Tuesday, December 13, 2005

"Thorn in my side..."
...that's all the Eurythmics Ultimate Collection ever was.

I ordered my body weight in Post-It notes at work a few weeks ago and was given an Amazon voucher as a reward. It wasn't a very big Amazon voucher and it didn't seem very useful at first. But then I developed a strange and compelling urge to own the Eurythmics Ultimate Collection which had been touted endlessly on TV, taking me back to be being 12 years old every time I heard Here Comes the Rain Again.

So I ordered the CD and it came through my door two days later.

I am not ashamed.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

"My Perfect Saturday"
I've been asked by Londonist what my perfect Sunday would be - it took some thought but I think I've nailed it. And as for my perfect Saturday? Well, it would be an almost exact duplication of the most recent Saturday I spent with Taxloss...

Got up late. Sat around in the kitchen with the Flatmate, eating cold leftover pasta, reading the papers and Private Eye, chatting idly over coffee about triathlons, bikes and team sports vs. solo sports.

Went to the market for fruit and vegetables and a general stretching of the legs.

Did domestic chores with the fiance that were an absolute pleasure because we were doing them together; sharing jokes and talking to each other while folding laundry is surprisingly pleasant in the right company.

Wrapped up warm and headed to Brixton for dinner and a film at the Ritzy. We were initially keen on sushi but spotted the highly recommended (by Planet Halder no less, whose recommendations I take very seriously!) Asmara restaurant was empty and having decided together that we wanted something more substantial and frankly warmer than sushi, we went in and had the most amazing Eritrean meal.

We chose well: dullet (chopped liver and tripe) for him and the spiced meat stew selection for me with lentils on the side, all served on lovely injera which looked like very flat crumpets and tasted of slightly sour pancakes. All of it was delicious, comforting and once we got used to eating with our hands, the mound of food disappeared quickly. We also got the chance to see the coffee ceremony without ordering any of it ourselves - another table had ordered coffee but we hadn't risked it because our film was about to start. The waitress nonetheless brought out the roasting coffee beans still in their hot pan and brought them to each table, shaking them in their pot to waft the smell to us. There must have been more ceremony to follow but we had to get to the cinema so left, sated and seduced by the food and the whole experience.

And what film did we see after our Eritrean treat? The Constant Gardener - an excellent film that far exceeded both our expectations and also followed up our African meal very nicely. We got the tube home and were in time to watch the repeat of Never Mind the Buzzcocks - I can barely begin to recap the long gag about Liza Minelli having a deep fat fryer in her womb that meant she could fire chips out of her vagina, so I won't. But you can imagine how much we laughed at this particular episode.

Then we went to bed, knowing the flat was tidy due to our efforts earlier in the day and that the Sunday papers were already in the flat so our Sunday was looking pretty good already...

... not exactly the wildest or wackiest of Saturdays but definitely one of the nicest. How was yours?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

"Harry Potter," Brass said. "This is CSI Nick Stokes from the Las Vegas crime lab. He wants to ask you a few questions."

Ohhhhhhhh... It's CSI: Las Vegas and Harry Potter hybrid slash fanfiction. Harry and Draco have a saucy adventure in the Nevada desert while Nick and Grissom investigate and get it on together.

I don't know whether to laugh, cry, read or write my own. Perhaps about Grissom and Professor Snape bonding (and more) in a race-against-time effort to make the right potion to bring back from the brink of death a key witness in a drive-by hexing.

Hmmm. Maybe not.

Monday, October 24, 2005

About two months ago, on Saturday 20th August, I was...
... sitting on a blanket in Somerset House, watching Shaun of the Dead with the beloved and the cast, writer and some key extras from the film. Following Shaun of the Dead was the premiere of George Romero's Land of the Dead.

We sat near the bar and kept ourselves topped up with drinks throughout the double-bill (though not as topped up as we would have liked as the prices were unbelievably high) and picked at a freshly roasted chicken, some salad and crackers that we had packed in a Famous Five picnic stylee. The introductions by the Shaun of the Dead cast and some fantastic DJ-ing before the films started got the gathered zombie-fans in a real buzz and we ignored the cold, hard, stone floor that was beginning to really wear on our bottoms.

As it got nearer to midnight and as the creepiness of Land of the Dead increased, an enormous bloated yellow moon emerged just behind the big screen and the evening breeze got cooler and sharper. An almost sublime film experience - and an excellent chance to gloat about seeing Land of the Dead before anyone else.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

39 days ago, I was...
...fishing for mackerel from a boat, in the sea, in seriously heavvy rain, off the Dorset coast.

I have always wanted to fish with my father. I've never climbed trees with him, I can't recall running around parks or learning how to ride a bike with him, he didn't teach me to read or read me stories. I've not longed for any of these things and I've never missed them but as I get older, and as he gets older, I've spent some time thinking of the things that would really mean something to us in our recollections of each other. And fishing has come up in that list again and again.

So, when we took my parents to meet the fiance's parents at their home by the sea, I insisted on a fishing trip for myself, the fiance, my sister, my dad and my extremely patient and generous almost mother-in-law. And it was fantastic. It poured and poured with rain, relentlessly, the night before we were due to go fish and it carried on that morning but fearlessly, we dressed ourselves in waterproof jackets and wellington boots and got on the boat anyway. Dad looked the part: he looked like he had just strolled off a Japanese whaling ship and was bringing his intrepid crew to help cut up the oceanic beast he had just harpooned. In my tightly zipped up waterproof coat with the hood pulled in close around my face, I just looked like a condom.

Eveyone had misgivings as we pulled away from shore; just as the shoreline slipped from view the rain really tipped down and we let out our fishing lines a little apprehensively. And damply. But then - we found the fish! Just as we found a particularly thick clump of mackerel all waiting for us to lower our lines, the rain stopped. And oh, what a half hour we had...

My dad was, of course, the first to catch a fish. He kept it quiet as he pulled the line in and only alerted us to the fact he had gotten a big shiny mackerel, all green and silver, once it was safely in the boat. Then it was all action as everyone else got fish on their lines and we were hauling in fish after fish until the rain started again and the bucket was full of 20 mackerel, leaping about and shuddering their blue, silver and green colours in the last flickers of life.

We had a grand dinner that night, and had mackerel left over to take home. Itwas the sweetest sight to see my parents standing side by side at the double sink, my dad gutting and scaling the fish, then passing them to my mum who cleaned them. And thanks go out to my almost-in-laws who organised such as a fantastic and memorable weekend.

Not only did we fish over the weekend but we also managed an enormously fussy and picturesque cream tea in the town's big hotel overlooking the sea. And a trip to the aquarium where my parents eyed the huge lobsters with the practised eyes of Chinese chefs and no doubt were considering what recipe would be best for such big crustaceans. And we walked on the famous cob, which just about completed the weekend of "must do" activities.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Today, I ran Hyde Park
Sunday 16th October: the Nike 10km Run London event.

Estimated participants (across 3 simultaneous events in Hyde Park, Battersea Park and Victoria Park): 35,000

Hypatia Avenue, t-shirt number 22648, wave 3, 11.30am start, Hyde Park - Nine weeks training completed

Estimated time to complete: 1 hour 30 minutes at worst / 1 hour 20 minutes at best

Weather: crisp, bright, sunny and warm with a refreshing breeze blowing over the Serpentine

Total time to complete: 01:06:37:85

Sprint finish for the final 50 metres to The Killers' Somebody Told Me
- this last burst of speed induced by the line "somebody told me you had a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend I had in February"

Paula Radcliffe ran with Wave 1 at 9.30am and finished the 10km in 32 minutes - and after Sebastian Coe finished his 10km in Wave 1, he then cycled over to Victoria Park to join Wave 3 over there for a further 10km.

A jazz trio in tuxedoes played at two different points in the run and the marshals who were posted at every half kilometre gave out endless shouts of encouragement, applause and held their hands out for high-fives as we went by.

