Eye Eye!

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Forgive me, readers, it has been some time since my last confession. If you are friended to me on the face book you will know that I have been moving house and beetling up and down to Brighton, to boot. And that I have had horrible deprivations on the broadband front. I’m still tethering, here, so bear with.

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I’ve moved to Old Street, just round the back of the eye hospital.

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And just round the corner from the Ironmonger Row swimming baths. I haven’t gone yet, but I’ve taken the precaution of buying a voluminous swimming costume so as not to frighten people.

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This isn’t really the East End as such, but it is safely back in the warm embrace of Arsenal. Even though I don’t give a rat’s ass for the footie, it was still odd being in the realm of Spurs. Why should it matter? It doesn’t. It doesn’t matter.

Still.

Even so.

So I decided that I was going to style myself as being ‘in the eye of the storm’ being the still point that I am, and living round the corner from the eye hospital and it’s lovely bonkers clock, and on my way to photograph it I saw this monster of a building.

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I wouldn’t mind, apart from the general fright it gave me, but it turns out this is the children’s eye hospital! A whole façade dedicated to the sort of thing that could put your eye out. THE TRAUMA. And it isn’t even right next to a psych wing.

This deserves a lot more time than I’ve got right now. Because YOU KNOW HOW BUSY I AM! Anyway, I’m not busy, but I am knackered, so. As you might imagine a few people took photos at End Of. and this is a snippet of Alison Moyet!

Alison. Moyet. YO!

Good Morning, Sunshine!

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Apparently this has been the wettest winter in 200 years. I’ve certainly been migraining more or less solidly since the August Bank Holiday, and the past couple of days of sunshine have been a welcome respite.

When I surface I take a look around at what is going on and hope to God there’s nothing I need to have done, need to be doing, should have done, ought to have done…

Yesterday I did a bit of paperwork. Not very exciting, but also, pleasingly, nothing too terrifying came to light.

In homing pigeon news, you may remember I’ve been trying to swap flats for the past several months. I fancied a move to Brighton, but it is so hard to get a bite. I tried to juggle a three way swap or two, but it really wasn’t happening, so I’ve gone back to my roots (or, you know, one of my roots) with a swap to Old St.

Home again, home again… jiggity jig.

As they say in Blade Runner.

It’s good because the location has a precise set of qualities. It’s not in the crazy of Hoxton etc, but it is walking distance to it, it’s central, but being just north of City, also quiet, and AND and it’s about 100 yards to the nearest swimming pool, the famous, and infamous, Ironmonger Row baths.

It is not an utter done deal, but both my swapee and I have filled in our respective forms and handed them in to our local authorities. Now we have to wait. They will want to come round and inspect, but there’s nothing for them to see in either flat, so unless something unforeseen happens, I will be moving early/mid April.

It’s not the same as Brighton, but it’s not a bad second best. And if and when I want to turn around again I will have a good bargaining chip of a flat. I’d have thought the Tottenham Riviera would be a good swap for a person from not London who needs to live in London but doesn’t want to be in it… but it seems that’s not how it works. When people move to London they largely want central.

So be it.

But in the meantime, my plan is to get swimming and lose the astounding TEN KILOS I have put on since moving here. And recover some aerobic fitness. Aerobic fitness is kind of shit value because you have to keep it up, but living five floors up without a lift ought to do that on it’s own, so that’s a bargain right there.

Poppet, of course, won’t have the wonderland of bread to eat – the buffet laid out by the bird feeding public on the towpath – so she should become more svelte as well.

Only thing is, I want to get on with it now. I am itching to start filling boxes.

Now Wait for Last Year

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…was the first Philip K Dick book I ever read. Kenny McBeth lent it to me. I was somewhere between 14 and 16 years old, and had never read science fiction before.

This seems as good a time as any to break it to you that I am neither going to give you a round up of last year, nor am I going to tell you what I’m planning for next. No. We do enough time travelling as it is. Lets take a while to stare out the window.

My current view. Lovely, isn’t it?

