Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year

Thanks to Sarah for showing me Maru and the mask. Just look at this ridiculous animal.

Cats are just funny because unlike dogs, they have no sense of humour, so there's something Buster Keaton-like about them.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

On Hockney

I've posted on my neglected Cinderella blog, over here. (Warning - it's a long one.)

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Animals and Children

Because that was an odd post to end the year on, I leave you with this as a Merry Christmas instead, The Animals and Children Took To The Streets.

The Animals and the Children took the Streets, Trailer from Paul Barritt` on Vimeo.

It is a magical, breathtaking show that I've been trying to score tickets for since last year when it sold out at the Battersea Arts Centre. Now it's on at the National. It's absolutely beautiful, featuring live action and animation, references early cinema, expressionism, gorgeous music, brilliant writing, feral children running wild from their ghetto through the wealthy city, and some prescient references to the summer riots.

The play features something called Granny's Gumdrops which some moody, leopardskin clad usherettes handed out in old-fashioned stripey paper bags at the beginning. Everyone munched them before the show started, then realised later on they were a part of the plot - in the story the sweets are filled with drugs to pacify and control the feral children. I loved this interactive joke with the audience.

1927 (the theatre company) desperately make me want to run away to join the theatre. For my Berlin friends, , they are coming to do opera in Berlin next year, get tickets at any cost.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

New Year's Resolutions

Oh I know it's early to be thinking about this, I'm just trying to ignore the whole next few festive days with dignity and look ahead, because they're really just an irrelevance to me - you hear that, rest of the world? You are IRRELEVANT TO ME.

What are New Year's Resolutions meant to be for? Are they meant to be improving, or for pleasure? I don't know. Let's see.

1. Get a job. This is a bit boring actually. Get a job I like. Or at least I can stand?

2. Learn to drive. Really, it's getting a bit ridiculous. Well, I guess I need a job before I can do that, to pay for lessons. Unless I start going out with a driving instructor who'll teach me for free.

3. Go out with someone. Just, you know, dating. Because I'm losing the desire to ever go out with anyone again. Why do people do this again?

4. Travel somewhere I haven't been before.

5. Stop blogging like it's a personal diary. Blogs are so last season anyway, what am I still doing here?


Sunday, 11 December 2011

the end of books

Yesterday I met someone at a party that worked in the same bookshop in Holborn that I worked in 14 years ago - was a Books Etc, now a Waterstones. Apparently one of the guys I worked with is still there. It's quite amazing to think of it. I left for a job in the head office, trained as a TEFL teacher, moved to Spain, came back, did a PGCE, bought a flat, rented it out, left teaching...

... all the while for 14 years he's been commuting to the same place every day, cashing up, serving customers, seeing reps, reporting shop-lifters, directing tourists to the British Museum...For 14 years. The same place.

Maybe I should have stayed there too, I don't know why I thought I should always be somewhere else. I thought maybe I should be earning more money or being more ambitious after the amount of years I'd spent in education and getting qualifications. Though maybe there's nothing better really than working in a bookshop.

Only maybe the bookshops won't always be there. At the party I was talking to someone about my plan to get into library work, and he was asking if I thought physical libraries would exist anymore. Everything is being digitally archived. Eventually there'll be no need for a physical space to go to - they'll go the same way as Our Price and other record shops when CDs then mp3s replaced the need for vinyl. You won't go and browse bookshops for something to read because you'll just download texts onto your Kindle, and if you need something to read for fun or research you can go onto the library's website and it will be online.

It makes me feel desperately sad to see books becoming obsolete. I've no desire to read books on a little electronic device, I like holding them in my hands and turning the pages, flipping ahead to the end of a chapter to see how many pages to go, I like the art work on the covers and the way they look lined up on my shelves. I like reading them in the bath and in bed (usually I find the book on the floor in the morning, a kindle would not withstand this kind of treatment.)

And the thought of all that industry being lost, printers and bookshops and cover designers being gone, would be a tragedy of epic proportions.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Baaaaaaaaaaah, humbug

Everyone is talking about the Christmas dinner, what food they're going to make, what booze they're going to buy, what music they're going to rig up in the hall... But me, I've got to the point where I hate everyone and everything, and only great force of will is getting me up out of bed to work in the mornings.

I'm also avoiding the calls of the agency I signed up with. Jack keeps leaving plaintive messages asking me to call, he has a job lined up for January. I've had enough of schools, and kids, and interviews. I haven't called back in two days. Why won't everyone just leave me alone?

Might be just a little bit S.A.D.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Speaking truth to power

When I was little I have a distinct memory of arguing about something with my dad. I think I was about 7. He was being an insufferable know-it-all about something and I wasn't having it. He said something like
"I'm right because I know."
"You don't know!" I said furiously. "You're not right! You're not God, you know."
He roared with laughter. This phrase entered the family lexicon.

I don't know where this attitude came from, it clearly started early but it hasn't done me any favours over the years. Basically I can't bear arse-lickers, and I don't think being in a position of power automatically earns you my respect or complicity.

Today I had an argument with someone at work who was clearly acting from orders from the top, she asked me to do something which I thought was nonsense and disagreed with, I refused. She was pissed off and left.

When she'd gone my colleague next to me whispered that she'd been asked the same thing recently, the difference was that she'd said she would do it but then secretly she didn't. I was struck. "So you said you'd agree, but you did your own thing? So you avoided conflict and got your own way? Why don't I do that? Why don't I keep my mouth shut?"

