Friday, 11 December 2015

Ann Veronica Janssens - States of Mind


So into a room filled with carbon dioxide vapour, so thick you couldn't see past about 30cms from your face. Totally lost instantly. No idea of size of space. Walk around hands out in front of you because you suddenly can't sense the space at all. People loom out of the mist into your tiny sphere of vision and disappear back again. Hear voices. See no one. Ghosts and shadows materialise into human forms. The mist has coloured light through it, as you move round the room the colours blend and merge. And then hit a wall, can inch round the room to the exit.

At the Wellcome Institute until 3 January.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Frances Ross Duncan

29 July 1943 to 10 December 1995
20 years ago today. 

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Over- emotional

Having an attack of over-emotionality that I can't exactly explain. Two huge tears crept out when I was reading about a couple who had twins the first one of which died at birth due to a defect they had but they donated her organs. Then this evening a man stood in the carriage and made a speech about going to dalston to stay in a hostel and he'd appreciate any contributions including left over food and I got a lump in my throat thinking about him and humanity. My paper is open on the pages about Cameron calling to be allowed to start bombing Syria. Bomb them before they do us - never minding about the kind of retaliation that could bring down on us. Fight them in that country when the threat to us is more than likely already living amongst us here now. 

Monday, 23 November 2015

Phoenix Pottery

From the ashes of our ceramics department closed despite protest the Phoenix Pottery arises. Smaller. More compact. Delightfully non-governmentally funded (for now). And tested. Will be ready for opening in January.

Monday, 16 November 2015


"You're everywhere", he said.
"I need you to certify my existence", she said over my head to the man smiling broadly, pink face, a couple of pews ahead.
"I can certainly do that", he said. I laughed - it seemed a powerful position to be in. My laugh caught his attention. "I'm a justice of the peace", he explained.
"Oh", I said, "I thought you were just being helpful."
"He's god", the lady boomed over my head again. It made me laugh again.
"Do you need anything certifying?" He asked.
"I'm sure I do but you don't know me to certify anything", I retorted.
"I could certify that you seem nice", he said in triumph.
"That would be nice", said I.

Saturday, 7 November 2015


Darkened space, white body stood with blacked out eyes and blacked out genitals, breathing, music thumping blood. Muscle tight against ribs, ripped. Arms. Rib cage expanding and closing. The body walks on all fours across the space, deliberately, hands and feet placed as a big cat, the only sound of the touch against the floor. Alien. Creature. Spit hanging from its mouth. Front leg and back leg in unison. Fingers bent like claws. Reach the wall, turn face to the audience. Breathing. Like a spider moving towards us. Francis Bacon-risqué. Human as animal. Watching. Then up on two legs. Out of the primordial soup we dragged ourselves upright. Carrying a tray of tea things precariously balancing on tip toes. Naked. Placing it back down carefully and returning upright to attempt to whistle. Trying and trying and almost but not quite managing. Gone. 

Then returned. Dressed in white lace. Proper. Balancing on buttocks legs and upper body extended without touching the floor, effort, strength, muscles tested, limbs quivering. Moving across the floor to pick up a mobile phone whilst balancing o n the shoulders - body up like an s shape. Light from the phone highlighting the neck, retching, throaty, primeval calling, pre language. Return to animal. And light. And light cast out putting the performer in solid darkness. Finally the exuberance of jumping up and down a strong shadow reflecting against the back wall. Big menacing robot on the wall. Small white body jumping up and down in front of it. 

It made me want to run out and help. To look in the same depth as I would look during a life class. Body as object. Alive machine. It made me want to draw. To make studies of the human body again. In its raw form. Stripped down. Stark. 


Thursday, 5 November 2015


I'm fascinated by this grown man colouring in his "Calming art therapy colouring book" on the overground this evening. I might need to do that - it might make the journeys more bearable. Everyone all around him is watching as he felt tips between the lines. It's a queen (like on a deck of cards). 

Monday, 2 November 2015

Happy Halloween

So we had a party to attend on Halloween night and decided we should dress. After the Panther's niece's 5th birthday party we couldn't quite bring ourselves to go home so were on our way to a joint we thought might be a bit happening when we bumped into a lot of similarly dressed ghouls on their way to a party, so we tagged along. It was an old school house party with quiet music and lots of talking. I'm guessing the costumes meant people were less hung up than usual. Best place in the house as usual - swinging between the kitchen (which included a queue for the lavatory) and the roof terrace for smokers (one has to frequent the terrace even if one isn't a smoker - just for the company). We left about 4am without realising it had become so late. The mist had come down and we walked to the bus stop feeling very suitable to the weather, two sheets to the wind, and glad of the back seats of the warm bus once it came. The Panther kept looking at me saying he was trying to see me inside the face. And was greatly looking forward to me washing my face at home. Tres effective make up I think. 

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Two things

Big fad currently seeping into London - the mini-Segway hover board. First time I saw them two men were on their way out in Shorditch (one assumed from where they were) gliding down the road in hats holding umbrellas against the rain. Then next there was a group of seven youths all riding them down the street in Peckham in a range of colours. Yesterday a woman using one along my street at home. These are electric powered boards to assist walking. It isn't as fast as a bike. And it costs nearly £300. The 'riders' stand bolt upright and still (it appears). It's not about tricks (like a skateboard). And it isn't going to transport you for long distances. So I'm guessing in the future when we all need them we will increase our obesity through lack of needing to walk. 

And then, one hopes, that soon we will get a surgence of 'old style' cafes where it is deemed inappropriate to be using a computer or linked into a screen all the time. The cafe opposite work today was filled with single computer users drinking cups of tea (cheapest item on the menu) at each table. A request to share a table was met with a shrug and when my colleague arrived to drink coffee with me the table 'owner' huffed off elsewhere. Perhaps small cafe owners will tire of providing free electricity and wifi and try to get back to encouraging socialising... 

Thursday, 22 October 2015


The halls are full of commuters slowed by the few who can't tear themselves from the news popping into their tiny screens long enough to put one foot solidly in front of the other and join the pace of the road. Trip hazards. It used to be wheelie suitcases. Things have changed. 

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Oddities of Brixton

A man and a kid carry a stack of chairs across the street accompanied by the wife who has two chairs and is walking in bare feet. It's raining. 

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

When is a skirt not a skirt?

Taking the concept of "skirt" to its extremes - she walked through the commuting crowd standing guard at Liverpool street station eyes tied to the departure boards like a hypnotised audience - brown felt floppy hat (hippy variety that seems to be in vogue just now), white crochet cardigan, brown miniskirt that wasn't skimming her bottom, rather more blatantly showing her ass cheeks hanging out as they would in a pair of hot pants a la 1970 beachwear. No visible sign of any undergarments either. And certainly no tights. The voice of a thousand mothers echoed in my head, "you can't go out like that". And then she was gone. The departure board platform numbers rolled over to reveal 3 and the hypnotised moved as one towards the appropriate barriers. 

