whom are easily distracted and talk too loudly on the phone and to one another, there's nowhere to hide apart from the toilet.

The Flirt
So many more people, 5 floors of potential. First pass-by the kitchenette he's there at the coffee machine, chatting up some woman. "I thought we had a connection - I'm trying to send you something now..." (fingers on temples, intense thought-transmission stare into her eyes). She wasn't getting it, but seemed to enjoy the gaze. Lunch-time at the lifts, he's there waiting, chatting to another woman about her family (single parent, baby with mother, going on holiday in two weeks). After lunch, he's by the vending machine talking to Miranda...

The Shirker
Hard to hide when you're working in a huge open plan air hanger with 300 desks. Corner of my eye is caught by him popping up over his computer again. Its screen is strangely high - higher than any other. He has ants in his pants, can't sit still for more than 10 minutes. Does lots of printing which requires a trip over to the printing hub. Walks past my desk, comes back with a coffee. Half an hour later, walks past again (could be more coffee, could be a trip to the loo, could be a fag break). By lunchtime there have been at least that number of passbys. After lunch there is time for a bit of desk-visiting around the building with colleagues from the team who are spread around.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009


The shed of the previous owners had a certain amount of Little House on the Prairie charm but in the two years that I owned (and neglected) it fell into a state of dilapidation from which it was unsalvagable - what had already been a leaning and vaguely rotting structure, began to loose roofing, shiplaps and got woodworm. It became the home of a local stray cat and a snail haven.

Pops decided to buy me a replacement one for my birthday. I ordered it online. Six weeks for delivery. Instructions said they would only put it up on a level base.

Tore the old one down - wood worms fell out, water sodden and underneath it was propped on broken bits of paving stones. I decided to build a plinth to raise the level up away from the rain. Built it from breeze blocks and bricks. Amateur night bricklaying. I made it as level as I could manager and prayed that they wouldn't look too closely.

Two weeks ago it arrived on the back of a lorry. The driver and his work-placement nephew put it together in 15 minutes. It was very blond pine. In my head I was thinking about Derek Jarman's house in Dungeness - black wood, yellow window frames, sculptures made of rusted metal, driftwood and beach finds. I stained it walnut first - nice but too woody, not dark enough. Over-stained it with black ash. Liked it better but then gave it a second coat. Now its got to be a mini dungeness house.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Coming Home

After driving home from Northumberland with my Dad, dropping him off at his house (unloading the car of his belongings), I got back home. Stepping through the door it felt alien, not like home at all. The wooden floors were echoey and hard sounding. The place was empty (of people). Closed off to the street (I purposefully have the paper blinds closed at the front windows always). It didn't feel like home. I wasn't sure why that was, perhaps I like having family around me all the time (despite having needed some personal space when I was away with them), perhaps I like a fuller house than it was at that second. Perhaps it was the sense of place. I've felt strangely dislodged on coming back. Drawn to something I have never been drawn to before. Very much enjoyed the sea, walking on the rocks everyday, collecting stuff. Liked the scenery. Liked the sense of freedom (particularly from work I think).

Its taken a week to get back into the swing of regular life. Going back to work wasn't half as bad as I was imagining. Home is starting to feel a bit more homely. The boyfiend is upstairs asleep - I'm waiting for the gasman and my new shed (Dad bought it for me for my birthday last may)...

Saturday, 25 July 2009


My mother grew up in Northumberland. Her father was a manager for the Cooperative, managed a farm at Hetton Steads. According to the couple my sister spoke to when she and I drove over there, he was a well-respected manager, good to his workforce, strong and fair, morally upright and religious. The farm used to employ 90 staff, today it is worked by 12. Grandad would walk up the hill to work with the sheep (he liked sheep - when he retired to the north west Scottish coast he had sheet on his croft).

When we used to visit our grandparents we would stay with them in their house. They'd built an extension on the side that faced over the loch - with large windows all the way round three sides - good for looking out to sea, over the hillside and across the hamlet. Granny would spot deer on the hillside, or the QE2 passing by on the sea. We'd play whist (with the curtains closed on Sundays so the neighbours wouldn't see) if it rained and in the evenings. Granny would always have an ace up her sleeve, play it with aplomb. She liked to win.

On the window sill there were photographs. One of my favourites was of the five children arranged on the drive of the house at Hetton Steads. I always thought it was at the front. The two eldest stood behind, the three youngest on chairs in the front. Auntie Jennifer very elegant in 50's finery, beautiful dress, hair and lipstick. Uncle John, the littlest ones in matching dresses, and mother. The house looked grand and huge. I was surprised at the size of it - it seemed less impressive than I had always imagined it to be. And faced away from the road over the land.

