Tuesday, October 17

in a bookshop today

I was browsing and selecting a few greetings cards while the guy behind the till gave the girl stacking shelves an account of what kind of a wild party animal he is, it wasn't convincing and I zoned out until I got to the till and tried to pay for my cards, it took a while because they continued their conversation, he rang up the total and took my money without looking in my direction:

... so does she identify as gay or bi?

She says queer but she also says she doesn't actually like having sex with anyone

I haven't had sex in a million years so I think I must be asexual

me too 

he handed over change, then looked at me as if to say - are you still here?

do you want a bag with that?

Wednesday, October 11

I was minding my own business





at a café in London yesterday, I'd been there ten minutes before a Man-who-knows-everything came and sat next to me. He was elderly and, despite the continental-effect dark glasses, black beret and trench coat, he was clearly east-end-london born-and-bred

I know all the best places I do, wanna know the best value pot of tea in London?

turns out that it's in a café by the Hoxton peace mural

three quid for a massive pot and you can stay as long as you want

He did actually turn out to know everything and I have several good tips on things I must do this week - here are a couple that I'm willing to share:

a) get the best view of St Paul's
Marks and Spencer's on Cheapside, go down in the food basement at the end of the day, they'll be marking down all the food to stupid prices so it's worth going just for that, but wait till sun's just going down and there's no-one on the escalator and then up you go and St Paul's will loom into view in a very impressive way

b) see anything for two hours for free 
At the back of the BFI, sign in to the Mediatech at the back and it gets you access to an unparalleled film library - anything you want two.hours.for.free

Saturday, October 7

The house has been crumbling with loneliness


while the Man and I have been away these last two years. I've been trying to attend to some of the issues and earlier this year I turned my attention to our very sad laundry room. I asked a builder to take away the remaining tilework, remove the radiator, take up the tiles, lay a concrete floor and set up a new worktop and shelving. There was the usual game - he said he'd come in April, finally making an appearance  in June - perfectly timed for me to progress from being fed up to sheer gratitude that he arrived at all. His work was mostly great - except for the bit about the floor. I'd asked for polished concrete but builder-man hastily dumped some screed (not quite enough) and left it looking like lumpy cookie dough. I arrived home before the floor was dry and spent several hours scraping down the lumps, I've painted it with a bold design in the hope that the uneven surface is disguised. The room was dark and dingy with a single tiny window but my cunningly placed mirrors have amplified the light - and do you like my jolly appliance-hiding curtains?

Wednesday, September 27

Spain was delicious


the hothot sun and shinyblue sea were wonderful, but the day after returning home my skin reacted with fury to the fresh British autumn chill with an outrage of hives and I've been looking like a red crocodile for the last week.



Saturday, September 16

I made a bit of effort

before heading into town yesterday. On the bus I sat near a man about ten years younger than myself. He was missing several teeth and his ears were stuck on to his head in a startlingly perpendicular manner. His eyes were a bit swivelly and I could see he was having a job pulling focus -  finally he managed to stabilise an image of me and held my gaze for long enough to say

Cor - you must've been right glamour back in your day

Friday, September 15

It's all done





Two years of planning and scheming to get on to a post grad in London, how to arrange finances to live/study in one of the world's most expensive cities

Two years of books and lectures and arguing and writing and exams and papers

The chef d'oeuvre was handed in on Monday -  the rest of this week I've been like one of those astronauts who falls out of a rocket and has to spend the rest of his life slowly spinning round in space.

It's my birthday next week, I'm heading off to a Spanish beach for a few days for perspective readjustment therapy

beach art by Jamie Harkins


Tuesday, September 5

I've cocooned


What Do You Call A Fly Without Wings? from Ammonite Films on Vimeo.

I'm like that bluebottle larva locked in a hard shell shuffling my molecules around trying to make something of myself.

That's what writing the the Big Essay feels like.

I'm staying in a dowdy ground floor flat on a busy road, the weather is dreich and there's a gloomy fat cat who doesn't move - he's like a furry companion cocoon. 

it will to stop soon and I can go home.

