Friday, 30 December 2005

All I Got for Christmas

So Christmas, holiday of great overindulgence, greed and gluttony, overspending and generosity.

The present thing was fun and then cooking up a storm went with a breeze. It was only later when that heavy stomach feeling started to set in. Not from badly cooked turkey (being a vegetarian, while I cooked it I didn't eat any), but from something else, something indeterminate (perhaps alcohol soaked currents and raisins in a variety of forms) but I have been sick as a dog since Christmas day.

On Boxing Day I had a temperature of 100.5. My eyesockets felt hot. I've been lying pathetically around my sisters house, taking up more bathroom space than is strictly fair, groaning, sipping water.

Its passed now. I'm testing out food and staying away from all things christmassy - mince pies (currenty/raisin/alcoholy), christmas cake (currenty/raisin/alcoholy), christmas pudding (currenty/raisin/alcoholy), alcohol generally, chocolate (and you know how bad that must be for me). Sigh.

Roll on the happy new year (possibly teetotal which will put a great dampner on our idea of first-footing to all my sisters friends in Cupar - I so wanted to be able to be the embarrassing sister tripping drunkenly through people's thresholds with a slurry HAPpy New Year brandishing lumps of coal and first foot gifts (tradition in this part of the world).

We've had a white post-christmas which is nice for a change. Enough for snowball fights (feeble stomach making me a poor shot and an easy target as it turned out), but not quite the right consistency for a whole snowman. And in town I'm pleased to say the young Dundonians are still running around in their shirt sleeves, bare midriffs and inappropriate footware (don't appear to own a coat between them) - glad they're not letting the side down by getting all sensible!

Saturday, 24 December 2005

Merry Christmas

Wishing merry christmas to one and all, I would have posted a very nice picture of downtown Dundee with Christmas lights and everything but I unfortunately brought the USB connector for the wrong digital camera so I can't. Sorry!

Friday, 23 December 2005

Trouser Mishaps

Bails, Amy (my sister) and I were rushing into Tescos to get the makings of Christmas dinner. Suddenly Amy let out a feeble, "I'm really I'm stuck" and Bails and I turned to find her with her flared trouser leg caught in the shopping trolley's wheel. Unfortunately we both collapsed into hysterics, unable to assist in any way until the tears subsided, by which point Amy was more than a little cross with us for just standing there but her plight had been seen by the trolley-man who came rushing to her rescue, "there's nothin' fur it, you'll have to tek your troosers off". Her face went pale for a moment until she realised he was joking. She is persistently telling us off for just standing there, we are mercilessly teasing her about flappy trouser legs and trolley wheels.

Thursday, 22 December 2005

Christmas Travel Chaos

Travelling at anytime is stressful but at Christmas there's the added pressure that everyone else is doing the same. GNER to Dundee. Too many bags to carry easily (Christmas presents can take up a lot of extra space).

My seat booking was printed off a fast ticket machine that was in need of a new ribbon and it was impossible to quite make out the number accurately but I thought it said 34A in coach B. When I got there the seat was actually booked from Peterborough to Dundee. I sat there anyway. All around people couldn't find unreserved seats, couldn't fit their luggage into the meagre racks, or crush their plastic bags, rucksacks and coats into the overhead storage.

Arriving into Peterborough the family withe the actual booking for my seat arrived. Since there were four of them and one of me, I was left seatless. Throwing myself on the mercy of the conductor he had me sit in another empty seat. Until the person arrived who's seat it was (the crush from Peterborough had a hard job getting themselves seated), so he told me to sit in the last empty seat on the carriage. As I sat down the seat owner arrived.

Throwing up his arms he took my baggage and said, "you're coming with me". Gathering up all my gubbins, wishing everyone a merry christmas we set off. Through all the carriages, past disapproving eyes and baggage stacked to bursting, at the doors, in the aisles (much to the conductor's disapproval - health & safety), past the snowboarders standing for the duration, past the man smoking out the open window (on a no-smoking train). Past the restuarant car currently serving first class customers (blue blazers and ladies in red lipstick with maggie thatcher handbags). And finally desposited me in first class.

He put my large suitcase into the ample luggage rack, and left me, refusing a tip but showered with thanks, to sit with the rich folks and the business people (a first class ticket somewhere in the region of £300 for the same journey as I took for £95). Quiet. Far removed from the throng, chaos and cattle herdiness of the economy journey. Here people were reading their complimentary Times newspapers, doing work on their laptops with their complementary cups of tea.

Rich men wear flat fronted navy chords for casuals, or neat jeans with blue sweaters over shirts. No tracksuits. No baggies. No teeshirts.

The stewards bring sandwiches from the buffet car and are endlessly attentive. Free water, tea, biscuits. Waiter chat.

Rather than being crushed in the seat I was free to contemplate the scenery in peace. I found myself contemplating how to never have to travel coach again.

Sunday, 18 December 2005

In Contemplation of Young Love (sort of)

She's tall and lanky standing at the bar playing provocatively with her hair. He's managing to be both laid back and attentive - nonchalantly draped across the bar but leaning in. They smoke the same cigarette. He reaches around her and draws her close.

