Thursday, 31 January 2008

Beadle's not about

I feel sad that this entertainer – who was best known for playing pranks on people – has died. It was pneumonia that got him; he'd survived two bouts of cancer. He was only 59.

Jeremy Beadle was often berated. I don't know why, but I suppose it could be that he sometimes looked as though he was smugly enjoying others' mishaps (even though they were harmless). I grew up in the 1980s and recall finding his television shows funny – they attracted around 15 million viewers. Game for a Laugh was good entertainment – my family sat around and laughed together at the antics on screen, and that's no bad thing. He was a good radio presenter, too.

But whether people liked him or not, you cannot argue that the loss of a man who quietly raised a mind-blowing £100 million for charity is indeed tremendous. He was awarded an MBE for his good work, and rightly so.

Photo: PA

Windy city

The fact that it is windy today has made the news. Yes, the wind is gusting and making next-door's wind chimes clang in a violent dance. But it is January. It is winter. What do we expect?

Monday, 28 January 2008

Sweeney Todd, hmm...

I wasn't impressed with Sweeney Todd. Maybe it's my own fault. I don't like many musicals but I thought the combination of Johnny Depp, Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham-Carter et al would do the trick and make the annoying enjoyable (and, yes, the songs were very annoying).

Most people will know the plot (I didn't) but suffice to say, I was not convinced that Depp conveyed enough madness to successfully portray a man who'd lost his wife – and was about to lose his daughter for good – and behaved so amorally as a result.

Take Hannibal Lecter. You admire him in some way. He is intelligent – fiercely so. And he snaps with humour that doesn't spring from softness. Hopkins's flashing eyes, his thin smile: a proper demon. But Depp? Well, his performance reminded me of Russell Brand, Captain Jack Sparrow, Amy Winehouse, Mick Jagger and other glottally-stoppered folk who were simply in a terribly bad mood. He was flat, I thought. There was no menace there. I didn't like to look straight at the screen during the killing scenes but it wasn't through suspense, it was just that I don't like gore.

The film is literally colourless and the CGI made it flatter yet. London, referred to in the opening song (cringe) was wasted as a character. It's a gloomy film, left me wondering what all the fuss was about, and that was that. Average: C+. Could do better.

Anyway, en route to the cinema, S and I went into a tiny pub that was so small it was like being in someone's front room. A real fire burned. We had enough time to have a drink before Sweeney Todd started – a lovely forty minutes or so that helped to make the film worthwhile. And, on our way home, we both talked non-stop, agreeing with each other and with all of the above.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Bigots, stay at home

It's astounding to hear this morning that anti-gay protesters (mainly from the US) are planning to picket Heath Ledger's funeral when it happens. They'll probably be booking their plane tickets to Perth now. I really don't know what to say.

For those who haven't seen Brokeback Mountain, Heath, who is heterosexual, played a gay cowboy. This apparently is just not acceptable. The film is a love story about two people who can't be together – it is moving, heartbreaking and beautifully acted. Heath Ledger was nominated for an Oscar for his outstanding performance but the homophobic imbeciles of Hollywood, living in their Disney-papered towers of 2.4 kids and a mistress on the side, decided that he shouldn't get the top award.

What mentality must someone have to want to picket a funeral to peddle their beliefs? How utterly vile a brain must such a person possess? In Australia, the freedom of speech laws are not the same as those in the US. I hope the protesters, if they get anywhere near the funeral, are locked up and shut up.

Picture: AP

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Don't say he deserved it

Heath Ledger was found dead last night. I found it shocking, not because he is famous, but because he was just 28 and it was a bolt from the blue. I saw the unassuming young man, who was named Heathcliff after the Wuthering Heights hero, in A Knight's Tale at the cinema in 2001. My friend and I thought this new face was a charming knight, a proper Hollywood hero in the making with his blond hair and strong build. Then S and I watched Brokeback Mountain in 2005 and were impressed. The contrast between the knight and the ranch hand was marked – he had grown up and was a damn good actor with the promise of much more to come. Rolling Stone said: "Ledger's magnificent performance is an acting miracle. He seems to tear it from his insides."

