Monday 24 July 2017

We learn something every day

Like, be extremely careful when grinding coffee when tired, hungry and you are using an old machine from the 1970s with no security thing.
So, yes, I know now, after an emergency trip to the doctors this morning, and will certainly be eyeing that small beige and smoked-plastic lidded appliance with fear and a certain respect in future. Mark jumped to its defence after the event and assured me it was fine and that he will always grind the coffee from now on . . . As he is a pianist, I'm not sure how sensible that it. I feel a flea-market trawl coming on for a different model (coffee-grinder, not husband).
Anyway, I was useful down at the surgery as there was some sort of small meeting going on about who should do what, and at the centre of it, a very young bearded man wearing a 'Let's go Surfing' T.Shirt. Yes, he was the student doctor doing a trial period, and I was to be his relatively interesting patient (compared to haemorrhoid checking and poking about in people's ears, etc, I probably was).
One of the senior doctors showed us into a room and explained where everything was: plasters, needles, aesthetic stuff . . . and then left.
He asked what I felt about pain. I said 'Fab, love it, thanks.' He got the irony, snapped on some bright blue plastic gloves, placed a small, paler blue 'table cloth' over me, and a still smaller one with a hole for the finger over my hand. Just like ER, except it was deadly quiet, no trolleys being wheeled frantically about, talk of 'paddles', and screaming relatives. We talked about Brexit, which was more painful than the needle he jabbed repeatedly into my index finger, then he sewed, tongue sticking out slightly, just like I do when attaching a button.
The 'real' doctor returned and inspected the work, said it was excellent and then they both said it should all be fine but to rush to the main hospital if it turns black or hurts a lot more. I bestowed much thanks and we returned home to have the delayed breakfast, after Mark had cleaned out any me-debris from the grinder.
So, I'm writing this with a finger throbbing like the walls of a disco but so far it looks a fairly healthy pink, and I'm excused from doing any washing up, which is more than good.


Thursday 20 July 2017

Being in a play

It felt like it down at the vet's yesterday.
I only went in with 'lampshade dog' to get her wound looked at and there was drama. On a small scale, nothing Hollywood-esque but the whole spectrum of emotions on show.
A man had brought in a very hairy and ancient dog. While the man was talking to the receptionist the hound shook itself releasing a cascade of ticks. Women shrieked; the man left the reception and started squishing the ticks; a vet appeared, shouted a bit and and joined in while I ran about pointing out escaped ones. The floor was quite disgusting with streaks of blood and small grey spots of ex-tick.
After the squishing, the vet asked me where our dog was and I explained I couldn't get her out of the car as she is now so terrified of going into the building. We pushed and pulled her out of the car and into the surgery where he syphoned off a load of yucky stuff from her leg and said all was well.
I paid and swiftly left as Bali was attempting to lick up the tic blood, and a completely out of control mega Heinz 57 mutt had been brought in that had maiming and killing written across it's brindled brow.
Bali wouldn't now get back in the car. While I was stuffing her in, a woman came out from the vet's, face red and blotchy, shaking body, eyebrows converged in that sort of abject misery that can only mean something very, very sad.
She stood, unable to even unlock her car as her hands were so tremulous, tears starting afresh. I wondered if I should do something - that weird moment when you feel it could be further upsetting for the person if you enquire, or suggest help.
Shutting the door on the dog, I went over and did enquire.
"Mon Chien est mort!' The dog had died under anaesthetic. The eyebrows converged more, so I hugged her. And she wanted me to. How weird and strangely wonderful that humans can make contact like this with a total stranger in times of immense sadness. I know I would have wanted the same thing.
She then apologised for having bothered me! The French politeness thing had stepped back in. I told her that I could sympathise as our old dog had been put to sleep the year before. We smiled sadly at each other and I drove back wondering at how rich in drama twenty minutes of a day can be . . .

