Monday, October 24

my new best thing to do in London

is to walk along the Thames foreshore at low tide - apart from being outsidey and seasidey, it's as social as you want it to be and the beach is full of exciting things -  it is an excellent sort of party.

The foreshore is basically a long established rubbish dump that gets turned around twice daily in the Thames washing machine. I frequently meet people* who show me astonishing treasures that they have found on their beach walks.

I'm a beginner and my eyes aren't in yet so I'm still at the stage of being in awe at driftwood and old bones, I'm also keen on the phenomenon known as 'Thames Spuds'  - my photo shows one very rude example -  soft London bricks that become 'pebbelised' in the churning water

*people who forage along the foreshore are known as 'mudlarks'

Wednesday, October 19

Since March my dentition has been incomplete

BUT NOW, RIGHT AT THIS MOMENT a new tooth is being 3d printed for me 

I hope they make it out of something tasty 

like toffee 

Friday, October 14

I'm temporarily overhoused

and life will be complicated for a while as I shuttle between a south London house with no pets and the ongoing north London house of marauding all-shapes-and-sizes cats.

both homes are loaded with terrors - in trying to balance which is the most terrifying I came up with a point system:

North London

cats that I need to keep alive - 50

pirate cats that want to come in and pee on my stuff - 20

shaky stacks of stuff that could avalanche at any time - 20

knobs and handles that drop off when I touch them - the toll so far includes the fridge handle, 2 X light switches, 2 parts of the lavatory flush system and the lavatory seat  which is trying to make up for it's wobbliness by being fluorescent - 20

levels of extreme unhygienic uncleanness that I keep noticing in my peripheral vision  - 50

terror toll = 160

South London

super neat squeaky clean (like in a hospital) - 50

highly burglarable - 50

a neighbour who is prone to run through the hallway and jump the fence into his own garden in his dressing gown  if the front door is left open -  minus10

there is no kettle here: the hot water tap does that function and will spurt steaming-boiling water if  you use one hand to pump the middle of the tap three times then twist the pumpy thing while holding a mug under the spluttering stream of lava - 500

terror toll = 590

Sunday, October 9

I am the TV

at night the cats sit on the window sill outside to watch the latest episode of Me

Conversation with 5 year old who has decided that she wants to become a doctor

our lungs are amazing! our whole body is made of lungs; our eye balls, our fingers, our hair...

so what are our lungs made of?


Friday, October 7

The new household

Fred and Ginger are prize-winning visions of sleekness their home is full of toys and play towers

Fat boy and Fluffy are the hobo cats who live outside - Fluffy  is timid and has a very tiny head on her fat grey body, Fat Boy is her father - an enormous tiger-striped champ with a broken ear, his wide eyeballs give him an air of shockedness

I have been instructed to take care of all these cats - there is an entire room full of food for them including a fridge and a freezer packed with prime cuts of beef and chicken from the butcher.

This is Black Pete, the one-eared neighbourhood pirate cat - we are all scared of him

Tuesday, October 4

I'm back at school

the computerised system for timetables etc., still doesn't work very well so there's a lot of tutting going on.

I am catsitting far to the north of the city - in a crazy woman's home. The place is stuffed to the ceiling except for tiny channels of not-stuff that just allows a person, if they are careful, to weave a path through - until today there was no possibility of sitting anywhere or finding a space to stand and chop in the kitchen.

I spent the evening gathering up the dirty underwear which I don't think should live under the dining table even when mixed with Doritos and fag ends. Then I moved a few broken electrical goods and now I have made enough hoovered space to sit nicely with a cup of tea and wonder where the cats are.

Two identical sleek siblings are the bona fide feline residents here, there are also two scared hobo cats. On the half hour a sleek cat snakes through the open window, slides under chairs and table, then with a glance back at me, heads out the door to report to the others what I'm up to now and now and now.