She said she'd learned this from her family too. Her sister was like me, always arguing back with their dad, and getting into argie bargies. Whereas she just smiled and agreed for a quiet life, and then just did what she wanted.

Tactics. Which is better?

Saturday, 3 December 2011

In scents

In scents, get it? In sense... Incensed... incense... oh, please yourselves.

This is a niche post, of interest only to fellow 'fume addicts. It is a meme I found on one of the gazillion perfume blogs out there. I tag Basic Beauty though because she needs to post more often.

What are some of your strongest scent memories?

Leather seats in my dad’s car and Aramis aftershave. He used to pick us up at weekends. I liked visiting my dad but it also made me slightly nervous because I didn’t see him often and I felt like he didn’t know me as much as our mum did. He took us to fun places but there was also my stepmother to contend with and I had to be on my best behaviour . Also I used to get car sick very quickly. So, leather seats = excitement & nervousness. And carsickness.

Also the smell of fir trees which we had in our back garden which I used to climb.

Smoky bonfires, that smell of sparklers and gunpowder on bonfire nights.

What are some of your favourite smells (things in nature, cooking &/or your environment)?

Coffee. I wish it tasted as good as it smells. Basil, it’s from heaven. I like smoke in people’s clothes, when it’s faded a little bit. A good red wine. Brandy and whisky. This is just turning into a list of drinks, isn’t it?

Do you have any favorite smells that are considered strange?

Not really, though I am starting to like the perfumes (like some Serge Lutyens one, and one which is brilliantly named Fat Electrician) which have a kind of tarmac or diesel component to them.

I also like the smell of nitric acid, rosin, hard ground, white spirit and etching inks, because I associate them with my Happy Place (the print studio.)

Describe one or more of your favorite cooking smells.

I like the smell of the bagel bakery on Brick Lane. It’s pure warm goodness and has that childhood sensory association. I also like bacon frying shhh don’t tell anyone.

What smells do you most dislike?

Two Christmas’ ago, though the friend for whom I was house-sitting warned me that foxes liked to shit in her front garden, I stepped in some fox shit when leaving the house. Discovered that fox shit is the worst smell in the world. What must they eat? They’re absolute ANIMALS.

What smell did you first dislike, but learned to love?

Cigarette smoke. That was a bad thing.

More tomorrow, if you can bear it.

What mundane smells inspire you?

My Yorkshire tea and sometimes Earl Grey (contains the magic ingredient,bergamot, that I love in perfume too.) I didn’t know how important tea was til I ran out of tea the other day. Horrors.

What scent never fails to take you back in time and why?

Body shop apricot lipbalm (no longer in existence) takes me straight back to secondary school. Wellie boots and black plimsolls take me back to primary school.

What scents do you associate with memories of loved ones?

Aramis, Agnes B for men, vanilla pipe tobacco (yeuch.) Marijuana.

What fragrance(s) remind you of growing up?

My sister’s Chloe. Body Shop perfumes like Roma and Japanese Musk. PATCHOULI.

What fragrance(s) remind you of the places you visited on holiday?

My friend went travelling around the world, I went with her for the first two weeks and we went to Vietnam. I loved the smoky smell of fires in the streets and temples, mixing with incense burning in the little shrines. I took some incense home but it just wasn’t the same when it was in your house.

Describe a piece of sensory literature that is very magical for you.

It is in Wise Children, one of my favourite books by one of my favourite authors Angela Carter. It’s the story of identical twin girls, dancers who become stars of musical theatre. (Based on real life twins, the Dolly sisters.) They each wear Mitsouko and Shalimar as their signature scent. But Dora falls in love with Nora’s boyfriend, and persuades her sister to swap perfumes for the night so she can seduce him without him worrying about being unfaithful. It is a great love scene.

Now you.

Monday, 28 November 2011


I have had about 10 emails from people offering work in my chosen new field. They've all been lovely, enthusiastic, friendly, helpful. And I want to agree to them all, it's right up my alley. One of them was in New York. Another was a scheme at the BBC. And I would a million times rather do them than supply teaching.

Unfortunately it was all unpaid.

If I didn't have to earn any money, I'd be laughing.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The most wonderful time of the year

and other big fat lies.

I would like to start an alternative campaign for an anti-Christmas day. All singles, Jews & atheists welcome to join me. We will have a pagan day of festivities and the transport and everything else will stay open. I will also get the gays and the Muslims to join in with me, they don't seem to bother with it much. They deal with it by ignoring it with dignity. *

*I will make an exception for Christmas decorations and lights, I like those. You may keep them.

Saturday, 26 November 2011


Despite my pile of lovely new books, I'm working my way through Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials (again). They're just good yarns.

My favourite idea is that people have daemons, animals spirits which express a part of their nature. One of the baddies has a snake, for example, another has an evil golden monkey. It would make it very easy to suss out what a person is like right away, if we all had daemons.

In the stories, children's daemons can change form until they hit puberty when they remain the same animal for the rest of their adult life. I wonder if Philip Pullman means that children's characters are not fixed but adults are? I'm not sure if I believe that.

Anyway, I want to say mine would be a cat (moody, lazy, independent, solitary, night animal, yes all of that) but that's probably boring and predictable.

What would yours be?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

rich not like us

I idly signed up for a rich people's tutor agency, and they regularly send through jobs like this. I wouldn't go for it but it gives you an insight into a very different world.