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Man With Two Umbrellas

The majority of people do not attempt to board the train. I have a connection to make. I squeeze in between a man lisping to his friend - reasoning as to why people wait for every third empty train - and a black woman in a blond wig playing candicrush. 

It's wet. It was wet yesterday. Not when I left home by bike but by the time I was coming home with dirty water spraying up my backside from the wheel. And it's starting out the same today. 

A man sitting. Brown beret. Long thin greying dredlocks. Reading the paper. His jacket is hanging open. He has propped his long umbrella in the crook of his knee and it leads against the glass beside his seat. Then I notice he has a folding umbrella poking out from his inside jacket pocket. The man with two umbrellas. I can't think of an explanation. With a large umbrella you can sheild a companion and yourself comfortably. Why would you need a second one? 

Friday, 4 September 2015


So I'm sitting on a northern line train from London Bridge to Euston (damn lucky to get a seat, think I) and on the right there's a man sleeping who's eyes keep rolling back in his head and an umbrella in his backpack who's handle keeps hitting me on the arm. And on the left is a woman playing candicrush with an umbrella in her bag who's handle is poking me in the other arm. Feel like I'm in the middle of a joust. 

Wednesday, 2 September 2015


I wrote a lot more than normal in August. Its because I was miserable. I have always written more when miserable. For a month I have been struggling with the sudden departure of the panther. Sudden and all-encompassing. I've talked a lot. Spent time considering why. Figured out how I actually felt. 

And then there was the slow return. At first difficult, unhappy, angry. The juxtaposition of the passion felt. In fact a passion still, just one from suddenly unrequited love rather than mutual love. I had a hole, and filled the void with old friends who listened (thank you all) and understood also. I felt stronger, even though abjectly lonely. Men kept insisting on speaking to me, its something to do with the damsel in distress signal that I must have been putting out accidentally. So I then started feeling attractive despite the pain. I occupied myself, however I saw fit, on my own whim. Cycled, spent all day in the pub for Leo's birthday, went to Norfolk and swam with the seals, saw a band playing in Brick Lane, bought their CD, went to the Curve Garden in Dalston, went to a gig, ate out, threw myself on the mercy of friends and family in search of entertainment and cheering up. 

I decided not to jeopardise what I really really wanted by messing about with people from whom there was no spark. 

And the panther wanted to see me, weekly at first. Despite my pain I agreed. It seemed to help me deal with the never coming back thing by seeing him in his different state. It didn't quite appear that his chosen path was making him happy but that was his choice. We started talking in more depth than we ever had. 

At the end of his visits I was having to get ready to go out. We would ride the bus to Seven Sisters together. Parting would seem like the old days with a long look back. Once there was a long kiss watched by a newspaper distributer who sighed as I went down into the tube. There was sorrow. And regret. And lots and lots of talk.

Then there was realisation. Of love potentially lost. Of a happier time. Of deeper meaning. Of great desire. From both parties. 

And today, we are on the third day of his return. New harmony, or perhaps restored harmony. With greater understanding. Deeper. More meaningful. Having remembered what it was all about in the first place. So we embark once again on a reconciled path. 

Tuesday, 1 September 2015


I've never seen that before, he said, tears well up like a pool in the basin of the inner eye before running over. He is smiling. It's beautiful, he said. And leaned down to kiss her. I'm sorry, she said. He stroked her hair and wiped away the trail of salty water. 

Saturday, 29 August 2015


There's a girl sitting next to me with an angry red spot on the side of her mouth. 

Kebab shop in Stoke newington with 8 Turks in white teeshirts and paper hats waiting for the early evening crowd. 

A woman with check trousers and a bare lower back where her tan jacket doesn't join walks along while trying to smooth her hair against the rain. 

Reminds me of the warm rain drops falling on my bare shoulders while I gardened this afternoon. 

Pink hair holding hands with her boyfriend wearing his hoodie like a kid being batman.

Everybody waiting to cross the road. Man in bike, red hood. Blue anorak. Shopping bags. Blond hair. Black boy. All looking right. 

Station attendant on a cigarette break having a long look at a large ass walking by dressed in tight black leggings. 

Bus stop - scene of the man running up after I'd gotten on the bus - shouting  - that woman! Turning to my companion that evening urgently saying - I've seen her before you have to give me her number - she's my ideal woman. My companion didn't. But was intrigued at such outpourings. 

Man handed back his mobile phone after the Chinese takeaway proprietor shouted after him - must have left it on the counter.

Tight striped pencil skirt and very straight hair walking accompanied by a man riding a bicycle very slowly along beside her. 

Canal - long expanse of murky green into the distance. Narrow boats.

Tall bush of red geraniums in a window of St Leonard's Hospital. 

Man in a navy blazer, driving a blue jaguar. My father's car is a jaguar. Kate and her elocution lesson rings in my ear.

One Good Deed Today the neon tells me.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Magic Wand

Just when I hit the depths of misery that was becoming unbearable to even myself, let alone all the people I had unleashed it upon, a jeweller I know came for a meeting and was carrying a piece of live edge plastic. Curious to the point of nosiness I asked her if she was taking it back to her studio and what she was going to do with it. She said that actually it was a magic wand and she was indeed returning it to the studio - it was her daughter's and she had now grown out of it. Incredulous I said, "what?! No way." Whereupon Vicky said it's fairly pointless material because when you chop it into smaller bits there isn't enough shaft to focus the light in this way as it does whole. "But it's lovely", I said. You can have it, she said. And my heart skipped with glee, I'm not sure why. A tiny drop of magic in a gloomy time. I carried it around all day, it's end gleeming in this weird unnatural way. Magic wand transferred from teen to ever so grateful 45 year old. 

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Hoxton Beard - the end

Woke to a huge commotion - next doors dog scrabbling up against their garden fence and a massive thud on my mat. IKEA delivery of a new catalogue. Flicking through before relegating it to the recycling I noticed that the male catalogue models were sporting a lot of Hoxton beardage. Even the cover boy. If that is not a clear, CLEAR, indicator that the Hoxton beard has ceased being ironic and should forthwith be shaved off I don't know how we can let them know. 

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Day 18

It's been 18 days since the panther left. I've seen him twice. I'm getting worse rather than better. I realised I've never really been left before. Not when I wasn't ready. There have been fizzling-outs. There have been mutually agreed endings. I have dumped people (and it was necessary at the time but boy I didn't realise how painful it might be for the other party). But left, no. 

It has raised up all sorts of weird connections with death - reminding me of the grief I felt/feel at the loss of my mother. 

I'm very conflicted - feel I should move on and yet can't (I know it's soon but the abject loneliness is extremely hard to bear) - it feels like waiting-in-case is the thing the body, head and heart wants to do. I remember when my mother died I was desperately upset that we cremated her body because it meant if she wanted to return we had gotten rid of her body so she couldn't (and I don't even believe in an afterlife - it was just some irrational fear). So doing something that may jepordise a return is not a current option. I can but hope that will not last for months. Moving on is a must. I can't live a life on hold.

