So-called Screensavers, A Stray Dog at Christmas, and Scary Santas


The Guardian kindly offered us a seasonal selection of what they called, quaintly, “screensavers”. They’re not, they are desktop pictures, but never mind. So I chose this one

ai weiwei

which looked marvelous projected up in between our xmas viewings. We started off watching the rather bizarre little film Love of a Kind, then we ate some Chinese food, then we settled down for the main event which was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. This, courtesy of one of the mystery Kirsties who I have mentioned before, and who like being mysterious, so mysterious they remain. Anyway, she’d sent me the set, and as it turns out it is the set I would have preferred anyway, featuring, as it does, Swedish with subtitles. We are now a third of the way through and thoroughly hooked.

I will now be changing our so-called “screensaver” to Cornelia Parker’s one.

cornelia parker

which will be less festive, but which I think will look super nice projected up.


Now then, though, I didn’t tell you what happened before that. We were taking the dog a festive walk to the chemist (I am awaiting, nervously, a shipment of triptans, which I knew I would run out of during the festive, bank holiday littered, season. And Lo, it has come to pass. I am now mid migraine and have officially RUN OUT.) Anyway, a guy with a dog said he’d seen a dog around without an owner and he asked us to keep an eye open. We found the dog and took it home. Poppet liked the little girl, and they played all along the towpath – until new dog FELL IN! It’s just as well we are on flood alert, because Ten managed to drag her out. We went home, dried off both dogs, fed newdog, then went back to try the chemist (who said to phone him on Thursday – I am on sodding tenterhooks, here) whereupon this guy said she was his dog and we had to give her up. I was quite sorry, her and Pops got on so well, and he seemed ill equipped to be looking after two dogs. He hadn’t brought a lead out for her and dragged her by the collar, and she did properly flinch at one point… still, nowt to be done.


And finally, our Amy of Lucy’s Football posted a link to something truly frightening.


A whole collection of 10 scary santas. In a fight against scary clowns I think the scary santas would have pretty good odds. And that is saying something.

I leave you with David Sedaris reading Six to Eight Black Men, which seems topical on more than one front right now.

Emin’s Tube, Gertrude Stein, and A Dead Fox


Laptop borked, I am writing this on the netbook, and JUST to bring you this picture…

london tube map with tracy emin drawing on the front

I downloaded all 1299 photos off my camera.

It’s not a new thing, but I quite like it, because it looks like she just drew it on the front in biro, but really it’s printed on. If anyone would like one let me know your land addy and I will DO MY BEST to stick it in the post to you. My own borkdom notwithstanding.

It’s horrible without the proper laptop, but I have soldiered on, finishing up the second series of The Hour with rather juddery streaming and a cheap tinny speaker attached. I think there may have always been something wrong with this netbook, because the speakers are awful. Far too quiet. Considering the speaker I attached cost me no more than a tenner, you’d think Toshiba could manage that quality at least.

Still, it could all be worse. Mustn’t Grumble.


My life without my usual AV set up has taken a turn. I listen to radio shows on my laptop a lot, and go to sleep to various plays and stories from Radio 4. This not being an option I decided to see what was available on podcast, and now have a shed load of Great Lives loaded up on my smartphone. The best one so far was Gertrude Stein. She turns out to be a lot more interesting than I thought she was from the tiny amount I knew about her which was that she was rich and an art collector and had been painted by Picasso.

gertrude stein by picasso

I’m not going to bang on about her, but I did very much like the way she was quoted saying;

“We spend all of our wars in France.”

Lovely. Reminds me of the David Sedaris “…my home, well, one of my homes” (from The Ship Shape)


I feel bad that I didn’t take a picture of this for you, but Poppet has had a bit of a DAY obsessing over a dead fox. It seems that early in the day a council worker found the dead fox on the tow path and put it in a bin bag on a corner on the estate. It’s been seriously pissing down all day here,  so no cats will have taken an interest. Or even crows. So the fox had been bagged up and Poppet had had a couple of sniffs… I took her out when I got back from my appointment in the afternoon, since I was already wet. A neighbour was walking his dog and he was telling me about the fox, and Poppet was sniffing at the bag. On the towpath I let her off the lead. She belted up to the gate which is a bit weak, barged through and sprinted off to open up the fox package. When I caught up with her she’d opened the bag up a bit and I could see a bit of scruff. I put her on the lead and took her home. A couple of hours later she was nagging me to go out. The moment we left the house she dragged me all the way to the fox.

It had clearly been on her mind.

Fortnums, Selfridges, and the Rise of the Middle Class


Monday, November 19, 2012
If you had to get locked in some place (book store, amusement park, etc) overnight alone, where would you choose to be locked in?

Well, my initial reaction to this was to say a department store that stocked good beds. Or any beds, really. And bedding. Ten suggested I might like to be locked in at Fortnum and Masons which featured in a docco we watched yesterday. This is a shop so posh it has it’s own historian. Can you believe that? It’s  a food shop that started life stocking probably mostly imported ingredients for the aristocracy. Nothing *made* because your cook would do that. Or one of your cooks. Oh! a propos of “one of my” you have to click through here to read the David Sedaris story Our Perfect Summer. You will never use or hear the phrase “one of my” ever again without thinking it HILARIOUS.