And what a lovely view it is and has been for the past week and a bit. Julie generously gave us her house for a fortnight while she Xmassed and New Yeared up in Scotland, and I have spent an inordinate amount of time staring out this window. Or less staring and more gazing. It has been a very literal change of scenery.

Also good for staring/gazing at is fire. There is an open fire in the sitting room and Julie had left us logs and kindling.

This is not a stock photograph. IT’S A REAL FIRE!

I used to know a fireperson. I say ‘fireperson’ advisedly because she was a lady fireman. And this was years ago, and even now, you don’t get many of those kicking about. I didn’t know her well but I found myself sitting next to her at a party once and decided to tell her about a house fire I’d seen in San Francisco. She was, and very well may still be a very quiet woman, but she was suddenly VERY interested. Her immediate question was “How many engines?”

Here’s a pro storytelling tip. Try and notice shit. This is my worst quality in story telling skills – I have a dreadful memory and no eye for those sort of details. I was far too busy watching a big building MADE OF WOOD go up in flames to count fire engines, but her question made me realize that would have been a good thing to have noticed, too.

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We did NOTHING for NYE. Not unless you count going to see a flat, walking on the beach, getting underwear and shoe soaked on the way home, spending the avo with Collins and Collins, two of our Brighton Besties, and being in bed by 8, listening to The Midwich Cuckoos on iPlayer til about 10 when I zonked out and Ten left me to it to go commune with the Hackspace via hyperspace.

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The evening before we’d had a few people over and the Gorgeous Gregorie brought over all sorts of bakery.

Gregorie CLAIMS he is a ‘shop girl’ but really he is a BAKER (Well, REALLY he has a show where he does Judy Garland’s audio diaries)

My ‘cookery’ involved doing things like putting a lot of pretzels in a bowl with chocolate peanuts. DON’T JUDGE ME.

Do you think I should teach cookery? Maybe I should. The world needs to know all about chocolate peanuts and pretzels

Alice told travelling yarns, and at one point Chim and Ten took the dogs out and I demonstrated how I get Pops totes excited about going out through the medium of whispering and saying key words. Gregorie, who is proud to be ‘Bri’ish’ (he’s French) was appalled.

Anyway, that was our social event. I literally invited people to come at 7 and leave at 10, which is, in fact, what they did.

I take my bedtime seriously, yo!

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So, back to yesterday. The flat we went to see involved going past Julie’s first Brighton house. Much as I like the blue, her house was known as ‘The Pink House’ so it was kind of sad to see a change of colour.

Don’t it make my pink house blue?

The Pink House parties were legendary back in the day. I believe the neighbours all pretty much loathed her. Not just for the prodigious partying but also for the fact that she punched a hole in her roof and built a balcony which, due to a mixture of the height of the building and the location of the house on the brow of that bit of hill, looked down over everyone else’s gardens.

The flat we saw was very small and a serious fixer upper, but the location was perfect, and also there was a bonus of a shared well kept garden. For the win, but we have to wait for him to see the Camden flat for a possible three way swap. Tenterhooks!

We took the route avoiding the worst of the hill, something I’m making my business to do, since the whole place is rather more aerobic than I am used to. Passing the trees I mentioned in m’last post we spotted a notice about the flotsam trees.

You can clicky through to the website of ONCA gallery and find out ALL THE THINGS

When I shared the post on fb, Trill told me that they were there to raise consciousness about the rubbish on the beach. Depending on what you are reading this on you might not be able to read the text, but the three trees worth of flotsam was collected in one day by one person.

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Today we start getting ready to go home. Julie gets back on Friday, and we have appointments and stuff to get on with in London, so we’ll need to get on. It’s been lovely here, the time has flown.

THANK YOU JULIE!!! SORRY ABOUT MELTING THE PAINT ON YOUR SUGAR JAR BY PUTTING IT IN THE DISH WASHER!

And finally…

Bob found a sponge and brought it all the way home.

Poppet is entirely confused by these sponges. I think she thinks they should be edible, I also think they seem a bit like salted soft toys, which, putting it that way, I can see the appeal. At any rate, she brought this one all the way back to the house and wouldn’t let go of it til we were indoors and Ten picked it out of her maw.