Monday 17 July 2017

More London wanderings

with added culture.
Last night, I went to the Proms - something I haven't done for years, and I bought a seat, not being able to face the standing up thing. It was worth every atom of electronic money transfer, not so much for the Beethoven, exquisitely played though it was, but for the John Adams piece: Harmonium.
Such power and inventiveness . . . the number of choir members, the percussion, Oh! Visually stunning too.

Close encounters?

Before that I explored the dazzling streets of South Kensington: not so much as a black spot of time-trodden gum on the pavements, no drifts of London dust, just rows of gleaming white and off-white mansion blocks and mews adorned with prim window boxes and manicured olive trees (!) Global warming is well and truly happening in London.
I would have taken a sneaky picture of the mother taking an iPhone photo of her three designer outfit-clad offspring sitting in a restored open-top Aston Martin outside their town-house but it felt a little creepy. I would be a rubbish photographer for any of those screaming pink mags called WTF! or similar.



Lone Ginko and bike outside Imperial College

After gawping at houses and people, I ate a curry in 'Little India', beguiled into stepping inside by their sign that read: The Manager Eats Here Too. I'm sure he does; it was delicious, especially the fresh mango at the end.

The owner also eats here

At the end of the evening, I walked towards Knightsbridge and found a bus going towards King's Cross. It was completely full so I sat on the stairs and then was informed by a recorded and polite lady that I should get off the stairs which I did. The message also said that anyone standing upstairs shouldn't be. We waited while the bus reverberated but didn't move and the message kept playing. Eventually an elderly Indian guy in a beige safari suit went upstairs and told everyone standing to get get their arses downstairs and they did, muttering apologies.

The following day dawned uniformly grey and slightly chilly for mid July - perfect for walking, observing, musing, and asking people if I can take away part of their souls.



   rice and backache

local resident (park near Tavistock Place) and his dog - he said the dog makes a better picture but I think they were both beautiful


one of the photos I will make into a pen and ink drawing for 'The Hundred and Fifty-Eighth Book


                                 window-keep-opener and mural in The Half-Cup on Judd Street

I ate possibly the best beans on toast in the UK in a small café, drank a vast mug of tea and hunted a bus going towards Hampstead Heath - my chosen place to continue 'Hamish's' tale - and claimed the front upstairs seat.
Arriving at the destination, I consulted the map then completely ignored it, as I do, and got utterly but usefully lost. If we didn't sometimes get lost we wouldn't meet such interesting people, n'est pas, such as the bloke striding purposefully towards an oak tree that had the girth of an elephant. He proceeded to fling his arms around about the tree, or rather stood there looking as he was trying to prevent the tree from moving forwards as his arms were almost straight due to the trunk's expanse. This is something I occasionally do when moved by the sheer wonderment of ancient trees, but only when I know someone else wouldn't be observing me. I had to ask him.
    "Is it a very special tree?"
He turned and grinned as if they were recently married: "Oh, yes. Absolutely."
I then asked him as he obviously spent quite a lot of time on the Heath, where the ladies' pond was. He pointed out a route which I followed for a while before being distracted by a clump of gangly pine trees atop a hill. I sat for a while near the trees and thought about all the paintings and engravings I had seen of this London-view, and how, (if I shut my ears to the various calls of 'Maisy, come away from that!' 'Pickle . . . no! and 'I thought you had the poo bags', etc) similar it seemed, apart from the Shard and all the rest of the glassy-grey structures clustered in the distance.

The ladies' pond  

I did eventually find the pond, and although the changing rooms had developed a little since I was about thirteen (last time I visited) the water, ducks and over-hanging trees still looked the same.
Pond-swimming. How glorious, especially in pale, drifting mizzle. Several other ladies were in the muddy, olive/brown water, swimming slow, quite majestic breaststroke, a certain calm expression on their faces, quite like (mostly) grey-haired otters, peacefully cutting through the water between ducks and life-saving rings. I'm reading 'Sapiens' at the moment and I suddenly saw us as the animals that we are - interesting book which does have the effect of making you look at all human behaviour in a different way.
After a chat with the life-saver and leaving my pink towel on a hook (hello anyone who might find and use it) as I wanted less baggage, I continued walking the Heath, drank a hot choc in 'the Brew House' briefly visited the grand 'Kenwood House', enthused over various greyhounds and reached Parliament Hill (Kite Hill). The view over the city would have been dramatic at this highpoint but alas the mizzle had turned to drizzle, almost everything obscured except the Shard's sharp triangle and the lumpy sword of the Post Office Tower plunged into Fitzrovia.

useful view-map of central London, including heights of buildings

Time portal?