I was appalled to hear a few idiots on the radio last night say Heath Ledger was stupid, that people who take drugs deserve all they get. And this is even before the autopsy! Maybe it was suicide. Maybe it was an accident. He took prescription drugs – sleeping pills, I think. God knows how not sleeping can make a person feel. It is torturous, cruel, hellish to the sleepless. Sound sleepers, some of them smug bastards, cannot possibly glimpse the depths: everything, everything is affected. There are things that cause the sleeplessness obviously, and who knows what these were in the case of Heath Ledger. He had a selection of sleep and anti-anxiety medication around him. He told one interviewer that he couldn't sleep, that his mind kept on and on. The recent split from his ex-fiancée and their child, battling to stay off heroin and hating the Hollywood publicity machine that plagued him were too much for him to manage.

How can anyone stand back and be callous enough to say he deserved it? Reportedly, he was hypercritical and gave himself a hard time. I bet the "I told you so" brigade don't have much insight into their own failings, their own faults and problems, ghosts and demons. No, it's much easier to pick on easy targets from your self-made pedestal of perfection, isn't it? They should remember as they sit in judgment: what goes around...

OK, so I didn't know Heath but I respected his work, and from what I've read and seen, he came across as a kind, caring, hardworking, ego-free, talented human being. And that is enough for me to say that I'm sad and sorry that such a person is no longer with us.

Dima Gavrysh/Associated Press

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

London: another kiss

I love London. Love, like you could love a person. It has its faults, benefits, beauty, ugliness, character, style, brittleness, warmth and can either bring you down or inspire you.

I know which bits of London inspire me, and, as a Londoner, I know them well. Their pavements and parks have the imprint of my heels at some molecular level. I go to them sometimes serendipitously because my bus takes me past – or to – them depending on where I am working. Other places involve a short or long drive at the weekend. And there is the part of London in which I live – it has pockets of beauty that may inspire me to buy a new camera soon, seeing as my current one no longer works. The formerly trusty Canon now takes pictures that are criminally underexposed, leaving me with the hint of an interesting photograph. I couldn't live in a concrete-dominated area with no trees, parks, waterways or space to breathe.

Last week, I had so much to do that I worked on Saturday, but I don't mind doing so now and again because there is always something to do in the evening: a sweet carrot. I went with two friends to watch a third friend take part in a comedy competition. S was still away, or he would definitely have come along. We used to go to live comedy frequently when we first met – The Comedy Store in the West End was a particular favourite, and we also went to smaller, more intimate venues around the capital. We've found a couple of places close enough to where we live that we can walk there and back, which means we can drink beer (or in my case, Guinness) while we watch. The comedy contest was a good night. We complained about the standard of some of the acts and sat back with surprised laughter when some of these fledgling acts managed to make the room chuckle in a good, rather than embarrassed manner.

The night before that, I went to the cinema – the film was good but the price to get in and the cost of popcorn these days is madness (something not-so-good about London, though this may just be the case with Odeon cinemas everywhere). On Sunday, having slept pretty badly (partly due to work stress, partly due to the pain in my rib), I drove to Kings Road, Chelsea, to wander with no agenda and no one to meet – exactly what I needed.

Chelsea is fantastic. Not just because it has shops, no, but it is not crowded and feels spacious for a main street, has little cafés where you need not spend more than a fiver on lunch, and is head and shoulders above its nearby cousin, Kensington High Street. Also, I discovered a road where you can park free on Sundays – a huge bonus that is going to remain secret.

I did buy a few clothes, one of which was a jacket that had an extra forty quid slashed off the price tag at the till, rendering it bargainous. Then, I had a slow lunch while I read a magazine and people-watched before going for a walk and then driving home. There was some traffic but I didn't mind too much – the route home was fairly scenic, and once on the main road, it was very quick.