In Brightlingstone

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“Since we live on an island, and have the sea about us, we cannot want an excellent cold bath”

An excellent cold bath

Do not fear, I have not been out bathing. I have been in bathing, inasmuch as I have bathed, in a bath, but there are those that do, in the sea. All year. No matter the weather. I have met some of them, because a friend of mine made a short documentary about them. But I’ve not seen them this trip.

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I have napped, and walked, and eaten, and watched a couple of films. I am particularly pleased with my pairing of Manhattan and Frances Ha. I hadn’t seen Frances Ha before, so didn’t know exactly how well matched they were, but they are, and I can recommend the juxtaposition.

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On our way down to look at the sea yesterday we spotted this tree.

Blending and toning

Here is a closer look.

Monochrome. Classy

On the way back we saw that there were two others, both colour themed.

Blues

Orangery

It’s kind of hard to tell whether this is a grafitti, public art, or community art. Whatevs. There it is.

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So, and lastly, I’ve made you a little tumblr elaine4queen.tumblr.com/day/2013/12/28

Solstice and Shenanigans

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Seasons greetings, whatever theological or tribal stripe you may be, on this, the Solstice, the nadir of the year. It will reach it’s very zenith at 17.11 GMT. Unfortunately, that does not mean that sunny days are ahead. They are, but they’ll be a long time coming. We will have to content ourselves with incremental increases in daylight hours.

Here is a beautifully crafted art work of festive cheer from Poppet’s oeuvre.

And here is a weird Victorian Christmas card.

In time travel news, here’s a picture from July 2012, but it is just as apt this very day, since WE’RE OFF TO BRIGHTON, YO!

However, just because we’ll be away from home, it doesn’t mean I won’t be cracking on with my new hobby, LEARNING ALL THE LANGUAGES.  I can’t remember who put me onto it (WHAAAT? it was all the way back a few DAYS I can’t be expected to remember EVERYTHING) but I am now big into duolingo.com which is a free software for learning languages. Not ALL the languages, but SOME languages. I am currently virtually fluent in Spanish as long as I only want to talk about apples, bread, water, milk, eating, drinking, a man, a woman, a girl and a boy. Still, I reckon I could get by on that. But there’s more! So much more. And it’s a bit like playing a game. I’m very excited.

Ten has just taken Poppet out for the shortest walk in the history of going outside, and I can hear him telling her she will have SOOOO MUCH FUN today, but I’m not sure she’s interested in tenses.

Gotta get ready to travel – in the meantime here’s a little tumblr I made the other day elaine4queen.tumblr.com/day/2013/12/14

Pattern Recognition at Have A Word (full text)

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HAVE A WORD – October 2013

Here we are at Have A Word… L to R Peter Daniels, who read an epic porny poem of yesteryear and yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, Ellis Collins, the promoter and envisioneer of HAW, Grégoire Aubert, who MEMORISED and delivered Judy Garland’s diary tapes, ME, and Alice Purnell, who had everyone in fits with her self depreciating humour – she even described the OBE medal she was wearing as a ‘badge’.
The photograph was taken by John McCullough, with Peter’s camera, as he pointed out to me, so obvs the camera gets top billing – well done camera, with your evil mechanical eye – where did I gain those ten years and mattress front? I’m much younger and skinnier in my mind’s eye.

and here is the text of my piece… (recorded version coming soon)

Pattern Recognition

Cayce Pollard is the dashing heroine of William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition. Cayce is allergic to branding. This means that she has an unpleasant physical reaction to the sight of logos. So, she has filed the branding off the button on her jeans, and unpicked the labels. The stronger the logo, the stronger her repulsion.

Cayce, I wish that my ailments, like yours, were a kind of superpower. People pay good money to go to design school to refine and learn visual skills. But you cut through all that. You are hired, for good money, because when you see a new design you know whether it’s good or not. Not because you have training or aptitude, not even because you have “good taste” or what might be described, vaguely as an ‘eye’ – but because you are allergic. Your employers simply expose you to prospective stylings and watch for a reaction.