Back at base (the wonderful and super cheap, St Athan's Hotel, Bloomsbury) I collapsed for a while and then ventured out into the madness of Trafalgar Sq, Covent Garden, etc, to people-watch, wander, and avoid all the antique map shops of Cecile Court (wallet-empying danger).


New residences on Charing Cross Road                sushi break 

LOTS of hen parties                                                       The Texter


This elegantly-dressed young man had just graduated from theatre school


                            sigh . . .

a quiet symphony of inner city colour         and the more garish tones of just one evenings rubbish . . .

The next morning, I walked from the hotel to Golders Green (with a short bus journey in the middle and a wander around Camden).
I wanted to visit all the highest points of London, the Flagstaff being the highest - apparently. I arrived, admired the flagpole, and the Whitestone pond (which used to be used for rehydrating the London horses after their trek up Hampstead Hill) talked to a grey-hound owner and went in search of The Pergola - another viewpoint. Here, you can almost forget you are in London: beautifully maintained gardens full of roses, jasmine and herbs and a magnificent brick and stone pergola/walkway. No one was there. It was impossible to imagine the seething crowds of Oxford street only a few miles away.

Map of an unknown continent on a stone paving slab near Camden


The brilliant tip-bowl of a café housed in the old 'Palmer's pet store', where I used to nag Mum about buying a crocodile.


The Whitestone Pond and Flagstaff, and my tired feet 

the magnificent Pergola and gardens

After exploring the area, I walked back to the Flagstaff and down into Hampstead where I ate beans on toast (again) in a friendly café called 'Polly's and talked to a man wearing a fabulous outfit who didn't object to me recording it, and him, for the blog. (Hello, if you see this . . .)

Then waited for a bus and availed myself of a chair that the newsagent had left outside. He came to have a chat and said that he had put it out there for people who'd got fed up of waiting for the No 46 - 'the worst bus in the world'. The bus arrived and seemed quite good really - wheels, engine, seats, etc.


                        I loved this: soap maker, AND philanthropist

                                                                                                   The Chair

A textual slice of London building materials

After a sleep and foot-bathe, I strode (sort of) out generally Southwards on a 'Derive' which ended up being quite a long one from Charing Cross to beyond Tower Bridge, fuelled by some excellent and super value healthy grub from 'Gaby's on Charing Cross Road. I had often eaten there as an impoverished on-dole-Londoner back in the 80s and I was relieved to see the establishment still going strong.


I hadn't been to the South Bank for some years and was overwhelmed by the amount of pubs, eateries, boutiques, and new buildings, some of which were just absurd. I mean look at this.


It's the sort of thing I might have drawn in a notebook if my (then) under-ten son had said 'Hey, Mum, let's draw mad buildings that would fall over.'

But then someone designed and got away with that weird bowed over, telephone thing . . . not actually in this skyline picture


And then there's The Shard. Impressive, a little violent-looking and difficult to clean, I'd imagine. I went in an old pub, (about the only old thing still standing around the base of the pointy triangle), ordered a gin and tonic and then got cornered by a youngish beer-smelling man who said he was from Fife and that he'd like to talk to me about what I was drawing (a very, very bad rendition of The Shard). We had a surreal chat during which he asked me if I thought that there would be a lot of wobbly-wobbly, dark wooded lanes within the top of the building. Who's to say, I said. I haven't been up there - yet.