Back at my castle, I flumped on to the warm sofa with M, the rabbit, by my side and watched a DVD. Maybe you can do similar things anywhere, but in London there is a lot of what I like on offer with little effort involved to enjoy it. Maybe it is that I know where to find what I like. This city is vast. Rivers, yes rivers, incredible history, a plethora of entertainment, wide green parks, good food, style, art, culture, views, and most of all? Home.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Cleaning up

I gain a great deal of satisfaction from being in my home when it is clean, as it is now. Normally, there is a pile of clean clothes to put away, another pile of things that need to be washed, odds and ends to sort out, and a few papers dotted here and there. Nothing too terrible, but still.

I walk around looking at the clean rooms. It's not minimalist or huge, but it's comfortable, bright and warm. Sometimes I survey my kingdom (well mine and S's kingdom) two or three times, and then I sit down, sigh with satisfaction and drink a cup of tea.

Is this normal?

Friday, 18 January 2008

Missed my own blogday!

I started this blog on January 15th last year. That is mad. Mad. Mad, mad, mad, mad, mad.

Good heavens. Happy belated blogday to me...

Remedy for a stressful day

First course:
See The Golden Compass...
Oxford and its spires
Good witches
Imagination (that of the writer, Mr Pullman)...

Followed by:
Home, sweet home
Hot risotto
Cold ale
S calling me from Paris
M, rabbit, sitting nearby
Me, dozy and warm

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Paris plus S

S is in Paris. It is quiet without him. The familiar turn of the key in the lock, his footsteps coming up the stairs to my study, and our happy hello, before he ruffles the rabbit M's head is a routine when I am working at home. I keep thinking S is in the living room and then I remember that he isn't here. A friend popped in earlier and I commented how strange, that I had once lived alone for seven years or so, and how I then relished my aloneness and, yes, I liked it very much, thanks. But things, they change. Life's funny.

He went earlier this evening, though I did not see him leave from shiny new St Pancras, as he went straight from work. I was invited to go with him (to see family who are staying in Paris for a while) but at first, money problems made this impossible for me (S offered to pay but I said no, and I can be very stubborn), and then work piled in and there are the practicalities of not being able to lift much at the moment thanks to my cracked/bruised ribs.

So, S is in Paris, the wonderful city of light and romance. We went there two months into knowing each other. I went there last year to visit my friend, Inz, and to have a break from my sleepless London bed. S was unable to come with me due to work madness. The air was fresh and cold. The oxygen and the delicious cityness of the place seeped into my being, waking me in a good way, giving me energy. S is there now. I am there, too, if only in my mind. It's not quite enough but it will have to do for now.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Please let there be karma

Reading stories like this in the news makes me want to weep. Let's hope the judge is sensible.

I don't believe in hell (or heaven) but on this occasion, I'll make an exception, give hell the benefit of the doubt, and hope that those responsible for this murder get what they deserve.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

The hardest thing

The past few days have been a bit of a pain, literally. My bruised rib still hurts and makes sleeping tricky unless I neck painkillers that contain opiates. These dull the pain and knock me out – I can't say I mind. My friend, SS, picked me up yesterday so that I could buy a trolley-load of goods from Sainsbury's, as there was no way I could manage alone, and I didn't want to wait until S was home in the evening. We had a cup of tea and a cake afterwards. It was a lovely, sunny day, almost approaching springtime, I thought (it rained like fury later, however).

SS seemed to be in fairly good spirits. He is trying to sort out what to do with his mum's house at the moment. At times, he seems so calm and amiable that you forget he was bereaved just a few weeks ago. I ask him how he is regularly, but not overly, and at times say that if he wants to talk about anything relating to his mum, he can. I'm not sure he would. But that's his choice. He has friends rallying around him – useful in the absence of siblings.