And no amount of anyone telling me there are plenty more fish in the sea, or it's not you it's him, or any of the other platitudes people tell you that are supposed to ease your pain and make you realise that they are on your side, makes the blindest bit of difference to the void and pain that sits in the chest resting heavily there like a lead weight. 

Victoria Line

On a normal day at a normal time of year the platform may have a queue of people one deep spread along the whole length of seven sisters southbound platform. Some of these will only get in the approximately 1 in 4 trains that start there.

It's August and they are doing engineering work on the northern end of the line. All trains start at seven sisters. And all the people from Walthamstow Central, Blackhorse Road and Tottenham Hale are being bused over to seven sisters. The station is crowded. And those from the burbs seem to walk about more slowly. As a usual passenger from the station I'm finding myself falling over people at my usual pace. I was told on the weekend that perhaps I should think about the opposite - what a nightmare it must be for those from the burbs to have to share their journey into the station with all the angsty tottenhamites they never had to meet before!

The platform is two or three deep but all the trains come in empty and can accommodate everyone so once we all get on the train and set off its just like normal again. Although it does seem a little dress-down-August-y. 


We crowded on. Standing around the central pole. Next stop a very short woman got on. Face down to the floor. Stood by the pole but didn't get a grip. When the train lurched forward she staggered backwards and grabbed hold of my upper thigh to stop herself falling over. It made me feel both slightly inappropriately touched and like a pole - in an inanimate sort of way. A fellow passenger smiled at me once we had all recovered our composure. The little woman didn't look up once. 

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Naked girl

So our building has just had its windows replaced with new sparklingly clean uPVC versions that are actually totally in keeping with the original rotten wooden ones from 1869. 

I have mentioned that across the street from my office is a young woman who seems to forget that our building overlooks hers. I've seen her fresh from the bath, combing her hair looking in a mirror propped up against the window without a stitch of clothing on and the cat rolling itself across her skin. I've seen her get up and throw on a teeshirt and deal with something on her roof terrace only to turn around and head back through her French doors flashing her naked behind. I've seen her rolling out of bed at 11.00am on a weekday and being a naked sleeper, she's nude. I've seen her in her altogether more times than I care to mention.

This week I was talking on the phone in the office standing up looking out of the window. I like to rest my eyes looking at the Shard. Movement in her window drew my attention from the perifory, I turned my eyes rather than my whole head to see a naked young man lay back across the bed and she put a knee down on either side of him and slide her naked self over him to rest chest to chest, her butt in the air. And then they looked out of the window and looked directly at me. They went from disbelieve to nervous laughter and then drew the curtains. So finally they discovered that people might be able to see them. Perhaps I should have sent them a note. I have been tempted to put letters in my window spelling out I CAN SEE YOU but I never did. Since this meeting of eyes they have been much more discrete! 

Street music

So in going about this week I was persuaded to buy two cheap CDs after listening to live music being performed. Just to remember the sound by.

On Sunday I was wheeling the bike down brick lane through the massive throng that it is - food stalls, trendy shops, craft beers. Came upon a band playing on a corner playing funky rock tunes. Three up front all with big Afros and a drummer. I listened. It's the kind of music that just gets into your skin and makes you want to dance around. And then there was the hugely sexy guitar player. The crowd moved about between songs and at the end I decided to get a CD. They were The Thirst. And i wish they had some gigs coming up before December because they may be one of those bands that just has to be seen live.

On Tuesday I swang by the Dalston Curve Garden after eating with my dad. It was having an acoustic music evening. It was drizzling. The queue for drinks (elderflower cider I ended up with - that wasn't bad) was long and the first band was a bit too miserable for my current state of mind. But the garden itself was a tranquil idyll and at 10ish some musicians started fiddling around on the stage and then broke into a most amazing sound - driven by a drummer without a mounted drum kit that included a cymbal on the floor that he still managed to make ring, and some roasting tins. The sound was like techno dance music - accompanied on some kind of vibraphone and a guitar. Really got the young hippy crowd dancing. Truely remarkable sound from live instruments. Street Kit Project - well worth catching if you can find them. 

Thursday, 6 August 2015


People that know me would be surprised to discover that I have taken to riding up and down the streets, towpaths and byways of London on two wheels powered by my own energy. But that is what I am doing. It's an activity that gives a sense of freedom, it's outdoors, wind in your hair. 

Yesterday I cycled to work - that's Tottenham to Peckham. 13.6 miles one way (if you don't get lost - which I did). Totally energised by the time I got to work. Strangely. 

At the top of Stamford Hill after the slight but persistent incline (not fit enough yet to make it all the way up sadly!) I suddenly discovered that I couldn't push my foot round the peddle because it was tied by the shoelace to the pedal - I did manage to freewheel onto the pavement and then because I am so right footed attempted to stop on the right (trapped) foot and therefore fell off in what I like to think was an elegant sprawl (oxymoron I know). Sitting on the ground with the bike between my legs I found I had to get my shoe off in order to release myself. I started laughing. And then found there was a van with a driver sat inside watching. He mouthed, "are you ok?", to which I answered yes. Embarrassing. But not injured, I carried on. 

By the time I got home I had done 26 miles - that's a marathon. I've never self-propelled myself that far in one day in my entire life. It was epic. 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015


Dad was trying to get her to eat slightly runny fried eggs on toast. She was easily distracted. 

I like your hair she said turning to me. Thank you I said.
I like your dress (it was purple with sequins - rather too Saturday night for Sunday morning breakfast). 
Why are your teeth brown? She asked, her father cringed, I laughed. My right front tooth is discoloured slightly - not brown by a long shot but more cream than the rest of them. 
It's not real I said and it's gotten discoloured.
Eat some more egg, here mouth open. Her father is desperate to distract her. She turns to my companion.
I like your hat. He says he likes hers also. She turns back to me.
Why have you got dots? She is looking at my freckly arms. I laugh. My companion laughs. For her father it's the last embarrassment straw he can handle
Let's go to the park... And off they go. Kids. Hilarious. 

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Mascara bar birthday bash

Is it always a blond who starts the dancing in an empty dance floor?

Is it more pleasant emptish but marginally cooler or more fun packed and sweating?

Boy (actually aged 26) celebrating his birthday bounding around having a most excellent time is chucked out for what seems like over-exuberance. 


Woke with a vengeance this morning to a reality I haven't felt in 10 months - of loneliness without a partner with whom I'd been sharing a life which I hadn't realised was a fairytale. Such promising beginnings ended, in my opinion prematurely, with me being unceremoniously left without a possibility of persuasion. 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015


New windows, removed scaffolding. Bright. Clear view. On the pavement outside the cafe opposite the foreman of our building works and the surveyor from the Council have a meeting while drinking infinitely superior coffee than they might get from our building and bask in the morning sunshine. Miss Tapas next door is having food delivered from an organic supplier. The woman with the roof terrace over the cafe comes out of her French doors potters around for a minute holding down the front of her peach coloured tee shirt. Steps back inside, revealing a naked white bottom, and props the door open for ventilation. Next to the chimney stacks and across from the tree line the Shard has a facia of sheer silver - a silver sliver - where the sun hits it on one plane only. 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Afternoon Blues

Across the street from my office the row of once Little Lagos inspired shops are being taken over by the arty gentrifying sprawl from Bellenden Road. We now overlook a suitably expensive cafe, a male grooming parlour which does hair and beards and a tapas restaurant. 

