Monday, 31 December 2007

Happy New Year

To you all, I wish health, peace, prosperity and happiness in 2008 and beyond.

If you have a talent, use it in every which way possible. Don't hoard it. Don't dole it out like a miser. Spend it lavishly, like a millionaire intent on going broke – Brenda Francis.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Compare and contrast

I was going to call this post 'art or fart?', as it seemed most appropriate when discussing the merits of modern 'art', such as many of the exhibits at the Tate Modern. After visiting the Museum of London, which was interesting and engaging, S and I spent the remainder of our day at the nearby Tate Modern, an imposing building on the banks of the Thames. We spent most of the time muttering about the 'emperor's new clothes'. People stood and stared at a plethora of paint splatterings and blocks of colour, or sat gormlessly watching poor-quality animation or short films about absolutely nothing. They looked blank and bored. Hmm.

There were some – a few pieces – that provided intellectual stimulation and hit synaptic goals, but on the whole, well, anyone could have produced some of the rubbish in there. I say rubbish because, frankly, my rabbit could have arranged her pellets in a more meaningful form. It's an old criticism that is met by cries of 'Philistine' but it's true. And it's not because I don't get it; it's that I cannot respect and cannot recognise 'art' that is in fact no step above what Joe or Joanne Bloggs could produce given some crayons and an egg box.

Yes, at the risk of being called a raging Philistine, I ha
ve to say that on this, my third visit, I again found the contents of the Tate Modern insulting, patronising and empty. You shouldn't have to (pretend to) have an existential crisis to appreciate art. You shouldn't have to dissect something to have it say something to you, or worse, try to decide what the creator of the piece was thinking! No, art should be above such theorising. When you see a rosebud, the sea, a formation of clouds, or the flowers in someone's irises, you just understand. Art should be like that, not some elite, hidden 'style' that can only be appreciated by those who have spent two years learning other people's theories at art school or elsewhere.

All that pretentious 'what was the artist trying to say?' angs
t leaves me cringing. Often, he or she was saying bugger all, as demonstrated very clearly by the explanations proffered by most of the artists in the Tate Modern's very own video clips of people explaining their art. It was like watching sixth-formers having crises. Painful.

It would have been funny had it not been so up its own
behind, and so utterly vague. Artists saying things like: 'Well, uhm, I create these things because I like them,' and 'I, erm, like just seeing what happens when I throw colours together'. Well, that's fine: they are having fun expressing themselves through paint or balancing toilet rolls or whatever, but to read into such simple desires humanity's place in the cosmos is seeing a fine arrangement of regal clothes when the king is in fact walking around with his nadgers hanging out in the breeze.

Art turns me on when the creative work that has gone into it is relatively obvious, when you can speak about it without resorting to psychobabble, and it shows skills that leave you in awe, knowing that someone blessed with gifts that can't be reproduced, and who can fashion originality that doesn't reek of pretension, has produced beauty.

Walking out of the Tate, on to the Millennium Bridge, seeing the majesty of the glittering Thames, St Paul's Cathedral, the other bridges spanning the artery of London, and the blue lights twinkling on trees – Christmas and otherwise – was infinitely more delicious to the senses than most of what was on display the Tate Modern. Such a vista needed no labels.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Really, it is OK

I am a glass three-quarters full person.

I started off with a full glass but a little was tipped out a long time ago. It is still there, around the base of the glass.

Sometimes I see the droplets, shiny, glinting back at me, pieces of the whole, and bemoan the loss.

But really, the absence of something – the spillage – has given me room to move, to slide, to bubble and settle, and because there is a little distance from the top of the liquid to the top of my glass, it feels that little bit safer. Somehow.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Strange moaning

When I have a bad throat – a really bad, sore throat that is accompanied by a cough – I groan while sleeping. It stops me from coughing. Somehow, and luckily, S sleeps through it.

I was in bed last night, still in the throes of this annoying throat/chest virus thing, when I heard S get up. I figured it must have been because I was doing my strange moaning. I felt ill, though. My stomach was aching and I was very nauseas but couldn't bring myself to move from bed. I did that thing where you breathe deeply and slowly, and swallow down saliva, and repeat... I must have gone on like that for hours.

