Monday 30 November 2015

Moving forward

Online publishing magazine 'Cracked Eye' have included my story 'The hundred and fifty-eighth book' in this month's edition.
Excellent publication featuring short stories, films and art.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

London on many tangents

            Big, isn't it? London. Coming in from the South-East side, not sure what the cluster of blue and pink 'jewels' are to the bottom of picture, possibly a huge fairground.

Another pilgrimage to my hometown, mainly with the excuse of researching for my series of books set in London (Londonia) in 2072.
I went with a sort of plan: a series of directions to take, pictures to sketch, train journeys to make etc, but as ever in this city, the plan became a long series of walking tangents as I spotted ever new things to investigate and photograph.
I arrived on a freezing evening after a long wait for a bus at Stansted, and was gladdened to see the little rectangular neon sign of the St Athan's hotel in the otherwise dark street of Tavistock Place.
For anyone wishing to stay cheaply in the centre of London, this hotel is brilliant: very cheap, clean with friendly staff and in a great location.

                                                           Gower street, early morning

Centre Point under wraps

The following morning I walked Eastwards towards Shoreditch and to St Leonard's church, the main setting for the first of my books: Hoxton. After many extra wanderings I arrived in time for their service and afterwards a chat with the very cool vicar, during which I gave him a proof copy and talked over possible ideas for a book launch there - whenever I actually finish/publish/ or get published.

I'd never noticed the café ('Kick') across the high street before, and, liking its eclectic mix of furniture outside - school desks and formica chairs, decided to have lunch there. Wonderful interior, and delicious food noted and eaten I walked back to the West end via Brick Lane, with many more tangents, including a visit to an Indian sweet shop - mmmm.

 fancy lettuce in a deli

 When I worked just off Brick Lane there were many fabric shops like this

rather extraordinary graffiti and murals

So, back to the West end, a bus trip over the river, a tad of opera in Clapham (arrived 3/4 way through a small scale, and very good, version of La Boheme) followed by fish and chips with friend Penny and a last tube journey of the day back to Russell Square.
The next day was cold enough for gloves, and cold enough to require fast walking, which I did, with no plan again. I meandered discovering new details, new streets, new (old) drinking establishments and visiting the churches that sit on islands in The Strand. I can't believe I lived so long in London with our ever stepping into these ship-like edifices surrounded by shoals of cars and buses.

An interior detail of one of the Strand Churches; all back, white gold, and oddly, very well heated

                            Part of the incredible entrance to Lloyds Bank on The Strand

A drinking house (Seven Stars) opposite the law courts. I really wanted to go in but it was only 8.30 in the morning. Probably the best name I've ever seen above a pub door.

                                         I liked their window display, particularly this.

Big cities are all about big stuff: sites, shows, flash shops, over-visited monuments . . . but it's the small details I often find more fascinating; things that tell a quieter and overlooked narrative of the everyday city.

      The first drinking fountain in Metropolitan London, complete with its own cups on chains not quite like the numerous coffee boutiques a few feet away.

two of several metal objects sunk, or possibly adhered to the pavement near the Brunswick center.

                                                     marble sign near Russell Square

And one day I'll do a walking tour/photographic marathon of all the London Blue plaques.

thought this one was a bit . . . desperate. Surely she had some other claim to fame? And she didn't even live in this house, but one on the site of . . . 

 He lent someone some socks who lived in this house - no, actually he did live there.