Amy and I drove past the school they used to go to (primary, before being sent off to boarding school). Its a b&b now. Then we went up to St Cuthberts Caves - Uncle John told her they used to go over there often. We sheltered in what we thought was the cave when the rains came in but later discovered we were totally not in the right spot having taken the wrong animal path when the signposts stopped - doh!)

I can see why our mother loved this place - the landscape is beautiful, green, luscious.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Sunny Days

Couple of sunny days we drove up to the sandy beaches to dig sand castles, swim (some of the younger contingent) and sunbathe. First visit we just got the suntan lotion rubbed in and the sun went behind the clouds for good - good hour worth of shade-bathing instead. Nephew cried when he got sand in his sandwich. He discarded it a short distance from the rug. Seagulls swooped in for it.

Monday, 13 July 2009


Tide comes in and goes out. At the low tide a beach is revealed below the rocks that are being smoothed into curvaceous smooth shapes by the sea. Cormorants, gulls and house martins. Three days in exhaustion is setting in. Probably a mixture of relaxing from work, sea air and different waking hours. Blogging from the kitchen table with the french doors open and the sea lapping up just beyond the fence. Occassional walkers pass by interrupting the seaview (the coastal path is just outside the fence).

Monday, 6 July 2009

Conference at Excel Centre

Brave new world of docklands. All covered walkways, elevated, self-driving trains and hotels build of lego. Wide pedestrian routes and brick pathways in various designs. Old warehouses cleaned up with glass extensions and deep moats left from the days of being dockyards. In the glaring sun the dirty film of air in the distance from the city sits on the horizon. Feels devoid of enough people to make it feel like a real part of the city. Over the main dock is a development of apartments built in identical modern-in-the-style-of-something-old houses. Great view from them. Great location on the side of the water. Some years to come before it will look anything more than a dormatory. Along the side of the docks the massive Stothert & Pitt dock cranes stand erect in pairs - reminders of what once was a hive of industrial activity. An oversized bronze statue of 3 dock workers loading up a palet to be lifted off by a crane is dwarfed by the buildings, cranes & size of the pedestrian walkways. A forest of newly planted trees are miniature. Evenly planted like in the Parisian Tuileries. Eventually they will gain some stature in their surroundings. So finally, I turn around and enter the Excel Centre for the conference...

Friday, 3 July 2009

Essential Dressing

Big thick black extra long false eyelashes. Eyes looking out from below them - surrepticiously almost as if wearing sunglasses - not realising how much can be seen. Very vampish, 60s look. Apart from the false lashes she is wearing a velor tracksuit and bright yellow teeshirt, and has just been to Aldi's. When did false eyelashes become one of the can't-be-seen-out-in-public-without items?

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Luke Jackson - Goodbye London

Luke sent me this video that he made to his song Goodbye London. Watch it - I think it has a londoner's feel to it - that which other people may find ugly has value. It draws out some of the very specific things that I love about London - Eros in the dark, the lit advertising in Picadilly, Hamstead Heath, funny graffiti stencilled onto walls (fleeting imagery that stays until it is washed off - sometimes in between becoming iconic).
Jersey Tiger

In the heat of the day we sat outside Petitou on Choumert Road in Peckham (they have a lovely huge plain tree in the corner of their plot that makes lovely dappled shade) eating cheese on toast with chives and drinking fresh squeezed grapefruit juice. The windows are surrounded by walls covered in dark green tiles. On the tiles was a Jersey Tiger Moth - large triangular with distinctive black and white markings. When he flew off his inside wings were bright orangy red. Remarkable. Never seen anything like it before. Love summer. Love wildlife in London.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Stormy Weather

We're having one of those storms that start with yellow electric light at the tail end of a humid close day. After the yellow light were huge heavy drops of rain that were warm on the skin. I just managed to get the stuff in from the garden when it downpoured. Then there were large hailstones. And finally the thunder and lightning. Forked and streak lightning cracking and looping across the sky from one cloud to another, flashes and their accompanying thunders rolling across the sky rumbling. Rain falling faster and faster, bubbles and back splashes on the concrete. Somewhere dogs have been left out and are barking in distress.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Stupid stuff makes me laugh

I've always known this, crap jokes, puns etc - like 'em. At the moment is the Lynx (smells cheap and horrid) Muchos Maracas advert. I laugh aloud. I think its too late for my sense of humour to grow up...

Thursday, 18 June 2009

And again...

