Monday, 20 February 2017

Trying to make sense

I was listening to a Ted Talk on The Brain the other day. The speaker was describing how long it takes for our minds to put together visual information - which I promptly forgot, sadly, but it was a matter of milliseconds.
For example, his morning while driving along I was convinced I had seen a hare sitting at the side of the road but as I drove nearer it was revealed to be a less-exciting, slightly knocked stripy bollard. I suppose it's an ancient fear and flight 'brain application' - an old discarded inner tube could be a viper, that cluster of cracks on a wall, a humungous spider . . .

Creepy Dickensian character?


                                 Angry hippo with one eye shut?

Laughing but with possibly evil intent, hippo/dinosaur/one of these giant water mammals I've forgotten the name of that live in Florida.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Ever-changing human emotions

Funny, isn't it.
You can wake up feeling perhaps mildly optimistic, or very optimistic, or miserable, or full of anger, then throughout the course of a day depending on conversations, emails, the weather, a new scratch on the car, a dog poo in the wrong place, someone giving you an unexpected present, a packet of tea discovered at the back of a cupboard when you thought you had run out, an incredible cloud, a good lunch, new socks, etc, etc and everything changes for better or worse, until the next boring/fun/extraordinary/necessary/ life-changing or one step closer to death, thing that happens to alter your mood during this particular twenty-four hours.
Or maybe some people don't experience this - are always, or mostly always on a course of, 'yep, OK-ness' or everything being constantly a uniform grey, or extreme positiveness always. . . how exhausting.
Real depression is crippling, and I'm lucky to only experience perhaps a day a month where I feel 'Well, shit . . ." and also lucky in the knowledge that tomorrow I'll feel 'normal', whatever my normal-ness is - mostly optimistic in a muddling along sort of a way.
So, today was a patchwork of emotions with a dip in the early afternoon heading towards 'Well, shit . . . but saved by the kind and genuinely helpful words of a good friend.
The mouldy mood had stemmed from feeling that I might be wasting my time trying to get published (something that is moving forward, glacially). I was preparing for full sky-dive into Well, shit . . ." when an email arrived from the friend who had finished the book in question (and has helped me a great deal with editing over a couple of years). Constructive praise ending in 'congratulations' and from someone I know would always tell me if something needed fixing, blew the dismal mood away. I sauntered into the garden with shears and attacked bushes that had needed serious trimming for weeks, gazed up at clouds and generally felt that the world, at least within my own personal compound, was and is a good place.

Monday, 6 February 2017

January London wanderings

 . . . As ever, based vaguely on a 'map' of one of my book character's movements, workplaces and habitation.
On venturing out in the early morning, I considered the fact that I really should spend part of my sacred day going to see some art: God! London is stuffed with it and magnificent museums, theatres - all aspects of culture, but somehow I felt over-compelled to continue my mission of stalking Hamish's (present main character) London life-map.


              Perfect day for a tad of psychogeography . . .

After porridge and tea in the excellent Bloomsbury café situated beneath my favourite home-from-home, the St Athan's hotel, I walked swiftly( at first) in the direction of East Finchley before getting distracted by a thousand or so details of my favourite city that I had never before observed. The Keystone Crescent (previously Caledonian Crescent - better name, methinks) for example.


How had I walked about WC1 so many times and overlooked this architectural wonderment: smallest radius of any Crescent in Europe, and unique in having a matching inner and outer circle.
First on my desired locations for Hamish's life was a small, black-frame windowed book shop and turning into Leigh Street I found it - perfect in every way, from to its teetering piles of books to shadowy small courtyard; perfect, except it's already been used (I discovered later after checking) in a   BBC (dark) comedy series. Damn. But I suppose there's no rule to say I can't mentally move into the shop too . . .

I Continued walking to King's Cross and turned into a road that used to house a decrepit building/photographic studio where I often worked as a stylist back in the early 90s, running up and down the metal staircase with props and parking tickets. It had long gone, replaced by a boring dull-bricked hotel called sleep-u-like or some such thing; even worse, the beautiful little Italian deli at the end of the road was sadly empty, possibly waiting a wrecking-bal (sob). The downside of these nostalgic wanderings - missing buildings of my earlier London years, now gaps in the jaws of the city or morphed into uniform sleek edifices of marble and glass.

Continuing up the Caledonian Road, I caught a bus as my feet were complaining and arrived at Archway where I caught another bus to East Finchley, sitting at the top/front enjoying the pigeons'-eye view of scraggy shops, mustard-bricked terraces and hurrying commuters.
A florist figures highly in Hamish's life - a series of floral apologies and love messages, and I'd found the ideal establishment: 'Josephine's', established well before the decade the book is set in.

I skulked about a bit and spoke to one of the florists but unfortunately the manager wasn't there; not that I needed to speak to them but I just like to find out a bit of history surrounding my potential locations.
Onto Muswell Hill via Fortis Green road where I chose a house on Western Road that would fit the style I had imagined for my character's flat.