Anyway, the historian said that this was how Fortnums (first name terms, here) started off, and that you would arrive to be met by a frock coated chap who would guide you round with your list. Everything would be delivered and you would be billed at some future date, so nothing as vulgar as money would be mentioned. Inevitably the middle classes crashed the party, wanting to ape the eating habits of the toffs. However, they, too, would have at least *a* cook, so that didn’t change much except the volume of stuff sold. Things changed on the advent of the first european civil war (as Mao Tse Tung called WW1) when people wanted to send such things as marmalade to soldiers in France. Jars were postponed in favour of tins due to the fragile nature of glass and the less than genteel nature of bombs.

Nowadays you can walk around and pick stuff off the shelves. You can have the same marmalade as the duke of so and so, and you can be the fanciest. I, however, have never been there. The most fancy I have been in terms of food shopping is Selfridges. Selfridges was a trail blazing department store. Not the first in London, I believe that was the Bon Marche in Brixton. Toffs never needed department stores – they inherited their stuff or had it made by the appropriate craftsperson. Department stores were designed specifically for the emergent middle classes who did not have inherited belongings and who also did not know how to put a room together for instance. So the department store set up the little vignettes we are so used to being treated to for an eternity before we get to the shopping bit at Ikea. Gordon Selfridge was an American who had worked in a department store in Chigago and had lots of exciting new ideas about how to give these new shoppers the sort of experience that would make them want to spend money. He was an innovator in display, in the training of salespersons, and Selfridges became one of the first places a woman of status could go to on her own. (As an aside, women could walk around London in the Elizabethan era, but their emancipation was retarded by the Victorian era.)

I used to like Selfridges very much when I had money and energy. I have never even been to Harrods – why go all that way if Selfridges is the best shop you have ever seen?

So although there are probably amazing places a person could be locked into what better really than a department store where you could gorge yourself on fancy food, frolic among the gew gaws and bits and bobs, then cozy up in one of London’s most expensive beds?

Recently there has been a TV show called The Paradise which is about an early department store. It’s actually based on a story by Emile Zola, so entirely fictional in that it is set in the North of England. It’s good enough as costume dramas go, and ‘real’ enough in it’s way, but it would have been so much more interesting to have a dramatization of Gordon Selfridge’s life – I mean, for a man who catered to one of the most uptight group of people to be created in the UK he led a pretty interesting life, including having a scandalous relationship with society twins the Dolly sisters.

So. To summarize. I may not have the best imagination in the world, but I do know a fair bit about the history of the department store.

The End.



Ten was worried about me not having any kind of illustration for this post. It just so happens that I still have my store card from back in the day;

Thoughts on Prompts and Pictures of the Tiger Worm Hotel


Now that I’m back on the blogging trail, and now that I have done some serious worm hotel construction and had my bath, my mind turns to what to blog about today. During my mega migraine bonanza I missed a whole week of prompts for NaBloPoMo. Lets see what they would have been…

Monday, November 5, 2012

What are your thoughts about tomorrow’s election in the United States?

Well, what with all the hindsight, I can just say it’s a bit of a relief. Not because Obama is going to be a total angel, but because things would have been a great deal worse if Mr Mitt had got in. Like here, we have a tory mayor of London and a tory Prime Minister. Romney as icing on that layer cake would have been unbearable.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012
If you were President of the United States, what would be your first act in office?

Stop the drone strikes. Drones seem to me to be a war crime in conception, construction and use. They are no better than land mines. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Talk about the last compliment you received.

Most probably the Kirsty I play Words With Friends with. She is very generous when I paste her! However, we are very often neck and neck towards the end of the game, which is very exciting. We are very evenly matched. Also, she is usually up already when I wake up, so we often play live, too, which is nice.

Thursday, November 8, 2012
If you could have any job (and instantly have the training and qualifications to do it), which job would you want?

I would like to be David Sedaris, but that job is already taken. 

Friday, November 9, 2012
If you could change one thing about your life right now, what would it be?

I would magic away the migraines and fibro crap. Then i would be able to do ANYTHING!!!!!! Except be a child prodigy, astronaut, ballerina, stunt double, body double, chess master, or opera singer. Those are all off the table no matter how well I got. If I could, I’d be a writer. So much tidier than painting, and I admire writers so much. I don’t think I could really write fiction, though. 

Well! That didn’t take long! Now I am all caught up. Well done me.


I dare say you are dying to see the Worm Hotel. Let me just dry my hair and I’ll take the camera out and see what I can offer you.

tottenham hilton under construction

the black thing was full, but the compost not fully, well, composted. so in moving the contents to the clear hoppers i may be needing quite a few of them to complete the job.

ten asked how the worms would reach the holes in the next box up – i am including quite a lot of twiggery for them to climb on. ‘like an adventure playground, then’, he said

i am not sure whether the worms will like the clear plastic. they do like the dark, it’s true, but then they also like to escape. i have found quite a few who think they are steve mcqueen.

So, very much still IN PROCESS as you can see. But I am getting there, and the new drill bit is paying it’s way. Obviously if I was building this entirely from scratch I wouldn’t risk the clear boxes, but since I have so many of them it is a good re-use and if they don’t work out I will just have to get some opaque ones. Although ordinary composting needs dark I am not sure if the worms do. If you leave the lid off they come up towards the light, so who knows what they are thinking.