Live in nanny/tutor/study buddy for a lovely family in Moscow, starting as soon as possible:

Looking after 6 year old boy, teaching him English and offering intellectual stimulation
Family looking for bright tutor, preferably Oxbridge educated
Excellent perks offered such as travelling (in very smart style) with the family, separate apartment in Moscow for the tutor
Generous salary up to 40k per year
Work not too taxing, mainly involves playing with the boy and doing some basic English work

Full time tutor for a family living between London, Cyprus, Switzerland and their yacht in the Mediterranean

Their twins are 11 years old and need a tutor to start as soon as possible
Salary is £40-50k per year
The children have two nannies, so no nannying duties are required
Qualified teacher preferred

Two nannies... mainly involves playing with the boy...

Why do they even bother having kids?

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Charity shop haul

Must. stop. buying. books.

I was pleased to find the Sylvester Stewart (Sly Stone) autobiography but I'm a bit trepidatious to read it.

Was burned by Bob Dylan's biography, and finding out your idol is just a flawed human being, capable of being a total shit, just like the rest of us.

Here's one example of why I love Sly. Thankful N' Thoughtful, about still being glad to be alive when you've nearly lost it.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

On not being scared of the dark

Tomorrow I'm starting a short new workshop with an artist I admire fantastically. Her work is beautiful, funny, passionate, Japanese influenced, technically breathtaking, sexy, intellectual and dark.

The hardest thing about workshops, apart from the fact that they finish at 10.00 pm and I no longer live around the corner, is coming up with ideas.

I realised that all the artists at the studio that I admire are not scared to embrace darkness in their work. (I don't want to link here but if you were to say, Google I devour tiger and wife in images you might find the artist I mean.)

They are fearless in their subject matter and execution and I'm realising I don't want to make pictures that are just pretty or superficial. I want them to be about something. Maybe I'm just shallow but tapping into your imagination, your fears and desires and drives, is not so easy.

I remembered my dream though and did a little research on chained bears. My unconscious was clearly politely tapping me on the shoulder going "Excuse me, but will this be any use?" Chained bears it is then.

I came across this sad post (but with happy video about bear rescue.) It's good title for the print too - the Cruel Life of Dancing Bears. I'll let you know how it turns out on the other blog.

Sunday, 13 November 2011


Is this what it's going to be like from now on? All the things we tell the children at school (summer = hot, dry, sunny; winter = cold, wet, dark...) are starting to sound quaint but all wrong, like some corny snowbound Christmas card scene.

Remember Bonfire Night years ago? It was always freeeezing... I remember my fingers and toes turning to icicles as we waited with our toffee apples for the fireworks to go off.

Yesterday we went to see the fireworks along the Thames & had to peel off coats and jumpers and scarves because it was so warm.

Today was beautiful, but I can't help thinking that this unseasonal warmth is not unconnected to the fact that Tim now has to blog whilst wearing his snorkel and flippers.


I removed the last post because it seemed churlish, especially as I spent most of yesterday frantic because I thought one of my colleagues might have been knocked down and killed on Bow roundabout when I couldn't get hold of her on Facebook, text or voicemail.

Turns out she was in the pub and was fine. I guess I must care about them a bit after all.

Also, why are the government and TfL so bloody laissez-faire when it comes to cyclists being killed? The car truly is king...

Monday, 7 November 2011


I was reading the free Guardian book of short stories this morning on the tube. First short story by William Trevor, apparently the master of the genre.

Didn't like it. It's the kind of writing that gets described as lyrical, which always sets alarm bells jangling.

In the story, a woman discovers her married lover has left and returned to his wife and kids. Anything strike you about this paragraph...?

"When spring was about to come and then did not, one morning Anthony wasn't there. Waking early, Mary Bella heard the car...

...His clothes, his inks, his pens, unfinished Dijon, his books: all these were gone."

Wait a minute - his unfinished Dijon? WTF? What kind of a man takes a half-eaten jar of mustard with him when he leaves you? A skin-flinted tightwad arsehole, that's who. She had a lucky escape if you ask me.

PS Here is a lovely programme on Iain Banks talking about the Wasp Factory, book lovers. He seems like a lovely man.

Maybe I will do a print based on the Wasp Factory.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


Ooh. A new exhibition proposal (and vaguely book related, for all those who turn up here in the vain hope of finding a bookcrossing.)

It is going to be in a bookshop in Broadway Market. And will feature prints inspired by our favourite books. This is the project I've been waiting for all my life.

But can I think of an idea? No.

What would choose as your favourite book, if you had to make the cover, or illustrate it?

Saturday, 5 November 2011

What does it mean?

I'm sick, my body's falling apart . Somebody shoot me and put me out of my misery, please.

The fever is making me dream, well, feverishly.

I dream about an old college friend I've lost touch with. In real life she's married with two kids, living in Brighton. In my dream, she is still a lodger in a ramshackle old house that she lived in as a student, it belongs to her friends' parents (hmmm...) and stuck because she's in a low-paid job and is struggling to pay off her student loan. She asks me for advice.

We go out into the city (it must be Norwich, though it is nothing like the city I knew) it is derelict and covered in graffitti. On a traffic island in the middle of busy roads, there are men with an animal on a chain, making it do tricks for money. I know for some reason they must be Russian.