And so on to Mayfair to gawp in shop windows at diamonds, terrible art, Porches and handbags. 
If one were to look at a heat photograph of London, there would be many hotspots in the roads of this area; most of the restaurants possessing Christmas decor-festooned terrace, and, blight of our current times (one of them), the Patio Heater. 
As with most cities (I imagine), the difference in clothes, cars, people, shops, etc within just a few miles is incredible - Bethnal green in the morning, Mayfair in the afternoon; my brain couldn't cope with the overload of visual information and I had to go in a scarily smart teashop, just to observe . . . 
I couldn't really get the camera out but the sight of five suited-men with slicked back hair and black everything sharing three cake-stands worth of delicate sandwiches, cakes and macaroons was a wonder. 
I walked back as dusk was seeping and looked at the theatres; nothing on at the National Opera as it had been taken over by London Fashion awards - people hoovering the red carpet, assembling more patio heaters and placing palms in pots. The first scantily clad women appeared (glad I had my gloves, scarf, coat, yak fur on, etc. I stood in amazement for a few minutes while the crowd increased and the press vultures landed. "Giz us a wave, Babe," shrieked the woman next to me as a female attired in a small amount of blue chiffon turned to look at us plebs. I left and went to queue up to see real art in the form of Ai Wei Wei at the Academy. Sixteen quid to get in but worth every farthing.

            This was a lot of money - at least they could have taken a bit more time over the lines (Mayfair art gallery)

man eating oysters between TWO patio heaters - air temperature in rest of street about three degrees.

          You need one of these in Mayfair - the hills/snow/tractor tracks and mud are appalling

                                    Patio heaters and hoovering at the fashion awards

Beautiful and meaningful art at the Academy

After eating a kebab, I walked around a lot looking at the night time city before going to see 'The Lady in the Van' along with two other people in a cinema on Leicester Square. Everyone else must have been at the fashion awards or possibly christmas shopping - Argg, every year it gets worse. The very worst of all was the interior of a three floor shop, which I think used to be the Trocadero, devoted to M&Ms.
Three floors . . . devoted to small violently-coloured sweets that all taste the same, along with cushions, clothes, china, pens, towels . . . 
My feet were now protesting, so, after a mug of hot milk in a coffee shop: "Really? Madame, just . . . hot milk . . . " back to the hotel via some back streets thinking about the film and remembering how at the end Mr Bennet had put a blue plaque up on his house to commemorate the van. Must see it next time. 

                                                               Three floors of festive landfill

  some very average women shaped mannikins with heads obviously inspired by those tiny mushrooms you get in Chinese restaurant cooking

Leicester Square with wheel and cleaning lorry

Late night London

Saturday 21 November 2015

You tube wanderings

I was hunting for my son's band The FEW's version of killing in the name of, but came across this marvel. If you don't have time for all of it, wiz through to the '**** you I won't do what you tell me' bit. Hilarious.

Thursday 19 November 2015

before internet

Was there a time?
I can just remember, hazily, a time, yes - paper, pen, libraries, phones fixed to a plug in the wall, dangling boingy cable attached to a large plastic banana-shaped handset.

My boyfriend at the time had a fax machine! I can remember the wild excitement; people queuing up to use it, and then the even more wild excitement when he purchased an Apple Mac - one of those, that in my mind's eye, resembled a beige cereal box with a tiny screen.

While clearing out a bookshelf yesterday, I came across the early version of today's Smart Phones - The Filofax.
My Filofax - how proud I was of it at the time. It was the lifeline in my job (stylist). Information stored of transport companies, prop houses, photographers, etc. But unlike a smart phone, the information stored within had virtually no order; a vague nod to someones surname, or street name where someone might have told me that Fred so and so lived - he who might be able to lend me a vintage Bentley for a photo shoot, or whatever I was sweatily tracking down at that moment in time.
When I look at this book now, I realise I had a map of it in my head; knew which thumbed page to alight on for Aardvark courriers, Harrods food hall, or Nina the makeup artist. Even without looking in the Filofax I could recall over forty telephone numbers (I checked once), now, I can call to mind about six.
How did I do that job without emails? I can't imagine now the endless phone calls, checking a re-checking dates, times, deliveries. But I did. We did. The world did function, even though you could only go to the bank between certain hours in the afternoon.
Below, a page from the afore-mentioned book, including a piranha and a phone number for Ryanair - imagine, no booking a flight on-line . . .

Saturday 14 November 2015

What to say . . .