Sunday, August 27

This week it's Clapham

with kittens in a flat where the rooms in the building amplify every shuffle and sneeze to the point that a person walking around in a normal manner sounds like a drunk elephant and a man in the flat upstairs is bellowing his story about trying to have drunk sex last night in the car outside his home. I listened to the full account ...  she was hot ... having to run into the house to get condom ... not finding it ... breaking a few things ... going back to the car ... waking the girl up ...   

at last ... they were in a tangly undressed mess on the back seat 

and his phone rang      

and he answered it    

it was his mum  looking out of his bedroom window and wondering why he was still in his car and when he was going to come in

Thursday, August 24

Nigel and I are getting on famously

I know he likes me - last night he turned up in my bedroom in high excitement and spent an eternity arranging the back half of a mouse perfectly centered on the carpet - all ready for my breakfast 

Today I'm showing him how to use the kettle and tea bags

Tuesday, August 22

We picked puffball mushrooms




bigger than a big man's head. I thought they'd be fluffy and full of air but they were surprisingly heavy and wet. As many as possible were sliced and laid out on sheets of newspaper in the hot wooden summerhouse, the nearly-dry slices now threaded and strung across the windows, they look a bit like chicken breast until you touch them and then they feel like polystyrene. 

The house is permeated with an earthy, trufflish odour

Puffball goes golden yellow when fried. Circular pieces fill the pan, like crepes, these cooked are layered between greaseproof paper and are now at rest in the freezer.

My holiday is over 


I have returned to a fancy-pants part of London to finish my studies with Nigel-the-cat in a large modernist house. We have a banjo and Beautiful Art and a view-to-die-for - what could possibly stop me writing?

Saturday, August 5

New Cats

the excitement's died down and I'm back at my Cat Woman day job in London with two fat boy cats - a cross-looking-black one and an anxious black-and-white one.  The anxious one nibbles things in other people's gardens which can result in an allergic reaction in the form of a swollen lower lip which makes him look a bit daft.

I'm in Brixton, which is one of my favourite bits of London and really great for not reading the academic tomes or writing the big essays that I am supposed to be doing RIGHT NOW.

Today I went touring fabric shops with Pam where we got lost in shiny things, she bought several metres of silver embossed plastic tablecloth which she might use as wallpaper in her new bathroom. I bought a metre of silky silvered fabric because the-man-at-home  wants something like tough silver cling film to make a 'sound camera' and this might be the stuff to do it.




Sunday, July 30

Italy: children

The first bit of Italy was Pontremoli which was full of children and ice cream, so delicious and so so sun-burny-hot I almost burnt my tongue and when we tried to go to the seaside there was no room in the sea and then when we did manage to sardine ourselves into the water between all the shiny hologram-and-tinfoil swimwear the children cried because their bottoms got itchy-salty so we had to squeeze our way out of the water and walk like egyptians along the sand among people WHO WEAR HIGH HEELS ON THE BEACH and stand in line to use the solitary shower.

the best ice cream that day was chocolate

During my Pontremoli stay we visited BIG BEN PIZZA an establishment that handed out extravagant amounts of Doritos to go with our fizzy drinks while we waited for the too-much-amount of food that gets ordered by people who are too hungry to think sensibly

the best ice cream that day was blackberry and peach

Italy - Genova


I took a train from Pontremoli to Genova - a port city. People live in  in vertiginous layers up the cliffs around the port - a network of funiculars swish you up to different levels. If you like, you can sashay back down among the palazzos on foot, along leafy, zigzagging footpaths

My landlady was Valeria, her home full of beautiful artwork and movie-set furniture. I spent a day on the funiculars and pathways and palazzos, then, next day, before heading to Pisa on the 2pm train I spent the morning with Valeria on her tropical verandah drinking coffee and eating bouncy smoked cheese from Majorca.

Italy: De'Coltelli's


My last evening in Italy was in Pisa, in a guest house full of large ugly artwork - the owner took one look at me and said

Forget the leaning tower - you need to go to the best ice cream in Italy, here is a map, this is the route ...

I visited De'Coltelli's twice before supper and once after, this is peach sorbet with pink grapefruit granita

Thursday, July 6

I trapped myself in my Gina Lollabrigida dress

I thought that I was going to have to stay stuck and travel to Italy in it and wear the wretched thing all week and that would teach me a fine lesson or two about vanity and ageing gracefully and not eating so much ice cream ... but then a man turned up to remove building rubble and I was able to ask him to help - my predicament embarrassed him but I was too relieved to care.


Yes I am going to Italy - tomorrow at very-early-o'clock, and I was going through my 'Ideal-Me' box of frocks - just in case


still contemplating mortality


Now that Cheesey has vacated his shouting post opposite my house, all the other conversations are drifting back into my windows - yesterday morning I didn't quite catch what the child said but I did hear his mother's response

well - people don't die just because they've run out of breath




Tuesday, July 4

When I meet a new cat


 -  it is important that I put my bag on the floor so they can have a sniff and see what sort of thing I am.