Monday, October 3

I've been asked for more sandwich

here's a round up of things I can remember happening between the end of Spain and the beginning of being back in London:  

unpacking and laundry unpacking and laundry unpacking and laundry

frenetic socialising to make the most of tan and holiday pzazz

attended a weekend conference about the future with 'Play' as one of it's major themes. This included  filmed robot demonstrations - in the 'playful robot' section a robotic puppy is programmed to get infected by a computer virus which makes it behave badly. Then there was a talk about how most people don't actually enjoy 'play' so maybe it's best kept as an idealised concept, religious people do this quite well because most of them think of 'heaven' as a great big playground where no-one has to feel guilty about having fun because they're dead

unpacking and laundry

eating quite a lot of cheese

finally accepted that the stunted plum tree in our garden might be dead - I pulled at the trunk and it snapped in my hand like a big stick of grissini

outings to see family

unpacking and laundry 

Inherited an ancient and damaged rug* - currently working out how to mend it

*rug once owned by a New Zealand homesteader known as Willy Cobbledick, most famous for driving badly  in the '50s

Saturday, September 24

Went to an Catalunyan outdoor boogie woogie concert

met this gang of loud women-with-many-fans-and-one-man

the following day we went to see Vivian Maier's photographs

that was a high point

Best resignation letter ever

Thursday, September 22

Barcelona was hotter than hell

The puppy and I assumed this position A LOT 

I had one great skirt, long and billowy and I wore it constantly  

When it was time to wash it I put the clean billowy skirt out to dry on the washing line which is cantilevered off the balcony -the flat is up at the top of the building.

I didn't put enough pegs on the skirt so when I next looked out of the window my skirt was no longer there.  I went outside and leaned over the balcony - my skirt had caught on the washing line of someone below - but very delicately. Before it blew off again I rushed downstairs and knocked on the door of the apartment and as I waited for the reply and noticed the tumbleweed in the corridors I realised that I was the only person stupid enough to be in Barcelona at this time of year - everyone else has found a mountain to visit.

The puppy and I gazed down at the skirt and decided that it would definitely blow away in the night.

Over the following days I peered down below to see my skirt still just hanging on down there - then about a week later I came in the front door of the building at the same time as a lady with her arms full of ciabatta she looked at me suspiciously and said

where are you?

I said that I was with the puppy in the top apartment

Ah - the two boys - where have they gone?

I told her - then she said

I was in the mountains for two months - I have your skirt would you like it back?

Sunday, August 28

Currently living with a range of beautiful flooring designs

khaki harlequin floor with red braid trim, accessorised here with red chewy

pink-and-white zig zag floor with visible mend

classic monochrome

all floors available with added canine

Wednesday, August 24

I stayed with Mrs Madrigal's daughter

last night in Barcelona*.

She let me into the house,  showed me the bed I could sleep in - which was on this veranda. We exchanged stories and then she disappeared. I'd spotted the kitchen but after she'd gone I needed the bathroom which I knew was behind one of the closed doors along the corridor - the first doors I tried opened onto other bedrooms where young women were reading or doing their hair - we smiled and said perdon/de nada at each other before I closed their door and tried the next one.

I particularly liked these family photographs on a shelf in the living room

*I'm guessing it must be Mrs Madrigal's daughter because I felt as though I'd turned up in an Armistead Maupin tale

Sunday, August 21

I'm packing for Spain

- in preparation for the trip I've been meeting Dolores for a daily dose of language exchange - I still can't pronounce the Spanish word for lawn and she laughs when I talk about fingers or toes so I will avoid conversations involving those things.

Part of the adventure will involve looking after a not-very-young puppy in a fancy-pants district of Barcelona, apparently he can't too walk far so I plan to buy a trolley as a sort of puppy pushchair.

In other news

I have spent the last two years trying to find someone who can mend bits of the house - during this time there have been:
i) the ones who said they'd come to look but didn't
ii) the ones who came to look but didn't send quotes


iii) the one who came and told me that he could fix everything then put a call out on social media to see if there were any unemployed burglars who'd like to come and fix everything

Saturday, August 13

During this week of family meetups

my five-year-old-niece went to visit her uncle-who-lives-in-a-palace 

The palace has shiny parquet floors and is decorated with many glass orbs and other delicacies. The niece and her brother are very lively and nosey people.

