Monday, December 04, 2006

For The Archives: Saturday 28 October 2006



Dwarfed
Originally uploaded by Hazel Tsoi.
Myself, husband and brother went along to the China Power Station exhibition at Battersea Power Station. The queue was long because entry was staggered even though we had booked tickets in advance, it was cold and dark by the time we went in, the artworks were mainly uninteresting video installations, we got lost trying to find the right way in to the old building and were tempted more than once to just climb over the razor wire and sprint across the sodden surrounding wasteland...

... despite all of this, the long afternoon we spent there was amazing. There's grass growing on the exposed bits of the turbine hall floor. There's an incredible sense of space and history wandering around the abandoned and unused floors - I kept thinking of all the hundreds of people who would troop here to work in the morning, the wearying, noisy, hard manual labour that went on here. I saw through the uninspiring video artworks from China and saw instead the queues of tired workers at the office window, waiting to collect paypackets and eager to get the hell out of the building on a Friday evening, not unlike the queues we formed a century or so later on a Sunday afternoon - a day of rest! - to get in.

We had been walking about in the cold open air for most of the day and we went back to our local area for dinner by taxi, exhilarated and rather spent from the experience of actually having been inside such an iconic London landmark. The brother treated us all to a rich, heavy Italian meal of veal steaks, venison and beef steak with intense Italian red wine; we had such good service and though it's a local restaurant, it's one of the classier Italians places that we don't go to very often and it was a very pleasant, slightly special occasion-ish meal. I ordered the cheese plate to round off an already rich and indulgent meal and was extremely pleased with my plate of Dolce Latte and hard parmegiano that came with a little dish of Italian wild honey and a small measure of a honeymead-type dessert wine.

We went back to the flat, groaning and swooning over all the food and wine (and the bill) and I introduced my brother to my ailing laptop. The new after-dinner entertainment in my family is looking up cute videos of baby pandas and hamsters and so on; we watched a hamster running so fast on his wheel, he loses control and spins through several full revolutions before being flung unceremoniously cross his cage. He lands on his back with his tiny, stunned little paws twitching and we were on the floor in similar poses, roaring with laughter.

A giddy day. A good day.

Full Flickr set here.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

"Why do you go to Bognor Regis with all your friends? What's so exciting about that place?"

On Tuesday night, we met for coffee after work and sat back against the café's drooping leather sofa, unwinding together with plenty of laughter and contented sighing from our long day apart from one another. Idle chatter had us roaming from Seinfeld quotes to plans for the New Year to the happy memory of our last trip to the café where we saw a toddler falling silent with wonder when his mittens were taken off, leading to the amazing discovery that he had two hands - wow!

And then he mentioned, laughing before he could even finish his sentence, a French lodger he remembered from the days when his parents rented out the spare room. This French lad would disappear on weekends with all his French pals to party in Bognor Regis. Puzzled by this choice of party town, the family asked the boy what could possibly attract them to this quiet, picturesque, English seaside town full of retired people? And he answered, with a look of surprise as if he expected everyone to know why a group of French boys would flee Oxford on the weekends and hotfoot it to this little town...

"For ze Swedish girls."

Alors, c'est vrai - pour l'amour, vous devez aller à l'extrémité du monde...

Friday, October 20, 2006

"There's just too many of them! I look away, I look back and there's more..."


We got a new oven recently.

Our flat is very small.

We have lots of books.

Neither the old oven or the new oven could be moved through the corridor because our bookcases narrowed the path by too much.

So we moved about a third of our books off the shelves, moved the bookcases and hoped for the best.

In the picture you can see three bright yellow volumes - this is the Phaidon Design Classics Mr Hypatia Avenue contributed to. In amongst the pile is the London Collection for which he was one of four writers. All excellent presents for Christmas - to receive or to give. Order now. You won't be disappointed. A more detailed and annotated picture of the books is available here.

My favourite bit in the London Collection is the dedications page at the back: I'm there as Mrs Hypatia Avenue with whom Mr H.A looks forward to more adventures in our town. It's a lovely book, not just for the dedications page, and I urge you all to have one in your home or about your person at all times.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

"I wanted to take you somewhere special. It's just through here, through this door..."
My friend G, who has come from Tokyo to London for a bit of work with MTV Europe, arranged to meet me last Thursday and I was stumped as to where to take her. It just so happens that the folks who brought us the fantastic Tropicana under London Bridge are now using their extraordinary space as a bar. And so we met in London Bridge underground station and I led the unsuspecting G to an unmarked door in the station wall... and we walked through into total darkness.

We had to hold hands and clutch each other in a completely non-lesbian way to get to the bar area without screaming in the dark - it's a long walk through the drafty vaults and there were only a few stage lights leftover from their summer show to light the way, but we eventually got to the bar area and sat down in the candlelit space.

We sipped cheap red wine while crouched around a battered old coffee table. Every chair looked like it had been rescued from a skip. It could have been the Blitz or an artists' happening in the crypts under Paris or the chill out space of a mega-rave from the early 1990s. It was special. If you're in the London Bridge area, go to the tube station and look for the plainest, most unsuspecting door in the brick wall of Joiner Street. Go through it into the dark and keep going... it's quite magical how you suddenly find yourself in a bar. And it's a bar with a garden shed.

After the Shunt Lounge, we tottered half-cut into Tito's, the Peruvian cafe I used to go to with my brother when he was working in the same part of town; if he was feeling generous or if I had whined persuasively enough, he would treat me to one of the mega six egg omelettes with chips or alternatively, a salad that had more ingredients than I would buy in my week's shopping.