Ah, I should have mentioned that there is a dead mouse (or possibly two of the blighters) beneath the floorboards in our bedroom. The stench is vile. We aim to get pest control out as soon as we can. No mice have been seen anywhere, so I must assume that they have been living downstairs primarily, in GFG's place, and then head up to the ceiling to breathe their last.

Anyway, S eventually headed back to the bedroom, took a step inside and then retched when he smelled the decaying mice/mouse (I had managed to stay in the room thanks to the effects of my heavy cold; S's mum was staying in our other bedroom so we weren't able to decamp there).

S was very poorly. It turned out we had food poisoning, with S succumbing to the worst of it. He looks so little when he is ill, like a young boy. As it turned out, he hadn't left the bedroom because of my strange moaning but due to the washing machine that was his stomach. He hasn't been well since. We went out briefly today to get some air (the kitchen now also smells of ex-mouse – great!), but mostly sat in cafés like a pair of squeezed lemons.

What a combination – me with my ongoing Christmas cold, S poisoned by sausages... Just spoke to my friend, V, who is sneezing and spluttering.

'Tis the season to be unwell, it seems...

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Merry Christmas one and all

Should be in bed, but like a small child, I have woken up and am in the kitchen. My eyes are tired, yet I can't sleep. I want Father Christmas to take away my cough/cold, which has made slumber impossible.

I am seeing whether manuka honey stirred into hot water will help.

It is December 25th. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful, happy New Year.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

February? Are you sure?

A magazine to which I subscribe has just sent me its February issue. I took it out of its plastic wrapper and hid it beneath the January issue. I can't look at it yet. I mean, it will be full of Valentine's gifts. Spring clothes...

* * *

I have spent most of today in bed with a cough/cold. Many of my colleagues and fellow commuters coughed their way through last Wednesday and Thursday. One woman at work sounded plague-ridden – why she came to work is anyone's guess. I think it's rather selfish, especially when there was hardly any work to do. Such generosity...

Anyway, it was very foggy in London today. The view from my window was Dickensian, so it wasn't too difficult to stay inside. Nice and cosy.

Friday, 21 December 2007

It's Christmas, be happy!

My supermarket visit today was not relaxing. Sometimes, when I am working at home and can get there early, it is fairly quiet when I arrive. On such occasions, there is time to read the labels and scan shelves. Weirdly for some, I enjoy doing this.

But today, the place was packed with people impatiently pushing trolleys down aisles populated by those who hadn't had the foresight to make a list and loitered annoyingly, oblivious to the dozen people stuck in their wake of indecision. I carried a basket and a small shopping list but managed to fill it so that I could only lift it if I used both of my kung fu-strengthened arms.

All the checkouts were open so I put my basket down behind a grey-haired woman who was buying a feast's worth of goods and remembered that I had forgotten to but the stuff you pour down the plughole to get the water to flow faster. In the minute I was gone, the feast-buyer still had plenty on the conveyor belt but a youngish woman had wheeled her trolley up. When I slipped in to where my basket was – in its legitimate place in the queue – she snapped: "You shouldn't do that!" And thus ensued a ridiculous conversation where this sad, lumpy woman, who looked as though she sucked lime for pleasure, kept on and on about it. How, oh, the world would end if everyone did that. And, oh, how it would stop global warming if I hadn't left my basket there for sixty seconds. (Almost.)

I told her to stop being so rude and added that I couldn't be bothered to speak to her. I was amazed that such a non-happening could arouse her pique. She really must have a life devoid of any real problems if she could spare the energy to act like such a silly fool over nothing. The most ironic part was when she said: "It's Christmas, be happy!" with a scowl on her face.

I shook my head in disbelief and she changed aisle. A lovely old man with sparkly eyes and a smile then unpacked his things behind me. The woman watched from the corner of her eyes as we enjoyed some banter and laughed.

* * *

This song sends shivers down my spine. It makes me cry, every time.

