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.

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

A Walk in the Paddock

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The Paddock

Took the dog out to the Paddock yesterday. Sounds fancy, but until I learned it was named that I used to call it “The Scruffy Bit”.

Things have changed over the past couple of weeks.

Dead on the Vine

The blackberries are nearly all gone.

These were hanging high up. For the birds.

Zoom but don’t touch

Blackberry bush die back

Rose Hips

And these rose hips are everywhere.

I love Virginia Creeper this time of year.

Autumnal

Virginia Creeper

And ‘Swinger’s Delight’ – Pampas Grass is a bit of random suburban gardening in what is mainly a small nature reserve.

Ooer, Missus!

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.

Here Comes the Rain Again

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August bank holiday, generally scorchio, as appropriate for the Notting Hill Carnival, and we’ve dived straight into autumn without a thought for due process.

Rainy grey light on the Lea.

Some people don’t care either way.

And what have I been doing since last we met? Well, the usual lot of nothing. I’ve been experimenting with coming off medication, eating my body weight in blackberries, and not getting my Have A Word thing written…

I’ve been picking a few blackers most days when I’ve been out with the dog. It’s always amazing how different really fresh things taste to – well, less fresh things.

Blackberries.

It’s been hot, and I am chronically underslept. The rain brings a certain quiet, but also makes me creaky, so it’s swings and roundabouts health wise.

Have A Word is a thing m’friend Ellis has been doing in Brighton for the past few months – there’s no website as such, just a rolling series of HAW fb pages. It’s a monthly spoken word evening in aid of Sussex Beacon and it’s just gone into profit. Ellis is one of those people who ‘just does’ things. A couple of years ago he picked up a camera and within a few weeks had an exhibition – still showing regularly now. Similarly, he ‘just’ decided to host a spoken word event, and now he ‘just’ does.  I love that. Inspirational!

So, of course, without really thinking about possible consequences I asked if I could do a spot, and now I have fifteen minutes to fill on September 11th. I have *something* written, but not 15 minutes worth of something, and I’ve been quietly panicking away here. I had a couple of false starts, but have settled upon doing a sort of jazzy noodle version of a ‘book report’. It’s not a book review – I am barely talking about the book that kicked me off at all, but I quite like calling it a ‘book report’ because that’s what we did at school. And I was quite good at it. But it’s not really one, it’s just me starting off with some of the elements of a book and noodling off with it. The book in question is Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. My ‘report’ features blackberries quite heavily, which the novel does not. And fashion branding, which the novel does.

In other news I have been looking at swapping flats again… not sure whether it will happen or not, but I’ve seen a few now, and am narrowing down my focus – I’m not in a fit state to be moving just for the sake of it, and the Riviera has it’s plusses. But sometimes I start ‘shopping’ and contact a whole slew of people and then some of them get back to me and I think – did I really think I could move to Kilburn? Was that a thing?

Two current front runners involve a flat just off Brick Lane and one just north of Victoria Park – so, areas I’ve lived in before and not just mad night time digital ramblings. Now I have to write to someone and tell her I was QUITE MAD to think I could move so far away from ‘everything’.

And finally, here’s a GPOY of Pops.

relaxypoo

Down the Sofa of Memory, an Unhappy Birthday, and ALL THE PRESENTS

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Good morrow, my friends! It has been some time since my last confession/blog post due to the rolling migraine situation here at l’hermitage. Which is annoying, because I have so much to tell you about, and I’m sure lots of BRILLIANT ideas will have been lost down the sofa of my piss poor memory. Obviously, I have been doing very little, but I have been thinking a lottle about what I want to do for Have A Word in October… It’s in a proper theatre so there’s the opportunity for projections, props, what have you. It’s nice to consider all these things before probably opting to write something down then, er, read it out.