Two men ran with their toddlers in all-terrain pushchairs; there was one person in a gorilla outfit with the regulation red t-shirt pulled over the fake fur.

Red signs printed with variations of the " I will run London" slogan were dotted throughout the 10km route - the most memorable were "I will not think of the pee word", "I will really enjoy that pint tonight", "I will nod like Paula" and the most significant "I will dig deep" at 7.5km which caught my eye just as I needed to see it.

We had to all do a cheesy warm-up before being allowed into the starting area which was cringe-inducing but extremely helpful.

I paced myself carefully over the first 3.5km then sped up slightly to cover the 4th and 5th kilometres quicker, kept a steady pace for the 6th and 7th, had to push myself mentally from the 7th kilometre into the 8th...

Then once I turned the corner after the 9th kilometre marker, the right song came on and I started to speed up... as soon as the finish line was firmly within my sight, I pulled every last breath, every last spark of energy and every tiny drop of imagination I had left in me and ran as fast as I could to the finish line.

I could barely look at the time on the counters above the finish line but stole a glance at the last minute and flew the last metres, feeling as if I had left the ground and nothing else mattered - I just had to get past the line before the counter started showing 1 hour and 10 minutes plus. And I did it. I did it: 1 hour 8 minutes - even less when my official time was texted to me later. Fucking fantastic.

I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself once home. After re-hydrating with roughly 1 pint of cafe latte with caramel syrup and refuelling with a poached egg on toast, I found myself restlessly pacing my flat. So I put on flip-flops and walked the route I've been running in preparation for this day, the route that takes me across and back over the Thames, past the Tate Britain, a fish and chip shop and the MI6 building. Those roads, those paths have never felt more pleasant to walk than they did today.

I ran Hyde Park today. I will run more.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Running Log: Week #4, commencing Saturday 3 Sept
Despite an enforced 7 day break from anything more strenuous than blowing my nose and complaining, I feel like I've made a lot of progress and was confidently running for almost 45 minutes without stopping. I'm focusing on "not stopping" for now - not concerned with speed or distance right now, I'm just keen to develop good (ie. non-painful or joint-destroying) technique and to keep going for a good length of time without stopping. It helps that I've made a minidisc of music to run to and it is exactly 1 hour - once I hear Prince slinking through the lyrics of Little Red Corvette, I know I've made it past 55 minutes and can slow down. Or go back to the beginning of the disc and keep running... Well, I've yet to even put my trainers on again so we'll see how tonight's run works out...

The Story So Far

Week 1 (of 9) 40 minutes combined running and walking. Total running time: approx. 7 minutes. Distance covered - I could still see my house at every point in my "run." Felt completely shattered and yet keen to run again. Second run was 1 hour combining walking and running with a lot of stopping to "fix" my minidisc player, ie. stand still and get my breath back several times. Disappointing, but was so ashamed, I made myself a training schedule, bought a pedometer and thought about what I would treat myself to after it was all over.

Week 2 (of 9)Bloody hell. It was drizzling, damp and grey but I still ran for a full 30 minutes without stopping. Though I recorded a distance for that run, I've since found out that my running stride is far shorter than I thought. I'd have to dislocate both hips to get the stride I originally thought I could do, so I'm just counting this as 30 minutes, in rain, quite good. Swimming the next day - alternated laps for speed with laps for breathing control. Completely knackered, so tired I had trouble sleeping. Managed another 30 minute run on Thursday and 30 minutes straight running with an extra 15 minutes running and walking on Sunday. Feeling strong and capable. And still so very tired...

Week 3 (of 9)Did a cool 45 minutes running without stopping, playing with minidisc player or splashing contents of water bottle over face by accident. Unfortunately I have picked up a yucky cold from a baby I played with on the weekend and cannot see if I can repeat this for my next run scheduled for tonight. Bending down for a paperclip nearly made me black out today so I think today will be a rest day. With any luck, I'll pick up where I left off on my next run and get up to an hour's solid running by the end of week 4 / beginning of week 5. So little time to do so much running! And when will I swim again?

I'm pleased to say that though weight loss and slimming down was not a priority target in all this running around, it's happened anyway and the little lifebelt I was nurturing between rib cage and hips has shrunk. And - I think I'm coming up with a whole new stretch 'n'tone programme for that exercise video I'm going to eventually release when I'm poor and broke and bankrupt of dignity: The Hypatia Avenue Yoga-Pilates-Ballet Exercise Stretch and Tone Programme - the ONLY exercise programme for extremely small spaces, such as between the sofa and armchair, half wedged between a tottering stack of newspapers and DVDs.

More running, more updates to come...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

1. I have a disgusting headachey cold thanks to my cousin's baby that has left me drained and sore, with no sense of taste or smell and therefore I do not feel compelled to eat yet I am beginning to feel faint and weak so stuck as to what to do
2. I cannot keep up with my running schedule (due for another 45 minutes / 1 hour this evening) while I am ill
3. I have been a victim of bank fraud and cannot use my bankcard to withdraw cash or make payments until my new card comes through - this means no spending AT ALL over the weekend
4. Post-Edinburgh Festival, work is suddenly very, very, very busy
5. I'm not at all happy today

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Recipes That Should Have Your Children Taken By The Authorities #3 - Iced Cheese and Pear Salad
3 level tablespoons mayonnaise
4 ozs crumbled Cheshire cheese
1 red pepper (canned)
1 pint double cream
2 large pears
4 lettuce leaves
To garnish
Watercress sprigs

Mix mayonnaise with grated cheese, chopped red pepper and the cream, and spread in prepared ice tray. Place in freezing compartment of refrigerator, and stir every half hour until mixture is frozen ie. in about 1 - 1 1/2 hours. Wipe the pears (peel if skins are tough), cut in half and remove core. Place each pear half on a lettuce leaf, pile iced cheese mixture on pear and garnish with water cress sprigs. Serve immediately.

JESUS GODDAMN CHRIST. It's... frozen mayonnaise. With cheese. :: sobs ::
"Call Me!"
For some reason, discovery that my song is a Blondie song makes me feel special. What's your song?

Throwing paper and getting it into the bin on the first throw also makes me feel special. Can you do it?

BTW, still running. Slowly and for not very long periods at a time but still running. Update to come.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Okay, by kind sugestion of porn*, I am compiling a Music to Run To list, which will eventually be recorded onto minidisc (alas! no iPod!) and listened to as training goes on. I'm also hoping to invest in a pedometer so I can measure more accurately how far I am running, my speed etc - all to be recorded lovingly, frankly and neurotically in my running log. I've looked up the different models out there and will be steering clear of the body fat checkers and calorie counters - I'm not doing this running with any of those concerns and I don't intend to take on any either.

So, the music list so far, with an emphasis on boosting my energy and keeping me upbeat as I run:

Crosstown Traffic - Jimi Hendrix
This Is Love - PJ Harvey
Good Fortune - PJ Harvey
Waiting for the Man - Lou Reed
Venus in Fears - Velvet Underground
Children of the Revolution - Marc Bolan and T-Rex
Paranoid - Garbage
Cherry Lips - Garbage
Hey Ya - Outkast (this one is for the Londonist lads - go Andre 3000!)
Fortress Europe - Asian Dub Foundation
Nadia - Nitin Sawnhey
Signed, Sealed, Delivered - Stevie Wonder
Little Red Corvette - Prince

There are loads more I can think of but why should I do all the hard work when I can sit back and rake in recommendations from all of you? Any ideas? What songs would you run to?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Running Log: Week #1, commencing Saturday 13th August
Second run today and it felt better than the first on Saturday. I set out at 7.50pm and it was cooler and the light was softer than it was on my walk home. I remembered to stretch before I set out - just a few cursory stretches but it helped psyche me up and the walk home had been a good warm-up so I left the house feeling quite determined to keep going and not stop or slow down as often as I did on Saturday.