The tapas restaurant has started the formalisation of the outside areas with a raised outdoor seating area claded in decking. Great spot for catching the mid afternoon sun. 

A couple were seated drinking coffee and waiting for their nibbles. A normal couple in all ways - tee shirts (navy and marl), shorts and trainers, mousy crew cut slightly balding, blond ponytail. While waiting she breastfed the baby under a floral sack, and he smoked a cigarette while shading himself with a navy blue parasol. 

And then a car pulls up blaring out blues music sung in a deep baritone and a sensual loosely strung electric guitar. John Lee Hooker. A peep out the window reveals a black hard top MG. After three loose gangly tunes that really started getting me going the driver returned, got in, slammed the door with a solidly satisfying thud, turned the engine over (causing a pause in the music), and roared away. Leaving behind the street chatter and the disappointingly  tinkly notes from the barbers.

Friday, 10 July 2015


Extraordinarily controlling African dad - tall and imposing - barking orders at his extremely well behaved children - sit there, don't open that now, eat the melon, use the fork your hands are filthy, hurry up and finish it we are getting off next stop, son are you hearing my words?, close it now, put your fork in there, you are not wearing this headband tomorrow, carry it outside.... Not a moment of silence and not a flicker of a smile the whole way. 

When they got off their seats were taken by a girlcat wearing black furry ears with a gold bell inside and her boyfriend. 

Weapon collection

There's this red wheelie bin outside Tottenham police station that says "deposit weapons here". I understand they may be running an amnesty or something but what's to stop someone collecting rather than depositing? Or running off with the bin itself and collecting all of them? Seems slightly flawed system to me. 

Wednesday, 8 July 2015


Quietly sitting contemplating the trajectory of two flies caught in the skylight. Earlier sleeping in a chair dappled sunlight played across my eyelids. Now I have an itch to be on the move again. Too long in one place lets the brain get busy in a negative way. 

Overground travel

There's a baby on this mid-day overground train that is doing a fantastic impression of a Wookiee exerting a throaty rolling sound most like Chubaka. 

I'm off home before the tube strike kicks in. 

Tuesday, 30 June 2015


Now I know we are supposed to call tramps homeless people or street drinkers or other more politically correct but less evocative things, but there was this tramp. In Stockwell. Grey skin, thick with ashy dirt, long matted grey beard, long matted grey hair, grey track pants, dirty shirt not done up, huge belly. He came out of a telephone box (one of the new kinds with clear glass doors and an advertisement on one window) and poured a bottle of very yellow frothy liquid down the drain outside, leaving his filthy belongings on their trolley in the phone box. Living in the box I guessed. Life. But not as we know it. 


In the beginning of the relationship of Hurricane the Tempest (that's me) and the Panther (that's him), way back in October, I put a note in my calendar that said Panthers bday. He added a little bit into that entry that I saw at some point one day that said I hope we are still together then

This weekend we had a big party hosting everyone he knows for his birthday. BBQ on a hot afternoon with music provided by a couple of DJs. Bothered some of the neighbours a bit, council noise team came round. We said goodbye to the last guest at 3am. Jolly good time had by all. Including the Panther, which is pretty difficult as a host. 

Friday, 12 June 2015

People love a revolving door

From a small half hour study I have concluded that faced with a revolving door, a wide open door and and automatically opening door the vast majority of people will still opt to exit or enter through the revolving door even though it is one of those sorts that fits more than one person in each segment and stops if people get too near the edges. People must love the revolving door still! 

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Commuting woes

I find myself at Canada Water overground station in a state of total upset, unable to stop tears coming because of the stress of trying to get to work. It's completely ridiculous. I have been travelling for an hour and a half now. I have been in crowded buses and walked faster than it at the end. I have missed the more straightforward connection that would get me there on time and taken an alternative route through the abject chaos that is Londonbridge at the moment. At London Bridge at 8.56 there wasn't a train to Peckham until 9.16. There used to be a train every 10 minutes. The unhelpful guard disagreed but I have been using that service for 10 years. So I went back to the overground from London Bridge to Canada Water only to find the next train was over 10minutes away and not due until 9.23. 

Second day in a row. Several weeks in to a absolute hatred of our transportation system. I'm over an hour earlier today and the journey is worse than when I leave later. More crowded, no seats, more grumpy. I feel lack of control. Perhaps I should cycle (it's a damn long way is the main issue and I'm not that good at it at the moment). 

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Soho Stories

The Observer had an article this Sunday celebrating Soho as they knew it. Its an area that while I don't feel I 'lived' in I certainly had an affinity for. An art student in London has to frequent the areas that seem to be on the seedy, arty, trendy, hidden and naughty side of life. Reading the article I was reminded persistently of time spent there.

My Pops tells stories of meeting my mother, invited to make up a party of 6, at dinner while he was on a business trip from America. They were dining at a restraurant on Rupert Street with  Irma Kurtz (who is writing about her search for bohemia in the 1960s in soho). I'm not doing his story any justice but the crux of it is that they met in May at this dinner and four weeks later got married and she went to join him in Chicago. Without this meeting there would be no me, so I guess I am indebted.

My mother always went back there on and off but I didn't realise its significance until very recently (new man asking questions about the love at first sight thing elicited much information from my father - very interesting how we don't question our parents enough when we have the opportunity).  She used to take me to Maison Bertaux when we went shopping in Oxford Street. Very good french patisserie. Looks like it hasn't been renovated since the 1950s - still cream shiny satin paint on the walls, uplighters, glass shelves in the windows and marble tops to keep the cream cakes cool. We would have a coffee and a chocolate eclair (long been my favourite) and squeeze in somewhere upstairs ususally. My sister hated it - feeling it was too pretentious for its own good (bah humbug her). Michele Wade writing about her cafe in the observer is always there, and always was as I remember. Posh but not rich seeming, eccentric, hairdo from a bygone era. It's quiet, cramped and slightly uncomfortable but worth it for the eclair. When I was at college I used to go there with Georgia. Lately I haven't been.

