Breakfast of Champions – Referendum, Writing, and Travel

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Yesterday I finally weighed in on the Independence debate. What do you mean, last minute? There is a WHOLE DAY to go yet!

Anyway, I wrote about it on Facebook, and then on tumblr. Then, for good measure I copied it onto a site I’d not seen before, WriteHere.com which is easy to join and format free for those who can’t be bothered with the fiddlearseing you have to do on WordPress and have to do a bit on tumblr.

Apparently we will know the outcome ‘breakfast time’ on Friday.

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As a Londoner for more than 25 years, clearly, I don’t get a vote. I am, however, happy that this debate has happened whatever the outcome. As Josh White puts it in his post Free of London in Souciant

“The independence of Scotland would also humiliate the Cameron government, possibly beyond repair, showing up the Conservatives as a vulnerable force. This is likely the case even if Scotland gains greater powers and remains within the UK. The Left should be asking itself, “Why haven’t we been able to undermine the Con-Dems in this way?”

Whatever the map looks like on Friday morning, the terrain is already changing.

***

Speaking of blackberries (oh come on, we all know that was the elephant in the room!) it’s been a year since I read out Pattern Recognition at Have a Word and I’ve written very little since, I’ve barely even blogged, and that is a SAD THING for me. So in the summer I started a Facebook group First Thursday Writers and The Like with the idea of holding a salon at home. This was possible to consider because my new flat is large and central, and I got the idea from having had hopes dashed of doing a course in Narrative Non Fiction at City Uni. I had to recognise that I am really not well enough to do a full time course. After I recovered from the inevitable soul crushing I looked at short courses, and I noticed that, for people who had done a short course, they were offering a monthly meet up course for people who had completed one of the term long courses. I was attracted to that but thought HANG ON because I know enough writers and creative people with writing projects to drum up a group myself and have them come to me, which, in my quest for less travel to events literally couldn’t be easier to get to. So I started a Facebook group and invited people who either lived in London or who might be likely to visit once a month, and got started. We had our first meeting this month and there was only three of us, but we had a really productive session. I read out Pattern Recognition again, and also some other snippets. First of all, it had been some time since I’d looked at it and I thought it would have sort of ‘gone off’ and would need ripping apart, but it actually hung together quite well. The other thing I got as feedback was that the other snippets I’d read out, which I’d been seeing as random beginnings of other projects also hung well with that piece. It gave me some heart to carry on, even though it will inevitably be very slowly.

Today I opened up the Facebook page to anyone anywhere who is writing and wants to get posts from the group – it’s mainly me posting in it just now, and I have been sharing stuff about writing, mainly to remind people that the group still exists, but someone commented that they liked the posts and I thought, well then, why not make the page open to anyone to follow, even if they will never make it to London for a meeting, after all, isn’t that what the internet is good for?

***

Between moving house and messing with medication I’ve not traveled further than Brighton this year. This is a pisser because I really benefitted from extra warmth last year. One way and another I haven’t been able to get a shot of warmth this year, beyond the hot spell in London, and, being unwell I’ve not wanted to travel alone. I had a shot at meeting a friend for a holiday, but for the past few months I’ve not been able to walk for more than ten minutes at a time without a river of pain down my shoulders and back, and that’s without carrying anything. I’d be miserable being abroad if it didn’t make me feel more well, and with hotels as well as flights I felt it was too much of a financial risk, too. Enter Ken with an invite to Munich! Exactly NO hotter than here, but equally, a cheap flight away, a change of scenery, and staying at his makes this a less scary prospect. We have 24/7’d before, and I know he won’t mind if I can’t manage more than a bit of dog cuddling, epic conversations and cake eating, and if I have it in me he knows all the local walks, the cultural stuff, and *whisper* if I am well enough I want to go to Weimar and see the Bauhaus museum.

IF.

 

In Praise of Shitty Weather

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Friday was ridiculously hot. It was Zone 1 London in the summer hot, with that intimation of hosepipe bans and the feel that it could be one of those summers where fans sell out and people start whining about it being TOO HOT.