The place is transformed after 6pm and the menu is unrecognisable from the lunchtime standards - it's all Peruvian favourites and pan pipe music with the promise of some saucy South American dancing to extremely loud and insistent Latin grooves in the basement afterwards. We both chose vegetarian dishes and while G picked delicately around a grilled aubergine smothered in a fragrant, creamy tomato and cheese sauce with a bit of rice, I ordered the pumpkin dish.

What I got was... a small mound of white rice, a pool of molten orange cheese with what looked like diced carrot floating in it, two fried eggs perched on top of that and an enormous deep fried banana split in two bordering the whole lot like golden parentheses. It was delicious if a bit unusual and it was only when I had cleared half the plate that I realised there wasn't any pumpkin. I suspect the diced carrot was actually small pieces of pumpkin, being the correct shade of orange and a bit tough and woody to chew... but I could be wrong.

Got home a bit overexcited and tipsy and submitted Mr Hypatia Avenue to yet another breathless and unintelligible monologue, this time about Peruvian waiters playing panpipes while we payed our bill, holding hands in the dark, cheese and pumpkins and fried bananas and... he was nice enough to just let me exhaust myself and talk myself to sleep. Even asleep, I was still burbling about big brick arches and the garden shed with no roof but a nice table inside. A great evening in great company in a great place.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"Top 10 Influential UK Blogs: No. 8 - Londonist"

A good piece of news: Londonist is in the top ten list of most influential UK blogs. It means a lot to me that we're considered one of the most influential blogs, by Technorati, no less - not best designed or funniest or quirkiest, but instead, its a matter of influence and effect. What we say on the site really sticks and we seem to be used as a point of reference quite often by people and institutions abroad: we are seen as a genuine London voice to a lot of people.

It's a responsibility the team takes very seriously and though we have a lot of fun keeping the site in motion, we know our duty towards our regular readers and we never copy and paste, we never cut corners, we never resort to cliche and the quick, slack, crap that gets thrown up, unedited and unplanned on so many other sites just doesn't happen to us. We won't let it happen to us. And our vigilance, our diligence and our care is beginning to be recognised. It's a good note on which to end a rather long and trying day. Congratulations to all, and in particular to Editro.

And... another sign of Londonist being adopted as the voice of London: I'm being interviewed by a Spanish radio station tomorrow afternoon, as food writer for the site. Bloody hell - I've only had two Spanish lessons and I'm going on air to southern Spain and the Balearics. Londonist: it rocks to read it and it rocks even harder to write for it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

"I need to sit down. I'm bored now. Can we stop? I'd like a coffee. That's it. I'm going home."



I did it again - and one minute faster than last year. My Londonist opponent and his wife were running against me, representing south of the Thames (the bad side of town) and managed to cross the line two minutes before I dragged myself, whining and wheezing over the finish. I was faster this year but I was in more pain: I should have stretched more often in the weeks before the run and I really should have tried to do more than half an hour of huffing and puffing around Pimlico each time I attempted some training. However, I do not feel responsible for north London losing out in the race: we can't help being a little slower than the south... because we can get black cabs to take us home on our side of the Thames.

In fact, once I was finally done with the run, I located Mr Hypatia Avenue who had been draining the coffee tent of their beverages while we athletes pounded our way around the park and he took one look at my red face, weak knees and sore feet and hailed us a cab. I sat with my face covered as we sped along Park Lane past all the other exhausted runners, all queueing for buses or limping home on foot. Oh, the shame of being a spoilt brat.

Full Flickr set of photos to be found here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

"I think you're missing the point... you're supposed to be wearing clothes"




I've been applying for new jobs and therefore procrastinating by spending a lot of time on the internet, surfing for movie spoilers (I'm not about to watch Right At Your Door but the promise of a massive, cunning twist at the end sent me scurrying around various movie spoiler sites. Gaaaad, am I glad I didn't bother with that film - not so much a twist as instant demand for a refund) and video clips of kittens falling asleep. This one is my favourite: it's the way it topples over backwards then swings back upright, still with its face scrunched up in sleep.

Then I was shopping in my local supermarket and found a discarded shopping list in my basket and it set off a chain of thoughts that I wanted to put down here... instead of chucking away the list, I scrutinised it, put it in my pocket and had a smile on my face as I went around doing the week's shopping. I was recalling an interview on Londonist with a chap called Scott who collects shopping lists, analyses them then scans them and puts them up with his thoughts on his site. It's a harmless, quite charming, whimsical project and he's recently been featured in The Times for a "what teachers do outside term-time"... and his wry, amusing efforts at making the ordinary a little extraordinary made me feel a little brighter and more uplifted just by finding a discarded shopping list in my basket that wet, rainy, miserable Sunday afternoon.

The internet is transformative. It offers people a different view on the world around them and gives them a chance to interact with their world in the widest range of ways with other people in ways that were previously unthought of - chat forums, group blogs, ARGs and MMRPGs, fansites, music and image sharing...