Cayce is a “cool hunter”. This sounds old fashioned in 2003, by the time Gibson is writing and is definitely a term with a use-by date. So why use it? The book isn’t set in the future, it’s sci fi credentials are more of a ‘what if’. Science  fiction writers, have lots of rules about what ‘can’ happen in any given scenario so it’s enough to give her this ‘allergy’ and bizarre occupation and let the story roll. ‘Cool hunter’ in Gibson’s hands is a kind of linguistic branding. He’s not here to sell us cool hunting.

Like Cayce, I snip off labels, but that’s because they make me itch. Labels, washing instructions, sometimes even stitching. But it’s true, nevertheless, I don’t like to advertise a brand. And I do have a keen eye. As we all do, when we are sensitised. It can be taught, but it’s also in our genes.

It only takes a short while, for example, when picking blackberries, to not only recognize the best ones by eye, but also by touch. Those small ones may be black enough but their skin is too taut, they haven’t matured, they are going to taste bitter. They take a little more effort to pick, too, being recalcitrant to leave the vine until their incubation is complete. Very voluptuous ones come away with the softest sigh and often leak quietly onto your fingers, but although they are sweet they don’t keep at all and if you make the mistake of putting them in with the rest of that day’s pickings the whole crop becomes sticky and muddy. Best to eat them as you go along. Blackberries’ blood shows red on your fingers but wipe those fingers on your clothes at your own risk – the brackish black will stain forever, marking the tale of your feverish wipings between pickings and gobblings.

In my sick bed I listen to Pattern Recognition, the BBC’s adaptation of the novel, being read by Lorelei King. Fiction is the simplest iteration of gender reassignment – Gibson writes from a female protagonist’s POV, King reads it out – as a woman. The naturalness, to the ear is seamless, a sleight of hand. The spoken word is only one iteration from the page and it fires your aptitude for pattern recognition just as well, and the ability for you to visualise – here I am a woman, here I am a man, here I am a well person… here I am an action hero.

Karl Marx says “Every schoolboy knows” that any culture contains within itself the information for reproduction. As in the petri dish so in society. We recognize a pattern, we reproduce a pattern, we are the pattern. Spatially or over time, From ‘how to get up in the morning’ to ‘how to run a society’ from how to conform to a subculture to how to scramble eggs. From bacteria to computer programming. We recognize, we reproduce. All intelligence involves pattern recognition – from monkeys to machines.

I reproduce the conditions of being myself as I am now. What is stopping me from stepping out of this body and having another life entirely. Nothing indeed, if I step into fiction.

Early September the last gasp of blackberries struggled to the fore between their picked or rotted siblings. Only a couple of miles away, further out of London, the season was just beginning, the berries still green. The second week in September I was in Brighton, and though there were some manky berries on the vine, there were plenty of ripe ones, and some still red raw unripe. The end of the season looms, and much like the Marks and Spencers sale – a lot of dingey items you’re sure were never in the shop before hanging sadly, rail after rail, frumpy and saggy, unappealing to touch or eye.

Attuning to choosing something ‘just right’ is something even a very small child or an amateur can do very quickly, like learning to cook pasta ‘al dente’ though this is to the eye and the finger rather than to the tooth. Our bodies reproduce one skill another way – I learned to touch type – my fingers spider across the keyboard as if each one of them had an eye. I move quickly between the bushes, not like the weekend pickers, out to amass enough to bake with or freeze or share with a large family, I only want a handful a day for my porridge. I’m looking for that perfect ripeness. All the while learning to avoid the thorns and their bullying friends the nettles. But thorn and sting avoidance has less to do with pattern recognition than the picking itself does; that is to say, choosing berries. Recognizing patterns. This discernment allows us to prefer one brand over another because we are, and have been for generations, well adapted to refinement in and of itself.

Technically, pattern recognition is about any manifestation of phenomena – both in nature and in culture. Pattern recognition refers to something called ‘machine learning’ which is why it’s no leap to having your own robot secretary deciding which emails are really for you and which are spam, and which can inform your provider with tailored ads or your government about any nefarious plans you may have to take a set of tweezers onto an aeroplane. I find the Wikipedia entry on pattern recognition almost entirely unintelligible. It’s nice when a novel gives you the sensation you understand something important about a subject, I think. It feels effortless, like all good design.