A jazz band takes over from the DJ - slightly more mellow than what he was playing, less edge. Bails says she's liking it better - she can pretend she's in a film, set in a dark (true) smoky (not terribly) drinking hole (true).

The young couple go off, home presumably, no need to continue this courtship pretence - being as how both parties are clearly very into one another.

Bails remarks she has an awful feeling she might start going through a less fussy phase if she doesn't get some action soon (its been a while).

As the jazz gets more frantic the table behind move on from their obsessive fawning (two girls, 4 chaps - the girls competitively fawning over each guy and then settle on one in particular who has to withstand wandering hands from all directions, not that he was complaining, it just didn't look like he was enjoying it that much) to amateur pornography taking camera phone pictures down the shirts of the girls. When one of the girls goes to the ladies the other reels in the catch - dragging him over to sit in the same chair as her, arms all over him, head on his shoulder. On her return the other girl knows she's lost.

Saturday, 17 December 2005

Fright Night

What started as a cheeky drink after work at the George in Borough - after-work suits crowd, gradually petering out to the desperados (single, or hard drinkers, or works-xmas do's) - ended like a scene out of From Dusk til Dawn in Belushi's. Very occassionally good for an after-everywhere-else-has-shut drink together with a cheesy 80's soundtrack. We found ourselves crushed into a corner with the place overtaken by a faux bling monstrous crowd who I was half expecting to morph into vampires any minute. After one of our party accidentally stepped on the toe of man wearing white shoes and was met with an eye stare that said if you don't apologise now I'll club you with my bottle of beer we decided it was time we slipped away and found our beds. Only then did we find we had missed our transports home by minutes and had to do that horrible thing of travelling into town in order to come back out again in the freezing cold (always forget how cold it feels at night, in winter, when you've drunk a little too much but no enough too much to obliterate all senses and the buses are on their night schedules).

Wednesday, 14 December 2005

Drawn Woman

  • Drawn lips, exaggeratedly eccentuated bow, outlined fuller than the reality, filled in with heavy colour.
  • Drawn eyebrows, sharp thin brown liquid line, arched angle in the middle. Defining a line that doesn't exist in the natural invisible blond eyebrow. No shading to soften the line.
  • Drawn line over the eyelid.
Outlined face.

Sunday, 11 December 2005

Buncefield Explosion

I woke up this morning and looked out at the strangest light. Winter trees bathed in sunlight against a black sky. I took pictures (the difference in colours is from two different cameras - the first two pictures are digital camera the third one is from my phone's camera.

It wasn't until I set off to town and the boyfiend called me saying had I heard about the blast in Hemel Hempsted. I hadn't. But across the sky where I thought it had been black rainclouds it turns out that it was smoke billowing from a massive fuel explosion.

On my way home the sunset was amazing - light catching the low hanging smoky clouds. I bet after the apocalypse the sunsets would be marvellous.

On the news the scenes were truely frightening - flames still shooting up into the sky 12 hours after the blaze had started, firefighters not able to fight the blaze due to its feriocity.

Link to image of smoke plume from space

Saturday, 10 December 2005

Christmas Tree

So I'd popped into Budgens in Crouch End because it just happened to be there at the point where I was changing buses and saved me from having to come out again to food shop after getting home. As I was packing up my bags I overheard a very irate man trying to get across to the shop assistant that he was very unhappy with the christmas tree he had purchased from them earlier. He had gotten it home and started putting it up and it was leaning. It has to be straight, it must be straight, its no good. The shop assistant mumbled something in retort. Irate man went on, it must be straight, I want another one, get me the manager. I felt sorry for the tree, lying in its trolley, still tied up with the nylon netting, being returned for its imperfections.
Martin Millar

Oh my god. I've just found the website of Martin Millar via Leopard Spagetti (having engaged in an exchange about Eccles cakes at Big n Juicy's). [See me name dropping!]

I absolutely loved his books Lux the Poet and Milk, Sulphate and Alby Starvation, back when I was reading novels for pleasure rather than academic texts for homework [note to self: must go on holiday soon so that I have time to read for fun again]. Great books starring punks and London, if I remember correctly. Pacy. Books I had to just keep reading until I got to the end, and then hit by the disappointment that they were finished.

What chance clicking!
Good Bye Routemasters

There wasn't even a model routemaster in Hamley's this evening.

Friday, 9 December 2005

Tube All the Way for a Change

Misty. Damp cold air. Breath streams visibly from the nostrils. Yellow leaves cling to the lower branches, brightness on a dull day. Over the grass in the park the mist is dense enough to be fog. Silhouettes drift out of it every once in a while as someone walks past.

A rare trip to Manor House to start my journey. Walking down into the station you can smell the renovations - drying grout from the new tiles.

Piccadilly Line people sleep while standing up. And bust in through the doors as they are closing. Different to the Northern Line people I normally travel with - far more jeans-to-work types and far fewer suits (I ride the Northern Line between Moorgate and London Bridge - the home of the City folks). Nobody is reading the Metro (in my direct line of vision anyway) - Piccadilly Line people are more bookish (and not Dan Brown either).