The last ARG I played was two-thirds online - I'm playing another one at the moment by the same folks and that's turning out to be about the same ratio of physical, geographically specific, IRL activities and clue-hunting with a hell of a lot of stuff carried out across a range of internet-based applications. The last ARG was based around the National Theatre and I spent some happy evenings in the theatre bars, crawling around the car park, going up and down in lifts, interviewing statues and hanging around on the terraces with a radio, clutching a biscuit (yeah, I'll explain later). But I also had a great time flitting between the various online things that were part of the game:

... at least three blogs on Blogger
... the edit history pages of the National Theatre entry on Wikipedia (this was a very clever way of making one of the characters from the game communicate with us from the shadow National Theatre, speaking from a very odd unreal yet existing bit of cyber space...)
... a bizarre and frustrating online chat application called Habbo Hotel (which I couldn't log into while at work but everyone who managed it thought it was a marvellous idea and all in real time too)
... hidden bits of the real National Theatre website that was password protected for those elite few who stuck with the adventure long enough to work out what the password could be
... YouTube clips of the mystery tracks played during the National Theatre Late Lounge club night; these music tracks had secret messages hidden within them - sonorous bells and half-whispered words from the shadow NTT and it was useful to be able to listen to them again and again on the blogs in our attempt to work out the next clue
... the initial set of photos on Flickr and then more photos on Flickr from myself and fellow adventurer MykReeve

Nice.

Also,during my research, I discovered that over time I have joined the following Flickr groups:



And I've contributed my own photos to all of them.

I love Flickr. I love the people who use Flickr. I love the person I am on Flickr.

Ah. The internet. It's not just for porn.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"So. Farewell then
You were the Theatre Museum"




I've started something I don't want to finish over at Londonist regarding the decision to close the Theatre Museum. I've not visited the Theatre Museum in years and can't think of anyone who has been at all. I wouldn't make a special trip to go there as I'd rather be doing something else in Covent Garden, like have a nice dinner with friends or go on a cocktails and shopping bender - but I'd make a detour to see what it had on show if I was at the V & A for something else. I'd be in a museums and exhibitions frame of mind if I was at the V & A, and I'd probably enjoy the Theatre Museum collection much more because of it.

Although I focused on performing arts, I covered a lot of museums and galleries work while at City University for my postgraduate course and it was fascinating stuff. I can feel bits of my brain stirring and I'm itching for a debate about museums and galleries, about location vs. environment, government subsidy and... stuff like that. C'mon. Fight me. I'm in the mood. Throw some punches here or over at Londonist.

Friday, September 15, 2006

"See you in six months."



Said goodbye to my flatmate this morning who is leaving for 6 months in Afghanistan. His diplomatic passport came through the post in super-super special packaging and he's bought himself an electric coffeepot and a sleeping bag that can fit into a sock. That's it. Farewell. Until you come home, we'll look after your post and make sure no one squats in your room, keep an eye on your bike(s) and honour the house ritual of never sitting on the sofa or armchairs but sprawling out full length and falling asleep on top of the remote controls whenever we've chosen to stay at home instead of going to the gym or go rowing or go running or taking on an after-work cycling tour of the Thames.

I'm very sad. There will be one less person to hover behind me in the kitchen while I cook, leaping up enthusiastically everytime I put down the wooden spoon in case, yes, *now* dinner is ready.

There will be no one to hang around with on blurry Saturday mornings, sipping treacle thick espresso from the quirky stove-top pot, talking bollocks about nothing much and repeating like a mantra "I suppose we should do go out and do something."

There will be no one to step over, sprawled out asleep on the big blue cushion still wrapped in an old bedsheet (because I never did make the cushion cover I promised to make 2 years ago).

There will be no one to fill the cupboards with pots of homemade marmalade everytime I look away.

There will be no one to accompany me to the theatre at the last minute.

There will be one less person to have "one quick drink" with after work then realise it's too late to cook and we're not capable of dealing with pots and pans anyway and end up staying up too late on a work night, watching DVDs and eating takeaway dinners.

Noisy card games. Elaborate meals cooked in our basic kitchen with varying results. Sunday papers on the patio and cursing the pigeons that nest there. Chucking those little paper bangers around and giggling after a sober morning observing Chinese New Year rituals. Reading the John Donne extract at our wedding. The early days of 5.00am departures and 8.30am returns to collide with me in the corridor, dragging sweaty lycra and a few pints of the Thames in with you. The later days of bicycle maintenance by the front door. Messages in bad handwriting left propped against the microwave ("Have a doughnut!" "I owe you money" "Is this yours?") Speaking of microwaves, remember the mini-microwaveable cheese fondue I brought back from Amsterdam? Yes, I've tried to forget that evening too... The annual marrow festival, where you bring the bounty of your dad's allotment to London, to feed the Chinese community. Kinder Egg toys and tourist tat from abroad decorating the stereo. Plums on toast. Your drawings hanging on our walls. Honorary hen at my hen night and then a more gender-accurate stag at Will's stag night: after 3 years of living together so happily, how could it have worked out any other way?

Goodbye Flatmate. Take care of yourself in Aghanistan. We miss you already. Come back safe to our home; we'll be waiting for you.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

"I gave them a sword..."

Another amazing night at the theatre, in a series of amazing nights at the theatre. First Fuerzabruta (more on this later) and now... Frost Nixon. Not only was I lucky enough to see My Favourite Actor Michael Sheen "do" David Frost, I was also privileged to see Frank Llangella play Nixon. This was acting of the highest quality - Llangella had the awkward Nixon hunch and oversized hands making grumpy gestures right down to the finest detail. And in the final close-up, beamed above him on a bank of TV screens, he was Nixon, in the bulging eyes and the sweat on his top lip and the haunted look of a man who knows he did the wrong thing, however much he may insist he didn't.