Occasionally, SS comes out with something that sounds off, or odd, but maybe he is not really thinking clearly. I recall the fortnight after his mum died, he would ask me things that I had literally told him about in detail the day before.

When my grandmother died in 2000, my mum was upset but didn't talk about it much. She isn't a talker, in that sense. She mentions her beloved mum now and then but I don't think she would sit down and answer: "How are you feeling?" with any eagerness. She is calm, and is a relaxing, caring presence, always. My dad, whose mum died when he was a child, stopped talking about such events a long time ago. He had a hard life afterwards. He, too, has dealt with much, and become a wonderful human being in spite of things that many would use as excuses for bitterness.

A dear friend lost her sister when my friend was just 18. She once told me she felt "robbed". She refers to her sister in conversations occasionally – I think she is inspired by her memory; she is a do-er, a remarkable, funny, kind woman who doesn't take life for granted. Another friend lost his father at 11, and has – I think – shaped his life around that loss. He is devoted to his children and is delighted by them in an all-encompassing way that brings him fulfillment.

These are some of the ways people deal with the hardest things. It is their prerogative and worthy of the utmost respect. There are more stories like these.

When a friend of mine died when she was 20, I dreamed for years that she had faked her death. Sometimes, even now, those dreams override the reality that she is no longer alive and I have to remind myself of the truth. She has been with me in dreams – in the background – with me telling her that she was dead and asking her what was she doing there. Confused, I'd ask: "Is that you, (insert name of her sister)?" And she would reply: "No, it's me." I would wake up bemused at times, slightly uncomfortable and then, sad. Once, she told me, in one of the most breathtakingly vivid dreams of my life, that she was "happy now", and then she danced into the distance, smiling as she never had in life.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Doctor's orders

Darn. I am not allowed to exercise for at least two weeks. The sucker punch I took to the ribs has, thankfully, not caused a fracture, but has caused muscle and tissue damage and what is known as a 'bruised rib', which can take a while to heal (relatively speaking) due to the ribcage moving constantly. I love kung fu; it helps me to sleep and sends me on an endorphin high. (I may re-think the sparring though.)

I slept for less than two hours last night as the pain was so great when I moved around. I cried with frustration. If there is one thing I cannot bear, it is sleeplessness that goes on for longer than one night.

Anyway, S took me to the local hospital A&E department this morning, where I was given some strong painkillers. We both fell asleep when we got back home (S was tired from having stayed up late). I felt like I was on another planet when I woke up. The packet says that the tablets 'cause drowsiness'. This is no bad thing.

Saturday, 12 January 2008


Oh dear, as much as I love it, maybe I'll have to restrict the amount of sparring I do in kung fu. I'm not sure that as a self-employed person I can risk having ribs bruised/cracked. Couldn't even hold my handbag yesterday, as it was too heavy to not cause discomfort. Luckily S was there to help at the end of the day. It is a big bag, and it did have papers and magazine in for work, but still...

Let's see if the sleep fairy does a shift tonight. One thing I can't bear is another reason (in this case, pain) to cause me to lose sleep.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Friday's child has had mojitos

Two tall mojitos, expertly mixed, with just enough lime and sugar... Zingy freshness that makes your mouth water, sweetness that turns a savoury drink into a treat. Delicious. On an empty stomach, however, they can go to your head a bit. Especially when you haven't had a cocktail for the best part of a year. Marvellous.

Today was good in contrast to yesterday's odd melange of weirdness. My two meetings went well, and were followed by two social appointments, both of which were very pleasant. One of them involved me meeting a relative I hadn't seen for years over cocktails, and the other was dinner with S, an impromptu meal that was very nice.

I just hope my ribs don't pain me too much tonight. When I turned over in bed last night, I yelped pretty loudly. And when I cough (for the darn lergy will persist), well, that is really not funny.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Thursday's child is full of woe

Things that happened today:

• This morning, after seeing a therapist who is helping me to deal with sleep-related things, I got a parking ticket. This was despite me having 45 minutes left to go, and the ticket was on the windscreen, clearly visible to the normally-sighted among us. Pee off, idiots.