We've moved office again. Hopefully the last time. State of the art (lights come on when they sense your presence, one of the greenest buildings in London), and conceptually slightly behind (hotdesking - seems to me to have been tried, tested and moved away from in business but we're just adopting it), all at the same time. Its nice to be by the river, in a pleasant part of town, but its expensive, busy and suity. It provides space, light, good facilities but takes away the personal and individual - makes you feel rather like a battery hen, and reduces productivity because of the unpacking and packing up at the beginning and end of every day. There will be 300 staff on my floor when they all get moved in. Thats a big hum of people.

Each day I go in I feel like I'm working in an american movie, only without all the knick knacks that they have. We go through automatic revolving doors that revolve slightly too slowly, walk through the impressive stone floored foyer, through the security gates (nobody gets through without a pass) and take one of 4 lifts up to the floor (doesn't matter which one, they all look the same), touch into (new fangled clocking in, but clocking in none the less), and look for an open desk space. Once identified we logon to the phone and into the computing system.

In the first week, despite being surrounded by people, I felt somehow isolated - all those people who I normally sat near were spread across a much wider area. Its the same work, the same colleagues but different. Less friendly. More territorial because there is less to have control over. Still its early days, it'll take time to get used to it.

Friday, 5 June 2009


His hot leg and left arm leaned on me in a way that made me accutely aware of our bodies pressed together as the bus trundled along. I was reading. He was on the phone. One call to a girl whose number he had just taken. ONe to a mate about later. ONe to a girl he was more familiar with about hooking up soon. I used my bottom and leg muscles to create some microscopic distance, drawing myself together. He let his leg and arm fill the space created.

He was shaven headed with a beard. Grey trackpants and a short leather bomber jacket. Made contact with my cotton velvet coat. He got off and walked away, puling the seat of his trackpants up to the elastic of his undergarments.

My side felt cold. The bus passed the photograph shop that has the picture of a woman sitting on the floor with one knee up and the other one lying against the ground in a pose that focuses too much on the crotch of her shorts. Its a troubling picture that always reminds me of a discussion I had with my life drawing tutor about full frontal nudes. You have to draw the genitals (one class someone left a smudge rather than putting anything more explicit detailed) but in the same style and detail as the rest of the figure (after the smudge incident during a long pose the tutor and I discussed the detailing I had drawn because it drew the eye too much). A drawing (or photograph) needs balance as well as being accurate. Generally, after that, I preferred to not be in a position with a full frontal view.

Friday, 22 May 2009


I've just started reading Louis de Bernieres' A Partisan's Daughter. There is a lot about London in the 70s - Archway in particular. "It was winter, not that you'd ever know what season it was in Archway, because in Archway it's always late November on a good day, and early February on a bad one." Its still like that - always windy, a bit miserable (not as miserable as it would have been in the 70s - it would have been worse then - grey, drab and probably messy).

I was a kid then. There was an advert on tv with 3 young people walking along a wide york stone pavement beside the cream columnaded houses around Regent's Park to a soundtrack of old fashioned millionaire. The boy gave one of the girls a piggy-back. It was everything that being a young adult was going to be (in my childish mind). And there were the multicoloured hair men (before punk made that more normal) - extraordinary and exciting. We were allowed to swim in puddles that formed in the playground of the nursery school (something that health and safety executives would never allow now). Covent Garden was full of sunken gardens made in the voids left by demolished buildings that could be overseen through spy holes in the hordings. Years later Mum told me they were full of hippies smoking grass, but that wasn't something I noticed at all as a child. It was just the secret, hidden, mysterious spaces - not perfect, not commercially produced. Openings in the dense city. I miss the curiousity of childhood, the potential and the optimism.

I hate the fact that the world is smaller than it used to seem, that the news is so overwhelmingly bad, that our politicians are corrupt and that working is such a drain on our time. Now that I've finished The Partisan's Daughter [this blog post has taken me over a week to complete] I think that's how the adult non-alternative life is portrayed. I hate that my life has turned out like that. I was supposed to be an artist. With an alternative lifestyle. I admire women who lead their own lives, uncompromisingly. And those who wear their passions on their sleeves - emotional, experiencing life in its fullest. I'm just not sure that early 21st century life allows for that kind of throw-caution-to-the-wind living (with all its doom and gloom economy & climate, politics and killing).

So this year I think I want to continue building the creative back into my life. I'm keen to do a jewellery course and I'd like to learn basket weaving. Perhaps I'll do some more regular blogging...

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Morning rush

A man's mouth contorts. Jeans, K Swiss, a cap, reading a magazine. He takes he glasses off and rubs his eyes. Tired? Migrane? He holds the visor of his cap down low and wipes a tear from his right eye. Crying? He sits head down for a moment or two. Then he puts his glasses back on. Heartbroken? Bereaved?