Michael Sheen as David Frost was magnificent too but as I'm less familiar with David Frost, Sheen's performance kept recalling Austin Powers for me. A colleague who had to listen to my breathless, rave review over coffee this morning pointed out that Austin Powers is rather like vintage David Frost and it wasn't in any way incorrect for me to have made this association throughout the performance.

But the best thing of all about last night's trip to the theatre? Having Mr Hypatia Avenue with me, enjoying the play possibly even more than me. Though he appreciates good script-writing, can spot and enjoy high quality acting and directing and doesn't mind making time for the theatre when he finds something he wants to see, he doesn't have the same dedication to the art form as I do. Not for him the here, there and everywhere, anything and everything approach I have to the performing arts - he's far more select. And I felt very honoured and privileged and happy to have him with me last night. A good play was made even better by seeing it and experiencing it with him, my husband.

And on the subject of being married (because that is what the thinly-disguised previous paragraph was, in case it was not thinly-disguised enough) congratulations to Sir Humphrey and his soon-to-be Lady Humphrey who got engaged this past weekend, in the most unbearably romantic, Oxonian, literary fashion. Hurrah and dare I say, Huzzah!

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Honeymoon Walk, Specially Lit



DSCF0199, originally uploaded by Hazel Tsoi.

The approach to our suite at the Morgan Hotel in Dublin. The place is so sexy they have to keep the lights low.

Friday, August 04, 2006

"If I was that way inclined, I would love to sleep with your wife."


As said to my husband, in my presence. All three parties involved are still trying to decide what we should make of that.

Meanwhile, I'm in the midst of planning a solo tour of England's South Coast. If get organised, I'll be starting in fossil country, continuing through the World of Thomas Hardy and home of the Bridport Prize, looking at cathedrals then releasing my Inner Gay by the sea before going home.

That is, if I make it out of the rabbit hole safely. I've been invited to drop in this weekend, after I got in touch with the mysterious creature who had left such intriguing vestiges of him / herself at the National Theatre. If I make it back out, I'll add what I see down there to the research I've offered to do for Dr Misnuneris. Interesting and busy times, dear friends.

How are you? Tell me...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


"I don't mind if you make him look like Johnny Depp..."
Whatever I say about my day job, there is always an element of absurdity and surrealness that keeps things lively.

I've just been asked to go into the other room to draw a pirate with an open treasure chest for a training day tomorrow. The pirate and treasure chest visual aid will be the key element in a particularly camp group exercise the trainer has devised so it needs to be good.

So I was given all the materials I could possibly need, an electric fan and lots of peace and quiet to get on with my masterpiece. The best half hour of my week so far, and the most productive. Sadly, I'm unable to scan my drawing or take a picture of it while at work so I'll put a picture of a pirate cat here instead.

"Yaaaaaaaargh!"



We left Fido on his own during our honeymoon and we came back to discover that he had taken over our bedroom and was using it as a secret location for the manufacturing and distribution of pirate DVDs.

Pirate DVDs!

Oh, you're laughing even though it looks like you're not...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Monday, June 05, 2006

"15% marsupial."



Me: All okay?
Will:
No, it's all off. Occo was hit by a meteorite. I discovered that I'm ineliegible to marry you because I'm 15% marsupial. My parents have turned into killer robots. The dead are rising.
Me:
Fack. Well, this is a good time to tell you that I WAS DEAD ALL ALONG

Photo from the incredible knitted minions Flickr set by cakeyvoice here.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Link Up With Me



It's this kind of link that I like blogs to be about. I'm clearly in the grip of some sort of hysterical displacement therapy as the wedding day approaches and we've got, ooh, nine days to find a substitute venue, make a new menu, place new orders for champagne and somehow let 100 people know that they've all got to go somewhere else.

I'm currently obsessed with novelty tights and stockings, going as far as ordering lots of different sets from lots of different websites. Though I've done to death the slightly naff suspender tights - I spotted them in an Innovations catalogue and had to burn all four pairs in my underwear drawer before I could feel clean again. I'm not interested in novelty colours or fishnets (though I've got a little over a week of insanity to broaden this nylon-based distraction into a full-blown, Italian weave in bottle green obsession) - I just like the way these hosiery designers have come up with different ways to make stockings sexy but practical without being silly. The line between the three states is finer than 10 denier.

Meanwhile, I have been on a one-day assertiveness training course and was the only person in the group. So it was basically a whole day of one-to-one coaching which at times verged on counselling. Exhausting and left me rather shaken: a whole day of self-affirmation can be really draining. Thanks to the lovely, lovely trainer who was part-therapist, part-professional business coach, part-kindly aunt. If I can convince my employers to pay for it, I'm going to adopt her as my guardian angel and ply her with cakes and tea once a fortnight in exchange for a kind word and reassuring pat on the head.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

"Cluck Cluck Cluck"



My hen night.

With an emphasis on Evelyn Waugh-like genteel debauchery. Boys were invited to fit the unconventional format and I went in drag just to make things tidy.

It was a Brideshead Revisited afternoon, starting with a champagne tea at the Orangery in Kensington Palace, in my finest approximation of a Sebastian Flyte costume and all others looking devastatingly beautiful.

Then boating on the Serpentine with Katy reading extracts from her University diary that recalled our Cambridge days and my first encounters with my almost-husband.

Then to Lucy's flat where Lucian, Nick and Lorna joined us for an indoor picnic complete with teddy bears, plovers' eggs in a nest and strawberries with cream (I think there was asparagus too but was too busy with the pink champagne to notice). This warranted a different dress.