• I slept very little (OK, so that was 'last night' but really, most sleep happens 'today').

• Most of my day was spent dealing with tradesmen (a pest control chap and an electrician – both very amenable and good at their jobs but their presence was not conducive to work). And, in contrast to last week, I am bloody busy now.

• I was punched very, very hard in the ribs during kung fu. I couldn't breathe. We aren't meant to thwack each other that hard – it's semi-contact, not semi-coma! I am in [insert swear word of choice] agony and am annoyed, as this has now become yet another health thing to deal with. I think a rib is cracked. Great. This same person broke another classmate's ribs few weeks ago...

• Following my previous post, I'm still smarting from the implication that I get work because of nothing more than my vital statistics. My friend overstepped the mark, but I can't really say anything as he is going through a hard time. I'd put it down to his trials had he not said similarly ridiculous things – though not as bad – in the past.

'It's only cos he fancies you'

I'm not best pleased. A bloke who we shall call Envielous made a silly joke, number 344 in a series of 2,902 in all likelihood. But the joke was not funny. Ergo, it was not a joke.

I have been given a couple of pieces of work by Henry, someone
Envielous and I both know. Envielous asked me a perfunctory question about the work and then said: "Henry likes you. He does." I was puzzled at the way he coupled this with a stupid, cheesy grin. Like? What has like got to do with this? I do a damn good job. End of.

Shocked, I said: "Envielous, that's not very nice. Henry does not like me like that. He likes me, yes, but as a colleague. I've worked with him before and he likes the way I work, that's all. He's hands-off, I like being autonomous, so it's fine."

Cue silly expression from
Envielous (a sort of grimace and smile, but essentially, jealousy)...

"Henry's always surrounded by women. He works with lots of women."

"So do you."

"Yeah (ha ha), and I know how men think.
And when Stuart walks past your desk, he says hello. He always says hello."

Ooooh, he says 'hello'. How raunchy. Hmm, yes, he is polite because we have worked together a lot, idiot. Not because he wants to jump my bones.

How dare he paint me as some kind of tart who is given work just because I am female? What's he saying – that we have orgies in the stationery cupboard to judge suitability for employment? That the only way I could possibly have been given the work was because someone fancies me? Oh, please. Maybe it was meant as a joke but I find it hurtful and silly.


Not. Happy.

* * *

And I didn't sleep well last night. Three hours at the most. Grrrrr.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Careful what you wish for

I wished for work, as I had none. Now I have plenty.

I now wish for more time to do my creative writing.

Ah, well. I shall have to work quickly on my work writing to give myself time for the stuff that I love, the non-work writing.

I wish my non-work writing would transform into being what I do for work writing. Better get on with writing the novel, eh?

Monday, 7 January 2008

Dear Plagiarist

Thank you for copy-and-pasting one of my posts word for word. You have, judging by your blog's breadth of style, lack of consistency, variations in grammar and plain oddness of content, copied the work of a few bloggers in a somewhat haphazard and meaningless manner.

I will take it as a compliment that you have chosen to copy and paste my words. But do remember, foolish one, I could kung fu you into 2009 if I wanted to. I still might.

Think on,
Mellifluous Very Dark


I am not earning much money at the moment and December's various tax bills and Christmas have not helped my cashflow situation but nevertheless I feel surprisingly OK. I have a large business expense (my accountant's fee) to pay this week, which is worrying, and if I want to keep up with kung fu and pay my share of the household bills, I need to find some extra cash pronto.

I'm being frugal but what's the point of falling into a worry hole? I've been doing practical things to try to get more work but it's a pleasant change for me to have time, precious time, in which to consider my direction and to approach the people for whom I really want to work.

It's strange. Most people I know detest January but I like it. It always comes with the feeling of newness and promise. I don't like the ridiculous money-fest of some people's Christmases, where it's 'buy buy buy' no matter what. The season of no reason. And I like my socialising to be spread out a bit rather than concentrated in a mad fortnight that results in exhaustion and the common cold.