The uncle laid out ground rules:
no sliding on the floors, no looking in cupboards, don't touch this or that or that

the niece listened then asked

can we fart?

Friday, August 12

During a family gathering this week

my father and I took turns to relate the story about how he came to visit me in France in the early eighties: I was working as a goatherd in a remote woody-hilly place somewhere near the Pyrenees and had sent a letter home describing the route to get to my hut, it was illustrated with a map and my father used it to pay me a visit. *

it was a good story with lots of adventures  - there was one part that I had never heard before:

My father left me to get on with my goatherding and went off to do a few days walking in the area by himself. The first night he stayed in a B&B then continued on his way. A few hours into the day's walk he stopped by a hedge on a dirt track to scrump a few cherries when a van hove into sight and stopped next to him, there were two men inside - one from the previous night's boarding house, this man leaned out of his window and said   

Monsieur, you left this at our 'ouse

and handed over some greyish white fabric that my father recognised as his own, rather unfashionable, underpants

* the map and another version of this story is here

Tuesday, August 9

on the bus to London

I did knitting and caught up on podcasts -  99% invisible - for a story about the worst smell in the world then a piece about 'sewbots' at Planet Money. Yesterday's best show was Freakanomics  about racial profiling in restaurants if there were shows like these in Spanish I'd be fluent in no time - if anyone knows of any good ones please send me the links.

yes I am still trying to speak Spanish like a native - did I mention that I'm off to Spain soon?

Dolores and I still have our regular spanglish meetings, we speak Spanish one visit then English the next - today was English day and, as she is a professional sportsperson, we discussed the fashion for 'cupping' amongst athletes.

When it is my turn to speak Spanish I seem to always end up talking about insects 

Thursday, August 4

we're plagued with flies

massive bluebottles suddenly appear and buzz crazily around the room bashing into windows and light fittings

tonight I watched one drive himself into a tiny spiders web, the tiny spider was hiding behind a book licking his lips as the fly (which was 10 times bigger than him)  tangled around in the web 

finally the fly buzzed itself free and continued it's noisy flight around the room but this time draped in cobweb like a great big ghost fly

Wednesday, August 3

my jobs-to-do list could wrap twice around the house

this sort of thing has colonised the terrace 

there are days when I sense that the jobs-to-do-list may have reduced infinitessimally 

last week

the electrician fixed my blinking lights.

I told the electrician that I could use some young muscles to tidy up the terrace which has become submerged beneath gigantic tufts of a hybrid-vigour-super-grass that is anchored firmly between the paving stones. The electrician said   

I know someone  

being Welsh his tone is naturally ironic so I was not sure what would happen


A plump sixteen-year-old crept up to my gate clutching a plastic carrier bag full of crisps and orange fizzy drink.  He tickled the grass with a spade for a couple of hours we were both relieved when the rain gave us an excuse to call it a day and head home for chips

in other news

I have fixed 2 sets of broken curtains

Monday, August 1

The Haitians got lost backstage

at the other end of the arena -  a man with a buggy got them rounded up and driven over to our stage, they spilled off the buggy and ran around laughing and kissing us all, there were at least fifty ten people if you counted all the seeing double that was going on.

Meanwhile in front of the stage the audience had been sampling the wine provided by our sponsor and were already pretty happy but they  roared with approval to see a cascade of stoned people arriving on and around the stage giggling and dancing. Their music was fantastic but they weren't up to slicing vegetables - several audience members were pulled onto the stage to help including a girl called Trixie wearing a very short white fairy outfit and crimson hair .

Trixie was able to chop cabbage, twist open bottles of vinegar and fry plantain while band members fell at her feet and grinned at her.