Georgia and I used to spend an in ordinate amount of time in the Spice of Life pub (Cambridge Circus). Having recently met at Middlesex Poly's art foundation I bumped into her properly in the Spice of Life one Saturday (can't remember who brought me there). She was wearing tortoise shell glasses with no glass and was with a friend called Tracey. We hit it off from then. Drawn to its fantastic punk juke box downstairs. Liked the fact that it was in the Sex Pistol's film. We played Pretty Vacant, White Riot and I've got a silver machine (forgotten the name) and sang along at the tops of our lungs (always thought they were singing we're so pretty, oh so pretty, vain cunts until I realised one day it was pretty vacant). I only drank coke but seemed to be drunk on sugar. Georgia drank as much beer as she could get. There was a barman who served in the basement who gave me free drinks. He was a film student and gave me his number on the same day as I met my first boyfriend, sadly I never rang him.  We also used to go to the Dive Bar under the The King's Head on Gerrard Street until it shut down. And when they renovated the Spice of Life, sucking all its great old history out of it we moved on to the Intrepid Fox where we fitted in just fine because we had started dying our hair pink and orange and felt an affinity with the old punks that hung out there. Once Georgia went to Brighton to a degree and I stayed on at Middlesex Uni I brought my next great buddy Bails there and we continued hanging and revelling in the dark music.

Bails and I also came to Berrick Street a lot - I liked buying cloth - the Cloth House being one of the greatest for unusual and exciting fabric - a shop on Royal College Street in Camden (that my mother first took me to) and on Berrick Street. We would get a box of food at Beetroot - vegetarian, wholesome, cheap, stuffed! And then go do whatever it was Saturday held for us (watching arthouse dirty movies often - In the Realm of the Senses in a cinema near the Trocodero - sitting next to a businessman who couldn't quite get over the film all the way through, "she's not going to do that, oh my god she is", watching through his fingers). Eating supper at Garlic and Shot (roasted garlic - yum, breath - deadly).

There was the great Going Out Fridays of Lewisham College (staff reliving our youths) where more than once I ended up after a long night of alcohol and dancing in dodgy underground nightclubs drinking coffee outside all night cafes on Old Compton Street with Martin watching the gays and the drag queens waiting for the tube to open so we could go our separate ways. Wet Saturday mornings 6am.

More recently I do less of that but do like to go to the Algerian Coffee Company for ground beans in a mild roast, and buy violet tea. Sometimes join the drunk and disorderlies for a Sunday drink in Rupert Street, visit Fopp on the way to Seven Dials. Its an area like no other and a criminal shame to shape it into something like everywhere else, with chains and all the uniqueness kicked out of it.

Save Soho

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Happy birthday to me

And to Harvey Keitel, Stevie Wonder, Zoe Wannamaker, Yaya Toure, Dennis Rodman and Ravi Shanker. 

It's been lovely. 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015


Having constructed kites (with instruction from my dad's Brazilian lodgers - long tradition of fighting kites on the beaches of Brazil) out of bamboo, tissue paper, sellotape and plastic bags we flew them over Finsbury Park as we recovered from partying over the weekend. 

Part of the joy is that an object made from household materials can fly as high and for as long as they did (baring some snapping of line when one of them was so high you could barely see it - twice ending up across the canal down the hill and in the softball game in the old cricket field). 

These are simple joyous kites - none of the seriousness that my last kite-flying experience had - all professional store bought fancy flexifoils with double strings and too much fancy-pantsing around. These went up with a slight gust and went as high as the line would let it. 

Friday, 8 May 2015

Into Opposition

So the fun of Election Day at seven sisters station is over. Damp, dreary and swarming with Socialist Workers in overdrive warning of cuts and fightback. I've not been aware of the Socialist Workers Party since the long long slog through the Thatcher Tory years and beyond. Back in opposition proper.


There's a woman on the tube wearing a pair of socks with multilayered hamburgers on them and a vampire-teeth necklace. Short hair. Slashed knee jeans. Sunglasses on her head on a rainy day. This would be contemporary vampire. If they existed. 


And now it's all gone a bit blue. Swaths of faces wiped off the political landscape. I never really remember I care that much until the blues get in and then I really remember that it matters a lot. Tired of all these old Etonians. How about more women, more working-backgrounds, more people of colour. 

Thursday, 7 May 2015


All the hoopla of the vote all over Facebook. Colleagues gearing up for The Count (morning work, afternoon off, counting expecting to complete at 4.30am-ish). David Lammy is pressing palms with the undecided outside Seven Sisters station surrounded by a typical gaggle of leftie electioneers. We wait in an-tici-pation (to quote an old unrelated movie). 

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Medical emergency

A man suddenly fell from the seat and started having a fit on the concrete platform of Tottenham Hale station. Waiting passengers rushed to help - put him in recovery position and covering him with a jacket. A train pulled in and I'm guessing they kept space around the man - I was seeing this from the platform opposite. When the train left he seemed to be fitting less. One of the passengers was still on the phone to the emergency services and station staff sauntered up. Two things - fantastic support of strangers and the hopelessness of the staffing at the station - despite being told at the gate immediately nobody rushed to assist. 

Friday, 24 April 2015


So on Tooley Street (very touristy at this time of day) this dark blue old Rolls Royce passed me at the lights. I thought it must be advertising a new "loony" party to vote for in our upcoming elections. Vote National Bird emblazened on its old (looked original) paintwork, with little round pictures all over it with birds in them. Sitting here in Borough with a coffe, chill out music playing and the sun shining I decided to look them up. 

It transpires that Vote National Bird is a campaign to elect a new national bird (potentially). Coinciding with that other big election taking place. In the mid-60s the robin was voted Britian's favourite bird. This campaign is giving you the opportunity to vote again. So if you think another bird ought to be our national bird you should place your vote. 

There are a few to choose from. Barn owl, blackbird, blue tit, hen harrier, kingfisher, mute swan, puffin, red kite, robin and wren. 

I don't know why but I'm drawn to the common ones we see all the time as the ones that ought to be our national bird. So none of these sleek birds of prey, nor the flashy (gorgeous though) fisher or puffin, nor the aristocrats that belong to the queen. So it's between the blackbird, blue tit, robin and the wren. I see them all in our Tottenham garden. Wrens being the shyest. Blue tits are cute. And between the blackbird and the robin I'd still probably pick the robin for its nosiness and neighbourly behaviour. 

Tuesday, 21 April 2015


Early. Day is bright. Sky blue. Coat open. Bus was in good time. Down into the underground. Big crowd being held in the ticket hall. Somebody was taken ill further down the line and the platforms are now over crowded. Eventually we are let through. Our escalator is being refurbished so we have to use the stairs. A kid in front of me isn't slow but does keep stopping and starting. The flow of walking is interrupted. Somehow in the bottom on flat ground I suddenly find myself flung flat on the floor. I have no idea what happened and feel a bit of shock. A man leans down, "are you ok?" I think I am. But I don't think I said anything. He asks again. I say yes and look at him. He offers a hand and picks me up. Passes me my paper and bag. Checks one more time I'm ok and rushes off down the corridor in a blur of beige. An older black woman smiles sympathetically and says she hopes my day improves. I would be embarrassed except that it all happened so fast I'm not sure it was real.