RIP SS's mum.
RIP Kirsty MacColl.

Thursday, 20 December 2007


A good friend found out today that his mother has died.

A total shock. SS's mum, M, lived at the other end of England. Her friend couldn't get hold of M and called her son today, during the tail-end of our Christmas lunch. I'd just left but a mutual friend called me as I was on the bus and said that SS had had a call and that he'd rushed off – we live close to one another so she knew it was likely that he'd visit me and S over Christmas. We'd planned an evening of mulled wine, mince pies and games for Saturday. I'd planned to call SS tomorrow but he sent me a text message in reply to my 'please let me know how your mum is', which arrived during the surreality of my kung fu class.

The police broke the door down and found his poor mum. We had been talking about her a lot yesterday and today. He was brought up by her and has no siblings. They were due to spend Christmas together. He is driving up to his mother's place now. God...

He hasn't wanted/ been able to talk yet, and I don't feel as though I've been able to think of anything useful to say in my messages to him.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Christmas events two, three and four

I know it's lazy. I know I said I'd write an entry for each event. But I am far too tired... And, to add to my lazy behaviour, I shall write a synopsis rather than a lengthy account for each. There is probably only so much one can say about Christmas parties, anyway.

* * *

Well, number two was a good night – it was spent at a very good curry house with 12 friends, including S. We ate a lot, drank a reasonable amount (I stuck to my quality-not-quantity-Champagne quaffing) and people laughed frequently, which pleased me as I had organised the meal.

People seemed to enjoy it more than they perhaps anticipated, which I think is better than expecting a wonderful time and feeling the slump of disappointment when it doesn't meet hopes. I wore my silver dress, which attracted a few comments. Seems that it was worth the mad hunt to track one down in my size.

* * *

Event number three was a large lunch party that fell short of the mark, mainly because it was at a Chinese restaurant and I have never been keen on Chinese food. The party – at one of the best restaurants in London, apparently – failed to impress me. Also, I was not in a great mood for the event, having been slightly arm-twisted by a friend who wanted me to go with her, as she would not have known anyone else at the lunch otherwise.

As it turned out, several people we knew were there and we sat with them and some strangers who quickly proved friendly and humorous. But I was glad to get home into my warm rooms, where I kicked off my boots, climbed out of my skinny jeans and relaxed, tiredness seeping from every pore. It has been so very cold of late... Being home was like being back in the womb.

* * *

Event four was a traditional, posh Christmas dinner, courtesy of one of my major clients/employers. Out came the (clean) silver dress again, attracting comments, including the bizarre, scowling: "If I tried to get into that dress it would come down to my ankles, but you are so tall and slim. You're such a fucking bitch." Thanks. So are you.

I was taken aback that this woman who barely knew me has spat out such a back-handed, erm, compliment. There was no irony or humour. But she was effusive in her 'good morning' to me this morning, whereas in the past she has bordered on the monosyllabic. A friend, who was considering employing this woman, was shocked, and suggested the comment was based on jealousy. How old are we?!

The 'fucking bitch' woman has stepped very neatly over my tolerance line with her charmless mouth. I had noticed (but not cared) that she excludes me from conversations – makes eye contact with everyone but me – although I have always been friendly to her... Don't really like being spoken to like that. This young lady should remember that what goes around comes around, and I know quite a few people who could give her work (or not).

S gave me and a friend of ours a lift home, which was brilliant and lovely of him. It would have been a very long, very cold night otherwise, as we all live on the other side of the capital. The silver dress is not conducive to a temperature of zero.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Fight afterwards, yeah?

That's what several of my kung fu club friends have said to me. We are going out tonight for a meal at a very nice restaurant. We're meeting in a bar first, then possibly going to one afterwards, too. But what has made me laugh is the number of people who have jested about having a fight once the desserts have gone down.

I don't intend to fight, of course. I'm not quite that obsessed with kung fu, and I haven't become a street-fighting wench. I will keep score if others wish to fight (they won't – they're actually all nice people) but if certain friends could see me now, scaring classmates, talking fighting talk and managing to get in some quick hits with much glee, they would probably think I have a secret twin.