I walked to John Islip Street. I don't know why. I just couldn't bring myself to run out of my front door so I walked to the end of my street. Then I carried on, right up to the corner of John Islip Street and then started running. Silly really, but it felt necessary at the time to start off with a walk. I draw comfort from the fact this was my second run and I quite literally started slowly.

When I started running, it felt different straight away. I might have panicked the last time I started running ("whoah! too fast! this ain't natural, slow down to a stroll, goddammit!") because my breathing was ragged and uneven within seconds, and really painful, and I couldn't go any faster or focus on what I was doing. If I had been any less aware of the traffic, I would quite literally have been all over the place. Today felt much better and I was controlling my breathing to a point where I could look at the scenery as I jogged past. It was still hard work but not as hard as it had been before. I was either feeling no pain due to the stretches I had managed earlier or I was mentally prepared enough to work through any discomfort in my shrunken lungs and sluggish muscles.

My left eye seemed to lose vision as I turned the corner onto Lambeth Bridge. I was beginning to lose interest in the scenery anyway. I got to the other side of Lambeth Bridge after no more than ten minutes slow, steady running and once I got down the stairs, I had to walk. I had to. I was determined not to stop and kept up a steady pace walking but I felt like I had really let myself down. My lungs just couldn't bear it.

Since I took up swimming regularly about three months ago, my muscle tone is not the best but coped better than I had hoped with all this running - but my lungs! My poor, blackened, shrivelled, Marlboro Light polluted lungs! I quit smoking on New Year's Day this year so have been clean for over eight months but that has clearly not undone eight years' worth of cigarettes. My lungs really, really, really hated having to work this hard. And so I walked a third of the way between Lambeth Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge, trying to get some vision back into my left eye and resisting the urge to hawk up the fluid that seemed to be collecting in the back of my throat.

I did run again - the middle third section between the bridges, and at quite a steady pace. If I had stopped completely once over Lambeth Bridge I probably wouldn't have run at all after that but the walking meant I picked up running at a reasonable pace quite easily and I made it (very slowly, veeeeerrrry slowly) to the water feature outside MI6 where I started walking again. This is where the quandary of "spit or not to spit" came about. I'm not sure how wise it is to bring up a massive ball of spit just below all the surveillance cameras of MI6 - I didn't risk it. It passed.

I walked from the start of MI6, through the underpass of Vauxhall Bridge and up the stairs onto the bridge itself. Then I started running again and went right over to the other side, past Pimlico tube and turned onto Tachbrook Street. I pushed and pushed at myself, in particular my lungs but had to walk again for half the length of Tachbrook Street - my legs, feet, arms, back and chest were all fine and in fact, it felt good to be working all those muscles, it felt great. My lungs and my heartrate just weren't keeping up and it was beginning to hurt to breathe so... I walked that penulitmate stretch.

Then I saw the turning for my street up ahead and put on a burst of speed. I ran a strong and steady final stretch, past my street corner to the next and then doubled back on myself to get to my door. That last push was the best - it was further in terms of distance than I had intended to go and psychologically felt fantastic to take myself off my original path and go a little further, even if I had walked parts of my route.

So: I walked three parts of my route and was on the road for 40 minutes. This is the same route and same time I managed on Saturday but with the extra few metres along Tachbrook Street so even with the walking I've improved my time and stamina by a microdot.

Early days but I'll stick with this route and see if I can get the walking breaks down to zero after another two weeks. Then I'll have to set a new challenge - run the route twice? Extend it to the next bridge? Run with weights?

Hmmmm. We'll see. Next run: Saturday, week #2 commencing Saturday 20th August
"Are you completely insane?"
I've been walking home from work most evenings; I was even walking to work for a while but realised I would have to spend the day surreptitiously massaging my calves under my desk and in need of a second, clean outfit each day if I did. It got easier and easier to walk the hour long route and I had a new pair of trainers bought dead-cheap from the perpetually-closing-down Lilliwhites and I thought... "well, let's step this up and have a run every now and then."

Once I got this idea in my head and tried out a 40 minute walking / running burst of activity, I then saw an advert for this.

Then I mentioned it to the guys who work with me on this.

And then, that afternoon, as I walked home, I realised that I had registered for the Nike 10k run in October.

Scared and slightly sweaty already about the whole thing. But at least I get a free t-shirt and a microchip.

Updates on my training, preparation, procrastination and increasingly elaborate whining will be available in detail here but also in less frequent and slightly edited guise over here. First post here.

Oh bollocks.

And bollocks again.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

"Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure"
The Ping Pong Club
Snow Fairy Sugar
The Adventures of Mini Goddess
El Hazard Alternative World
Spirit Warrior Peacock King
Comic Party
Blue Gender
Trouble Chocolate
I My Me Strawberry Eggs
Fancy Lala
801 TTS Airbats
Boogiepop Phantom

These are all real anime releases. I'm giving up on my Films I Would Like to See Made strand as of now.

But to cheer myself up: The biggest sandwich in the world! It sadly couldn't be made but in spirit, it lives on in my "hollow legs" fantasies.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Films I Would Like To See Made # 19 -24
Mega Roughage Rumble
Gusset Fairies
Fuck Knows The Angel
Crotchless Susan
Helium Mary
German Dykes Tour: The Ski Trip

Sunday, July 24, 2005

"Is this really the Museum of Ham?"
My last day in Madrid didn't start there; I was mincing to my Metro station with my little wheelie suitcase, trying not to cripple the folks on their way to work and doing my best not to look like a tourist when trying to work out how to buy a ticket. It was already very hot and I wanted some breakfast but had to get to Prandial before I could indulge. I made it to his part of town without any particular fuss and marvelled at how different the streets felt, like a different town altogether from the place I had just left. It made me think of London. We had breakfast then walked over to the big museum where I was overwhelmed and overjoyed to see all the artworks I had read so much about (in particular this one). I went back into the hot, dry, glaring noon time sun for adventures.

What did we do?
- We went to a flamenco school and fell under the spell of the dancers practising their stuff in their classes
- despite my companions' best efforts I was not at all distressed by the trotters, brains, testicles, hearts, intestines and... other on display in the market. I'm Chinese FFS, what did you think I would say when I saw that kind of thing?
- ate steak in a charcoal grill place, had beer and ham in my beloved Museum of Ham
- took a long, hot and slow walk to the Egyptian Temple via the Royal Palace
- took a trip around Atocha Station which seemed particularly important considering what had happened in London just a few days before and then got a taxi to the airport and went home.

Thanks to all who took the time to show me around - I wish I had had my full five days in a city that made me feel instantly comfortable and relaxed and kept my attention and imagination at every turn. I want to go back! I will! iClaro!

Hasta luego.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Films I Would Like To See Made # 13 - 18
Tit Slinger
Big Hips and a Hot Air Balloon
Prolapse Empire
The Slappy Game
Monkeys on Acid Dance Marathon
Hot Lips On A Cold Arse
"it should be cool"

Well, it wasn't - it was very, very hot. Being in the very centre of Spain, Madrid is scorching. And wow, I loved it.

My five day, four night trip was cut short to a three day, two night trip by the 7th July bombings - I was in floods of tears trying to decide whether or not to fight my way out to Heathrow that Thursday morning or to stay put, all the while fielding panicking calls from my family and friends and frantically tuning in for news reports about my beloved city being torn to shreds. I wasn't keen on flying at all but flights in and out of the airport seemed fine so I knew I had to decide quickly what I wanted to do before my flight left without me and I was faced with a packed suitcase, an unopened bottle of suncream and a set of non-refundable tickets.

The decision was made me for me in the end. The entire tube network was closed, the roads were chaotic and though the Heathrow Express from Paddington was an option, getting to Paddington was unlikely. I tried to board a coach out of Victoria Coach station but just as I bought a ticket, it was announced that all buses coming in and out of London had been suspended and all roads closed. I went home. I couldn't go any where else.

I was secretly relieved.