Never mind! Lets live for today and search the camera for the yesterdays…

First of all, there’s a little catch up from foreign travels before they become too old timey to comment on. It was hard to edit down all the stuff from Paris, and this is a shot I didn’t take until I was already home. It’s from the ‘in flight’ magazine they give you on Eurostar. Well, I don’t think they mean you to take them, but at least I took a whole one, whereas the woman next to me tore pages out, which may or may not have been disappointing for the next traveller. These magazines are kind of meh. But there were a couple of things I wanted to refer to. Here’s one about what the French call a Brazilian.

ticket de metro

What you may need to know is that the Paris Metro ticket’s metallic strip is rather more elegant than the London Tube’s. Not judging, mind. Don’t have one for you to see because modern travellers on the Tube use Oyster cards which don’t have a strip. They have a COMPUTER which is sending INFORMATION about you to the GOVERNMENT (this sentence is dedicated to Amy’s Dad. Click on the side bar and look at virtually any Lucy’s Football post and you’ll see what I mean.) Pictured is the back of a Metro ticket, which I have kept, in the spirit of throwing a coin in a fountain, as a promise of return. Though without genital waxing, thankingyou.

My other thing from down the back of the sofa of time is this little rig featuring a mozzie repellent from Spain. What you may not know is that European plugs are different from UK ones, although, confusingly, we do use adaptors for electric shavers though not much else, so I had one lying around. But it goes uppy downy so I had to find an adaptor that would make it go sidey ways.

con fused

We were eaten ALIVE every night by mozzies and it was only on the eve of the last night that we thought of buying a repellent. This one is basically just citronelle presumably gently warmed up – seems to work here just fine, which is good because we do get the odd mozzie on the Tottenham Costa and I’ve never seen these gizmos on sale. Damned if I was going to leave it behind, though I did miss a trick leaving the garlic. Frankly, it didn’t take me long to wish I had thrown out all my clothes and just stuffed my suitcase with garlic and cheese.

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Then there was my birthday. Being a monday, and last year having been a proper celebration, perhaps it was always going to be a non event at best, so things were surprisingly festive when Angie Nutt turned up with her balloons on birthday eve…

squeaky bouquet. note ten’s hand ready to restrain poppet from any inquiring bites

On the day lots of people sent me good wishes on the interwebs, and I even got some actual cards, and in the case of the Kirsties presents. One baked good being a hat, and one being a knitted pie.

the pie in question being a fairly accurate rendition of a mason’s pie, traditionally to be found in a scottish chip shop. my mum and her sister used to take them to the swimming pool and put them on the pipes for afterwards, calling them a ‘shivery bite’

the day started off well enough, with strawberries and cream for second breakfast. that’s last year’s present from phillip renshaw in the frame.

However, this perkiness did not last. I got a call from a friend who I chatted happily enough with for a bit, but then he started telling me what I “should” be doing about disability benefits and what I “should” be doing for myself. He meant well, but I started really spiralling while he was talking to me, and ended up saying that I couldn’t cope with the conversation and hanging up. I then went into the bedroom and had a proper howling cry, something which I know flares migraine, but which, for once, I indulged. A visit in the afternoon from Hazel and BJ who bore cake barely lifted me from the gutter, however, and what was worse was that the next morning I woke with the cold toad of depression squatting on my chest.

i saw this in the river and thought it summarised the downfall of my birthday rather well

Lets all sing along with Morrissey…

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One nice thing that has happened is that I requested a CSI Helsingborg t shirt from my friend Mark whose band it is (of course it’s a BAND, did you think the POLIS are likely to give away their merch?) AND he sent me not one but TWO!

merch from sweden. i am well connected

Naturally, I had to attempt to take a slightly POLIS type photo – but in my half baked style you will just have to imagine a police badge instead of a camera, and while you’re at it de-domesticate the background, oh, and flip reverse the photo so you can read the T shirt. Thanks.

not photoshopped


HEY, YOU, GET OFFA MY CLOUD!

Not to be outdone, Poppet has been acquiring presents, too. Neighbour Paul let her have his dear departed doggy’s toys. Buster had clearly kept his presents nice, but you can see in the picture that Poppet has made a start on ripping the face off one of these already…

not the face!

And lastly in Tales of the Riverbank, we had squatted moorings! Yes. All the excitement here on the Ferry Lane Estate. Obviously, Poppet had to go have a little investigate and made friends with them, and I ended up giving one of them a pair of flip flops. I guessed her shoe size – 5 1/2 – which might sound weird, but that is also my size, so no, I am not about to reveal a foot fetish or a past working in a shoe shop.

squat – tastic

So, that will have to do in the way of a catch up. In the meantime, if that’s still not enough, here’s a tumblr collection for your further edification “elaine4queen.tumblr.com/day/2013/7/05