So, here's to January. A good time to pull back on the reins and admire the view so you can conserve a bit (of energy and money) and perhaps see where you are going...

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Naughty breakfast

Instead of having wholemeal toast and jam, I picked up a new box of cereal this morning. I emptied some into a bowl. I only expected crunchy nut clusters (a treat) but there were chocolate curls in there, too.

I may have another bowlful.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Hot cross buns

Mmm, yes. I saw hot cross buns in Sainsbury's two days ago.

Today I saw someone buying them. Surely the scent of pine needles, brandy butter and mince pies cannot have evaporated yet?

Thursday, 3 January 2008

On guard

When I spar in kung fu, I am shocked when someone hits me in the face or around the head. I have tended to drop my guard, which is dangerous (obviously) but am doing my best to keep my arms up. Being swiped or hit is an incentive, that's for sure. If someone closes in on me, I tend to fight back hard, which had the result of me hitting someone below the eye in my last class.

The chap in question, who is a very nice person, was not too pleased. But what could I do? He'd stepped on my foot a couple of times after I'd hurt my toes and he had swiped me on the face and head a few times, and he was really going for it (as one must).

It feels unnatural, fighting, but it's good when it is controlled, as you learn to focus and realise that there is art in defence – attack is not everything. It makes you more stable on your feet, too.

Anyway, I apologised profusely. I did feel bad, as the intent is not to hurt one another but rather to make contact, which can be painful nevertheless! I suffered a hard kick on the arm from a relative newbie who was lashing out like mad (and rather dangerously). I guess we'll all have our share of injuries. I've had a kick in the breast (extremely painful), a cut lip (caused by the instructor!), massive bruises and various pains.

Why do I do it? There are many reasons: serious exercise, increased stamina, better focus, great camaraderie, I like to learn rather than just pound away in a gym, it brings catharsis in huge measure, it helps me to sleep and it is empowering. I certainly don't walk down the street feeling invincible – that would be insane – but if I needed to punch someone in extenuating circumstances, I'd hope all the practice would kick in (so to speak) and I'd send them flying.

Apparently people who are trained in martial arts get into less fights – maybe they give off more confident vibes, or maybe they know that they could really hurt someone... My instructor, and others I've seen, would be formidable opponents. If anyone was stupid enough to try to take them on in a threatening situation, they'd be pretty regretful when they woke up in hospital!

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Pause for thought

A woman I worked with many years ago recently got back in touch with me. She is now married and has a child, a little girl. She posted some photos on email; I commented on her daughter's bright, sparkly eyes.

My friend then shocked me by telling me that her child is in fact blind – she lost her sight at the age of two months, when a routine operation went wrong and she was starved of oxygen. Apparently, the girl's sense of hearing is so acute that people often fail to notice that she is blind, let alone the other disabilities she has. More than anything, my friend says she would choose to restore her daughter's sight so that she could see the looks in her parents' eyes as they look at her.

I know it isn't helpful but I can't help thinking: a routine operation went wrong... why? How can such things happen? How can my friend bear it? (Well, I know she obviously adores her child and that such love is quite rightly and naturally unconditional.) But knowing that someone made a mistake and robbed those eyes of vision? Horrendous.

Life is a mystery.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Resolution MMVIII

I resolve to be resolute:

I will get my sleep pattern sorted. I will come off the pills and it will be OK. My life will be mine again. I will be energised.
I will earn more money. I work very hard but my income doesn't always match the hours I put in.
3) I will continue to train in kung fu and become fitter yet. The health benefits of regular exercise have been astounding.
4) I will finish my novel. I cannot have this as a resolution for a new year again – no way. This is the year.
5) I will save more money. I don't want to worry about money any more...
6) I will continue to sort out my ball of wool stuff. (This means something to me, apologies for being vague.)