Once we had eaten all we could, we took off in a cab to Milk and Honey and drank Brandy Alexanders and a curious concoction called a Honeymoon Cocktail. It was appropriately bittersweet. This required a different dress and a Cuban cigar, which we smoked in our velvet-curtained booth.

For the full photoset, click here.

I love you all who organised this wonderful, magical afternoon and evening and I love you more for being there, not just tonight but always, when I'm having the best time of my life and, just as importantly, when I'm having the worst time. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

"You wouldn't understand... we do things differently."
I speak only in English with my sisters and my brother. I speak only in Cantonese with my parents. My sister is pregnant with her first child and this child will be brought up in France. Like us, the child will speak one language at school and with his friends (French) and another at home with the parents (English). There'll be an extra language to deal with - the child will have to speak Cantonese in order to communicate with the grandparents. How lucky for this child to be given three different languages, three different cultures to mix and match through life. It is in no way a bad thing but...

While Prandial ponders reality, truth and magic, I am stuck between the three myself and not enjoying the sensation of swinging madly between these frequently incompatible states. All major personal events such as weddings mean over-exposure to family and friends but this particular event I'm involved in has over-exposed me to my own mixed-bag reality and truths: I'm British on paper but I'm Chinese in my genetic make-up and in reality... I'm more confused than I've ever been.

I have never experienced culture clash this badly before.

Growing up in the very heart of London has meant I can look back on a childhood that was so nonchalantly multiracial and so casually "fusion" style, I had culture shock going to Cambridge. Whilst there, I discovered I was a novelty for some of the people I was meeting because they hadn't met anyone as British as themselves and yet I ate with chopsticks when I went home to see my parents and spoke in a different language with my family and could tell long amusing stories about hilarious mistranslations and cultural misunderstandings that only someone of my first generation immigrant background could tell.

But since I've entered the last stretch of organisation for this wedding I've felt something I've never felt before: an alienation from my own Chinese background that has upset me more than I can express. I've always felt enormous pride in my Chinese background and the particulars of being British-born Chinese. I've always felt very comfortable and firmly entrenched in Chinese culture and customs. I'm interested in what goes in my community and endeavour to promote cultural practices, customs and arts.

But I'm essentially not Chinese enough when it comes to my own personal life. I'm beginning to feel that all my Chinese-ness so far has been academic. It's not natural to me. As my mother keeps telling me, I should leave all the planning for the Chinese parts of the day to her because I wouldn't understand and I should let her and my father, my numerous relatives, family friends and the restaurant staff do all the planning and organisation because they know how it works. And I couldn't possibly get it right.

And yet... trying to organise a "Western" wedding has baffled me too. I wasn't intending to have a hen night, I think it's a very odd thing to do but was cajoled into having one by my all-British friends. I put together a guest list and included all my male friends - I had no idea this isn't the done thing. Hen nights are for girls and stag nights are for boys. But where is the fun in that? Segregating my friends would make a miserable night out for everyone. So I invited both male and female friends without giving much thought to what is "traditional"and then fielded several emails from amazed and intrigued men who were apprehensively confirming their attendance. Other things left me reeling with incomprehension and frustration especially when we were considering a church wedding in the very early stages - how could I ask my non-English speaking relatives to attend a church ceremony with hymns and standing up and sitting down and readings and so on? How could I go through with a ceremony that means so much to me knowing that it means absolute gibberish to half the people I invite?

I feel as alienated from my Britishness as I am from my Chineseness. I don't understand how things are done on either side and even though I'm constantly told to just do things my way, I don't know what my way is. It isn't half British, half Chinese. It isn't even British-Chinese. I don't know what it is or what I want it to be.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

"I am old, I am old, I shall wear the bottom of my trousers rolled." - T S Eliot

I'm 26 today.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006




"Thank you so much!"
I've just been visited by my lovely Korean girl who did loads of training where I work and who I spent a lot of time with between January and March, taking her through her options as an arts management student in the UK. She came to collect the last of her paperwork that I've been preparing for her to present to her sponsors and for the next lot of training she needs to undertake - she's got offers from three excellent universities for arts management, policy and including an offer from my former post-graduate seat of learning.

She slipped into the office in a lemon yellow cardigan that looked like spring itself, beaming a big smile and looking more relaxed and happy than I've ever seen her...

I gave her the paperwork that may not be part of my usual work remit, but I was happy to do and didn't give much thought to it as it was hardly back-breaking labour. She was so grateful and genuinely impressed by what I had done for her, she gave me a big hug and put a basket of yellow pansies into my hand. I was so moved - and surprised - I almost blubbed into my mug of cold coffee. We made promises to keep in touch, and I hope we do because I think she's a got a very interesting career ahead of her. And I'm certain she'd make a good theatre companion.

Now
that is what a day job should be like.

Friday, April 21, 2006

"...because I'm damned if 'I do' and damned if I don't."

Am in France. Have been shopping for outrageous underwear, cheese, pigs' ears and Asterix crisps with both sisters - one is pregnant, the other isn't. Both are very happy with their current status, as am I. It's hot and sunny here, we've been relaxing and just hanging out togehter and we're learning a lot about each other as we stay in this little flat in this little town. Apparently I snore too loudly but can be commanded to stop by my non-pregnant sister who just shouts out "SNORING" and I stop without waking up.

Back in London, our beloved Londonist Editro has a new and fabulously exciting job - congratulations and let's have a drink (on your card, of course) when we meet for that meatless meal in the porn-covered restaurant on Tuesday.