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Underground Overground Googling Free

Google street view - some love it some hate it. I like the fact I can see my sister getting into her car outside her house - its so ordinary and yet somehow feels like being in touch. Maybe over time as the image gets old it'll stop feeling like that. I've also been round to all my relatives houses all round the world to check them out.

I was emailed a link to something much more interesting done with street view. The overground route of the Northern Line Charing Cross branch. There's something demanding about the arrows on the street that have to be followed. I think of London like this - sort of a huge mound - from suburbs to suburbs through an increasingly chaotic and built up centre. This is a visual representation of the journeys I sometimes write about. The work of Ian Buchan. Take a look. The Overground Underground Northern Line.

Saturday, 2 May 2009


The stinking alcoholic leaned heavily on his woman, talking over her shoulder to anyone listening - about how they'd been together for 14 years. Love of my life, fantastic she is. She was dark brown with filth. Eyes staring listlessly out the window. His voice was coarse, heavy with drinking and smoking. She was silent.

Turning left onto Upper Street her eyes passed over an advert on the side of a bus going the other way. £54 to Corfu. Wouldn't it be nice to get away? Yeah, he said, it would be great to get away from this shit hole.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Ball games

Four men from the hand care wash (one of those businesses that spring up in an empty petrol station or car lot) are playing football and volley ball becuase they have no customers. Its sunny. The weather is warm. They keep kicking the ball over the wall. One in particular is over-zealous and can't control his kicking strength enough. They have to balance on a crate and drag the ball off one of the out building's roofs with a broom. Next time its running round into the garden of the neighbouring block of flats. Its funny. Like kids.

Saturday, 18 April 2009


Today I have mostly been thinking about the boundary of my house. At the moment it s a rotting fence to the front and a big cloud-trimmed hedge between me and my neighbour. I keep thinking it would be good to trim it into some topiary shape but I'm not brave at the moment. Pops is going to buy me a brick wall for my birthday last year - still haven't found a brickie to do it. I'd like the bricks to match the house - they are mostly yellow London clay - some are pinky and some are slightly blackened like they've been burned. There's a two row detail of red brick running through the building. Pops has a metal gate in his cellar that I can have. I might paint it pink or something that metal gates aren't usually painted.

I'm also looking for metal numbers - large ones, preferably brass. I want to replace the ones that are up there already.

I've also got a lollypop trees that I'm desperate to cut down. My neighbour has a chainsaw - he's willing to help. I want to replace it with a pale pink flowering tree. I've got lots of plans, but no action yet.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

and a couple of jokes I was reminded of at work today

How many social workers does it take to change a lightbulb?
One, but it must want to change.

The huge yellow orb is hanging low in the spring sky. Drawn to it I look and then get spots before my eyes. Sun setting over Hackney. Tops of buildings caught in light of gold.

Tiger Lillies flow onto the ipod. Reminds me of different times. Hedonistic nights in the Kings Head back room, late nights, surrounded by people. Georgia flashing her tits. Never getting tired. Endlessly seeking adventure and good times.

Pass Rosemary Works, a ceramics studio across the street from a pub where the Tiger Lillies used to play, I have a brief dream of a different life. Having kept the artists studio I used to have, I spend my days making work. I wondered how many pots I could fit into one of those toploading kilns that Kerry used to have at Cockpit arts. A life of making. In the late, bright spring light its a thrilling alternative life thought.

How many goths does it take to change a lightbulb?
None - they'd rather sit in the dark.

Pink blossom tree. Beautiful. Frivolous. Candyfloss and cake icing. Debate again in my head whether I want a pink blossom or white outside my house. White is more tasteful but pink gives me greater joy and elation somehow.

Sun has dipped and the sky is left with a glorious arc of gold cloud. Sometimes I think I should be where I can see more sky - it uplifts me so. Two fidgeters have sat in front of me on the bus this evening. Ants in their pants. Their presence is disturbing my thoughts. Interesting how thoughts come back to the present when you get into a part of time you didn't know in the past. My neighbourhood holds no old memories for me. The memories are the present and the future.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Ceramics class

So, this term I've been making big things.

(That last one is not finished yet - its a monster - takes two people to move it - I want to grow waterlillies in it once its fired).
Of Vacation, Tiling the Kitchen and Kew Gardens

Two weeks off have just finished. Spent the time gardening (1st week, first couple of days), and tackling the DIY job I had been putting off for over 2 years - tiling the kitchen. Once started the tiling really wasn't as bad as I was anticipating. Did take me most of a week, especially after I had to repaint the kitchen (black grout is filthy stuff).

When I finally got through we spent a day at Kew to relax. I love spring. Its uplifting and hopeful and energetic.