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I don’t like to be a curmudgeon, and while my mind is of a cloudy turn, my body certainly behaves better in the warm, but now that we’ve moved house a fair few things have changed in the daily routine. On the Tottenham Riviera we were on the ground floor, it  was Zone 3, and on a river, and I didn’t have to have Pops on the lead for most of any outing. Here, we are in the microclimate of the centre of town, up four flights, and the parks are often FULL at the first sight of sunshine. Full, that is, of HAZARDS.

By ‘hazards’ I mean children, people eating, people trying to have some alone time lying down quietly, that sort of thing. All things a Bobbins likes to either actually disturb or threaten to disturb, which amounts to the same thing in terms of having to police her.

In the shitty weather we doggy types get the park to ourselves.

On Friday it was extremely hot and Poppet did her new thing of having to have several lie downs all the way home as well as a couple in the stair. And that was for the morning play. By the afternoon it was baking so hard and the park was so populous that there was no chance of play, and even without it she still played ‘old dog’ all the way home.

When I first got her she was estimated by All Dogs Matter as being about a year old, and thought to have been made to mate on her first season, the beginnings of her white muzzle being thought to have been caused by the shock of this too early breeding. By the time we were on the Riviera and we had a vet appointment she was nominally about four, and he said there was no way she was under seven. Usually if people ask her age I tell them I don’t know, that she was adopted, and I give them the parameters, but if I can’t be bothered or if I think they are really not interested (a lot of people ask a dog’s age, it’s a ‘thing’) then I’ve just been saying “seven” for the past couple of years. Despite her greying muzzle, I’ve continued to argue her youth, but now she’s doing the lying down thing I’ve revised it upward. Her age of convenience is now firmly ten.

Anyway, the weather didn’t do as threatened, and we are now back to the shitty weather we also complain about. However, today it didn’t take a moment to get her out and running about, and we had the park pretty much to ourselves and yesterday was the same, even though this is the weekend. I don’t begrudge the sun seekers their pleasures, but I am going to have to figure out a way around them with the dog.

I was going to write this yesterday but we got waylaid by a chap called Roland and his dog Crunchie. I’m shit at remembering names, but Roland is my brother’s name, and Crunchie is an excellent name for a dog. She was crunching on a stick when we met her. We also know a Harry and Barry, but I have no idea which is the man and which the dog, so knowing their names doesn’t help at all.

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!

It may be Messy but I do it all for You

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Made a little tumblr for ya, on elaine4queen.tumblr.com/day/2014/01/18

And I’ve been updating the Mnemonic Mujer blog weekly, although it took a couple of go rounds to get it set for GMT, but I’ve done it now, and the next one will be Monday at 11.11am. Most pleasing.

AND, and, I have made a MM tumblr to complement the main blog. The blog posts are featured, but there will also be extras, and you can follow either or both or neither or whatever you damn well please. Both this blog and the wordpress MM blog are going through to the elaine4queen facebook page. And twitter. There are tweets. I have it mostly covered, but there is always room for improvement. My online presence is frankly messy.

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.

***

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!

***

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.

Alone and Existential in Palermo – What to do?

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Ken is gone, and I have 24 hours alone in Palermo. What to do? What to do?

Can you guess what I did yet?

After a solid week of walking the alleyways, closes and vennels of the old town of Palermo I decided to head over to the Botanical Gardens. Partly to make Ken jealous, but mainly because I knew I needed to pass some time before flying and I always like a garden. In fact, not a lot of people know this, but I used to have a membership to Kew and would go there at least four times a year. I had to check out from the hotel, and although they let me leave my bag with them for the day I don’t think they’d have let me have a lie down between excursions, so I had to do something that was both time consuming and in some way restful. Enter stage left (the direction of the goodies, as we now know from the visit to the Puppet Museum) your friend and mine…

Your friend and mine, Carl Linnaeus, inventor of the binomial nomenclature we use for the naming of plants today.