Just as I've been pussy-footing around in London, The Man has been in Chile filming pumas - big grey cats who wear a lot of mascara - sassy cats. 

I watched footage from a recent trip - pumas in their hundreds were creeping up on the crew, a cameraperson might feel a whisker touching their arm then slowly get up to do a controlled crouch-ey backward walk away from dinner time.

This action looked great played backwards but nevertheless I was a bit alarmed - the numbers, the closeness !!!

I was assured there was nothing to worry about

They're just bag-sniffers, they're exactly the same as your cats

Sunday, July 2

I dreamt my room was full of people


On Friday I returned from my London studies to spend a little time with The Man who was home in our house for  a brief moment between his filming trips. The quietness as I turned the corner near my home broadcast the fact that Cheesey was no longer occupying the tree outside my bedroom window. 

The Man left for Sri Lanka yesterday afternoon

While I slept last night a crowd of people wandered in to my bedroom and sat around chatting, laughing, drinking and arguing.  I woke up and challenged them about their intrusion - they said that they'd been doing it for years and had assumed I didn't mind. 

My head, clearly unable to cope with this new solitude, is re-peopling itself when I'm not looking.

Saturday, June 24

my under-the-tree neighbour






continues to expand, there are extra tarpaulins, seating in the lounge area and chequerboard flooring has been installed in the shop where the prize item for sale is a pair of ladies boots. Cheesey's shouting hasn't abated, if there's no-one passing to shout at, he shouts at himself or he shouts across at callers to my house - broadcasting full details about whether I'm in or not - if I'm not in he lets the neighbourhood know when I left the house and by what mode of transport.


Thursday, June 15

I'm at a difficult age

Wandering around a DIY store today without my specs and needing advice I spotted a luminous sweatshirt with a logo on the left breast area - not the sort of thing I imagined the young man in it would wear voluntarily - I  started asking him about paint

I'm sorry I don't work here  

Close enough now to see that the logo was from the zoo - I backed off apologetically

I'm so sorry, I could only see that you do work somewhere

Tuesday, June 13

Poopy and Sweary





Tarpaulins and pallets have accumulated under the tree opposite my house - also a few pieces of scavenged women's clothing set out with a brown paper 'For Sale' notice, My sinking heart recalled a rooftop squat in the next street from a few years back and I realised that my new neighbour is my old neighbour - Cheesey 


We are three weeks into Cheesey's tree occupation, he's still buttonholing any passersby and now has an assortment of brothers-in-arms who gather to bicker about who owns the bike they just nicked or whether setting the pallets on fire was a stupid move -the tree looks a bit fed up.

The accumulation of Cheesey's sweary vocabulary and other people yelling at him from their windows to Shut the F*** up, has made things very sweary indeed. Cheesey came to my gate last week so he could call me a F****** B**** in close-up, and then, when he thought he was invisible, he came into the front yard to take a series of photos on his smartphone (???!!), surprised that I noticed he shouted at me that it was all part of his 'environmental campaign'.

But I got a break from all that 

last week I was in Switzerland with my chum Mr Attenborough - chauffering him around foresty filming locations - there was chitchat - I told him about Cheesey and we both agreed that the story bore more than a passing resemblance to Alan Bennett's tale of The Lady in The Van and that I'd better watch out.

In other news 

Mrs Blackbird is back. She flies into the kitchen as soon as I  open the garden door, having picked up this habit last year -  despite my putting food outside to keep her out, she still likes to come in, perch on the furniture and poop on the floor - today she brought her children in, which was a whole lot more poopy

Extra Extra
In yet another (probably doomed) bid to get the hang of social media I've made an Instagram account - there's probably a widget that I should stick on the side bar but meanwhile here's a link

Thursday, June 1

A Head of Large Objects

is being sought for London's Imperial War Museum. If this isn't delicious enough, I see that it's based in the department of Narrative and Content.

In other news


I returned to Bristol this week, at the same time as a man-who-can't-stop-talking moved into the tree opposite my house. I heard his monologue as I was moving around the house, opening shutters and windows to air the place out. I ran down the hill for fresh milk and on my way back up a voice came out of the tree

'do you like my treehouse?'