And in the end, I got a flight to Madrid on Saturday morning with the necessary long delays, stressful and confusing ticket exchange business, small children fighting around me and, what was worse, their sniping, bickering, end-of-my-patience parents. I touched down with some relief and headed to Parque de Retiro with my little wheelie suitcase and joined my friends - at last! - and got my holiday started.

What did I do? Napped, went out for excellent tapas and Rioja, drank the best and strongest mojitos I've ever tasted, went to a night club inside an old palace where I bumped into my cousin dancing under a glitter ball in an old oak-panelled courtroom and rolled home giggling with my ears ringing at 5am.

Woke up some time after noon the next day and despite my best efforts to look as fit and healthy as the others, I had to excuse myself from the afternoon's activities to stay in the flat to be sick as neatly and tidily as I could manage. Oooh, I felt rotten. But then a short nap and some serious teeth-brushing later, I walked out feeling better and better with every step along the glorious Madrid boulevards, eventually encountering this:

which put a further spring in my step. Had a reviving lunch in the sun with friends and a really uplifting trip around the Prado, eyeing all the works of art recommended to me and more, then finally, finally met Prandial for a drink and a chat on his turf. What a dude and his friend G too.

Rounded off the evening with paella at a very chic little place towards the north side of the city and when we left, we all had flowers in our hair that had drifted down from the tree above us. Others had early flights to catch so we went back to the flat and went to bed with all the windows and doors open. Only the next morning did we dare to admit to one another that the coffee after the meal was a bad, bad, sleepless and exhausting idea. That was the end of my girlie, vegetarian weekend in Madrid. I wasn't getting a flight until 6.30pm and I still had a few things to do, people to meet and I lepat onto the Metro with my little wheelie suitcase for the last and most fun-packed (non-vegetarian) part of my Madrid adventure...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Recipes That Should Have Your Children Taken By The Authorities #2 - Cheese Curry

1 oz. butter
1 onion (chopped)
1 oz. flour
1-2 rounded teaspoons curry powder
half pint stock or water
1 oz. sultanas
8 oz. cubed Cheddar cheese
To serve
4 oz. rice
To garnish
1 sliced hard-boiled egg

Melt the butter in a saucepan and fry the onion to a golden brown. Add the flour and curry powder and stir over a gentle heat. Add the stock gradually, stirring thoroughly until the sauce thickens. Fold in sultanas and cheese. Cook rice in boiling salted until just soft. Drain and dry. Garnish curry with egg and serve with rice.

I was speechless when I first saw this recipe. I honestly thought I had read it incorrectly but no, it really is a recipe for cheese curry in the unbelievably awful The Great Big New Book of Cheese Recipes which Taxloss so lovingly presented to me as a surprise gift recently. It's not that big - about the size of a CD case. The recipes though disgusting and disturbing, aren't that new (pages 46 - 60 are devoted to variations of cheese on toast.)

A cheese cookbook could be a useful thing to have if it doubles as a guide to the thousands of different cheeses out there: what wines to accompany, how best to cook and store the various types, where to find the best etc.

This book only acknowledges one type of cheese for fuck's sake - cheddar. And it's always grated, in every nasty, stomach-churning recipe.

The preface to the book proselytizes cheese with and in everything:

Say cheese louder and in more exciting ways. Have cheese, have friends, have fun.

And have a bucket to hand to catch the vomit.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Films I Would Like to See Made #7 - 12

Simian Catastrophe (courtesy of Presado Inc.)
Wipe Me
Shit Hot Sheilas
Dwarf Envy
Robo-Cleft Panic (courtesy of Taxloss)
Swivelling Mipsy: the Victorian Lady Killer

Because it's Friday and because I haven't done any work today and don't intend to.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

"Thank you everybody. It is now 12 noon."
I was about to make some coffee and asked the office in general if anyone wanted a cup but it was pointed out to me that it was almost time to go outside and observe the two minute silence. I put the kettle down and followed everyone else into the courtyard. From the courtyard, we all poured out onto the street and stood in silence on the corner. Most people were looking towards London Bridge Station and the shiny tall towers of the city peeking above our slightly grubbier, soot-covered old brick Victorian surroundings. The tip of the gherkin sparkled in the sun.

It was eerie and sobering and incredibly moving. It's always hard to know just how many people work in our office and studio complex and despite having been here for almost two years, I looked around at all the serious faces, all the bodies held still in the silence just outside where we all come to earn our living and thought to myself, good God, there's so many of us! And we're all thinking about the same thing, and we're all here for the same reason.

People walking by spotted us and realising what we were doing, they also stopped. They hushed their children, they made their dogs stand still, cars went by but the drivers no doubt joined us in their thoughts as it must have been quite an extraordinary sight to see so many office workers standing perfectly still and silent on a street corner in the middle of the day.

"Thank you, everybody."

The two minutes were up. The dogs leapt up and pulled on their leads. The children skipped away, singing to themselves. We walked back into the courtyard and went into our buildings, hushed but no longer silent. I put the kettle on and poured coffee for my colleagues.

As if the whole city had been holding its breath, it exhaled and there was a moment of release, of fresh air into the system. I think everyone who observed the silence feels as if we've been holidng our breath since last Thursday, ribs tight and taut over the confusion and dismay. And now we've let it go. We remembered and will always remember what happened. But the city and its people will continue, we breathe in and breathe out to the unstoppable rhythm of life here, that heartbeat, that music, that sound of a city loved by its people that loves it back. It always changes but never stops.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Films I Would Like to See Made #1 -6

Sticky Trumpet
Hot Tartan (courtesy of Taxloss)
Wet Gumdrop
Goat-Licking Go-Go-Girls
Inappropriate Chapatti
Baboon Frenzy

Family Recipes That Should Have Your Children Taken By The Authorities #1: Australian Fairy Bread
Pour hundreds and thousands onto a plate. Butter some bread. Cut into triangles or any shapes that you like. Then press the bread butter-side down into the hundreds and thousands making sure the buttered surface is covered with the sweets. Serve.

Then serve time in prison for gross negligence. Using wholemeal bread does not make this a "healthy option" treat; do not expect your sentence to be lessened. Use of margerine and unusually shaped cookie cutters to make this food item "more fun" will incur greater penalties.

Courtesy of the St. Mary's School Cookery Book, compiled for the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Thanks to Taxloss for the gift which is now book 3 in my collection of incredulous recipe books.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

"For god's sake, stop squashing my plums! If you stand any closer, I'm going to get pregnant!"
So much for choosing the healthy option: I had a whole load of soft fruit in my bag, all ready for a quick, refreshing breakfast at my desk. The Jubilee line decided that it would have its weekly breakdown just as I got on to the platform which meant waiting for three trains to go by before I could squeeze myself into a massively overcrowded carriage. People kept crowding on at all the stations, pressing themselves against me and it was with increasing fury that I realised this journey to work could result in a bag of squashed, rotten fruit, no breakfast and a bouncing baby boy in nine months time. Ugh. Nasty.

June has been an interesting and exciting month so far. Among other things, there has been:

- My sister’s birthday – happy birthday! I heard there was partying in France… hope the hangover wasn’t too bad

- Sixth anniversary with the beloved, including one year engaged

- Attended a Muslim wedding in East London. I was there for the bride, an old school friend, with Lucifer another friend from those days. The men and women were in separate rooms for the mid-afternoon meal and the bride sat with the women until it was time to be brought to her husband at the end of the day.

We should have been with the bride as we didn’t know the groom, but Lucifer is male, tall and white and was very conspicuous at this wedding: though we could bend the rules to a certain extent, being neither family, Muslim or Bangladeshi, we couldn’t bend them so far as to park ourselves at the bride’s table and so all sat with the men instead.
It was a sober affair – both in terms of no alcohol and also due to the fact as a traditional Bangladeshi bride, our friend had to look sad throughout and we felt unable to rejoice at her nuptials while she looked so mournful. We managed a few snatched conversations but will have to catch up when she’s back from her honeymoon.

Weddings are contagious: Lucifer is now betrothed and one post-grad friend has been an official Mrs for a month already. Gah. What have we started?