Sesame Street

Walking through an estate in the way to visit with an aunt. It's one of those that is in the middle of being redeveloped - there is one tower left in a sea of low rise buildings and a huge fence blocking off the scar left by a previous tower and the most direct routes. We pass a heap of rubbish. Lots of cardboard. A bicycle handle bar is sticking through one piece its wheels just visible below. "Look at that", says the Panther, "a bike dumped here". We stop to look at it. It's scuffed up. And tied to the wall by an inner tube. It doesn't dawn on us quickly enough.  BAM! A flap of cardboard snaps open and a head and torso fall out of the wall shouting, "LEAVE MY GODDAM BIKE ALONE". We jump out of our skins. A real life Groucho living in a hole in a derelict wall. The Panther apologises and assures the man we weren't trying to take his bike. The head and torso are not having it. The Panther reasons that he is with his girl, why would he be trying to take the bike. The head and torso still isn't having it. We walk away apologising all the way. Once round the corner we laugh out our shock. The Panther is amazed by what just happened - he says all he is thinking through the whole altercation is OMG look how the man is living.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Long Lost Film

I watched a film once. A cowboy film. It was shown on TV (in the days when that sometimes happened). It was hilarious, I remember (we are talking maybe 30 years ago). I remember nothing much about it apart from I laughed out loud and there was a character called Handsome Stranger in it who wouldn't notice the leading lady's blatent attempts to get him in the sack. Anyone i ever asked thought it must be Blazing Saddles (it wasn't).

So today for some reason I typed "Handsome Stranger" into Google and do you know what? The oracle (otherwise known as Deja Reviewer) told me the name of this long lost movie - The Villain, a 1979 movie staring Kirk Douglas chasing Charming Jones and Handsome Stranger (played by Arnold Swartzenegger would you believe) in an attempt to get their money. It's really a real live action version of Roadrunner and Wiley Coyote cartoons (which might be why it appealed to my 14 year old self).

See it on uTube. 

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Crazy laughing

It's the morning rush hour. Walking fast along the platform and jumping into the tube train as far towards where I need to alight as I can get before the doors close. A man gets on behind me. Slightly odd look about him. A tooth sticks out beyond his closed lips. Boggly eyes. As the tube train doors shut something tickles him and he begins to laugh heartily. He laughs long enough for the other passengers to go from staring in vague disbelief to some catching the infectious laugh finding themselves tittering to themselves and others burying themselves in their papers or music. Then he stops. The momentary reconnection to each other evaporates. At the next station people crowd on shoving and standing like rocks holding  space like their lives depend on it. 

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Ode to City and Islington College Thursday Evening (and one yearofWednesday evenings) Ceramics Class

So the news is bad. Despite over 3500 petition signatures (some of whom are huge in art and ceramics circles including but not limited to: Grayson Perry, Edmund de Waal, Carol McNicoll, Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton, plus thousands of outraged and supportive fellow not-such-big-names), a decent protest and lots of social media & old media rabble rousing, meetings with local councillors, letters to MPs, management, the Principal and the Governing Body, the college has pushed ahead with it's planned closure following the end of its brief and swiftly organised (non)consultation.

We have one week left of term. And then that is the end of it. RIP.

I have attended this class since academic year 2006/07 which is an astonishing 9 years (I always think its more like 6).

The first term I attended there was an influx of us - a couple working in regeneration, an architect, a couple of secondary school teachers. Large personalities, talkative. The class was lively, friendly, we learned from each other as well as from our tutor.

The second term had quite a few of us returning but also some other new people. It kind of reverted back to what a traditional pottery class is like - lots of people into their individual endeavour, rarely looking up from the clay, little interaction. We practised our skill. I missed the camaraderie of the previous term. With the tutor we invented the "5 minute exercise" - a short slot in the middle of the class where we did a group activity which was designed like 30 second life drawing exercises to loosen us up, meet one another and do something less navel gazing for the briefest period of time. Some of them gave me ideas that I expanded - make 10 things in 10 minutes, coil as high as you can in 5 minutes - others were just silly but fun - throw a pot with a partner - one hand each, in a group without looking at each other, one makes a head, one makes a torso and the other makes the legs, then join it all together. We even made a minute version of Antony Gormley's field using the instructions he gave for making the little gorms. We also started a blog - first a flickr page, later a blogger blog when the college system banned flickr. It grew into a valuable community of practice where each member of the class could load up their own pictures, describe the making and glazing process (if they chose to) and get feedback. These additional activities brought back the fun of the first term and made the class less cliquey. The blog also charts the progress and achievement made by the individuals in the class (if they chose to upload their work) over time.

In the last term I decided to round off the work by going back to where I began to truly like ceramics. The first pot I thought was pretty successful was the first naked lady pot. I used life drawings from the previous class I did to make motifs for pots - I used them over and over refining across a number of different objects. This term I made a naked man pot. A full circle.

Naked Lady Pot

Giant Pot
Naked Man Pot

And in between I have channelled the frozen planet, things that live under the sea, desire to join different types of clay together, urge to build tall things, big things, things with handles, go small again. 
Wavy Urn

Wavy Stalked Urn
Frozen Planet Pot

Hour - 60 things made in 60 minutes
Cracked pot
After Jamon
Zebra pot
salt firing - pinch pots
And experimented with firing techniques.
Raku pot
Norfolk beach smoke firing
And more than the creative outlet of making things in clay, there is a core group of people who have attended alongside me for all or quite a lot of the time I have been attending. I can't remember when exactly that we began going for a drink after class. Several years, it felt like, going for a beer at the Arsenal Tavern after class - a non-busy pub on non-match days, who would cook chips for us before they closed the kitchen at 10. Became known as the mouse pub due to the pests that lived in the saloon bar - often to be seen scarpering across the back edge of the room late in the evening. When new cohorts joined the drinking fraternity we would say we are going to the Mouse, and nobody ever knew of The Mouse on Blackstock Road - we had to revert back to its real name. After a time we discovered a neighbourhood pizzeria where we could get a slightly more hearty meal. 

This is the thing about the class - it has given me a creative focus with personal development and great friends. I'm going to miss it.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Reservoir Dogs

We are having a bit of a problem with a gang of black and white cats. They seem to congregate around our house - here they are on the shed roof. Originally this was the favoured spot for the small one in the front, let's call him Mr Blue, to sleep, curled round the solar panel for the shed light (until it fell off). He clearly made friends with, or was initiated, cajoled into joining up with, the two ugly bruisers in the back (Mr Brown and Mr White) - both of whom seem to be stray, large, toms, wary. And then they are followed around by the most friendly Mr Pink, who is actually a girl, recently lost her collar and really really just wants to be in the gang. 

Yesterday evening returning home from Mothers Day visit we found Mr Pink I sitting in the rose bush by our front door, then saw Mr Brown and Mr Blue eyeing us from the porch roof, turned round and saw Mr White sleeping on our neighbours porch roof. I stroked Mr Pink's foot and she couldn't help herself but purr. Then all the others got nervy and ran off over the garden fences followed by Mr Pink. 

We know Mr Blue belongs to our neighbours (along with the blond Alsatian who would like to join but finds himself the wrong species). But why the others have all clubbed together I don't know. 