Artificial Intelligence is based on pattern and recognition of pattern. Like the loom, there is only one story underneath, the one of zeros and ones.. and ALL. THIS. STUFF. comes out of it! In living colour! Incredible! Even ‘Nothing’ can’t reproduce itself without completion and with that completion comes the notion of ‘one’ and therefore ‘other’. Straight away there are two units and the basis for a pattern. As every knitter knows.

I can’t live with patterned wallpaper any more than I can bear textiles with writing on them. Even in a foreign or imaginary language, my eyes scroll over and over trying to make sense. I’m the same with repeated patterns. There’s something about the sense of demand that bothers me – less a ‘leading’ of the eye and more of an insistent repetitive tug. My brother visited China and tells me westerners often suffer headaches from their stymied search for meaning in the signage around them. Welcome to my world, you travellers – at least you’ve got a ticket home to the safety of non headache world.

My car broke down and I abandoned it. I got ill. I stopped working. I got a dog. Clothes had to change their function. No longer did I have a giant motorized handbag come winter coat which I could slip out of in heels and office clothes. Now I had three or more outings a day with dog. I got her on Christmas Eve 2009. Happily, I had already acquired a repulsive but warm ski jacket from TK MAXX. It was cheap, it was super warm. I don’t ski, but guess what? Those hyper mobile arms for the skiing are also good for throwing a ball. WIN. However, when the zip finally properly broke I was relieved to get rid of the offending garment, printed in purple and gold onto taupe, with it’s indelible mud stain from pocketing grubby balls, and went considerably upmarket with a Helly Hensen parka. It’s a nice coat, and I don’t pocket balls any more, so it’s stayed nice. What I did discover though, was that because of the initials, HH, Helly Hensen clothing is worn by neo Nazis in Germany. This worried me, because what if I visited Germany in the winter, in my coat,  who’s to say I wouldn’t be read as a neo Nazi? Apart from probably having no corroborating visual clues – but what do I know, as a foreigner?

Although the point was probably irrelevant it still bothered me, and a friend suggested getting rid of the logo – which was when I realized how VERY branded this coat was. I don’t wear clothes which have their branding writ large, but this thing has it’s branding writ many. Every. Button. Counting… 1,2, only three different bits of branding on the inside of the coat, and my hands and eyes surmise 8 on the outside. 11. On. one. coat. ELEVEN. Quite subtly done, but still, I am a walking billboard for a fashion item while suffering what is known in the medical trade as an ‘invisible illness’. The juxtaposition between what is apparent and what is not is enmiserating. I wish. I had. stigmata.

On the last day of September I took the dog round the Paddock. The blackberries were almost entirely gone. There was the odd jewel high up away from the main bush, where the beads of dead fruit were desiccated, tiny and dulled. Their neighbours, the mounts from which glistening fatted fruit had been successfully plucked were similarly shriveled. Indeed, entire branches were dying back, brown leaved and frail, the sap having entirely retreated, while the non fruit-bearing branches were still vivid and green.

Having not lost the weight I’d intended to, I’d grudgingly bought a new pair of larger than I’d like trousers, the makers of which saw fit to add a small stitched label to the waistband declaring, in white embroidered letters on black “A true feeling of Authenticity”. I find myself a black felt pen and scribble the lettering out, feeling a little.. queasy.

It really happened

Six Sleeps til Have A Word

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So here we go to Have A Word. The event organizer, Ellis, was kind enough to describe me as a “Comedian” on the poster. And the flyer. And probably on the radio show he was on today… so lets hope that people don’t remember that before I take the stage, because NO PRESSURE to be FUNNY then!

 

Having a Word – OK, Don’t mind if I do!

I remain convinced that he has done this to get me back for threatening to everyone about a boring story he told me about ironing a shirt. He has no idea of my horrible history of outing people… still, best not to spoil the surprise.