For a moment I think it is someone dressed up as an animal, but with horror realise that is a real bear. Like no bear I've ever seen before though, only half the height of the men, with a long, thin muzzle. 'Tam, it's a real bear!' I want us to stop and confront these men, but she pulls me away, unconcerned. As we walk on, I see these men are everywhere with these chained up animals.

Then my dream turns into slopes as it frequently does, and we slide, slide, downwards, uncontrollably. I wake up.

Bears. What do they mean?

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


Grayson Perry seems like a nice man, he's quite charismatic and interesting, but I don't like what he does much at all. He just makes big pots and then transfers pictures onto them.

There seems no real craftsmanship or innovation or ideas, it's like the art world has just gone 'Craft! Edgy craft! Craft with edge! Transvestism! How very, very cutting edge, my dear!" And hence the Turner prize & the British Museum and all.

When you look at the shape of what he does without all the embellishments, and take away what you know about this colourful artist... what he really makes is bog standard with glossy pictures applied on top.

As opposed to someone clearly blazing with talent, like Lucy Rie, who stopped pottery being all clumsy & hippy & earnest, but turned it into a real art. (You can see what I'm talking about in the great V&A Handmade in Britain series on the iPlayer at the moment, where you can also see Edmund de Waal being quite stupendously pretentious, like he can't help spouting solid gold nonsense for Private Eye's Pseud's Corner. Quite put me off buying his book.)

And Perry's tranny character is creepy. Soz.

Monday, 31 October 2011

the C word

As a last twist of the knife before I'm released from torture, have just found out I have to produce the traditional Xmas * extravaganza before I go. Yes. The end of the year, final production, an all singing, all dancing version of A Christmas Carol. (I know it doesn't sound that big a deal but honestly, Francis Ford Coppola having a breakdown filming Apocalypse Now in the midst of the jungle and the war in the Phillipines did not experience the stress of putting on a primary school end of year musical.)

I've just been searching desperately for some good Xmas tunes we can cover. There is nothing. Nothing. They are all too soupy. Too slow. Too corny. Too seventies. Too religious. Not religious enough. Too... heinous. The only possible contender is Dean Martin doing Let It Snow, but I just can't shoehorn this into A Christmas Carol.

Suggestions, if you please.

* sorry

Sunday, 30 October 2011


The folks insisted on sending me for a health check. It's good to have an MOT when you get to my advanced age so I went along with it.

Reasons to be smug:

Good cholesterol levels, despite the addiction to crisps. Rah!

Less lardy than I thought ("You have a lovely pear shape" cooed the doctor. Great, thanks.)

Relatively fit, though I take no exercise whatsoever. At least this hateful job is good for something - I run up and down 6 flights of stairs at least 10 times a day.

I have EXCELLENT LUNG CAPACITY, despite smoking since I was 13 and working everyday in the most polluted part of the worst polluted city in Europe. (Have never felt more foolish than sitting on an exercise bike, plugged all over with ECGs and with snorkel-like mouthpiece, holding arm out for a blood pressure cuff, peddling for dear life.) My lung age is 29, apparently.

My lungs are younger than I am.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

On striking

There's another coming up on 30th November (which is very welcome as this term is an 8 weeker with no bank holidays in sight - most of us will be the walking dead by Christmas).

Much as I like the odd day off, having breakfast with my colleagues in E Pellici's (they took the piss out of my homemade banner last time - "You're a teacher, I thought you were s'posed to be good with the Blue Peter stuff?") and walking around in the fresh air for the day instead of cooped up in school with lots of smelly germy children, I have my doubts about strikes, especially in education.

In the olden times, like with the Ford Women's strike, going on strike would hit the management where it hurts. When the factory closed, the business would lose profits.

Going on strike in education pisses off the parents, affects the kids, but most importantly, does not impact in the least on the people you want it to - ie, the government. They could give two shits, most of their kids are at private schools anyway. Striking is becoming an exceedingly blunt instrument. It's like a relic of past times.

I think we've got to be a bit more smart and wily over the protest actions we take.

One of the teachers at meeting I went to had a good idea - at least I thought it was a good idea, but they dismissed it without considering it much. Maybe I'm naive, but I thought it would work much better.

"The only thing they take notice of is money. So we've got to hit them where it hurts. Why don't we withdraw our money from the state pension and set up our own? The whole public sector pensions scheme would break down and they'd have to take action."

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Don't follow me, I'm lost *

Half term holiday. Thinking...

The next resignation date is 31st October at the latest. Maybe now is not the best time to be walking away from a guaranteed permanent job, with the world going into financial meltdown and all, but in everyone's life there comes a time when you have to say... fuck this shit.

I'm half anxious, half euphoric. Whatever happens in January could be better, could be worse. But it will be different. And that thought brings a teeny tiny spark of hope.

* I saw a kid wearing this t-shirt today. I want one.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

On traffiking

"The officers who arrived saw that the 3 bedroomed house was no regular property. Steel bars shielded its windows, an iron gate guarded a reinforced front door. Inside, a generous network of CCTV cameras monitored its corridors. The solid steel entrance 'looked like a police cell door'. Whoever owned the place was either paranoid of intruders or keen to keep people from escaping."
from utterly depressing article by Mark Townsend on child sex traffiking in the Observer today

Fucking hell, who are these men who are happy to visit brothels like these? If you have to go through reinforced steel doors to a room with bars on the window to have sex, chances are the woman (or kid?) is not there through her own free will. Could you even call them brothels? They are more like prisons.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Tinker, tailor update

Still reading the book, and getting irate...