.. he poked his head through the leaves and showed me a squashed phone and started telling me he worked in UX design at Nokia and then there was lots of Narrative and Content about an argument down the road, I tried to move on but  it was impossible because I was trying to do it politely so I finally just had to leave him in full flow.

He's like a faulty car alarm going off the minute he detects someone approach. When a friend came to visit yesterday he followed them to the front door as I opened it he was saying ...

... do you like natural history do you live here can I come in I used to work for the river authority

People always stop the first time he hails them but then they have to work out how to move on. We've got quite a lot of drug dealers and alcoholics in the area so they stop for longer. And when he does find a friend he brings them across the road to sit on the pavement under my bedroom window where they chat on all night in comfort.


Tuesday, May 30

More scrubbing

on a different section of the river bed, a big flat slabby section of massive stone blocks running along the river wall for about 100 metres - we don't know what it is yet, so the current technical term  for it is 'A Long Hard Thing'. This was a fabulously satisfying exercise, we were like the Borrowers cleaning a giant's front path, the mud lay like chocolate blancmonge with a furry green skin that sliced off neatly with a trowel and then after a bit of scrubbing the stone became visible along with stone-mason marks.

The houses that existed behind the wall in the C18th were ultra-gothic stone mansions and no-one wanted to buy them so they were demolished to make space for cheapy little houses - now selling for several million pounds. It's possible that this pavement was made from that gothic rubble, possibly to shore up the wall.

Further down the shore some people are looking out for Viking fish traps and there are boatloads of people on the water

Saturday, May 27

A chaser is

1. a person or thing that chases
2.  a drink drunk after another drink of a different kind,  
other things are chasers but they don't interest me, I was thinking of the first two when I agreed to go and help monitor a 'Submarine Chaser'*

I was expecting a sleek metallic shark-like beast, ageing gracefully on the river. Instead I found boat become river bank, a woody container of mud with prickly plants and a tree growing in/on it. 
Twelve women clanked across the river bed with buckets and brushes, following the Man-who-loves boats, struggling and sometimes failing to stay upright as our boots sucked us into the  stinky Thames mud. We located the boat's remains then arranged ourselves around it to wipe away mud from it's edges, mud that will be redeposited in a few hours - a Sisiphean parody of housewifery.

The Chaser served in World Wars I and II and was part of the Normandy Landings. For post-war civilian life, the big engines were replaced with a neutered set, someone added a dinky cabin, it became a houseboat, then abandoned, then moored up to die at a boatyard in Isleworth where it made a nuisance of itself banging around on the tide so it was holed to shut it up. Now it is visited every year by the Man-who-loves-boats and a cleaning lady army to stroke it lovingly, photograph that year's state of decay and then leave it for another year.

*as a newly trained foreshore archeological monitor. I need monitoring practise and also I need reminding how shallow and easily bored I am.

Wednesday, May 24

The Castalia


was a 'failed ferry' -  it became a hospital ship in 1883 when the Metropolitan Asylum Board bought it, built several chimney-ish warehouses on it and moored it out at Deptford.

Last Saturday I became embroiled in a Metropolitan-Asylum-Board-themed jigsaw game. 

I discovered about the ship and the jigsaw last month when I was busy cleaning bits of boat and basket embedded in the foreshore* in Rotherhithe. There was a 'Receiving Station' at this place, people with infectious diseases like cholera and polio were held here until a fireboat took them away to the hospital ships. The Castalia was the ship for women.

The Receiving Station was bombed out of existence in the war and now a city farm occupies the site









On the footpath outside the city farm is a display case with shards of crockery from the Metropolitan Asylum Board (MAB), there were many items in the services; platescupssaucers, jugs-of-every-size, tureens ...

Items lost in the river often don't go far, the river buries them for a while and then allows them to re-emerge. People picking up pieces of  MAB crockery have noticed that sometimes they fit together - it has become a huge community jigsaw - if anyone finds a piece they leave it on the display case and each month people get together around a big table to try the new pieces and see if they fit. The aim is to reconstruct an example of each piece.


*I have developed a fascination with the Thames foreshore - the bit that's briefly visible at low tide. People come here to enjoy the river and look out for treasures; neolithic tools, bronze-age jewels, bones and bodies and reminders of bodies - It all comes back to bodies one way and another - this is what my anthropology thesis is about

A terrible thing happened in Manchester this week. 