Changing between the Piccadilly and Northern Lines at Kings Cross I thought it could just be dress down Friday that accounts for the difference in dress. But then as I joined the Northern Line there were immediately more suits, and women in smart black trousers and high heels, or, in skirt suits, tan tights and trainers (for comfort on the way in to work). And the appearence of the camel coat. Anyone who was slightly alternative alighted at Old Street (media industries).

Thursday, 8 December 2005

The Christmas Decorations

Its that time of year when the office musters some seasonal good will and drags the decade-old decorations box out of storage. Our students all leave tomorrow. They decided today was the day to get festive. The box sat in reception, squashed tinsel hanging over the edge. Someone put together the fake tree and started hanging baubles on it - they managed about 7 before they got bored and wandered off.

I came down to put some letters in the post and was overcome by the sorry state of it all. If you're gonna do it, you have to do it right (and I have to put my horror about fake trees to one side).

Firstly, the person who took the decorations off the tree last year seemed to have grabbed everything that was stringy (bead ropes, lights, tinsel) in one go and slung it in the box all knotted up. Can't believe it. Spent probably an hour un-doing the knots and untangling the almighty mess (even had to resort to cutting the tinsel out).

Secondly, I couldn't believe people didn't know that you have to put the lights on first. Have to admit to saying so quite loudly several times. It was only after someone else randomly came by and commented that the lights should go on first that anyone paid any attention to me (I was getting quite bossy by this point).

Thirdly, I couldn't quite manage to overcome my aversion to fake trees. Really this tree must now have been missing some limbs, or something. And it doesn't have that smell. Thats really part of the joy of it. It wasn't one of those really fake ones either - made of blue something or other with fibre optic lights in the ends which flicker rhythmically - it was pretending to be a real green tree - made of bent wire and something similar to green-grocer's turfy stuff (sorry, the brain is shot to pieces with being ill and its taken me 10 minutes to remember the word for fibre optics!)

So, anyway, eventually I started to get enough on it to satisfy my own personal christmas tree decorating criteria - no "tasteful" colour theming, no leaving decorations in the box, no minimalism - and managed to cover it so much that you can hardly see the crappy fake tree underneath.

Tomorrow we start on those shiny ceiling cut-out decorations (can't stand them really but we've started so we have to finish). The building manager will have to get his ladder out.

Tuesday, 6 December 2005

Bathroom Train

Look one way - consealer on spots, rubbed in, white loose powder brushed across chin cheeks forehead, mirror examination of nose, pale pink blusher high on cheeks, one sweep across forehead, brown eyebrow pencil darkened brows.

Look the other way - yellowy eyeshadow across lids, white eyelash extender, black mascara, mirror examination of nose.

Then a girl across from me was feeling left out and had to apply shiny shiny lip gloss.

Monday, 5 December 2005

West End Cinema

Having a sudden rush of blood to the head we decided to watch a film up West (wallet screams in agony). £12 whole pounds it cost. At this kind of cost you want to know that the screen will be big enough and the seats will be comfortable. And I have to report that we tried the Apollo on Lower Regent Street for the first time since it was renovated. It had everything you could hope for in a cinema - neon lighting and a floor with ingrained sparkles, 50s decor and a bar which changed colours over time. Not crowded. Not smelling of reheated popcorn. No obnoxious youths, no obnoxious anybody in fact. Fabulous toilet facilities. And big red velvet seats with headresting room and rocking motion. New screen, good sound. Not too upset about the cost in the end.

Saturday, 3 December 2005

Pissed Politics

Some pisshead with a can of super and blue plastic bags hanging out of his coat pockets stands swaying slightly on the bus having a debate into his mobile phone, "99% of British, no English, people want hanging back. They want hanging back."

Friday, 2 December 2005

Outside Starbucks

A schlep of young boys splayed across the pavement, sloping along in converse hi-tops and baggy jeans. Laughing, drinking bottled coke - young teenagers excited to be out of school but trying to play it cool.

A sightseeing bus is empty apart from a lone woman with a video camera making one of those long jerky films of a foreign city's streets which is unlikely to be watched by anyone.

My face reflected against the street outside. Unused to my own reflection. I don't feel I look like myself. Glasses throw dark shadows across my cheeks and under my nose. My mouth turns down, which I don't remember.

Inside, a coffee cup is lifted and for a moment its reflection looks like it belongs to the cab driver sitting in traffic on the street outside.

Thursday, 1 December 2005

December the First

Can't believe we are here again so soon. Have been enjoying the weather - it reminds me of the dark, kind of dreary and yet smouldering of Bleak House. Huddling inside with woolly jumpers and the radiator. Getting into root vegetables. Drinking hot tea, well hot anything really.

Wind and rain. Falling leaves. Wet pavements. Always improves London I think. Less of the stifling, sticky, dustiness of a hot summer. Less stink.

We spent a Christmas in Paris once - it was so cold and we were walking everywhere - we'd walk from coffee shop to coffee shop (sometimes not terribly far between) drinking that liquid chocolate that they serve for hot chocolate. Thats the kind of weather I like after a warm summer. Until you start to find yourself waiting at bus stops in the middle of the night with your fingers going blue and your nose dropping off.