I have this feeling as if I’ve blogged all this before, but probably I’ve mainly talked to you a) in my head or b) on facebook, and of course, although originally I was down for October, Ellis asked me to do September instead, so I said yes, and then it was cancelled, so then I was back on for October. And yet, in an astounding feat of procrastination I have still managed to not finish it yet. Six sleeps…

Anyway, I am grateful. Ellis is the sort of person who has an idea and then ‘just’ does it. And I, for my part, am the sort of person to say, once that person has done a lot of hard work and it has proven a success “Ooh! Can I join in?”

Hence we are at this pretty pass. As it happens, I’ve done this sort of thing before, but it’s been a good 10 years since the last iteration. Since then I’ve listened to a LOT of Radio 4 and when Ellis said he wanted 15 minutes I didn’t even consider doing some shorter things or a thing of whatever shorter length and then just stopping – I wanted to talk to time. This is proving an interesting exercise, and I am actually nearly done. Do you want to read the opening? Here it is;

Cayce, I wish my ailments, like yours, were a kind of superpower. Your allergy is the BEST allergy. People pay good money to go to design school to refine their eye and learn visual skills. You are employed because when you see a new packaging design you know whether it’s good or not. Not because you have an ‘eye’ but because you are allergic.

Cayce is allergic to branding. This means that she has an unpleasant physical reaction to the sight of logos, so she has filed the logo off the button on her jeans and unpicked the labels. The stronger the logo, the stronger her repulsion.

Cayce is a “cool hunter”. This already sounds old fashioned in 2013, ten years after the publication of the novel, which, given it’s set in ‘the future’ might sound problematic, but sci fi writers, like all successful novelists, have rules, some genre specific, and some more general about what ‘can’ happen in a given scenario. ‘Cool hunter’ has been around for some time before he writes – the ‘coolness of ‘cool hunter’ is a kind of linguistic branding.

And this is nearly the end of me ever mentioning Pattern Recognition by William Gibson again. I go off on a noodly jazz style riff about the blackberry season and my own relationship to fashion. The idea is that it all hangs together MARVELOUSLY. But I may have to wait and see if it does. Particularly since I’m clearly not writing it NOW am I? No, after not blogging for ages, suddenly it’s vitally important I stop watching TV, listening to radio, playing Words With Friends, and all the other activities and tasks I seem to be getting done at an amazing rate and blog instead of WRITING THE THING. Typical.

A Postcard from Brighton

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victoria

VIC-TOOORIA, VICTORRRRIA… (CLICK THRU TO HEAR THE FALL)

battersesa

battersea power station from the train – destined to be upcycled

haw office

where the magic happens…

myf doorstep

flowers from chim’s allotment tastefully tied in a dog poo bag – waiting for myf to open the door of her new house (lovely)

nicky kitty

elderly cat rocks orange and white colour scheme at Nicky and Kit’s

feminism

it’s a good question, or is it?

tottenham hale

back to tottenham hale – that dog looks about as happy to be on a boat as poppet was recently.

Flip Flop Tan, A Visit to Epping Forest, and The Imminent Scaffolding

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I wish I could like autumn more. I mean, I do like it in theory, but my body doesn’t. I’d come off preventative pain killers and was doing really well til the weather hit, and then I realized that wasn’t going to happen. If I could work out how to manage it financially I’d look into moving somewhere where the weather was basically UK summer most of the time, then I might even be able to work. I was stunned at how well I was when I was in Spain, earlier.

proudly prehensile… and a flip flop tan, to boot!

Also, I am saying a sad goodbye to this year’s ‘tan’. I do know that most people wouldn’t count this as a tan as such, but if you compare the blue lines where my flip flops have been to the regular flesh colour on the rest of my feet I think you’ll agree that I’ve done well. I’d just carry on wearing flip flops if I could, but even on a hot day there’s dew on the grass in the morning, and what I have discovered with my summer of the flip flop is that it’s not the cold that’ll get you, it’s damp. Any amount of moisture makes flip flop wearing untenable. I even wore my flip flops to Epping forest the other day without major incident, though they are not ideal off road footwear.

Multitasky Ian (feat Cam)

No, Poppet.