He’s like – Check out the crazy good garlic. I’m going to take some home with me and give it two names. (It is possible this is not garlic, but bear with me, I am no plantsman, I just like eating).

Like the museums we visited, the botanical garden was quite small by UK standards, but probably not because they have less stuff, more probably because they don’t hand over acres and acres to lawn. Also, the plants we need hothouses for they don’t. There’s only one greenhouse in the whole place.

There was also a LOT of potting going on. Presumably they are potting things that don’t need a lot of water, or else they’d have to employ everyone in Palermo just to keep the container plants alive.

Here’s the naughty Ficus Macrophylla again;

Ficus Macrophylla. Famously shit at lining up to create an avenue.

So good they named it thrice.

I had a bit of a sit down in the shade IT WAS SO HOT and took a few snaps from there.

Super sunny nice day.

Pretty.

It was really nice to get the overpowering petrol smell out of my nostrils. The sooner Palermans get into electric cars and bikes the better for everyone. The orange grove smelled lovely.

Oranges may not be the only fruit, but they are *A* fruit.

I still had time to be ridiculously early for my flight, and the rest of the day was rather wearing, so the trip to the Botanics was a good call. It’s hard to imagine that I arrived back in freezing cold London at the end of this splendid day.

Not that I wasn’t pleased to see Ten and Poppet, because I was. But, you know. Palermo! I miss you!

***

ETA – Turns out there is another greenhouse, but I missed it. The one I went into had some cactus going on, but there was also cactuses outside. It really just isn’t that cold.

More Blogs about Buildings and Food

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In which Ken and I spend a week looking at buildings and eating food. Yeah, we went into museums, but that’s really not why we came.

Ken has won at blogging this holiday, and that’s a fact. Over the week he’s blogged about our first encounter with an arancino in Oranges aren’t the only meat, about how we have fabricated an entire cultural history of Palermo based only on talking to each other in A backstory for all of Palermo and our eventual sit down encounter with cake in Winding streets and churches and finally cake. I, on the other hand have posted a couple of photos on friendface and have saved up so many photos I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHERE TO BEGIN.

These students didn’t know that I was from the home of rioting since 1982, but they did a little welcome protest for me. Bless them.

The people from the internet were very keen that we should have cake, but it took us a few days to get around to it.

Ken giving ‘our’ dog some sausage skin.

We watched this dog from our window. He seems to spend his day herding traffic. After enjoying the sausage skin and saying hello to us some guys were pushing a van to get it started and he hared off to ‘help’.

This morning’s weather.

We slept like nuns in our little skinny beds.

The room was nice. And the people looking after us were kind but not in our faces. It was an easygoing scenario.

There was some sort of cooking going on behind this scruffy exterior.

The guy saw me taking a photo and waved and got his friend/brother to get in for another shot, but this one was better, so.. sorry friend/brother, you didn’t make the cut.

These trees are not good for making tree lined avenues. Rogue trees.

I think I read about these trees in Kew magazine years ago. Some city, not Palermo, I think, since they don’t seem to go in for avenues here, decided to use these to line a street. The thing is those ropey tendrils come down from the branches and then take root and grow into trees, so the trees just colonize the space over time. Not good municipal planting.

The puppet museum had a full set of Punch and Judy puppets.

It was the least tempting museum for me, but actually I liked it the best. I don’t suppose anyone comes to Palermo to go to museums, but we felt we should.

A couple of holy fellas.

Ken’s last day we stopped in a tailor’s and had an impromptu jam.

I would have walked past here, but Ken saw the instruments and went in. They made us welcome and we had the best time. And the most interaction we’d had all week with local people. Here’s a piece of advice for you – musicians make good travelling companions. Ken brought his uke out a lot, and played to various people, but even without it, music brought us together.

The guy eating biscotti taught Ken a choon.

Simon, the guy in the red jacket, said it was a ‘magic moment’ which it was. He asked if we had an electronic address, which we did. Hopefully he emails and I can send him the link to this post.

Ken leaves in a couple of hours, then I will have 24 hours on my own before my flight home.