* * *

My pet rabbit is stretched out in her soft bed, looking at me with her liquid brown eyes. Goodness, that creature is the epitome of gentleness. Utterly sweet. The animal manifestation of molasses, velvet, a fluffy hot water bottle and magic dust.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Frosty morning

Left the central heating on all night by mistake. Normally, this would turn the place into a sauna but instead it took on a mildly warmish feel. The cars outside are all white, the sun is bright but is hidden behind a mist of grey.

* * *

As I eat my breakfast, I am listening to the story (on the radio) of a 12-year-old who is writing her second book – incredible. Ah, I really must get cracking with mine. This young lady has even signed a three-book deal...

Wednesday, 12 December 2007


I wriggled my toes, focused on softening my shoulders and tried to regulate my breathing. But I still found it difficult to totally relax as the dentist pierced my gum four times with his long, thin hypodermic needle. This thing was longer than my (quite long) hand. It glistened.

After the trauma of my recent tooth extraction and ensuing infection and disgusting antibiotic treatment, I can't say I was terribly eager to visit the dentist, who is a nice chap, but not one you want to see too often, especially when he has metal implements to hand. Anyway, it was OK. The process was uncomplicated enough but the noises rendered the simplicity complicated.

I wondered what I was meant to be thinking of as he prodded, poked, bleeped, crunched and, of course, drilled. I started by thinking about people who can withstand surgery thanks to their strong minds alone, eschewing anaesthetic, the crazies. It didn't help that the words driller killer ran through my head. That started images of hydraulic drills used by people who dig roads. Road diggers. That wasn't helpful.

Once the fillings were in place, I wiped my seemingly nerveless face with a couple of tissues, my mouth drooping slightly, paid and left. My next visit will be to the hygienist. Surely that will not involve blood and needles. Hmm.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

I'm better than you...

I can be as competitive as the next person. But the person I am most competitive with is myself. Me.

However, I encounter people who are stupidly competitive in the context of friendships and it is terribly destructive. Like a shadow behind them that you cannot always see, you sometimes think this most unattractive trait has gone or was never there. But then, the light changes and it's there, sharp and dark.

I have one ex-friend who was idiotically competitive. She even said her new flat was in one part of London when it was in fact in another, less salubrious area. She was a miserable cow when she earned an OK wage, as long as it was one that was less than mine. She was irritated when I got engaged, wistful at my wedding and then pissed off when things got too much for her ego. They got to be too much for me, too, it has to be said.

* * *

What is it about some people that they have the manner and charm of a melted slug when 'serving' in shops? Why do they not go home and stick pins in their eyes, for surely that would make them happier? To the gnarled woman and the effete man in the small store I went in today: you are a disgrace. I will never buy anything in your store again but I may just go in tomorrow and try on 50 pairs of shoes just to make your grim little faces turn pink. Idiots.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Champagne farewell

My lovely boss took me and another employee (another freelance) out to say thanks for working at the magazine for the last few months. I told her I could only drink Champagne, so she bought a bottle for us to share. (I really can only stomach Champagne, following my treatment for insomnia... No, really!)

I had just about had enough water to feel detoxed from last night's four glasses (not exactly heavy drinking!). I retoxed with another two. I just want to eat fruit and eat good food now. I don't like feeling tired and zonked' have had enough of that with the insomnia.

* * *

The bruises on my arms from kung fu are black now. They'll heal just in time for the next class. I was glad the room was sort-of dark last night, as it made the marks less noticeable.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Christmas event one

OK, so I'm back home already and compos mentis enough to write my blog, but I did go to a party from fairly early on this evening, where I drank Champagne. I had a few canapés as well – they were OK, not enough to soak up the few drinks I had, though, so I'm eating bread and honey now.

I wore my high-heeled black suede boots and my sixties silvery shift dress. I liked the result.

Plenty of S's colleagues were at the posh bar (it was a work-related event hosted by his workplace). It was good to see the ones I knew, funny to see the ones I'd only ever just heard about, and interesting to meet a few new people, too.

