Thursday 26 February 2015

Hello world

Having no internet for four days is odd - oddly calming, but also incredibly frustrating. Checking the weather and/or if there really was an Earl of Sandwich/what cooking oil is best at a high temperature and if dogs do in fact see in black and white, etc, etc, is suddenly challenging. What did we do before? remain ignorant or went to queue up at the library behind a load of other people asking for dog biology books, I suppose. I can't even really remember now . . .
Anyway. I can finally do a blog about our (me and son) trip to London. It was time he conquered his fear of flying and saw/heard/tasted amazing things, and was shown where I lived for the first thirteen years of my life - good old Muswell Hill, or at least an offshoot of it.
He was great and didn't yawn at all as I showed him 'the place where the bins used to be', the flat where I first saw a nude man (I couldn't totally explain this as I don't really remember the details other than I had gone there to feed someone's cat) the launderette I used to go to with a copy of the Beano and other nostalgic details.

My favourite shop - ever. Martyns in Muswell hill: still there; thank the lord of dried fruit and special tea.

A tree just outside the flat's gate that I was particularly fond of - a Holme Oak I think

We stayed in a brilliant little hotel called St Athans, just off Russell Square: cheap, friendly and with Old Furniture in the rooms, and still a fair bit of Georgian character about it.
Most of the time we walked - miles and miles and took buses; sitting at the front on the top deck, just like I used to do. I was amazed and so happy to see a re-introduction of the Route-master 'hop-on-and-off' style bus, without however the old warm fuggy smell and with rather more groovy seat upholstery.

We didn't eat in here. I can't imagine why people want to eat cold fish in an over-lit laboratory environment on a grey wet day.

But we did eat in here: Pellicci, on Bethnal Green Road. I wanted to show Ezra a real old Caf; sadly so many have gone now, but this is the real thing: great, warming food, cheery owners Formica tables and original 1920s fittings.

We ate wonderful food: Rasam soup (ow-ow-ow) as hot as I recalled from when I lived just off Goodge Street, at the Ragam; Turkish food, liver and onions at the above mentioned Caf in Bethnal Green Road and lots of crisps (the variety in the UK is boggling); visited art galleries, gawped at ridiculous stuff in Harrods (well, you have to go there once, and Ezra hadn't) looked at The Shard, but didn't go up it (high price tag as well as dizzying height of building) and wandered about The City wondering why so much construction seemed to be going on in this financial mess time - especially that weird edifice that looks like a early-learning centre mobile phone

The Ragam Indian restaurant: somewhere at the back of Goodge Street - I didn't recognise the road as most of it seemed to have morphed into new vast office blocks.

One of many building sites around the City. I like the way they number the floors in big blue letters so construction workers can remember which floor they left the bag of filler on.

And look at this! I just had to stand for minutes staring at the impossibility of this bit of machinery. Like something out of Batman, this giant screw/digger thing (one of many, I suppose) is the reason why so much of London's floor can be delved into at such a depth.

Possibly the highlight of the trip was seeing 'The curious incident of the dog in the nighttime' at the Gielgud theatre: stunningly complex lighting and sound; beautiful, moving, funny, AND, I got a badge as I was sitting in a prime number seat

So may odd things to look at on London pavements, like this Christmas tree netting device, running free after escaping from a Christmas goods lockup somewhere.

And so many windows to look in

And so many silly things to buy

Harrods Dog and Cat clothes display . . . we rather liked the pure silk coat for tiny runty dog back home, but at 180 quid . . . maybe not.

Better than the Tate: a lone and dangerous vegetable in Harrods Food Hall.

Tuesday 10 February 2015


Ezra has just discovered the wonders of The Armstrong and Miller show, and now most conversation in the house is peppered with BBC-accented: 'isn't it' and 'shit like that', etc.
I love this extract featuring the wobbly wooden poles and execution officer trying not to laugh.

Friday 6 February 2015

I can do this

but it's just  . . . I prefer not to, what with the dodgy hip and that weird shoulder ache, and then if I fell over . . . you know, who'd take the dogs out during the day . . . Shit! maybe next life.

Person in bed under blue and white duvet: "Oh, Christ, not that bloody tune again - look, just come back to bed and get lucky, or at least bring me some tea!"