The film excised all the women out of it. In the film, you can just about see Smiley's wife, out of focus (I don't think you see her face.) But in the book there are definitely scenes with her talking to Smiley. She's a vital character. And Kathy Burke's character is much older and more knowledgeable in the book. Nor does she say (as in the film) "I'm desperate for a fuck." Totally out of character. And the Russian woman is an agent herself in the book, not just an agent's wife.


Sunday, 9 October 2011

Black dog vs Cakes

I am trying very hard not to be depressed at the moment, but things are really fucking awful. (This is the external world as much as my internal little world that no one else can see - was it always this bad, or did I just not notice? I grew up in the 70s, there were bodies unburied, 3 day weeks, power cuts, the National Front, Margaret Thatcher, disgusting food - but it didn't seem as bad as this...?) My personal stuff, I can't even talk about.

I have retreated this weekend to my bed and have watched the Great British Bake Off, series 2, back to back. Ah, baking. It's so... so civilized. In this world, the worst thing that can happen is that your ganache fails to solidify. Your eclairs are a bit wonky. Your Battenburg is assymetrical.

But no one will be horrible to you, not like on other reality shows. Paul Hollywood will lay down some harsh but fair criticism, borne of professional knowledge. Mary Berry (3000 years old and looking amazing) will just say "What a pity" and look just a bit disappointed, but mention that it still tastes gorgeous. And Mel and Sue are warm and comforting. They'll say something nice and cheering to the crestfallen baker, and swipe one of their rejected efforts, and that will stop them feeling like a hopeless miserable failure...

The insane level of detail and polish, to go into something that looks so pretty and perfect, that will be snaffled up in about a nanosecond. The tears of joy when they get voted Star Baker that week. The pure, English niceness of the whole enterprise. Nothing bad can happen in Mary Berry World.

It's way better than Prozac.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy*

Despite the Vast Obscene Array of British Acting Talent (John Hurt, Toby Jones, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Cieran Hinds, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, honorary boy Kathy Burke) it didn't blow me away as expected.

It was very classy, very slow burn (a weirdly zen & meditative pace for a thriller, we all confessed to drifting off at points and losing the plot).

But the book is wonderful. I'm kind of glad I didn't read it first, I think I would have found the film frustrating.

* Overheard in the cinema afterwards "I didn't get the tinker tailor bit."
"Well they didn't have a sailor because it sounded too much like tailor. And the other three were tinker, tailor & soldier. And none of them were called spy because, well, it would've been a bit of a giveaway."

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Radio 4


6.00 am - 9.00 am John Humphreys shouting at someone in Westminster. Something about Michael Gove which will make me hurl the radio out the window.

9.00 am - 12.00 pm The Archers.
Join us on the farm in Ambridge as Wurzel & Peg worry about the sukebind crop. Something about pigs. Something about 'A' levels. Something about fraud, rape, incest, and arson which will somehow end up sounding unbelievably tedious.

1.00 pm - 1.30 pm. News.

1.30 pm - 2.30 pm More The Archers. Middle class couples worrying about something boring. Comedy working class country accents of no fixed location for comic relief.

2.30 pm - 3.30 pm An interesting, brilliantly researched & produced documentary on something unexpected, which you'd never have thought could be so fascinating.

3.30 pm - 4.00 pm Just A Minute. Nicholas Parsons (3000 years old) sounds more sprightly than any of the middle aged comedians.

4.00 pm - 5.00 pm - Desert Island Discs, this is great, when Kirsty Young lets the interviewees get a word in edgewise, and when she doesn't miss interesting cues they drop by interrupting them or cutting them off mid-flow.

5.00 pm - 6.00 pm A 'comedy drama' of such breathtaking unfunniness it was surely commissioned by the author's mum or dad.

6.00 pm - 12.00 am - The Archers. Apocalypse visits Ambridge. It's still tedious. Giles and Hermione worry about takings being down in the Farm Shop.

12.00 am the Shipping Forecast. Hurrah!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

More scents

Let us not speak of work. At the moment, it's unspeakable.

To distract myself (yes, it's like being in a sand-trap - you spend money to cheer yourself up, because you don't like your work, thus trapping you in a cycle of working to earn money then spending it as a reward for spending your time working instead of doing something fulfilling - THAT'S CAPITALISM) I've bought more perfume. We'll see how this works as a strategy - when they finally break me through overwork, I'll be the most fragrant woman in the loony bin at least.

This one is called Tea for Two & it's based on Lapsang Souchong. I also have one called Earl Grey, I must like to smell like a nice cup of tea. I found one the other day 'I Love Les Carrottes' which smells exactly like carrots. It's quite amazing, what these perfumers can do, but I wonder how many people think 'what I'd really like to smell like is carrots.' Mm, sexy. I like the smell of fish and chips, but would you want it as your signature scent?

If you could bottle anything, what would be your signature scent?

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Adopt a peer


Save the NHS, before it goes down the toilet. You know it makes sense.

I've done it. You can do it too!

You can email, but letter is better.

Here's mine. You can cut & paste too.

Dear Lord....

I am writing to you regarding the Health and Social Care Bill currently being debated in the House of Lords.