I realised yesterday that I had nearly 10 events to go to over the ensuing fortnight. These will be detailed in this blog. Going to the party has made me feel festive. I think I'll put the decorations up at the weekend.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

The smelly man

I was lucky enough to get a seat on my bus to work this morning. I put my bag down and a woman plonked her wet umbrella on it. I wasn't pleased. As I settled down, an oldish man using two sticks as an aid embarked the double decker. As the bus passed the river, I stood up and offered him my seat, and stood nearby. He said thanks and sat down, seemingly amazed.

As he passed me to get to the seat, I smelled the stench of one who has lived on the streets. The woman who had placed her wet brolly on my bag glowered at me as he took his place next to her. The man played with what looked like a toy mobile phone as the stink of urine seeped from his very being. But he was just a man. What difference does it make that he was a down-and-out? He had more manners than the woman had with her frosty features and stony glare. It made me smile.

Eventually, the wet-umbrella-woman got off the bus and the man tapped me on the shoulder to offer me a chance to sit. I was getting off soon, so refused, thanking him. His blue eyes sparkled.

I wondered what he had looked like when he was a baby and his mother had held him close and breathed the very skin of him. I wondered if anyone did anything these days but simply walk away.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

People, people, everywhere, and not one stops to think

... or do they? They probably do. People.

It's funny, watching people Christmas shopping today, I wondered what it was all about, whether we are just bigger mice on bigger wheels. Signs said: 'Want it, Need it, Buy it'... And people, they bought and bought. It took an age to even get near the car park, let alone find a space. Why was I there? To buy some cards and a birthday gift. I could have waited until tomorrow and done that in my lunchtime. Ah, well.

Not many stopped to listen to the brass band playing (beautifully) in the store. They started with 'Joy to the World', then went through to my favourite carol, 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman', which makes me think of Dickensian Christmases.

On another note, I have fallen in love with Oxford. I had never been there until this weekend. The quadrangles with their perfect lawns, the tall yellow stone, the wood, the towers, the bells, took me back to dreams I had as a child, of spires, studying, silence and secret places. Christ Church was open to visitors – the hall was just lovely, with its huge Christmas tree, and the grounds near Merton College were bathed in tranquility. Utterly gorgeous.
Listening to: Editors - The Racing Rats

Saturday, 1 December 2007

The root of the matter

Yeah, well, my gum was infected. What with the recent health sagas of late, you'd never have predicted that, eh?

I put up with the pain for a week and secured an appointment at the dentist's on Tuesday. My boss was sweet – she let me leave work nice and early, so much so that I had time to collect my car so that I could get there with ease. She was probably also worried that I looked dreadfully pained and was somewhat odd as far as the new members of staff were concerned. I can't say I was at my most conversational but they seemed to understand.

So, dentist prods around, uses a jet cleaner thing to deep cle
an the wound and says he can a) see the tail-end of an infection (I was right! I knew that pain was abnormal!) and b) that he could 'see the bone'. *faint* Did he have to tell me that? I mean.

He stuffed some soluble dressing in the hole and prescribed antibiotics. Now, you'd think that would be that. It would be for others. But no. No, no. The antibiotics made me feel faint, nauseas, deeply tired and my stomach was puffed up like a balloon. I lost my appetite, which was a relief, as trying to eat while in pain had been terribly difficult. I couldn't exercise at all this week. I had no energy.

Anyway, I took the stuff for the rest of the week and was glad to take t
he last of the bitter pills today. The pain went after a couple of days, thank goodness, so it was worth the side-effects. I can just about brush the areas either side of the gum to clean a bit more thoroughly now, too. I like a fresh mouth.

The huge difficulty, however, is that this tooth saga has been stress-induc
ed. I am beginning to realise that, actually, I do have a lot on my plate. It was when S sadly shook his head and said how awful it was that I had had to have a molar removed due to stress-related teeth-grinding that it hit home pretty hard. I don't mean that in a self-indulgent way, but seriously, I need to sort out the tangled source of my stresses – and the way I handle the (very) tough stuff. It's critical.