A couple of unchanged shop interiors 

Muswell Hill . . . place of my childhood up until thirteen or so; everything is still so familiar, and many places unchanged - the old pet shop, Martyn's, the marvellous old coffee/tea/dry goods shop with its coffee roasting machine still in the window, and the parade of shops on Duke's Avenue where I wish to place 'Lily's' taxidermy establishment. Old chemist chosen, I checked out a few charity shops, caught the 134 back to Russell Square and meandered into the sub-real district of Bond Street with its shop displays of obscenely-expensive shoes and handbags fabricated to carry life's essentials of a single lipstick and a gold American Express card.

 smaller than a hedgehog 

Mm, comfy

A . . . beige shoe with special powers?

After walking around snarling quietly at such excess, I went into Liberty's, mainly to look at their staircases' carved animal newel posts and the changing rooms on the women' clothing floors.
Hamish experiences a very spontaneous 'act' with his new lady-friend in one of these cubicles which I had imagined as large, spacious and full of William Morris wallpaper; in fact they were smallish, mirror-clad and possibly installed in the late 70s?
A beautiful man with skin like the most perfect cup of coffee (drink, not cup) and an exotic silver necklace informed me that he didn't know and I would have to ask the store designers. There didn't seem to be any about so I had another gawp at shoes that cost 800 pounds plus, and went back outside in search of TEA in an old Italian, formica café, the likes of which of course sadly don't exist now, bulldozed into the past by Starbucks, Neros, et al.

I liked this very much but preferred the idea of paying the electricity bill

The weather had now decided to revert to standard January precipitation so I got on a bus and enjoyed looking out at the blurry traffic lights, headlights, window display lights, bus lights, etc, until I got to Russell square and ran back to the hotel with saturated feet and perused the internet for theatres/cinemas within slopping distance.
Three hours or so later I emerged from Tottenham Court road Odeon wondering why I had spend 14 quid on seeing LaLa Land - sweet, silly, zilch story, and the dancing . . . well, maybe better to watch a re-run of Mr Kelly splashing about in the studio rain.

Man in bus shelter who had perhaps just heard on his smartphone who had made it to the Whitehouse

Bus window condensation-art

Friday, 3 February 2017

community matters

After catching the end of a feature on Radio 4 this morning I Googled 'Window Wanderland' and found a million images relating to a winter event that takes place in the streets of Bristol.
A great idea of Lucy Reeves Khan, the premise is to make your own front windows a nighttime gallery, display or mini-theatre piece - whatever you like for one evening. As a fan of wandering about suburban city streets and looking into (usually with slight voyeuristic guilt) evening-lit windows I applaud such an unusual and creative idea.
As Britain detaches itself from the mother mainland I feel more ideas like this will be needed -  British eccentricity, irony and humour used in small community and larger communities; something to unite town inhabitants and reduce suspicion of 'strangers'; something be celebrated and possibly to be exported. I'd love to see the night windows of my small French town undergoing the same treatment, but I just quite imagine it actually happening . . .

Bristol post


                                                               Harrogate News

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Future predictions?

While watching (as much as I could stand) of D,T''s inauguration day speech my mind wandered back to the very brilliant Back to the Future 2.
The person who made this excellent mash-up, and many other people (glanced through Google images just now) have obviously thought the same thing as the director back in 1985.

Did Zemeckis have a premonition?

Wikipedia images

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Things of absolutely no consequence

But with a certain weird satisfaction.
Anyone who has followed this blog may have come across various posts on the subject of our kettle.
Bought in a vide-grenier (car-boot sale) about ten years ago it has continuously been a functional and heart-warming object in our kitchen.
The original knob dropped off soon after we acquired it and then followed a procession of different objects to act as replacements: a brass curtain finial, a lead policeman, a metal greyhound, corks and so on. The latest, an ancient lead sheep, has been tied on about four times with the wire from a Blanquette (champagne-like substance from this region) cork but the cork eventually perishes, or the wire snaps.
Mark is still insisting that the sheep is good and that the wire has to be recycled from the cork chosen for the job, rather than using a longer piece from a roll of wire. I told you this post was of little or no consequence . . . but I felt like writing about something small, cosy and homely when such unknown and unbelievable enormities are currently filling our Guardian screen startup page.


                                               tools for the job

                                    satisfied craftsman


                                             Sheep reigns again

Monday, 16 January 2017

He's behind you . . .

Oh, no he's not . . . yes he is! etc.

I've never overly loved pantomime but for the last few years we've been going to an off-beat, eccentric production in the small Southern French town of Chalabre, and gradually getting involved in it - a few musical numbers, a few more, Mark doing all the music, and this year, me playing a character in a loose adaptation (very clever and poignant one) of Alice in Wonderland.
I've never acted before, sung on stage yes, but learning lines and saying them in the right order and knowing enough of the other person's lines to not come in at the wrong place is . . . challenging for the old memory banks.
It was a wonderful process to see all the scenery and costumes coming together, especially as this is a no-budget production: everyone finding and making what they can. This year for the first time the panto was put on in the little theatre of the village, not the large attic space in the house of one of the actors, which was good but odd though - less intimate, a more serious, slightly less magical feel to the proceedings.
The play was acted by both French and English folk, and was watched by both French and English folk, and, although the majority of the parol was in English, it didn't seem to matter at all - such is the power of visual silliness!
The director/writer (Pete Newbury) is suggesting that this could be the last panto he puts on (TONS of work) but I hope his script-writing brain starts chugging away before too long, and in time for another festive highlight to this drab part of the year . . .

Me on the right as the White Queen (cockney)