The NHS has provided care for myself, my family and my friends from the cradle to the grave. It is one of our proudest, most valuable institutions and it works. I strongly believe health and well-being, and access to healthcare should not be subject to privatisation nor linked with profit and competition. I think it would be a serious mistake to follow the USA's example and introduce the ethics of the marketplace into our healthcare system and would lead to terrible inequalities, at a time when the gap between the rich and the poor in this country is already at its greatest.

The Peers have an important role in safeguarding the National Health Service and I would ask you to consider these points:

    • The way each Peer debates and votes on the Health and Social Care Bill will have a major impact on our National Health Service.

    • The Bill contains clauses which could see taxpayers' money diverted into shareholder profits, and post code lotteries for treatment intensified.

    • The Bill removes the cap on the amount of private income a hospital can make, which could mean NHS patients pushed to the back of the queue.

    • Public satisfaction with the NHS is currently at an all time high.

    • Peers will be crucial in helping to secure a safe and sustainable future for our NHS.

Yours sincerely,

Miss A Taxpayer

Saturday, 10 September 2011

In defence of shopping

I know I'm meant to like Suzanne Moore, everyone else on the internet seems to (and back in the day, when we used to read the New Statesmen for A level Sociology, she was one of the few women writing for it and I did use to like her writing.) There's just something insufferably smug and sweeping statement leader-writer about her. This article is a prime example. "I don't like shopping so nobody else does." Ahem.

I LOVE SHOPPING. IT IS A HOBBY. There's nothing wrong in that. I don't always buy things. I don't buy things I can't afford. I don't inflict my shopping hobby on anyone else - I don't know why you'd drag your poor boyfriend or your poor kids around the shops, it's a recipe for stress and arguments.

(I am, however, a brilliant shopping companion, and will patiently hold your coat and bags outside the changing rooms and offer advice and find sizes for you. I will put my own shopping desires aside when I'm shopping with someone else, you can't look for two people at once, this shit takes focus. )

I love beautiful big department stores. Selfridges is the best, though it is a bit overwhelming. I love boutique ones like Liberty and Fenwicks, with exotic perfumes and cutting edge designers and exquisite shoes. I also love skanky charity shops, and truffling out old Penguins with great covers for 30p. My Pucci outfit came from a chazza. (It has now been taken to the designer re-sale shop.) I like street markets and farmers markets and flea markets. I like the convenience of chain shops in a high street. I like browsing, and sometimes I like buying.

I can't go into the West End anymore because the hoards of people drive me insane. Which is why I'm delighted that the mainstream chain stores are coming to us in Stratford.

Suzanne lives in Stoke Newington, which has a lovely high street with all the boutiques and organic niche supermarkets you could wish for. But the rest of East London doesn't have any choice in shopping, Stratford High Street is dire, so either people have to drive out to Bluewater (which she so despises) or drag themselves into the West End and fight the hoardes.

"Is this what this deprived area really needs?" she asks. What, parity with the rest of London? Is that a bad thing?

You should see Bromley by Bow high street Suzanne, it looks like it's been looted and derelict and burnt out post-riots, but it has always been like that. Ask our kids if they'd prefer to shop there or in the new Westfield.

Shopping isn't the be-all and end-all, but people should be able to choose, and why should only the middle class areas get all the choices?


Sunday, 4 September 2011


I don't know what it is but I keep seeing ghosts from the past. Superstitious me wonders what does it all mean?

When surfing around I come across a name that I recognise commenting on someone else's site. Sure enough, when I click through she turns out to be the mum of a girl (woman now) that I went to Camden Girls with. I'd remembered her mum's name nearly 25 years later because she was the first person I'd met who was a bona fide, actual journalist. The glamour!

I was a bit in awe of the girls at Camden when I first got there. It was a state school but had been a grammar. And they were all so... so... so - what was it? Oh yes. Middle class. They lived in townhouses in zone 2, not semis in the outer suburbs. Their parents were architects and shrinks and journalists. Somebody's dad was a bishop. (My mum, on the other hand, worked as a dinner lady for a while at my old school, she used to come and say hi to my friends and me outside the kitchen door wearing a fetching nylon pinny & hat.)

I think what I got from hanging out with the Camden Girls, most of all, was ideas above my station. There was no question that I'd go to university, just because that's what everyone else there was going to do. Of course you did, it was the natural order of things.

But no one else in my family had ever gone on to higher education. And I think that's why I didn't really get what it was for, and neither did my family. The grammar school conveyor belt lifting the working classes up into the middle classes had broken down by the time I graduated in the 90s.

On this journalist's site I scrolled down & sure enough there was a picture of her daughter, my old schoolfriend. She looked great. And she has a site too, I so nearly send her a message to say hi, but I didn't. She is married, 2 kids, her own successful business. I can't, it's too hard. It takes a while to understand why. I think it's because though I don't want kids, I don't want to be married, it's just the expectations of where you should be at our age.

The other ghost was walking along Church Street, a woman about 8 months pregnant, walking along holding the hand of a toddler, moving slowly. I recognised her as someone I'd done the PGCE with 8 years ago. I wanted to stop and say 'Hi! You've been busy!' but didn't, for exactly the same reasons.

I imagine an alternative life in which I'd met someone and stayed home to have babies, instead of going into battle with other people's kids every day for the last 8 years.

And it sounds appealing. Except for the baby part. Not under any illusions about it. My friends with kids seem happy enough, but they also talk about how boring and tedious and repetitive it is too. And then you are stuck with parenthood forever.