Further congratulations to the Smiths on the arrival of Baby Smith; looking forward to meeting the little guy and here's hoping he has a name by then.

Hen night plans gather apace. If you're around on May 13th and you belong to the Beautiful and the Damned, join me, the Queen of the Damned, for the evening. There will be dirges, weeping and with any luck, a Viking longboat that we can set fire to and launch down the Serpentine at midnight to say goodbye to my single life in style. Bring matches. Bring whiskey. And bring black lipstick or else you're not getting in.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

"It sounds like it could be a really good book but the way you describe it makes it seem a bit... 3 for 2."
This was, apparently, an unbelievably harsh criticism of The Time Traveller's Wife, which I bought but haven't read yet. On checking the cover of the book, I did indeed buy it as part of a 3 for 2 offer, which means to me an okay book but so terribly common. Maybe I'm just spending too much time thinking about the bookgroup I want to set up and becoming snobby and elitist in my attempts to organise some sort of reading group that exceeds the dribbly, feelgood, far-from-academic Richard and Judy style bookgroup. Maybe I'm just snobby and elitist. But not too snobby to avoid the tempation of a bargain 3 for 2 offer. I feel that Borders understands me too well.

Speaking of books, I'm gripped by Infernal Devices, a very definite
not 3 for 2 book, and is the third book in the Mortal Engines series. It's a kids' book that is totally and utterly wasted on kids. The action is a bit too adult in my opinion for a kids' book - one of the female leads has absolutely no hesitancy when it comes to shooting people in the face (which she does quite often), she spends a lot of time hating her own daughter and wishing she had never been born, characters die quite horrible and violent, sudden deaths and there's even a bit of rough sex mentioned. All of which I fully believe have a place in childrens' literature but dear god, all in the same book within 75 pages?

Also, there are references to contemporary childrens' authors such as Philip Pullman (referred to as the great P. P Bellman, but I know who the author meant), thinly veiled jabs at contemporary artists with barely changed names that I doubt 12 year olds will recognise and understand the joke...

There's also a lot about an alternative Brighton that floats on the sea, drifting about as a pleasure island that the other land-roving traction cities can visit. There are knowing references to the well-intentioned but clueless artists and actors who litter the streets with their handicrafts and workshops and Reeve mocks the endless bad fringe theatre to be found among the art centres and open house events with a familiarity that only a resident of Brighton who has indulged in loss-making fringe theatre can produce. It's amazingly sly and funny writing, far too sophisticated for 12 year olds.


It's my lunchtime book and I think it's clear how much I'm enjoying reading it when I had to reheat my soup twice because I was too busy turning the pages and shouting out "No! OH! God, no! You can't do that! Hester, stop!" to eat it. Highly recommended but read from the beginning of the series to get the full, breathtaking, mind-boggling effect.

The Londonist Apple Store event went very well, all our speakers made blogging sound like a fun thing to do and represented the different kinds of blog and the variations in the blogging experience very nicely. We're organising another one soon and putting ideas together for what will hopefully be a Londonist series, so watch this space. For a bunch of people with day jobs, cats and non-blogging spouses, I think we're doing rather well, even in these early stages.

There's something that is going to wake me up at about 5.30am and make me laugh out loud all over again: Taxloss looks a bit like Samuel L. Jackson. Ah! Haha! Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Haaahahahahahahahahahaahahaaaaaaa!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Oh, look! What fun: bloggers talking about blogging but not on their blogs. Come along to the Apple Store this Wednesday where the best of blogland will be gathered to talk about what we do and why.

Then go home and blog about it afterwards - because that's what everyone else is going to do. Bring your iPod in its best hoodie and the evening will be complete.

I shall be there in my role as Londonist editorial. I may also provide some cleavage as I suspect glamorous breasts will be noticeable by their absence at this event, and I take my duties for the blogosphere very seriously. I know where I am needed.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

"Claude Lamothe"
My nine year music mystery has finally, finally, finally been solved. For nine years I have been haunted by haunting cello music. For nine years, I have brought out on occasion a rattling old unlabelled cassette tape, blown the dust off its brittle plastic case and played the music on it with a certain reverence. Cellos. Sounding like trains. Doing things that I have never heard cellos do before. And I like cello music, I've heard a fair amount. But nothing like this, not in nine years.

The cassette came from a Lyric Hammersmith Summer School I took part in, August 1997, in between my first and second year of A levels. The company leading us was Volcano Theatre Company.

The show involved 32 young people, and among our roles were two lawyers in snorkelling gear in a bathtub on wheels, a 4'10" female Superman - no cape!, a Cantonese speaking mallet-wielding housekeeper with enormous feathered wings (me), a pantomime horse, a PVC-clad prosecuting lawyer and a cowboy with a Yorkshire accent. We did warm-ups every morning before we got started on the very physical devised work and I had my first introduction to yoga and pilates as well as weight-bearing, release technique contact improvisation aka how to run around and jump on people without hurting yourself or others too much in time to music. Those warm-ups were done to a variety of music - Hungarian folk songs, Depeche Mode-type industrial rock, Turkish pop and some very striking cello music.

I liked the cello music so much I asked if I could copy the CD but my friend Neil had beaten me to it and had the CD at home. I gave him a tape to make me a copy while he was making his and since then, the cassette has been in exactly the same state as I got it back: unlabelled and slightly battered. Who the hell is the cellist who can do this with my favourite instrument in the whole panoply of musical instruments? (Sometimes I favour piano but that's another story to tell) Who wrote this stuff? Who plays it? Who lets out that gruff, triumphant groan at the end of a particularly gut-wrenching frenzied sawing of the lower strings?