- Spent a sunny day in Green Park playing Frisbee, eating quiche, reading the weekend papers and getting royally drunk once the sun went down. Had to help heal some nasty flip-flop wounds for the next few days but the wounded recovered quite quickly and I’m very unhappy with Gap and their cruel open-toed footwear

- Had a guided tour of Rotherhithe tunnel as part of London Architecture week, a fantastic thing to discover

- made a trip to Chelmsford to see my post-grad friend and was introduced to her two lovely and enormous Great Danes. My god, those dogs are huge. Two dogs the size of Shetland ponies. Seriously - they are BIG. And lovely. What a nice night that was - even the sprint down the high street at pub-closing time in the rain to catch the last train back to civilisation was hilarious and uplifting

How has your month been?

Monday, June 20, 2005

"Make Bono History!"

Calling all those sick of the charidee concert mania the developed world seems to be obsessed by at the moment: let’s raise awareness for those who are sick of the charidee concert mania the developed world seems to be obsessed by at the moment!

I propose we put on a concert and sell lots of wristbands to show just how pissed off we all are with the bombast and shallows of the premise and the totally useless bits of environment destroying tat that are proliferating our otherwise quietly concerned community. At the very least, we need to express our horror and outrage regarding the threat of a Spice Girls reunion – how dare the apparently well-intentioned put such fear into our manufactured pop despising demographic!

Okay, we need:
- a venue that is sponsored by a completely uninterested economy-raping global corporation
- a DJ from a deeply uninteresting, deeply irritating commercial radio station
- one or two shouty Irish guys (preferably unwashed and / or washed up)
- two or three cocksucking brain dead gameshow winners who have released a few sink-to-the-bottom-of the-charts-yet-somehow-on-all-the-playlists singles (blonde and female or non-threatening gay male)
- a dozen bands who somehow have made it big by peddling the shite they performed in the sixth form common room as “conscientious rock” and who shallow people listen to in order to feel deep and meaningful

Sigh. I have so much impotent rage at the moment. I think I’ll quit my job to design and make wristbands to help all the little brown children who don’t have shoes or CD players to play my latest shitty album. Yes, won’t that make everyone feel better?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

"I hate your job more than I hate mine."
- predictable conversation starter between myself and my brother
It's especially hard to love this job when I'm working on the dark side of the room during this sunny spell and I seem to be mainly double-checking names and / or figures on a very, very, very big spreadsheet. Or washing up. So, summer: hello and goodbye. Still, I hear it's nice in Madrid.

And at least I can enjoy London in the hot weather by proxy by sending my parents off to see the things that I would like to see for me. Such as the biggest open air tea dance ever attempted. It filled me with a warm and fuzzy sort of joy to think of my folks wandering off to Trafalgar Square for an afternoon of free fair trade tea and tango, rhumba, cha cha cha (and char) and waltzing. It was a little too warm and bright for their tastes so after some idle spectating and a few cups of tea, they caugh the bus to Hyde Park and had an ice cream in the shade by the Serpentine then tottered home for dinner.

Now that is a great summer afternoon in London. I can't wait to retire and make the most of my OAP bus pass.

I'm currently heartbroken and pining for the baby blackbird that has been learning to fly on our patio. I spent a very pleasant Sunday watching this grumpy-features feathered tennis ball trying to clear the back wall and failing in various chirping, disgruntled attempts - it was so adorable watching it hop about and flying in short bursts from plant to plant then it would brace itself for a longer flight and go full pelt into the back wall, fall to the floor with a distressed cheep and start again. I'm sad because... I think the baby blackbird has now flown away to a grown-up life somewhere else. And I miss it. It didn't help my currently over-sentimental mood this morning when I saw this in the Guardian today.

I'm going out for a chocolate bar but can't think of what I want. Any recommendations?

Unlike many other people, I actually like coconut. But I couldn't eat a whole one.

Monday, May 09, 2005

"One thing that is lacking in that game is the ability to tip the board over in a childish tantrum and the computer doesn't feel it necessary to buy you an ice cream to stop you from crying."

I should never have installed electronic Scrabble on my laptop. I think there will be many, many, many nights of aggressive wordplay and screaming at the injustice of my computer opponent once again defeating me with "bi", "tai" and "de" whilst I am not allowed to put down "nu" or "ew".

Bastards. I was beaten by 3 points in my final, eye-watering, tooth-grinding game of the weekend but couldn't start a rematch as the sky was beginning to get light and I remembered I had work to go to.

In other news, we had a lovely, lovely evening with Devukha, whiling away the Saturday evening with gin, takeaway curries, (real) Scrabble and a kerr-razy board game about dictatorship called Junta, which we played with an impromptu Carry On style smutty commentary. I had the Marines and the First Battalion under me at one stage. They were both rubbish.

And then the next evening, we were off to North London for rabbit pie and blender goodies, with our fellow smug almost-married friends - good food, nice wine and excellent company to round off a really rather nice weekend.

Oh, and... Madrid. I hear it's quite nice.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

"Women are like ginger: the older they get, the hotter they are." - my current favourite Chinese saying
1) whilst paying for tea and biscuits for work this morning, I asked for £10.00 cashback. According to the till receipt it was 8.51am and neither myself nor the cashier were "awake" as I wasn't handed the money and I didn't think about it until I got into the office and thought to myself "my already very lightweight wallet feels distinctly lighter than I would expect it to feel after a trip to Tesco that involved asking for cashback..." I called the store immediately and am now looking forward to a potentially stressful and unpleasant "conversation" with the store manager on my way home.

2) I really, really, really, REALLY hate having my (real life) name shortened. The new girl at work started to do it when she first arrived, and I tried to nip it in the bud but I think it had already become an unconscious habit for her and she still uses my shortened name every now and then. And I fucking hate it.

3) I use an old Ericsson mobile phone handset, non-colour screen, no camera, no predictive texting, no fancy frills or fripperies... I've used it for years and would not swap it for any of the latest models even if I was paid to do so. This morning, whilst sending a text message, I realised I could key in numbers by just holding down the relevant key instead of scrolling through all the options attached to it. This discovery has actually really cheered me up: seriously, I thought I knew everything about this phone but the precious thing still delights and surprises me...

4) It's my birthday next week.

Monday, April 25, 2005

"Flight 553 to New York is now boarding at Gate Four. I repeat Flight 553 to New York is now boarding at Gate Four." Sara got up from her chair and headed for the gate. She handed her ticket to the attendant and started to board.

" SARA! WAIT!" she heard someone yell. Turning around she saw a very wet Grissom running towards her. It was a sight that almost made her chuckle.
" Sara you can't go" he panted as he reached her.
" And why not Grissom?" her cold eyes stared him down.
" Because I love you and I don't want to spend one single moment without you. Not even a second."

Make it stop. Please. Make. It. Stop.
Synopsis: The CSI group has dinner at Grissom's house. Shouldn't they know better after seeing his office?
Oh. Dear. God.

It's CSI fan fiction.

And, unsurprisingly, there is rather a lot of hurt /comfort pieces out there.

Oh. Wow.

This is going to be fun.

Friday, April 22, 2005

"Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go."
- Truman Capote

Because it is so beautiful and because it was the first holiday abroad we had together since 2003 and because I want to go back...

Venice photos


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

"A few years ago, I ran the London marathon. It seemed a good idea after about 6 pints of Guinness. And then I woke up and realised what I had committed myself to." - Jasper Carrott on running the London Marathon.
Big thumbs up to Boatie Flatmate for running the London Marathon last Sunday and raising £2k for RNIB. Well done! Taxloss and I spent the sunny day indulging in gentler exercise, walking from Mudchute to Greenwich via the Foot Tunnel and eventually chucking a frisbee around Greenwich Park with friends we haven't seen for a while until it started to get dark. And we got the DLR out there, zipping along part of the Marathon route and generally enjoying the ride as a sort of sightseeing / Marathon tour. We can also highly recommend the sausage hut near the Observatory in the park: the bacon sandwiches are, according to the previously faint and famished Taxloss, "lifesaving."