This morning they had a face off with a ginger cat. Clearly the wrong colour. Wouldn't want to mess with the twotone by inviting other colours to the gang (now I'm imagining ska music as their favourite).

Tuesday, 24 February 2015


I went to sleep thinking about firsts - all the little firsts that add up to the building of a relationship. The first sighting. The first kiss. The first time to say "I love you". These milestones have been gobbled up at a rate of knots.

Then there are the ones which signify an actual significant relationship - first meeting of the family, for instance (although I don't make it such a big deal with my own father). But the first meal cooked for the panther's mother seemed like a pretty significant milestone (it went well - lovely afternoon and evening).  Living together. (This has always seemed like a massive step with much deliberation required - strangely this time we just did it because we really seemed to not want to sleep apart from the other - to which there was a simple solution - don't).  I used to feel possessive of my space but find I'm not with the panther. 

Last  week we passed the one that is about nursing one another through illness - I was struck down by food poisoning (vomiting, diahrea, and sometimes, sadly, both at the same time), once I felt just about back in the land of the living he came down with it. So we now have experience and knowledge of how to care for the other (neither of us is a hibernator who takes themselves off until they are well again). 

Monday, 23 February 2015

50 Shades of Rubbish

Worth avoiding at a cinema near you now: Fifty Shades of Grey. This trilogy should stop believing its own hype.

So I read the first book. It was on the shelf of a lovely house in France where I was staying and we laid by the pool sunbathing for hours and I read all my books before the end of the holiday. So I read this just to see what it was like. I thought the writing was poor, the sex scenes were pretty repetitive and used some irritating terminology over and over. And in essence it was a love story where a virgin falls for a man and they eventually get it together. With some lightweight sado-mascicism thrown in - all be it in a female clichéd fantasy of red velvet 'play-rooms', leather horses and mechanical winching devices. I had no desire to find out what happened next.

We went to see the film. Out of interest. On a recommendation from some much younger people. The panther was the only man in the cinema. I found it somewhat boring. For a film classified as an 18 I didn't expect all the sex scenes to be truncated (never saw below his waist). I'm sure I've seen films with male full frontal before (I'm thinking of Room with a View and a party of naked men running round a bathing pond, or Eyes Wide Shut). I believe there has been female genital on film also (remember the hoopla of Sharon Stone's leg crossing in Basic Instinct). The film purportedly about sex with many sex scenes, turned out to be decidedly untitilating in any way. 

Little on screen chemistry, a totally unbelievable leading man (far too young, not half good looking or striking enough, unconvincing in the extreme) and a sort if rag doll of a leading lady who had little of the vulnerability of a supposed virgin. She was sort of just awkward. 

This had neither sex appeal, titilation (I'm not turned on by yuppy banker sorts and their steel and glass minimalist penthouses), nor the trappings of any fantasy. It reminded me too much of American Pyscho. 

Later in discussion with the youths who recommended it I realised that having seen much more film than them I have too many to compare it to that were more sexually appealing to me. I'm thinking perhaps of the French film The Hairdresser's Husband, scenes from Betty Blue, Daniel Day-Lewis in The Unbearable Lightness of Being or indeed in My Beautiful Launderette, parts of Room with a View. Even the fantasy of Moulin Rouge. I'm forgetting where the real sex appeal in film is perhaps but these come to mind as films that whetted the appetite. 

Too linear. Too little fantasy. No on-screen chemistry.

I'm upset that women are falling into this trap of thinking that its such a risqué fantasy to play a submissive to this powerful rich man. Isn't that just an old rehashed 1950s female desire (marry a man who will look after you, have children, be chained to the kitchen sink). Aren't there any more exciting, nay modern female fantasies we could explore?

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Electric shock

I just got an electric shock from my cooker - I had to clean it after our mammoth marmalade making session yesterday. Marmalade is very sticky and it's hard not to get it places it shouldn't be when you are putting it in jars - I washed the cooker buttons and the hob. After this the igniter seemed to be stuck down because all the rings were sparking continuously even when lit. I foolishly pressed the ignighter button to see if I could flick it back out. It wasn't stuck in but I got an electric shock through my finger. In the best "don't know what to do" response that I have I'm going to turn of the cooker and leave it, hoping it will stop that silliness by tomorrow having dried thoroughly...

It turns out that this is indeed one of the perils of cleaning the cooker. Normality restored by morning when it had dried.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

One of those days

Its one of those days, packed into a crowded commuter train with view only of the details of those around you. And I want to advise them and neaten them up. Polish your shoes - they won't give you away then. Cream your hands. Get some cuticle cream and try not to chew them off. Mints will help your smoker's breath. Don't cuddle your cat with your coat on. Look at your face after you have shaved and towelled it dry - get rid of the towel flint. But I keep it to myself. Like the rest of the travelling hoards. 

Tuesday, 3 February 2015


Crushed onto the Victoria line, front side crammed against a huge man's back - he is canoodling with his partner and being her rock, back side is providing support for a short stocky woman with a bag with very sharp corners. I'm holding the pole in the centre of the standing space for no particular purpose since I'm wedged in securely. Listening to the upper notes of a young man's music - he's enjoying it, me not so much. The train lurches to a stop, everyone jiggles about a bit, and big sigh, I can breathe again and stand on my own two legs.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Save Ceramics Department Petition

Please sign this petition to the City and Islington College Government and managers asking them to stop the closure of the ceramics department. 

See this link about why I have signed it. 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015


It's all about the lips this morning on the tube. The man reading silently but moving his lips. The pale pink high gloss pouty lips with lipstick over the edges in an attempt to even up the scale of the top with the bottom. And the incredibly bright pinky red slightly unevenly applied so that one edge is thinner than the other. It reminds me of my life drawing tutor telling me that all parts of the body should be drawn in equal density so nothing particularly draws the eye (we were talking penis at the time) - makeup should be the same I reckon - don't really want lips to blare out over eyes.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Ceramics class

I have been attending a class at City and Islington College for the last seven years. It's a ceramics class. We have always paid full-fees and not been subsidised by the government quango the Skills Funding Agency and therefore not subject to the same rules as that provision (unlike the vast majority of provision in the college).

This week we found out that the college intends to close the department and turn the studios into additional classroom space that can be used to align more closely to the college vision, and provide more space for short qualifications and their exams. This they justify because of the way they have aligned their overall vision to the funding they draw from the Skills Funding Agency. So in a cold business sense they are considering their unique selling point as a place where young people can gain skills that lead them directly into employment and that their main resource is the space they have which therefore means it can be better utilised to meet that vision.

They also made an argument that the ceramics department is costly to run, doesn't have enough measurable achievement in terms of qualifications gained and progression to higher levels or further study in more "useful" curriculum areas. And has too many persistent repeat learners (clearly a sign that the students are not  learning anything - so the report claimed). I know this argument  from where I work - we can only claim funding for a learner for one 10 week course in any one academic year, if they do another course we get nothing for them. However we could deliver non-subsidised courses if we had learners who were willing to pay for them.