I hesitate to write about any of these attacks because I don't want to fuel the publicity which seems to be the desired outcome -  to say that it's a horror and an unimaginable sorrow for the families concerned is to state the obvious - but it is beyond horrible. My niece and nephew are the age of these children - just going to their first pop concerts ...


Wednesday, May 17

I am now catless


- Porky's owner returned at the weekend and I went back to my Putney palace where it's raining so hard that I've had to light the fire inside as a sort of counterbalance - I can't carry around enough clothing to cope with British weather.

I do have the right sort of clothing to dress up as Kalinda Sharma (my latest crush) - which I did today to meet M. at a very delicious lunch cafe*  I ordered a glass of orange blossom tea which I now realise is the flavour that makes baklava taste like Savlon


I recently learned that there are about 100 million discarded things in space, including a spatula, an obsolete space station and a space suit that was thrown overboard with a transmitter attached to it's head - an 'ephemeral satellite'. 

An art project about this junk includes a short beautiful film about Suitsat


I'm dwelling on Suitsat because I am currently feeling adrift, school is nearly over, all I have to do is write a big essay - ON MY OWN - there are no more classes. In an effort to cling on to institutionalisation a little bit longer I signed up for a grim tutorial about how to use a software package - this involved being trapped in a dark room with a clunky pc that I couldn't turn on and a lady lecturing us at speed from the dim end of the room. 


*broad bean purée, soft boiled egg, paprika and asparagus followed by pistachio-cherry-frangipane cake and cardamom coffee if you're asking.

Tuesday, May 9

I'm in Bethnal Green




keeping company with a large male cat in a tiny ground floor flat. I'm under instructions not to give in to Porky's requests for more food and must watch out for the lady who sometimes lets herself into the front garden at night, convinced that the cat is starving, she likes to push food through the catflap-in-the-window.

It's all about bodies lately - my research has led me to reading about London burial places and bodies on the Thames Foreshore. 

I teach Life Drawing in an old mortuary* - sited near the place on the Thames foreshore where bodies tend to wash up. Our model for the next couple of weeks is a body builder, pumped to the point that his head doesn't quite belong on that body but this might be a help to students who worry about being realistic.

*no longer functioning as a mortuary

image: Lucy Mcrae

Wednesday, May 3

I had one of those builders round

the sort that do a lot of teeth-sucking before telling you how difficult it will be to fix a broken window. This one, in his broad brummie accent, assessed the situation and told me quite frankly it would be cheaper and less trouble to move.   

I said  we can't move, there's 50 different species of bee* in the garden, it's like having a farm

he said   I know what that's like, I leave a sandwich out every night for the fox - a chip buttie, he bites the middle of it and then just walks off leaving the crust - every night         



*More about bees here

Sunday, April 30

This week has mainly been wet


by day I have been on the Thames foreshore scrubbing chunks of ship and other items embedded in the beach and visible at low tide - this is part of an archaeological survey and a pleasant way to spend a morning - even when it's raining which it did between bursts of spectacular sunshine.


At night I have been creeping down to the gym in the Glamorous Apartment Block. It's a bit spooky weaving through ranks of gigantic walking machines, rowers and other pulley contraptions but finally I arrive in the darkly shiny spa. It's a novelty for me and I am alone here so I spend far too much time steaming, sauna-ing and jacuzzi-ing before emerging prune-like and squeaky clean to drift back to my penthouse where the cats are waiting for me to play Evil Villains which involves caressing them on my lap as we swivel in the Big Evil Villain chair surveying the entirety of London laid out before us.

Friday, April 21

I think I am living in a Smart Home



but I'm not smart enough to know what that means.

There's a lot of automated things that seem to be operating me: a circular hooverbot will suddenly start trundling round the room bumping into furniture, chewing up the cat's toys and getting stuck under the fridge, then a voice tells me that I'm going to enjoy 'this' music or she'll start nattering to herself but if I ask her what the weather's going to do tomorrow she keeps a sullen silence. I can see 'eyes' in all the objects - I've no idea how many things are watching me (I've turned some of them to look at the wall but they might be unsmart eyes). 


In the bathroom the soap will only dispense itself if I stroke it in a particular way and there's a creature there that sometimes sneezes perfume. Heaven knows what the lavatory is capable of.

Wednesday, April 19

as usual I am kept under close surveillance





The Look Out team consists of: 
The-One-That-Perches-On-Things
The-One-That-Peeps-Through-Things
and 
The-One-That-Licks-Things-To-Keep-Calm
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