Does anyone have any useful frisbee tips? I seem to only know one which is "duck" - and that's rubbish. Handy hints, advice and mockery in the usual place, cheers very much.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

"Whatever you felt while you were here and whatever you feel about it now, your time at New Hall changed you. The people you met here, the things you did here, these things changed you and made you the person you are now. And I'm so very proud of us all, and pleased to see so many of us together again, in the place where it all began..." from the New Hall JCR president (1998-2001), during the MA dinner speech.
I now have an extra set of letters after my name and all for the bargain price of £2.00! Of course, it's not a real MA but I'm allowed to say I have one and feel clever. It was great being back in Cambridge for the weekend, seeing all the old crowd and the college and the town again, especially in the gloroius spring weather. My folks were pleased as anything to come back and see me prance around in a black gown and white fur hood once again - reassuring them that the Cambridge experience truly never dies.

It was a mistake to offer wine at the pre-rehearsal, pre-ceremony reception. In fine New Hall tradition every girl grabbed as many glasses as possible and by the time we were all in our robes and going over the kneeling, fingers and Latin of the ceremony, we were all flushed, giggling and snorting at directions from the German Praelector: "Then I will give you the finger... please be careful not to give yourself the prick when adjusting the pins on your gowns...when you are kneeling to the Chancellor, your picture will be taken and though you may be modest and want to look down, please don't as most pictures look like the graduand is staring at the crotch."

We processed along the backs in rows of four and all sighed as one as the grand colleges came into view - and it was about 5.30pm so the light was cooling, casting a mellow and nostalgic glow on the sandy coloured buildings and the spring flowers scattered about. I couldn't have wished for better weather - it was almost unreal how perfect the light, temperature and season came together for the day.

After the ceremony, we walked back to college (uphill! in heels! still as exhausting as I remember...) and called a cab to take my weary folks to the station. Then I went on to the wine reception and MA dinner - the evening from this point on was raucous, high-spirited, affectionate and triumphant all at once. And we were all so hungry by the time food arrived, we ate everything and didn't complain (though I'm sure duck should be quite dark meat and not look, taste or smell like battery farm chicken...)

From pub to club to kebab van to the college room I had booked for the night then to bed with Former Flatmate A and Former Flatmate B asleep in a heap on my floor...

... then a slow, silent, painful breakfast the next morning, followed by a long walk through beautiful countryside to Grantchester where we spent the rest of the day sipping pints of Diet Coke and ginger beer in the spring sunshine before making the sleepy, cosy journey home.


While I was re-living my three Cambridge years in the space of one evening, Taxloss was also indulging in nostalgia - of a sort. Go
for the lowdown. Now, who fancies a game this weekend? I'll make hte hats if someone promises to bring the UV lamps...

And in other news, I met my bro for lunch today.

KkK says: god, that was so much cheese it's coming out of my eyes
HypatiaAve says: you had cheese in that omnlette too?
KkK says: cheese, mushrooms and ham
HypatiaAve says: can you even see the screen?
KkK says: if I squint really hard and imagine 'colours'


KkK says: it's an automated voice system, it worked surprisingly well until I had to confirm the final stage with 'yes' wher eit completely failed to recognise me shouting "YES, for fucks SAKE YES"
HypatiaAve says: ?
HypatiaAve says: why do you have to say yes? surely you wouldn't go through all that, get to the final stage and say "actually, now I've thought about it, no."
KkK says: precisely
KkK says: going to rest a little before trying again
KkK says: I felt an egg come back up from the grief
HypatiaAve says: oooh, two meals for the price of one.
KkK says: it's going to be 'unshelled'

Sunday, March 27, 2005

"I don't want people who want to dance, I want people who have to dance."
-George Balanchine
Last week, on Friday night, I went along to the place where I have my dance classes, to see the evening school showcase. It was crowded and there were children, old people in wheelchairs, overexcited fellow evening school attendees (such as myself, and yes, I was overexcited having rushed over from my parents' place with my mouth still full of crispy duck pancakes - must have been the MSG) all stuffed into Studio 1, waiting for the show to start. And it was good.

Well, not all of it, really. The beginners ballet class was appallingly out of time and it was hard to tell what particular steps / positions were being exhibited as it just seemed to be lots of flailing arms and confused glances. My god, they tried. They tried and they tried and good on them because it couldn't have been easy to stand up in front of so many people and just go for it.

But I was surprised and not a little smug to see that was all they had to show at the end of 11 weeks of classes when my delightful but scary Japanese teacher in contemporary technique just assumed we would all be au fait with classical ballet vocab and was drilling us a la second, derriere, chasse, chasse, assemble, demi plie, grand plie, tendu, tendu, a la fifth, okay? from day one and we just had to learn then and there what the hell it was all about in order to keep up. We had to learn extremely quickly and concetrate extra hard as the delightful but scary Japanese dance teacher has the most impenetrable Japanese accent and made all the slippery French terms with their excessive L sounds and rolling R sounds very, very diffifult to understand (as well as deeply amusing). Hell, even trying to decipher whether she was saying "Right, right" to indicate we should step lightly or to the right was a challenge.

Perhaps I'm too quick to congratulate myself - and hey, if I'm so amazing why didn't I get up and show off my moves that night? - but seeing the showcase and in particular the beginners ballet group made me realise how far I have come in my 18 months of dancing.

"Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion."
--Martha Graham

The Martha Graham technique showcase was impressive and again, made me feel proud of myself and the people up there: what little I know of Graham technique is scarily intense and brooding, and from the few classes I did in that particular school of movement, I know it took a lot of guts to perform in that style. It's all about pleading and lamentation: lots of baring of wrists and drawing yourself in as far as you can go on an in-breath and then flinging out your limbs to give yourself to the audience. All terribly vulnerable and exposing and amazing to see - this class were giving it everything they had, and I felt very moved by it.

And then it was the main piece of the evening, the piece that had been worked on by my beloved scary Japanese teacher and her special performance group drawn from all the different evening classes and the fruit of 11 weeks hard labour. And it was magnificent - whimsical in places, autobiographical in others, extraordinarily committed throughout. The concentration, effort and sheer force in the performance was just electric and I could see that in everyone single one of the people up there on stage, there was that spark, that pinprick of light that singles them out as one who doesn't just want to dance but has to.

If there was the opportunity to do so, I would have whipped off my shoes and joined themin the final sequence, because that spark is alight in me too and by god, I'm so glad I didn't try to stamp it out but fed it and let it grow. I've danced all over London - with the Rambert Dance Company in the west (Chiswick), at the Laban centre in the south east (Deptford) and now here in the centre (Euston) and I'm quite certain I will continue. After seeing this showcase, yes, I think I will continue.

There's nothing better than having one of your personal passions celebrated and performed by so many other people. I'm proud to have been there to see it and to have been part of it, in my own small way.

Why so earnest about continuing? If I care so much, why so many justifications for going on for more classes? There's been a freeze on funding for the arts - this means a lot of struggle and strife for those who were depending on some sort of increase, even if only in line with inflation over the next few years and are now, at the start of the new financial year, panicking and raising prices for all sorts of things. Producing theatres that once read all submitted scripts for no fee are now charging for all scriptreading services. One-off events aren't being programmed if there's the slightest risk they won't break even at the box office. Workshops and classes are costing more to attend - and this will mean an inevitable drop in numbers which will in turn mean another hike in price...

I can't afford to go to classes at this present place next term: the price has gone up too steeply and I simply cannot afford it. I will look elsewhere and I will continue but not here. It is rather sad as I've grown to like this place very much. But I will continue. I've got to. I shall. If anyone reading this spots a contemporary dance class going for cheap (eBay?), let me know in the comments below thatwouldbeverykindthankyouverymuch.

"Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we're here we should dance."

