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

Monday, April 17

This week I am in luxury accommodation

 this is my view 

and these are my new friends

Monday, April 10

Life classes continue

There was a bit of confusion at the old mortuary a couple of weeks ago; Dora double-booked Chumpy and a large amphibious man to model for the life class - I asked them to pose as though they were both in an everyday environment, chatting to each other in the pub or watching telly and was surprised how unlikely it looked - much more realistic for them to be emulating classical statues or acrobats.

I told Dora that I'd been in Switzerland with David Attenborough and showed her my photographs, she was well impressed then said - you look like a television presenter so I expect he felt comfortable around you

Saturday, April 8

I was in Switzerland last week


the Man is making a film about ants in the forest - I went out to spend his birthday with him.

Sir David Attenborough was there too, narrating the story  (I had been to this same place with him about 12 years ago and tell that story here) - it's always interesting to see how other people react to him. The head waiter at the hotel played a series of jokes,  actually it was the same joke over and over again where he pretended not to have any of the food that was ordered or to have run out of wine. SDA accepted this punishment with good humour but  clearly wasn't enjoying the joke as much as the waiter - it must be really hard being a National Treasure

Monday, March 27

a hairy beardy man in a hooded parka

waved his bumper pack of chocolate digestives at me as I was about to go into a tube station saying that he wanted to recite me a poem, I said no thank you but he said 'pleeeease' and I felt a bit cornered. 

Thinking I was going to say no again he popped a biscuit in his mouth at the same moment that I said go on then
  
Not wanting to give me the opportunity to change my mind, he launched into some really quite shouty verses and, being English, I felt that I couldn't shield myself overtly - I squinched my eyes and sort-of-shrank into my coat collar for the duration. 

When he finished I opened my eyes and said thank you and he said how was it? and I said a bit biscuity

Tuesday, March 21

I'm missing my home in Bristol





I miss hearing the school children crashing down the hill by our house and the ruckus as they muck around at the crossroads, climbing on a neighbouring wall and arguing under the wonky lamp post outside our front gate. Once 4 boys stood by the lamp post to properly practise a rap that I'd heard them working on since beyond the top of the hill.

They are also a bit naughty, they pinched figs off next-doors tree last year and I suspect it was they not the wind behind the incident reported yesterday in an email from the Chinese lady living there at the moment

One thing want want to let you know. One of the roof on rock pillar at front door* fell down yesterday, due to the strong wind maybe. I found it was moved into the yard this morning by someone, I must say thanks because it is too heavy to move for me. I don't know how to deal with it, just leave it in the yard.
*trans note: front door = gate post in this instance

Sunday, March 19

Our friend died




there was a long illness, a funeral, weeping

words and music

and this piece of music



I recommend a chapel but eyes-closed-listening works well too

Wednesday, March 8

Just a normal phone message conversation

from neighbour 
Help - people keep giving me pheasants and rabbits will you teach me how to peel them and  I've run out of room in my freezer do you have space in yours until I have time to deal with them


from me 
we can do it Monday, there's probably room in my freezer for about 2 rabbits and a pheasant let yourself in  but first you'll have to remove the wool that's in there hiding from moths

Saturday, March 4

In the life class



Our model this week was a yoga-ista who held poses for 30 seconds, 1 minute and 5 minutes  we scribbled away like banshees and at the end we taped everything to the wall and admired our efforts. Here's a selection. Prizes for guessing which is mine




Sunday, February 26

The current cat

doesn't drink water from her bowl or a running tap  but when I take a shower, she runs upstairs and jumps in when I step out. 

Then she sits in the puddle that I've left behind, head cocked waiting for drips to land on her tongue

Thursday, February 23

We've had a bit more Chumpy


in the Life Class, which was divertingly chaotic. I'd booked a pregnant female model for this evening's class but she couldn't make it, so one of the office staff agreed to fall asleep and let us draw her, I put some Agnes Obel on the music box and it was lovely.


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