After my flurry of visits abroad I’d got rather mired in the Tottenham Riviera, and it was great to be asked on a day out to Epping with my friends Ian and Al and Al’s little boy, Cameron. Ian did the driving, and we arrived at the bit where the bikers congregate. I would have liked to have taken some pictures, but, well, bikers. Friendly enough but lets not push it. There’s a little cabin where fried food and hot brown beverages calling themselves ‘tea’ and ‘coffee’ are sold. These are seriously muck, but the bacon sarnies are just the job at fortifying you for a woodland walk. Poppet had a fantastic time eating horse poo and wallowing in stinky water and running about like an idiot. Cameron had his BMX bike with him, so we could walk quite far without Al having to carry him, which has been a feature of our walks thus far. For the past few years Al has actually had to carry both Cam and a bike a fair bit, so it’d just as well he’s a gym bunny.

Al and Ian are the people I see most, and do feature in my “should I move?” scenarios. I’ve been all over the place with the home swapping thing this summer, and I’ve had to wind it down now. Partly because it was taking up too much of my head room, and partly because time is passing, and my window of relative wellness is becoming smaller as we move towards the winter, and November is the scheduled time for the scaffolding to go up, probably for several months, while we get new windows and roofs and they replace our heating systems. This should effectively trash what decor there is here, and so between the unsightliness of the scaff and the likely wreckage indoors I can only see the keenest person looking past all that. So rather than field inquiries over the next while I’ve left the profile hanging with just central Brighton as a preferred swap. It’d take me away from easy striking distance from Al and Ian, but nearly everyone wants to visit Brighton, and of my friends who have bought, most have two bed flats, so I can visit THAT LONDON as they call it, and also reconnect with my Brighton friends. Anyway, we mustn’t hold our breaths, since I’ve rarely had a bite from a Brightonian.

In the meantime, Have A Word is coming closer and closer. I’ve done a bit of writing but must do more. It’s mainly about picking blackberries, but then, what else is there to write about? Hardly anything. Blackberries it is.

Paris is a Trip

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I am back from la France. It was brilliant. There was cake and cheese and shoes and bees. We met la Messy Nessy Chic and we gained muscle mass on the hills. Everything with ‘Mont’ in the name? That’s going to be a hill, it turns out. And hills go up as well as down. It’s good though, because it made me feel like I was burning off the cake, and also it helps with getting your bearings.

i forgot to mention – i have spidey skills

Before we went, Terri said “How do you feel about Montmartre?” How could I feel anything about it since I had no idea what it was going to be like? Well, it turns out to be very pretty, pretty central, and she got it for a deal, which was good, because although it’s not the MOST expensive neighbourhood it would have been no deal at full price, probably.

I knew about the trip in plenty of time to brush up on a few words, so I had some books beside my bed which lay unopened while I watched Eddie Izzard instead. His advice, to take a monkey, a mouse, a cat, and a chair with you so that you can work them into the conversation at the hotel was spot on, I simply can’t fault him.

One of the language moments I had was when Terri was reading out the rules of the hotel for me – and I mistook drink for fish. I had a fairly surreal moment wondering why anyone would need hot fish bringing to their room, and thinking well, if they are going to all that trouble offering hot fish, perhaps it would be rude not to order some? before realizing it was boisson not poisson she was talking about. Easy mistake to make.

warning – bees. bees, that is, with swords.

I’d been delegated to make the Eurostar bookings but there were questions and time passed and there was an air strike… as I watched the cheaper seats disappear I had to make le decision executive and make an effing booking already. So, by this time we could have stupid early or quite late, and I went for stupid early. I was quite worried about it because if they didn’t let us in our room early we were going to be knackered and snappy and hanging around, but happily the room was ready so we had a little lie down and then a sort of bonus walkabout in Montmartre. Imagine if there was a pretty hillside with a fancy building on top next to Kings X? It would not only be nice, but also handy for orientation.