Thursday, March 24, 2005

"The fortnight in Venice was sweet - too sweet; I was drowning in honey, stingless." - Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
Not quite a fortnight but my five days in Venice were certainly stingless. What a place: I've never been to Italy before and was worried that my gluttonous readings of Forster and Waugh would have spoiled me for the experience - but I needn't have worried. It was a sublime holiday - perfect walking weather, excellent company, beautiful hotel in a fantastic part of the island near San Marco, the extra comfort of knowing we got an amazing bargain, not too many tourists so never felt crowded out of places and everything was even more enjoyable because we were not on a budget. Ahh, the luxury of not having to debate whether to have a nice lunch and a budget dinner or the other way round, whether to have a bottle of wine and no pudding or drink tap water and have two courses... avoiding certain galleries and sights because they charge entry and walking everywhere because you can't afford any other form of transport rather than walking everywhere because you want to.

I have never drained the minibar in a hotel like we did over those four nights. Although I regret the Campari (never again...)

We had only two trips on the water in the entire week we were there: the first was the overlong waterbus from the airport that took us on an hour-long trip through all the islands, in the dark, that were not Venice before dropping us all off near San Marco, seasick, tired and woefully jaded about the whole experience of finally reaching this fascinating place. We were not very enthusiastic about boats after that stuffy, baffling, dark and crowded trip.

Our second trip lasted about two minutes and was quite an experience - it was a traghetto, a gondola that goes across the Grand Canal to save people the trouble of finding a bridge (there are only three that cross the Grand Canal so traghettos are convenient and necessary). It wasn't quite the romantic, languid, honey-hued Waugh-type journey: it was standing room only, at the end of the school day so there were fidgety children in there with us and we had to shimmy down some makeshift wooden poles to get into the incredibly shallow boat that was rocking and rolling like nothing else I have been on - and remember, this boat was going across the Grand Canal, cutting in front and dodging behind all the traffic going up and down it. It was beautiful, standing in the middle of the Grand Canal, looking up and down it as we bobbed about between boats - but it was something we felt we could dine out on for a while, and not necessary to repeat...

It happened to be Taxloss's birthday while we were away and we had a breathtaking evening, dining on lobster by the Rialto Bridge and sauntering back to the hotel, holding hands, stopping frequently to look at the view and sighing a lot. It really is the place for lovers - how can you not fall in love in a place that looks and feels like Venice?

The whole week was rather splendid and it made us realise just how long it has been since we have been on holiday together - not to visit family, not for Christmas or Easter or any other enforced holiday period, it was just us, going away when we felt like it, relaxing in a place that was in equal parts cultural tour, city break and romantic getaway.

I think we may do this again: but where? Prague? Barcelona? Lisbon? Hull?

Further blogging to follow, now I've broken the silence - and with pictures, perhaps!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

"...a delicate balance between chaos and order..."
Thanks to the delightful PostGrad N , I went to this private view on Monday night. It was worth the cold, dark trek along the outside of Hyde Park to get there, and despite being late and therefore missing the free bar, it was a great exhibition, made even better by the high spirits generated by the private view crowd. It's very bright and playful and had the same effect on us as a bagful of fruit-flavoured chewy e-number sweets. Colourful, chaotic, curious - scoff a handful of Skittles before you go in and enjoy the buzz.

The events around this exhibition sound fantastic, in particular the game of It on the lawn. I will unfortunately be away that weekend but someone please go and play It with Tomoko and tell me all about it! And then come to the Takeaway the following weekend with me - I've got my eye on the tiny Hotpoint toy washing machine and toy baked bean tins... Go see!
"You've got a present on your desk..."

According to T.S Eliot, April is the cruellest month but every year, February beats it hands down for misery. I hate February, it's almost chemical how it affects me and brings my mood to a very low point despite the nice things that might be happening. We've had a cracking Chinese New Year, I'm still not smoking, I've improved a little in my dance classes and enjoying them more, spent quality time with my sister and got two new pairs of shoes... and yet, I've felt it. A drop in my mood, for no discernible reason whatsoever, just a sudden cloud descending on an otherwise upbeat moment when I least expect it.

Then again, it's worth remembering that sometimes, you have to make your own happiness. And sometimes, happiness will find you.

I gave myself a late start this morning because I've been doing lots of early starts for various reasons, mainly bringing in some new business for the organisation and simultaneously helping out a neighbouring company score points on one of their big contracts by being on hand before 9am each day.
And I thought, well, I'll get into the office for 10am today to give myself a break from the sweaty journey through Hell that is rush hour on the eastbound Jubilee Line and actually got a seat on the train, wasn't tripped up or sworn at squeezing through the gates or forced to buy milk yet again from my own money because I hadn't sorted out expenses in time - which meant I had a nice start to the day.
Then as I bounced into the office feeling quite bright about things, a colleague said "Hey, you've got a present on your desk," and you know what? There was a bottle of wine and a thank you card from the neighbouring company, for the early starts and the extra mile I went for them. Nice.

Off to lunch with my brother in a little while and I'm going to try a different dance class this evening, a mixed ability class that, with any luck, I'll be able to keep up with and pick up some new ideas. How's your February been so far?

Saturday, February 12, 2005

"I'm very, very sad. Death of a dramatist - what can you say. He is the grandaddy of us all, really. We modestly try and put social issues on screen and stage through character. He's our model for all that." - Mike Leigh, on the death of Arthur Miller in The Guardian
On the back of news about Charles and Camilla geting hitched, the news that the greatest of all American playwrights has died makes all of our eye-popping, rubber-necking and hand-rubbing about the middle-aged divorcees quite, quite irrelevant - and crass. Who cares if they are getting married? They love each other, they've waited until the time is right and they're going to say their vows and grow old together. What the hell - go ahead, go crazy, enjoy it. Now on to the real news.

We've witnessed the passing of one of the bravest, most uncompromising and truly dramatic writers of the 20th century - a writer that students, critics and bog-standard audience members feel touched by in all the different approaches and contexts we experience his plays. I've read and / or seen several of his plays and managed two thirds of his autobiography and I've studied some of them, I've read some of them independently, I've performed bits and pieces and directed excerpts. I can safely say without any fear of exaggeration or overstatement that every contact with his plays has stirred my blood and shaken my imagination and made me realise how close our everyday lives are to tragedy - tragedy in the ancient Greek sense, the terrible, towering, pure tragedy that isn't just about being sad but about realising, in a moment of horrible clarity, how fallible one is as a human being.

Miller in all his plays shows in the most heartbreakingly clear way the honourable, dishonourable, intense and noble yet flawed life that sits just under the surface of the average, the everyday for folks who are just trying to get by. We strive to be the best we can, to have ideals and live by them - and yet, in trying, we realise that we never can achieve them, as long as we are human and have human weaknesses. The salesman, the ammunition maker, the dockyard worker, the farmer all strive towards the American dream of freedom, of riches, of independence. Yet in striving towards it, they lose everything. Our actions have consequences - we have to face them, live with them, or die by them. We cannot choose to not take action - therein lies tragedy.

MOTHER [of Larry, the letter]: The war is over! Didn't you hear? It's over!
CHRIS: Then what was Larry to you? A stone that fell in the water? It's not enough for you to be sorry. Larry didn't kill himself to make you and Dad sorry.
MOTHER: What more can we be?
CHRIS: You can be better! Once and for all you can know there's a universe of people outside and you're responsible to it, and unless you know that, you threw away your son because that's why he died.
(All My Sons)

I'm not sad that Arthur Miller has passed on; he was old and ill when he died and I'm pleased to think he's not suffering or in pain any more. And what a life he has led! What a body of work to leave to the world! Wherever he is now, I hope he knows how important he has been and will continue to be for the arts and for freedom thinkers. Rest in peace.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

"Wow, that's the first meal I've had since getting here that hasn't made me feel like I'm about to explode!"
It's Chinese New Year and my sister is in town. I'm on holiday and in between my own extensive programme of sleeping in, watching Futurama in bed and inhaling the contents of the fridge every hour, I've been taking part in the wider family's gruelling regime of eating out, eating in and resting between meals. We've also:
- been on the Tate to Tate boat - ha! soon EVERYONE I know will have been on this boat and then my plan to rule the world through alternative modes of transport and modern art will be complete!
- we've also been through Chinatow
- a sushi bar
- the Paddington Basin development, making failed attempts to make the Heatherwick Bridge move
- bought shoes in an insane super-sale that turned into a sort of shoe-worshipping commune with the overwrought staff setting up their own specialist, anarchic shoe locating and payment receiving system
- accidentally eaten apple crumble and custard in a cafe where we were just going to stop for a coffee
- done the whole rice porridge and turnip croquettes thing

Hope you're all well and happy new year! Cock-a-doodle-do!