Thursday 5 February 2015

The meaning of stuff

I, bizarrely, decided to clean the mantlepiece this morning. The one downside of a wood fire is the vast amounts of dust. I don't usually notice it, and certainly no one else does - perhaps the big dog; she was staring fixedly at a huge, grey cobweb yesterday. Maybe household disorder disturbs her? We'll never know.
Anyway . . . I did - dust, and it was amazing how gleaming everything now looks, in a grey February light at least. And it was an interesting nip back into the past for a while as I thought about the objects that have become fixtures in the part of our front room that becomes so important in the winter months.
A recent friend of mine told me over a cup of tea that she has thrown everything away, or at least given away. Everything. Just a box or two remaining. How incredible that is; I am in awe of anyone who could accomplish such a feat. Sometimes I imagine us moving to a smaller place, and honing down the STUFF. How would you choose what should stay or go, to quote The Clash.
Here's a picture of a small section of the mantlepiece (without dust) and a brief history of the stuff that resides there.

from the left:
A dragon soap-stone letter seal: unusual in that it was from Mark's past. Most of the household clutter is of my doing - other than records and instruments that make up about 50% of the habitable space.
It was his dad's and resided on their mantlepiece until Mark 'borrowed' it to carve his own version in wood; I have it here on the desk and it's rather good.

A hippo that I think came from Brick Lane Market, donkey's years ago. The mantlepiece holds many other wooden creatures from that era.

Metal number 6 from a railway line; a find from a vide grenier/car boot sale, and my lucky number.

A piece of tile from the original Limoux tile factory that Ezra spotted on one of our 'let's walk around a part of town we don't know on this drizzly day' walks. Ale being significant in our family as the title of one of Tommy Trinder's drinking songs in Champagne Charlie, probably our most watched film: ever.
'Ale owd (old) Ale, give me a glass of owd Ale, nothing quite like the juice of the hop, nothing quite like when to know when to stop - give me . . . Ale owd ale' . . . etc.

A flattened fork from another walk around a vineyard. It was the only thing left in an old vinegrower's hut, and I think has featured in a previous post - touched by it as I was.

Ah. Something I could never get rid of. I will have to be buried with it.
A photo of a proud 1960's lady with her hair all 'done nice' in her garden arranging her collection of Pekingese dogs on a coffee table. What more could you want in a photo?

I suppose I could get the really VITAL things into one box if I had to choose: a bit like Desert Island Discs for stuff.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Pecking order

In winter I used to hang 'fat balls' in the pear tree, but the birds were not overly keen due to the cat being able to climb up and watch/eat them (birds, not fat balls).
This year I've hung them from the metal vine-holding construction (what is it called? - can't remember, but can't recall much this morning due to head being full of cold residue) at the front of the house.
This is good! Great, in fact. They can't see us, and we can see them. There's a sort of air-traffic control system of stacking in place now. Each fat ball has usually two or tree birds (tits of all sorts, sparrows, nut hatches, and once, a wily starling) attached to it, while other same-species fowl wait on the bare branches above and around. A second layer of birds hop around on the flower pots - sparrows, robins, dunnocks, etc, picking up 'fall out', and on the ground: blackbirds, thrushes, robins, starlings and occasionally, magpies, peck at grain and toast debris.
For the price of a cut price DVD, a bag of fat balls provides them with food and us with endless enjoyment at their arial acrobatics free of cat threat.

Sunday 1 February 2015

Box sets

Ahhh, winter: log fires, soup, hot water bottles and  . . . box-sets - mostly Nordic Noir at the present time. Sad but true; they see us through the long winter nights. Why we both want to sit and look at grim, pale landscapes and discoveries of grizzled corpses, etc, is a bit of a mystery, but the urge seems to persist.
This is the best yet: The Bridge - to my mind anyway. We're way behind most people and I think there's another series with different actors now. I would be unable to watch it however as this cast are supremely brilliant.
Take a  robotic and obviously mentally damaged, genius woman detective, and a warm, troubled, over-emotional man detective and throw them together over a murder mystery planted exactly between Denmark and Sweden on the magnificent bridge connecting the two countries; throw in a twisting demonic plot, cold designer houses, bleak cityscapes and a good splash of black humour and you have something utterly memorable.
Here's a clip of 'Saga' engaging 'Martin' whether he likes it or not on the subject of his sex life; something she has been reading up on in 'self-improvement' books in order to make sense of the mysterious emotional world most other people inhabit. I can't remember where the scene is from in the series, but they're probably on the way to investigate some tortured body in an icy, grey empty warehouse on the edge of the icy, grey nordic sea.