tezzer dans l’atelier

The reason I could afford to go, and indeed Terri herself, was that she’d got a grant from her University to put together a proposal for a kind of cool hunting image pool for her students. We went to la Goutte D’Or and she took some shots which I can’t show you yet, but there was one of a woman in a knock off Burberry jumpsuit which was horrible and fabulous at the same time. Because this is a kind of rough neighbourhood it was tricky to get shots even with a phone, so I didn’t take any with my camera, but as we were leaving the area we found this street which had been given over to designer/makers and we went off on a totally other tangent, also useful for her college purposes. We found these people reviving the art of bespoke shoe making in l’atelier Maurice Arnoult – which was a cool story because it had apparently been quite a macho trade, and the last surviving practitioners decided they wanted to revive the trade and teach women, so that’s what they did. The oldest of them is over 100 years old and is now seeing the dream come into fruition. The only near equivalent we have in the UK is Cordwainers which was taken over by London College of Fashion in 2000. At Cordwainers you can learn how to design and make – but here in Paris you do it from scratch for the individual client. A cost price only, without labour, pair of shoes from the college starts from 800 euros.

yeah, that receipt is for a video not for anything remotely going towards having a shoe made

shoe lasts

The next day we went off to meet Nessy. She’d arranged to meet us in a Cafe in a fancy part of town, and because of Metro connections and probable walking distances we set off early and went to a further away stop, which involved fewer changes, and walked. This was the horror part of the trip. The area around the Champs-Élysées is like, say you were walking down the Mall towards Buckingham Palace and then times the whole thing by a kaleidoscope. It was blastingly hot, with little shade, and although there is some green space it’s mainly all massive colonial buildings with statues covered in gold leaf reflecting off the sun and burning your retinas. In Paris people drive pretty fast, and there are also a lot of motor bikes and I saw something which made my otherwise happy heart shrink like a raisin. Among the traffic on what was, and I am not exaggerating, a six lane highway, was a horse pulling a trap. It’s not an uncommon tourist thing but it was super shocking to see this poor horse in the middle of all this really hideous fast noisy traffic. Terri tells me that even the Central Park are being wound down.

GOOD.

Anyway, after we had escaped the cruelty and statuary, we hit the Seine and found the cafe. We went via Avenue Montaigne which is where all the full size stores for Prada and the like are lined up. If you have ever been to Bond Street forget it, because those are ‘fun sized’ stores by comparison to these monsters. We were still hungry and a bit worried about how much it was going to cost us to eat in this neighbourhood, and when we got to the Savy I was totally afraid to buy food there, but happily there was a cheap and quite good place next door, so we could stuff our faces before we went to sip coffee and be urbane. On consideration I wished I’d left room for cake, though, because once I had got over my fears I started to like the Savy a lot, and I suspect they do good deserts.

bloody glum lion

I saw this lion just after I had seen the sad horse. I felt his pain.

It was so bloody hot out there, and then, naturally, just as we left Vanessa to head for the Metro it utterly pissed down. As I entered the Metro totally soaked to an audience of dry Parisians waiting for the hell to stop a man asked me “Il pleut?” Which was very bloody funny of him. (It was, quite).

cake

Here are some cakes, they come earlier in the story, but I wanted to put them beside the picture of cheese.

cheese and meat

Terri asked Vanessa where she would eat on her last night in Paris, and rather than guide us towards some insanely posh place, or even somewhere French, she told us to go to a little (tiny) Italian on rue Lamarck which was conveniently located on the street we were actually staying on (and anyone who knows my sleeping hours will realize this was what meant it could actually happen) called Babalou. This was the entree we shared before eating so much that I could not manage a desert, not even a tiny one.

kitteh

Enfin although I have more photos, here is a little kitty eyeing me from across the way from our room. I also saw a very fit half naked man a few times, but refrained from photographing him. All the windows in Paris seem to be FRENCH WINDOWS which is a kind of window I approve of wholeheartedly and wish I had throughout my flat. We had ours wide open throughout our stay and were treated to many noises. But they were French noises, so that’s okay.

As well as being stuffed with kitties, there are also LOTS of dogs in Paris, and most of them walk off leash. This is now illegal in the UK, but it has been a long time since most dogs even knew how.

Now that I am back from the France since one day, I am minded to share with you this Armstrong and Miller sketch.

And even more enfin I seem to have put my hand up to be in the third Have a Word in Brighton in August.

nic collins’ lovely graphic for ‘Have a Word”