For nine years, all I had to go on was a vague memory of being told it was French Canadian, by someone called "Claude". I finally tracked down the Summer School leader through contacts at work and emailed him. He emailed back the next day.

The cellist / composer is a Montreal based French Canadian called Claude Lamothe. The album I have on the cassette is called Nu from 1995. I've yet to find a place to purchase it on CD or to download. But I know what it is. I know what it is. And it is marvellous.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

"My name is Hypatia and I'm hopelessly addicted to Flickr"
K says: you don't get zoom as you'd imagine on digicams, unless you buy the slr cameras that look like old conventional cameras so that the pros still feel like a breed apart
H says: I think that's the only reason why SLRs are so expensive - to make the old analogue professionals feel like they still have an edge over the camera phone bloggers
H says: and yes, probably only reason why they're made to need the oldskool lenses too
H says: they are special tho
K says: no, I personally can't see too much difference to a picture some guy posts on his website taken at 8M + sooperdooper-zoom and my fuji at 2M
K says: it's like paying 8x more to go on an ego trip, and carry a much heavier camera
K says: then again, I do have a bunch of sour grapes
H says: I, on the other hand, have a lovely bunch of coconuts

All a preamble to my latest link. Click for pictorial goodness - now with extra sets! Though still not sure what tags are for and why I should use them.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Red Dress
I always saw, I always said
If I were grown and free,
I'd have a gown of reddest red
As fine as you could see,

To wear out walking, sleek and slow,
Upon a Summer day,
And there'd be one to see me so
And flip the world away.

And he would be a gallant one,
With stars behind his eyes,
And hair like metal in the sun,
And lips too warm for lies.

I always saw us, gay and good,
High honored in the town.
Now I am grown to womanhood....
I have the silly gown.
- Dorothy Parker

Went into a nearby retro clothes shop on Tuesday on a whim: could this mad, dusty heap of junk yield a dress for me to marry in? I pointed at a clump of red and pink dresses hanging in the rafters and asked the shopkeeper to bring them down to me. He was as unconvinced as I was that any of the outrageous items he unhooked would fit me or even be wearable as some were really very old and in bad condition or blindingly hideous - or both. I took two from him that purported to be my size and I ducked behind a rack of fur coats to try them on (this was the changing room, I was told).

Without really looking at the dresses, I put the first one on. I walked out into the middle of the shop to the only full length mirror. I looked at the shopkeeper whose mouth was open in surprise. Just like mine. It fitted perfectly. I mean, perfectly. The colour was incredible. The condition was pristine. The cut, shape and style was magnificent and like nothing I have seen before. I was told that it has actually been seen before, in the late fifties / early sixties when this dress was first brought into the world. I tried on the next one.

See above.

I didn't feel the need to choose between them. I now have two wedding dresses. Three, if you count the unsuitable eBay purchase I made a month ago. And for those who have known me for a while, I was never going to marry without an interval and a costume change, was I?

Enough dress talk: I feel as if I have spent a ridiculous amount of time and mental, physical effort on the part of my wedding that interests and inspires me the least. Photos of the dresses pre-wedding by request only - email / call / text / Instant Message me if you're keen to see 'em, otherwise I'm going to leave the subject well alone and concentrate on the other details of the day.

Ideally, I would wear a smile and a very small pair of pants and improv dance my way across Hyde Park towards Taxloss who would be feeding ducks by the Serpentine while four cellists play something composed just that morning... we'd say our vows then mount our waiting horses and gallop around the park until we got to the exit opposite the Lanesborough Hotel where all our friends and family would be having dinner and preparing to dance on the roof. Our suite would have a balcony where we can watch the fireworks and would have a very prominent "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door.

And then I'd wake up...

Friday, March 10, 2006

"Well, whaddya know?"
So, I went away for a few days to enjoy some new theatre, see old friends, make new friends, admire hats and play games. While running around between hangovers, I was trying my best to find the ultimate dress, with no success.

I come home dress-less, and discover a new shop has opened on the street where I live, taking up the spot that has been unoccupied for over five years.

Well, whaddya know? It sells one thing, and one thing only.

Bloody dresses. You wait over a year and a half for the right one, even leave the country for the sake of it and then a shopful turn up all at once.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

"Usted esta acqui"
Hurrying back from a meeting this afternoon through the rain, got stopped by an elderly couple, obviously lost. They thrust a map at me, damp and much consulted and pointed to where they wanted to go. Realised they were muttering in Spanish between themselves and I leapt at the chance to be (quite) useful.

"Usted esta acqui. Izquierda, derecha. Vale?"

They were distinctly less impressed than I was by my poor but useful approximation of Spanish, but at least they were no longer lost.

Monday, March 06, 2006

"When shall we three meet again? In London, Nantes or... I dunno, outside Burger King at about 1pm?"
There's something significant about three sisters. Chekhov, Shakespeare and Woody Allen have all grasped the potency of putting three women together in sibling rivalry, sibling support and three-way gossip-mongering. Sisterhood is a special bond (and I'm not talking about the icky "sistahood" that desperate film execs and Bridget Jones-blinded publishers like to think is an accurate representation of female relationships) - when there are three sisters, it's particularly special.