The woman in the Haitian band was the danciest and had many many silk patterned scarves  tied around her waist which she dispensed liberally along with perfume and many kisses - my scarf is blue stripey with flowers and a rude fruity smell, apparently it contains a lot of voodoo so I have put it in a nice box for safety

Friday, July 29

I wore emerald silk

to attend the festival

looking around the market area there was a table piled with old costume jewellery which I picked through and found some earrings to go with my favourite daisy necklace (which I was wearing as you can see from this picture taken near the best food stand)

The jewellery seller sidled up, looked at me and then at the earrings I'd chosen and said approvingly  

Ah yes, I can see that you're a fan of early plastic

Other things

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Thursday, July 28

Vine leaves were the biggest challenge

I live near Turkish supermarkets and various sorts of hippy shops and imagined these to be the least of my problems but it appears that Bristol is experiencing a World Leaf Shortage (and I needneedneed them for WOMAD see my post from two days ago)

I returned home leafless to meet the new electrician who arrived before I'd had time to clean the grease off the broken kitchen light that I hoped he could fix

at peak panic a chum appeared and we both busily phoned potential vine-leaf vendors while watching time running out on shop-opening hours

at the latest moment a leaf supplier was discovered and the person with a bike had to cycle to the other side of the city to buy pickled foliage while I washed my embarrassing light fitting and made tea for the electrician

Tuesday, July 26

A naked man was in the road

two doors down from the friend I was visiting this evening

it was raining so I wondered if he was making the most of the free water but then I saw the mattress wedged half-in-half-out of the open front doorway of the house - maybe it was throwing him out for being unfaithful

he saw me looking at him and said

I forgot to put it out earlier

Monday, July 25

to make Kale crisps

tear up dry raw pieces of kale leaf without any stem, rub them over LIGHTLY with nice oil and lay the pieces out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and bake in a moderate oven for about 5 minutes.   When you remove them from the oven you must EAT THEM INSTANTLY they are delicious for precisely 30 seconds ... at 31 seconds they are foul

I'm all about food this week

WOMAD starts on Thursday - this is the 10th year that I will be shopping, chopping and hopping around for this musical food event

This year's big challenge has been to find a ewe's cheese like one used in Romania to make a rustic dish called Shut-up-and-swallow. I am also looking for live clams, garden eggs and several shades of yellow/green plantain

three years ago Babylon Circus made this film about their experience of Taste the World

*if you click the 'womad' tag below all previous posts on this annual extravaganza will appear

Saturday, July 23

The Man cycles to the pub on Friday nights

he meets other people there, they drink pints, talk about car engines and catastrophise about Brexit

today he told me about the previous evening and said that he thought that his daughter might eventually want to join in on the Friday night pub merriment

why do you think that?

well I asked her along and she gave an excuse rather than just said no - it'll probably take a couple of years before she does though

Friday, July 22

An abandoned steel chair frame

arrived at our house 5 years ago

I gave it an new coat of red electrical wire  which faded and became saggy and sad 

luckily i was recently given a few miles of knicker elastic by the underwear factory down the road  - chair is refreshed

Thursday, July 21

Doloresand I visited the river today

She produced special oily ham from Spain and I supplied a pair of pears. We ate our picnic listening to a roaring weir and squealing children then I picked my way into the river for my first dip this year.

Wednesday, July 20

from the end of the garden I could smell hot jam

and figured that my neighbours must be processing some of their abundant fruit.

then I remembered that I had put plums on the stove to stew - the burning jam smell was coming from my kitchen ... 

Friday, July 15

Kale Mountain

I'd photograph it but the pile of vegetation arriving from next door has got to the point that I can no longer push my way into the kitchen, there's also lettuces, raspberries and a cabbage the size of a big man's head

In Other News

I've been scraping the rust off my Spanish - listening to Spanish radio through the computer and language exchanging with Dolores - in this dayandage we should be able to meet in a clinic, have wires attached to our heads and download each others language files but unfortunately we are still poor so we meet every day for one hour: Spanish on Monday, English on Tuesday and so on for ever until one of us leaves the country.

Tuesday, July 12

So I made a gooseberry ice-cream

but I can't get it in the freezer because it's full of the wool that I've been hiding from the moths

so I haven't actually made ice cream at this point - just a sort of cold fool!

Monday, July 11


arrived on my doorstep today, plus raspberries so soft that I have already squashed them into some cream and dates for my tea
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