I don't know, I re-wrote this post three times and it all sounded wrong, so I took the dogs for a walk in the hills and spent an hour listening to the wind in the poplar trees and watching the last rays of sun illuminating the few remaining autumn leaves.

             The olive tree - symbol of peace I believe; something the world is in need of . . .

Monday 9 November 2015

Building No 53

We pass this wooden dog house on every walk up at 'Lapeyre', a tiny hamlet consisting of two houses, surrounded by vines and sheep pasture.
A very small and elderly hunting dog used to pop out from it and bark reedily until we had walked enough distance from his territory. These days the house appears to be empty - the dog presumably having moved on.
There are many sounds connected to this walk: the chickens cackling as they run freely in the hamlet's streets (street), the bleating of sheep, the crow colony that occupy the oak trees, and the friendly greeting from 'Monsieur oui, oui, oui', the white-haired inhabitant of Lapeyre. But I miss the barking, and wonder if another hound will be offered the house, or perhaps it was only constructed with that particular dog in mind.

Free stuff

I know I've gone on about this before - probably many times, but it always amazes me how much free  food never gets taken/picked or gathered, certainly where we live.
We are blessed in this region with wonderful walnut trees - the nut of which I believe has super cancer-beating properties as well as being a king of free food, and totally delicious in cake, salads, etc.
There is a tree about the size of a double-decker bus down our road, always laden in late October/early November. A few autumnal squalls and the ground is covered with walnuts - which only we seem to collect. Is it a time thing? We are busy but find ten minutes to walk down the road, or  perhaps a 'can't be bothered thing' - just get some when we're in the supermarket.
The seasons come and go and we collect many other ignored fruits: apricots, apples, plums, occasionally a rare treat of an abandoned peach tree's fruit; figs, lemons - if down on the coast, and pomegranates.

The fact that these wonders of nature are ignored, out of all the other freebies, boggles my mind immensely.
A super food, crammed with minerals, vitamins, and the most beautiful colour when made into juice/jelly . . . everywhere for the taking, in peoples gardens, on roadsides . . . ignored. People do seem to buy them in shops - I see them, delivered from Spain - the same variety. Weird.
Anyway, we've done our jam batches, and now the free food slims down over winter until wild asparagus and 'nèfle' fruits, which no one ever picks (medlar in English, I think). There's always mushrooms, but we have yet to conquer our fear of eating the wrong thing, or being shot by over-excited hunters, which does occasionally happen . . .

Sunday 1 November 2015

The cap de Creuse: wind, rock formations and fish dinners.

Captured on film, just before seeing off a terrifying white poodle, Runty dog pauses a moment to adjust his antlers (ears) - a small monarch of his own personal glen.

He was photographed on the windswept headland of 'le cap de Creuse,' on the Costa Brava; probably not dissimilar to the highlands of Scotland, but with added sun and little precipitation.
The rest of the pack (husband, son and the two big dogs) were doing the 'randonnee' - hike, from Port Lligat, near Cadaquès and were, no doubt, looking forward to something large to eat in the bizarre and wonderful restaurant situated on the very point of this otherwise uninhabited landmass. I was also looking forward to food, although hadn't earned it quite so much - just a stagger around the cliffs, gawping at the extraordinary rock features of the area, and the few brave swimmers in the coves below.

 The rocks of The Cap, wind hollowed, or formed while cooling? the latter I imagine. Viewed from a small distance they appear to consist of hundreds of wailing phantom mouths - most eerie, especially with the wind howling through the low scrubby bushes.

Reunited at the restaurant, we chose to share a large fish (a choice of the day's catch presented to us on a platter) and a couple of bowls of spaghetti. The fish was excellent, and I was so hungry, I forgot to take a picture - here is the empty tray.

The place was getting busy. Most people chatted, sipped drinks and waited for their orders to arrive, apart from a couple behind us who excelled in tutting and moaning rather than looking out over the now-silver sea or wondering how this place was actually constructed, and what it's original purpose was.

I failed to take a picture of the actual building this time, but here's a 
good one I found on the net (exterior has now been repainted)

photo by Almy