But when shall we three sisters meet again, and where? Since one of us lives in France now, it's kind of difficult to organise lunch and shopping with the regularity of previous years. But for some reason, maybe its the alignment of the stars, maybe the leylines have shifted or perhaps Ryanair has a particularly good deal on flights at the moment, we have managed it. We shall be in France together in the middle of April. I don't think the three of us have been on a flight together since 1988. Our collective sisterly excitement is... shrill.

Must abandon my Spanish for now and concentrate on my French:

"veuillez laisser la bouteille"
"sil-vous-plait, aidez-moi à trouver mes chaussures"
"Je ne peux pas trouver mon sac à main"

And so on.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Madrileno Returns
Wednesday , 22nd February, 2006
8.30am
Arrive at work
8.30pm
Leave work
9.15pm Dinner with Taxloss, lots of red wine. Go home and fall asleep on sofa for unexpectedly long amount of time.

Thursday, 23rd February, 2006
2.00am Finish packing. Lie down. Check alarm clock. Pass out.
6.00am Alarm clock starts beeping. Turn it off, turn over, go back to sleep.
6.30am Panic, get out of bed, get dressed in the dark, say goodbye to a very sleepy Taxloss, run out of flat wishing I had taken a shower and had a coffee.
7.00am Board Gatwick Express train. Secretly plot to maim, kill and burn the corpses of all the irritating business travellers who crowd on after me, on their way to a meeting and some cheap strip shows on their expense accounts.
8.00am Check-in. Buy a decent, inexpensive watch to replace dead one, have it adjusted, sip a coffee on the way to my gates.
8.45am Board plane. Fall asleep instantly.
12.45pm Land at the new terminal 4, Madrid-Barajas. Get horribly lost inside the shiny, pretty new airport. Finally catch a bus into the town centre then the metro to my hotel. Check in and fall asleep, despite the paper-thin walls and the endless Spanish chatter of the other guests wandering around outside my room.
6.00pm Wake up, take a shower, get dressed, head out into town to start my Madrid adventures.

Yes, I went to the Museum of Ham again. No, I didn't find a wedding dress. Yes, I had an
excellent time.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Kneehigh Nights at the Circus
Finally, I have seen a show by Kneehigh! Their latest, at the Lyric Hammersmith, was an adaptation of the Angela Carter novel, Nights at the Circus

It was
brilliant. The Lyric is hideous and too well-blended into its shopping centre suroundings to be attractive or inspiring. But once inside the auditorium , it's a Victorian music hall fantasy with red velvet seats, elaborate and heavy gold-painted plaster work everywhere and the kind of lighting that somehow suggests gas lamps and lime lights. Perfectly suited to this play - the nipple tassels, corsets, grubby backstage relations and dangerous onstage acts that included trapezes, man-eating tigers and highly abusive clowns in jealous rages were all made magical and gritty at the same time by the theatre's style.

And the ending... the entire audience was holding its breath and urging the two lovers to touch, to grab each other and kiss as they sailed up and down and through the air on their bungee ropes, the girl with the feathers seeming to really fly out her lover's grasp while he strained to reach her from the ground, eventually leaping off high enough to fly through the air with her and finally, breathlessly, grabbing her and kissing her.

Lovely. Am in the mood for more nights at the theatre now. Am also spending far too much time thinking about nipple tassels and how they stay on. Must do more research.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Official: the cheesiest speed-dating... ever!
The UK Online Winter Lodge

I've been invited to the opening night and suspect it will either be

a) a crappy Hoxton cocktail bar with loads of cheap pine cladding stuck on the interior walls and around the big screen TVs normally reserved for screenings of shite short independent films made by the barman's sister-law who couldn't get a place at St Martin's

or

b) beautiful, wonderful, chic and sexy, full of fondue and fun people and things that make me want to stay there forever

We shall see.

In other news, and looking ahead, how about this for a way to see the sights? The lovely Prandial may be rather busy when I visit his town at the end of this month so this motorised donkey ride around town could be just the thing to keep myself occupied while I'm there.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Hypatia Avenue: Ticking Every Box
I had to organise and set up a one day course today. Out of the twenty people I had in the room, there were:

Two profoundly deaf people with accompanying sign language interpreters
One person with shortened arms possibly due to Thalidomide
One person with a wheat and dairy-free diet
One vegan
One person with only one arm
One Korean with limited English
At least two gay men
One person I suspect is a recovering alcoholic
Several black people
No visibly religious people but I'm sure I had one or two followers of particular faiths in the mix too

I ticked every possible Equal Opportunities box before 10.00am.I feel oddly proud of myself. (Especially as my presence topped up the ethnic minority count.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The 2005 Round-Up
Five weddings - church, Bangladeshi, countryhouse, hotel then restaurant, eating-dancing-speeches-drinking in Dulwich

Went abroad twice: to Venice in March and Madrid in July

Did not smoke

Ran 10km in 1 hour and 6 minutes in the Nike Run in October

Had minor cosmetic surgery

Went fishing in the sea for the first time with my family and almost-in-laws

Bought four pairs of shoes

Rediscovered non-wired bras

Learned and cooked several lentil recipes "improving my pulse rate"

Also learned and cooked more Morroccan and Chinese recipes

Wrote 48 posts for Londonist plus 3 posts co-written since joining the team in June

Was part of the effort that won the -ist challenge in November

Cheered and jumped about in Trafalgar Square with thousands of other people when the Olympics bid was announced

Used a bidet for the first time

There are probably more things I should include on this list but I'll add them as I think of them.

Photos

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