Tuesday 11 July 2017

Life stages

And this is a big one . . .
The boy, off on his own into a big city and us knowing the readjustment is looming a couple of months away. Eek.
I just spent two days in Bordeaux with him, traipsing the well-maintained and decrepit pavements (the latter where he will be living) visiting estate agents, along with herds of other weary parents and uni-ready offspring.
Manically checking the various flat-suggesting internet portals had revealed almost zilch for the taking, and anything that was available had a queue of rendezvous attached to it.
The son's expectations (fuelled by us staying in an 'arty and cosy' Air B and B - which it was) had started with an idea of a modest (22 sq meters) but elegant apartment with high ceilings and perhaps a small balcony on which to tend a small garden and sip the odd Margarita, rapidly dwindled to - 'well, perhaps, 15, with a window, preferably'. Yes there are places offered without windows, and even biscuit tin-sized flats of EIGHT sq meters; the size of . . . a generous toilet cabinet?
The bigger estate agents (company not employees) we visited were also weary, the smiles tired and wry, the same words projected, brows furrowing at my mention of our maximum budget - slow shake of head, suggestion of something possible . . . 'ah non - pris, ce matin' - taken this morning; too late, then the inevitable comment that Bordeaux has more and more students and less and less accommodation.
Alors. What to do . . .
A couple of hours and two bowls of Tai soup later, we did find an agent down a back street who was less weary and did have two things to show us.
We followed him keenly to the first - a once elegant stone building - and entered a dismal, lino-infested 'space' with wonky cupboards and the inevitable coating of semi-opace white on everything that certain landlords favour. Poor lad, I watched his face pale to the wall-colour as he took in the sight of his possible future logement, the worst feature of which was the very small window that looked out onto an impressive view of pigeon-shit and a blank wall.
The second place was cheaper, in a hideous 80s block but did have a tiny 'balcony'. In my optimistic 'stylist' mind I could see it working - lots of plants, a better view, but finally the interior and the miles of depressing corridors, which the agent did refer to being 'prison-like' and like Hell if there were ever to be a fire (great salesperson . . .) was too awful and we turned to tea, cake and a long think.

Peculiar, aquarium-like flat, and boy trying not to howl

Just as the second 'oriental pastry' was being consumed back at base, we found a newish ad on 'Le Bon Coin' - a 13 sq meter flat - ridiculously small but did have a mezzanine bed area. We rang . . . and it had gone. Shit. But the guy did have another - bigger, a tad more expensive but within our budget. He said to visit now, so we did - just a nip around the corner and there it was: the future logement: tiny, weird pink colour (but we can change it) with a window! Okay view of similar ancient stone buildings and a few mins walk from the art college.



We said yes, did a bit of paperwork, went to eat and drink a little more extravagantly than I might have wished (but W T Hell, we'd done it) and then I lay awake most of the night worrying about various aspects of the accommodation: no storage space whatsoever, would he be able to play his collection of instruments there without getting evicted? why had the building next door disappeared? and would his flat be very cold because of that; where on Earth would the water-heater have been in that space? - was there one? etc, etc . . .
But this morning in the rational light of day I recall my own student dumps, what you made do with and got around, and it was fine, and he'll be fine in this new life-stage.  

Saturday 8 July 2017

Funny how things turn out . . .

The first board game that our son devised was a hexagonal cardboard affaire, when he was about four. No one understood it, possibly including himself, but it was the start of something that has continued off and on until his nineteenth year.
Now at the end of his art foundation year, and after many, many started, ripped up, mulled over, abandoned and occasionally finished attempts, his board games have matured into something that I could imagine on a game shop's shelf.
This one, featuring a reoccurring theme of mining, has been played by various people and has been deemed to be 'good'. To me, not-overly-keen-on-board-game, person, it's a rather beautiful example and culmination of his love of game construction and fascination of old, disused factory buildings and abandoned mines.
I'll be interested to see how this combination developed in his following years at fine art school . . .