There seems to be no reflection in culture of women like me, who are ambivalent about the kids thing. We're either meant to be longing desperately for kids or hating them like poison. I like them well enough but... the body clock is refusing steadfastly to tick.

Still I wish I had some society-sanctioned reason not to go to work.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011


Bridesmaids was disappointing, maybe because of the big hype. A film with women! Funny women! Women being funny! Who'd have thought it?

Trouble was it just wasn't that funny, in fact I found it a bit depressing. Too women's magazine in its conception. Let us count the cliches:

Woman upset and envious about her best friend getting married (nb not about her being in a happy relationship, she's fine with that, just about her getting married) when she herself is single.

Woman getting jealous of someone younger, prettier and richer & so being all catty and bitchy. That's what us girls are like, you know. Beneath a thin veneer of sisterhood we're all BITCHES and the only way we can relate to other women is to compete.

Woman getting jealous of someone trying to STEAL her BEST FRIEND. (Past the age of 10, do you really need to have a Best Friend? Grow up!)

I think that women's friendships are complex and can be tricky to negotiate in lots of ways. There's probably a great film to be made about women's friendships, and it would be funny too, but this isn't it.

(I did like the bridesmaid who stole all the puppies though. More of her.)

Thursday, 25 August 2011

the man of my dreams

I met the man of my dreams.* (When I say 'met', I mean, ordered a drink from him.)

He works in a pub. A very nice, proper pub. With a beer garden. A pub which has two beautiful little silver cats. A pub the other side of London. He was very cute, and not too young. After his shift ended, he came into the beer garden, but was instantly surrounded by very giggly happy twenty-something girls, all hugging on him. Damn. What can you do?

* in Spanish this phrase is el hombre de mi vida - the man of my life. Make of this subtle difference what you will.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Crap girly post

So I write cross posts about politics and how I hate my job, but what I secretly really enjoy reading on blogs these days is girly stuff about fashion and nice places to shop.

Enough of boring posts about politics! Let us embrace the world of nice things, and you know, stuff.

So autumn is on the way and all the dark autumn colours are back in the shops already. Same colours every year, like clockwork. Plum. Mustard. Forest Green.

And every winter it's the same, I buy an expensive woolly hat (which I think I look FANTASTIC in, though I may be deluding myself - colleagues: "That is not a good hat" "Alright, Grannie Annie?" ) and almost immediately lose it, on the tube, in the pub, or it just vanishes into a mysterious other-world of hats somewhere, like all the lost odd socks.

The beautiful pale blue woven beanie from Agnes B. The grey cashmere cableknit beret from same. The countless wool berets of every colour from Accessorize, gone.

I don't deserve a hat. But I need one. It is part of my desire to look chic carefree and Parisian over the long winter months and not just like a cold, downtrodden wageslave shivering at the bus stop for 9 months of the year.

Want to get ahead? Get a hat

Hat recommendations, leave them in the comments box.

(I like this one, but don't think I have the je ne sais quoi to carry it off.)

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Attention spa-

Don't get people who are all 'oh no I have no time to write blogs' yet seem to spend all day long on Facebook or Twitter.

You know, if you joined up all those 140 words & status updates & comments you'd written all day long, they'd make a blog post?

Sunday, 14 August 2011


Another girly post. Look away now if you prefer reading about hunting bears or whatever it is you boys do.

It is a sad legacy of smoking on and off since I was 13 that I now have a rubbish sense of smell and an insensitive palate.

I wish I had a better sense of smell because I really love perfume. Not much of a makeup person but nothing in the world makes you feel better than smelling gorgeous. I can't post on it much because I lack the knowledge and the descriptive skills, but I will give you a quick history of my favourites and invite you to share yours below.

Scents & sensibility...

1. Chloe - this was my big sister's. I didn't dare spray it on because she would have known instantly and beat me up, but when she was out would sneak into her room and open the bottle for a quick hit (whilst listening to her Doors albums & disco 12 inches no doubt). I think it was sweet and girly but at the time seemed highly sophisticated.

2. Body Shop, Roma. We all bought Body Shop perfume, because it was cheap and accessible (not like the scary makeup counters in department stores.) The Body Shop perfumes were often single note ones that made you smell like something to eat - vanilla, say.

Roma was my first experience of opening a bottle of perfume and having it speak your name. The others smell nice, yes, but this one is yours, it is made for you. It came in a little round pretend glass bottle and the lid had a kind of stick attached for you to apply it. It was a bit sticky and uncomfortable not to spray it, but we didn't know any better. Now discontinued, I believe.

3. Dioressence - Christian Dior
A present from my stepmother coming back from a trip abroad. Everybody liked to sniff me when I was wearing this, it is a dirty naughty Chypre and gave me lots of confidence when I was an awkward teen. I wore it til the bottle was empty but didn't clock that it might have enhanced my pulling chances & was worth investing in another. In fact I might get one RIGHT NOW.

4. Jean Paul Gaultier - Classique
This came out when we were at college and everyone fell in love with it, which meant that we all went around smelling of the same perfume. We'd moved on from the Body Shop. This was a step up, it was sexy and womanly but not so strong it would scare the horses (or the boys.) Before it became synonymous with Essex Girls with BIG HAIR, it enjoyed a vogue amongst the students who weren't immersing themselves in patchouli oil from the health food shop.