Thursday, January 27, 2005

"Friday the 13th? That's so romantic!"
That's one more wedding to put in my diary and I'd like to point out that I saw this one coming a mile away. If he wasn't going to ask her, and she was too cautious to do it, I would have rolled up my sleeves and forced one of them (doesn't matter which one...) down on one knee eventually. Because they need to be married, being that kind of couple - so in loooove, etc.

Like the three witches in Macbeth, our trio had been plotting since before Christmas where and when to meet and it being slightly too cold at the moment for the traditional gathering around a cauldron of rancid chardonnay on a blasted but trendy bohemian heath, we met in the Spitz instead and caught up on each other's really quite tremendous news. I am VERY happy for the lovely couple and not a little jealous that in the short period between Christmas Day when the question was asked and our Monday night dinner only a month later, they already have a date, the church booked and a party already in planning.

... we talked and talked and were girls and ate salad and drank white wine and went pink and giggled when the waiter tried to flirt with us, admired one another's hats on the way back to the station and had big girlie hugs on the platform...

... then I almost caused a fight on the tube on the way home: I was sitting opposite a young and angry-looking drunk with two neat and tidy businessmen chatting animatedly together to my right. One of the businessmen gestured in my direction - not at me, but in my direction - and the young drunk lunged forward, furious, and shouted at them. "Don't point at her! Thassrude! Thassrude to point at her! She's a nice girl! You shouldn't point at a nice girl like her!" The three of us, sitting in a row opposite the young drunk, all stared back at him blankly and our open-mouthed reflection in the window made an amusing picture until we pulled into the next station and I hurriedly leapt off to change lines. The man who was sitting on my left and who I hadn't paid attention to so far kept pace with me as I headed towards the other platform and he plucked at my elbow and said, laughing:

"You're face is causing trouble!"
I laughed with him.
"It always does!" I replied and jumped on my train and felt strangely pleased with myself all the way home.

Then I lurched into the flat and demanded food. Then I watched Newsnight. And oh, how my high spirits drooped. More on that later. But what a nice evening, with such nice girls. The world is a nice place, isn't it? It's just... nice. Tell me what you think is nice in the comments below: extra points for the unexpected, unlikely and the most revelatory about yourself.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

"off to buy a baguette on my rollerblades (joke)"
A selection of sentences from my email inbox, just because.

I’m about to run naked through Hammersmith with a plate of bacon and eggs strapped to my head.

The only time I've got a rush from Derrida was after standing up too quickly when I got cramp.

Nothing wrong with lengthy e-mails.

I promise not to be too shit-faced when we meet. I'm still recovering from Sunday's Last Stand at Point Porcelain Pony and will take things slowly.

hey, I can make a rule AND break it...

What is a skidoo?

I bet the Queen Mother would have been the type to hog the superslide at the swimming pool. I can just see her now, swaying and swearing at the very top of the steps, gin and tonic in one hand, a drenched copy of Racing Post in the other while all the little kiddies huddle in their bathing suits, plotting how and when to shove her down the flume and be done with it.

- tempted by munching some stranger's penis by accident one lunchtime.

*every* goddam picture has feckin' red eye.

>gah. 11am and I've only managed to have a coffee, have a fag, read G2 and piss about online.

*gulp* Please don't let him be ugly... pleeeeeeeeease...

Megatron was preyed upon by a gigantic Transformer who turned into a planet (of all things!), and offered to give Megatron a serious MOT and extra mufflers if he would become it's servant in destroying all and sundry. So, it seems that a Transformer with a weight and size problem (who didn't change into something conventional & cool) became socially ill and wanted to kill everyone else who wouldn't be seen alive with him on a Friday night after a hard week of transforming.

you might get even more groped if you were by yourself....

Bored, now I'm back in the office after a morning of gentle sabotage at the BBC. Bored. Bored. Bored.

once again I am leaving London.

Monday, January 17, 2005

"24 Hours: Carbon monoxide will be eliminated from the body. Lungs start to clear out mucus and other smoking debris.
48 Hours: There is no nicotine left in the body. Ability to taste and smell is greatly improved."
It's been 17 days since my last cigarette. I haven't missed the actual cigarettes but I do miss the ritual around it; I sometimes pause when I'm at my desk and think:"Something's missing. Something's gone from my day," and it will niggle at me like a paper cut for a while. Sometimes I'll pass my regular newsagents and think "I should pick up some cigarettes before I get on the tube / go to the office / turn the corner to go home," and realise I can't do that anymore. I don't need to. I no longer smoke. I'm a non-smoker.

It was strange at first, I felt like I was a different person because I no longer smoked - for so long now, there's only been one Hypatia and she always had a cigarette hanging out of her mouth and could always be relied upon to be in the darkest corner of the bar, talking the loudest and being the most extravagant with her hand gestures, scattering ash and spreading smoke everywhere. I sit in the cleaner and better lit parts of pubs now, and really dislike having smokers near me when I'm eating. Only 17 days and I'm suddenly precious about my lungs and tastebuds and sense of smell, after 8 years of recklessly abusing them. It's good to know what happens when you quit smoking - I'm amazed at how quick the nicotine leaves the body, and I'm ashamed that it has taken me this long to do it. Incidentally, it's been cold turkey all the way - no gum, no patches, no sugar free mints. I just stopped.

It's a new adventure - and I'm facing it with a window seat in the non-smoking section. Go, Hypatia, go!

Congratulations, exclamations of horror and / or encouragement in the comments below, thankyouverymuch.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Sister: "I'll be in the countryside for Christmas, ten adults and four kids alone with four dogs, two cats, two guinea pigs, lots of chickens and lots of ducks..."
Cousin: "What?! You can't eat all of that!"
Oh. I love being Chinese.

Look! I have changed my blog template! It no longer changes colour! It no longer (hopefully) crashes your PC! It's all spots and dots! I've lost all my comments from the old template but I'm not being downcast - I think this is a key opportunity for everyone to leave new comments! Enough exclamation marks - but I'm pleased with the change which I have been considering in secret for the last few months and am enjoying the previous posts directory on the left.

I'm feeling buoyant with this latest news about aid for Asia post-tsunami:

"In the space of a week the UN has received promises of money from more than 45 countries - as well as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the EU - which amount to more than the total pledged for all other humanitarian appeals in 2004 combined, Jan Egeland, the UN emergency relief coordinator, told journalists."

Of course, this is only money pledged and yet to appear; I doubt the actual amount paid over will be nearly as high as that promised. I'm also concerned that aid for tsunami relief will deny other people and countries who need aid, as governments will move funds around to meet the amounts promised...but it's promising that so many people are so keen to help and though I'm upset by the scale of the disaster, I'm simultaneously uplifted by the scale of the compassion and generosity of so many people out there. I was pleased before the tsunami struck to hear that goats were so popular as Christmas presents this year. The kindness of strangers still has the capacity to surprise me.

In other news, I've made several resolutions for 2005:

1. Quit smoking. 3 days without so far and I'm not climbing the walls. Yet.
2. Watch The Exorcist. Have avoided it so far; will attempt it this year.
3. Cook lentils. As above.
4. Start and finish my play.
5. Go abroad.

There are others but I'm not discussing those here.

How are you?