I wanted to answer to some of these assumptions. Starting with the one about achievement and progress.

Ceramics is a skill-based course which means that in a mixed ability class (as ours is) the students who are starting benefit from the experience of the ones who have been studying longer. We are not on an accredited course so nobody is taking an exam at the end. And we set targets and goals through an individual learning plan that is commonly used in the sector to measure achievement and on-course progression. 

My personal achievement and progression can be seen clearly when you look at the first pots I made and the ones I am making now. 

These are my first pinch pot, first coil pot and first slab pot, in that order.Compare this to my last pinchpots and a few of my latest coil pots.  

We started a class blog way back at the beginning of the time that I have been studying there. As a blogger I thought it would be a great forum to show a chronological and pictorial record of the students' development over time and provide a vehicle for a 'community of practice' where we could share what we made and how we made it - successes and failures - for the benefit of all the students in the class and for reference outside of class time. Thursday Evening Class Blog. This record clearly shows the achievement and progression within class that individually and collectively we have made. Its not a common way of recording and it isn't measurable in the way that the bean-counters of Whitehall recognise.

But personally I believe I have progressed in terms of skill, knowledge and artistic merit when it comes to the practice of ceramics. This I have gained from coming to successive courses and continuing with my own personal development within the confines of a mixed ability class. I now have experince of making glazes and using them in a variety of experimental ways, knowledge about different clay bodies and how they behave, how to combine them. Much better making ability. And a much stronger sense of what I am trying to achieve artistically. The college has always been proud of the work of the ceramics class and has displayed our work in the main entrance of the building. One such display piqued the interest of a passer by so much that he came into the college to find out how much the pot was selling for - it was my pot, we had a conversation, and eventually it didn't work out but with the right setting I also believe there is a market for my pots. This is both progression and achievement. There may not be a job called "ceramicist" that I can take this skill and go and work as, but as a pathway to a potential new type of work this is exactly the way many craftspeople and artists journey to professionalism.  

This class is in the long tradition that we have in Britain of liberal arts education and provision for people, outside of their working lives, to learn skills and subjects for both their own pleasure and for betterment of themselves. We remember fondly the days of the Inner London Education Authority when adults could study all over the capital doing a huge range of courses from foreign languages, reading and writing to photography, fine arts and all kinds of health and fitness. I know many people who are currently working in fields that they got into after attending evening classes, finding a passion and following it through to professional qualification. This includes the tutor of my ceramics class - she started as a student in the provision which she now manages, gradually working up through the department. But I also know massage therapists, counsellors, muscicians, burlesque performers, accountants, social workers, amongst others who have begun their career change with an evening course at a college which didn't specifically lead to a qualification.

The next thing I find I want to answer to is that the only types of courses that are about "employability" are either about reading and writing and maths, or are vocationally driven (accounting, business studies, brick laying, motor mechanics, hairdressing, for example). I am a contracts manager, I work in adult learning. I got a degree in three dimensional design from a good art college. This degree did not prepare me to be a contracts manager, or to know anything about adult learning. But it did provide me with a problem solving type of brain, practical, able to transfer skill from one task to another, to research, write at length and be curious about process.We also had to take part in crits weekly which meant that we were able to stand up in the group present and defend our work. Often in the face of severe criticism. All of which has made me a valuable member of any team I have ever worked in. And no workplace wants a team made up of people with exactly the same aptitudes, skills and experience - different people bring different talents, where would we be without a balance between the plants, implementers, completers and shapers (amoungst others if we are to believe Belbin). The most depressing thing about the state of further education is the total disregard for the value of any type of liberal arts education, or anything that doesn't sound exactly like a job out there in the market today.

We let art education, or music education or craft or any of those types of knowledge disintegrate entirely and we will be left without the ability to be able to teach these skills to the next generation. A dismantled pottery studio, with kilns, wheels, equipment and knowledgable staff can not be easily reinstated without a large investment. When its gone, its gone.

I worry for our large further education institutions. They are both chasing funding and narrowing their scope of delivery. What happens to them when the next funding fad happens? Wouldn't it be better to have a vision that is about education and not about what the main funder wants? Isn't that the better way to cement yourself in your business? I could see a dual purpose college - full of people studying short qualification courses by day so that they quickly achieve a qualification that helps them progress into or within work and full of working people wanting to learn skills in evening courses who can afford to pay full fees for the provision. There, surely, is space for both visions. 

Friday, 23 January 2015

Seven Sisters to Highbury

There's a beautiful woman, perfect cat eyes with a black eye-lined flick from each corner and full kissy lips like Angelina Jolie having morning canoodles on the train with her red haired beardy partner. Her hair is fine and she is wearing it with one of those matty hair-knots caused by pillow-rub in the back - clearly out of bed fast and no time to put a brush through the back of her head.

A Spanish quartet, two girls, two guys, one of whom is leaning against the central pole not realising that people may want to hang on. I place my hand on the pole in the gap where the small of his back is and raise many suspicious glances from the one I assume is his girlfriend. It's just uncomfortable to hang off the overhead bar so this seems a better option. 

A man, a serious man, in work attire gets on at Finsbury Park, topping his outer wear with a blue fake fur hat with plaits coming off the end of the ear flaps and two eyes on the front with those black pupils that shake about with any motion. I find I can't take my eyes off them. 

Thursday, 8 January 2015


The misery of the transportation system brought it's load to bear today. Started with continuing traumas at London Bridge station from the reduction in platforms during their refurbishment. Actually took 40 minutes for a train to my destination to actually leave - 5 services should have departed in that time. We were tantalised with trains, even sat on one only to be told it was being cancelled after all. All the platforms had trains on them. Most left without becoming an advertised service, empty. Nobody knew anything. 

Tried the alternative route this evening. Standing outside stations in the dark waiting to be able to draw up to the platform. 

Listening to two precocious 8 year old girls chatter about their day incessantly in loud voices. Watching this geeky kid on a rubic's cube. I forget about them. I was never good at them. This kid was spinning the sections around in the speedy way the puzzle genii used to, as blocks of colour built on each side. A physical fidget tool. Dextrous fingers flying around the puzzle, stopping only briefly to consider the moves that needed to be made. He then swapped to a smaller 4x4 version. Its kind if nice to see something physical rather than nose deep in a phone. 

Monday, 5 January 2015


First day back to work after the new year was welcomed in. Can't quite remember what we go to that place for. There are tasks, on a computer, which were thankfully written down before we left for the winter holiday. Now I'm used to talking and socialising. You can do a bit of that at work. Catch up on each other's festivities. Mostly, at my work, that's about weight gain. And then about 4 o'clock the back and eyes give out - unused to being upright for such an extended period of time under harsh lighting. Pain in the back of the ribcage and tiredness of eyes. 

Travelling back on the tube I find my body sinking into a stupor brought on by the gently rocking London Overground train. Eyes shut, brain off, hopefully not dribbling...