5. Pampelune Guerlain
I tell you something, you can't go wrong with Guerlain. Proper French perfume, no synthetic plastic crap. They only bring new ones out occasionally, because their quality control is more important than keeping up with fashion trends and quick sales. I found it when I moved to Spain and it still reminds me of Barcelona now. It has flavours of grapefruit, orange and (I was ashamed to find out) patchouli. I'm just a hippy there's no escaping it.

6. Angela Flanders Earl Grey
Angela Flanders has a beautiful little shop in Columbia Road market, only open on Sundays, but you can order her perfumes online. She is self taught, I think her story is fascinating. This is my current flame. It is another Chypre, as I get older I like that dryness more than sweet or flowery perfumes.

7. I'm not telling you. You have to guess.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Bedside Bookstack

Before I was so rudely interrupted by the whole country berserking like Vikings, I was writing on the important matter of my bedside bookstack, which is getting out of control.

Here are the other beauties that I must read before I buy any more books:

Hammer Glamour by Marcus Hearn.
This was a very welcome birthday present from our lovely friend Cat from my wishlist. As Sarah pointed out in a comment on the last post, I have a very eclectic mix on there, that is the pleasure of wishlists, you can add random things that you might not buy for yourself (like this). It's absolutely great getting them as a present though. (Anna from Little Red Boat used to get presents from her blog readers when they liked her posts, that's one early blogging custom we should try and revive, what do you think...?)

Men without Women, by Ernest Hemingway
Bought from a charity shop because it has this irresistible cover. Penguin really knew how to do covers in the 60s.

Elizabeth's London
by Liza Picard.
I love the Elizabethans. Why can't I make myself read non-fiction? Why why why?

Imperial Ambitions
by Noam Chomsky (conversations on post 9/11 world)
Similarly, even reading just one sentence by Chomsky is guaranteed to make you 95% cleverer and more switched on, so why has this been the longest untouched and unread - 2 years and counting?

Proust and the Squid - the Story and Science of the Reading
Brain by Maryanne Wolf
"The act of reading is a miracle. But how does the brain learn to read?
This is an absolutely brilliant book which would actually be useful in my working life, but though it is skilfully written and fascinating, I've only managed a chapter.

I think I need to go away to a desert island with no internet and no novels. I might come back a little bit educated.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

On the police

Who was telling the police to hang back? In TV interviews in Hackney, for example, a man said that his chemist shop was looted and he was threatened by rioters with sticks, meanwhile the police were watching from a few feet away. In Tottenham the looters were left to get on with it with minimal police prescence all through the night. There were more examples, but this is a blog not a newspaper report & I'm too lazy to find them.

Danny Baker on Twitter suggested that this was a political tactic to create fear and encourage a swing further to the right (because the swing to the right so far has been working out so well for everyone?)

I'm just interested. I'm not being negative, I feel for the police. I'm less ignorant and black- and-white than when I was younger & thought they were all fascist instruments of the state etc etc. They're just (usually working class) people getting on with their job.

They can be corrupt and racist and not think for themselves, yes, but I know a bit more about the poisoned chalice of working as a public servant these days. You are doing a shitty job that no one else wants to do, yet everyone thinks they know better, and you can't win whatever you do.

And who do we go to when we're in trouble and need help? Who had to face down people throwing petrol bombs at them? Who breaks up the fights, faces the real criminals with guns and deals with horrors like the aftermath of kids who've been murdered by their parents? When that girl is Australia recently had a bomb strapped to her in an extortion attempt, who sat with her for 10 hours holding her hand until they diffused it? (It was a fake, but they didn't know that at the time.)

I liked this blog from a secondary teacher in Hackney. She questioned her students' negative perceptions of the police. 'When I questioned one child as to when his last interaction with the police was he stopped and thought. “Oh,” he said, “the time they helped me when my bike was stolen.” '

I feel like giving my younger self a slap sometimes for being so ignorant.

Monday, 8 August 2011

London burning

I went back to the flat for the first time in a year, to let the British Gas man in for my tenants. It's in a quiet part of Hackney, near Victoria Park. They didn't have a TV or radio so I didn't know the latest.

But when I went to the little corner shop, bored of waiting for the gas man, a man burst in and said breathlessly to the shopkeepers "You gonna close your shutters? It's all kicking off down Dalston, Mare Street." The shopkeepers shrugged. "Up to you, mate. They're all closing up down there..."

As I was leaving the flat, waiting for the bus back to Bethnal Green, I saw all these boys on pushbikes cycle past in a line, they were quiet, wearing hoodies but with hoods down.

At first I thought they might just be mates out for a nice ride on a summer's evening but then more and more of them kept coming, there must have been about 20 of them and it seemed a bit strange somehow, they swooped past the common and out past my housing estate in silence.

When I got back to Leytonstone I went to pick up some dry-cleaning. I notice that the nail bar next door have their shutters right down though I can see them still inside. The dry-cleaner is charming and chatty.

'You go straight home now, you hear? And lock your door. They're all heading this way now. I just bought this shop, you know. Just bought it. And there are gaps in the shutters... I don't want to lose it. ' 'Do you think they'd want to break in here?' I ask. 'They're just burning stuff for fun.'

It's horrible, this siege feeling. Watching it on the news and unfolding on Twitter. It's not just greed & opportunism, it's what people do when they are really really fucked off. But all they're doing is bringing down a world of shit in the poor areas who least need it.

Anyway I hope everyone who reads this has stayed safe and far from trouble.