Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sleep Standing Up - You Can Do It On the Bus Coming Over Here

I’ve been busy. Everyone is busy. I’ve been very busy. Certainly giddy. Almost breathless. Shall I tell you what I realised when I met a friend last week? We hadn’t seen each other since the start of summer so we had a lot of news to share. He had been in Edinburgh and had won awards for a play, was embarking on an opera discovery and was continuing his usual business. As for me…

… I had changed my name

… I had moved house

… I had started my critical writing programme and was fully immersed in conferences, interviews, festivals, theatre and countless performances, each one a story in itself

… I had taken up part-time work at a private hospital and was learning Arabic

… I had dropped my Spanish classes in order to keep evenings free for even more theatre-going

… I had been to France to visit my brand new niece

… I had been to Falmouth, Cornwall to have a great time at a friend’s wedding

… I had been to Great Dunmow, Essex to have a great time at my cousin’s wedding where I was unexpectedly reunited with my old friend and former boss Chinese Elvis

… I had been to a big wedding banquet at the same restaurant where I had hosted my own wedding banquet the year before

… I had designed and hosted a Londonist pub quiz

… I had almost become a magician’s assistant but it didn’t work out

… I had almost become a worker at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club but it didn’t work out

… I had been busy.

I told you.

I will continue to tell you. With photos. Watch this space.

And watch my ongoing list of where I'm going to be that turns into a list of where I have been faster than I can update it. To your left, or to Facebook where I seem to be spending a lot of time.

Monday, September 10, 2007

"A Very Ugly Picture"

Story #0812 has been written, performed and archived. Though the live performance was not recorded or archived, the text is available.

You must make it brighter. Clouds are not black. They might sometimes be very, very dark grey but never, ever black.


1,001 Nights Cast
For those who are interested and those who are able to tune in, I will be writing performance #0812, due to be broadcast as a live webcast at 19.27, sunset, London time. This is an extraordinary durational performance by Barbara Campbell, consisting of 1,001 short performances broadcast as live webcasts at sunset each evening, for 1,001 consecutive nights. Each performance is written for Barbara with a prompt she has chosen that day from newspaper reports on the Middle East. On Monday 10 September, I will be the writer.
Learn more about the 1,001 Nights Cast here.
I'm looking forward to this enormously. Hope you are too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

London, Sydney, New York, Toronto... Tower Hamlets

Well, well, well. Only a month or so since I dropped by to witter about cooking and cocktails and hangovers and it's like a different life.

First of all, I'm going to be on the BBC World Service tonight! And possibly on Friday too! Details are here.

I've moved house, to a beautiful two-bedroom flat in Mile End with floor to ceiling bay window, unfeasibly large bathroom and lovely kitchen. I'm finally cooking on a gas cooker which makes me and my wok very happy, though we don't have a freezer so batch cooking is no longer an option. The trees in this area are beautiful - there's a grand old sycamore, a crabapple loaded with red fruit, holly bushes and lots of others I can't name. All very lovely and we're enjoying the chance to set up home together after years of renting furnished places. We're going to buy a sofa. It's all so very

What's also very married is changing my name. I resisted taking my husband's name for various reasons and have so far kept my maiden name, but have gradually become very keen on double-barrelling. I did some research and looks like I'm going to have to complete my name change by deed poll rather than via my marriage certificate which is pretty cool. Just as well, as I haven't a clue where the marriage certificate is and we famously put it in the bin on our wedding night. I'm tempted to add a few middle names in the process as it will cost the same amount and I'm unlikely to have another chance to do this... but all I've come up with are things like Burpy McBunface and Fat March, Hollow Legs, Huffy T, Aloysius Hero and such. Let the form filling begin!

I've made myself sick on cherries, gin and wine at a dinner party in Earl's Court, which was a rather grim way to end a fantastic night out, catching up with friends, friends of friends and new people who have since become friends. Thankfully, I survived the looooooong taxi journey home and was quite ladylike about the whole business in my own home. It's been a gin-heavy summer so far with lots of gin-sponsored events and excessive gin drinking in my own time; I haven't touched a drop of mother's ruin since.

I've had my parents sister visit me in Mile End and in typical hysterical fashion, had a very fun day. True East End pie, mash, jellied eels with mugs of tea on Roman Road then a bizarre attempt to drag an immensely heavy travel cot and antique Breville sandwich toaster home through the rain which almost saw the end of my dad and sister. Back at the flat, we had Chinese tea and uninspiring cakes from a chain bakery; mum demonstrated some Bollywood dancing she had seen in Trafalgar Square, turning out her barefeet like a ballerina imitating a limping crab while dad dismantled a wheelie suitcase of mine and used plastic bags, string and elastic bands to lash the travel cot to it.

Once the rain stopped, we crossed the road to wait for a bus that completely failed to arrive until mum remembered the polystyrene cup full of jellied eels she had left in my fridge. The second I got back on to the street with the eels, the bus arrived and I ended up running the length of the bendy bus while my mum dashed around on the other side, panicking and shouting "Throw it! Throw it!" while my dad and sister hauled the damned travel cot on board. Parents, eels, travel cot, parents and siblings got home safely. I went back to the flat with my nerves slightly frayed.

I've seen some interesting things at the Camden Fringe, and a beautiful, dreamy installation at Shoreditch Church.

I'm currently listening to old cassette tapes that have resurfaced because of the move. I made myself hoarse singing along to Judy Garland, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra this morning and this afternoon, it's been 1997 all over my living room as I've played old favourites like Suede, Heather Nova, Drugstore, Beck, Luscious Jackson.

And that's all for now. How are you?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dinner Is Served

I've joined Facebook.

I've drank cocktails here and danced in some godawful nightclub along King's Road until 3.30am, then stood around hungover and unwell, for once not enjoying a tall glass of free Hendricks and tonic the following day here. I was bucked up by the friendly crowd and silly antics of the tweedy competitors and then had a far more comforting Sunday, food shopping and having coffee with friends and family, then having a hysterical mental breakdown in a cab, in a traffic jam, only a few metres away from the theatre where we should have been picking up tickets and a cool pre-concert drink five minutes ago. The psychological snap, 'with a sound like a breadstick being broken at a drowsy picnic' was lovingly soothed by Philip Glass and the Smith Quartet and the warm hand of my husband holding mine in the dark.

And I've been cooking.

We had a special guest joining us for dinner last Monday and as cherries are in season, and I've not had much experience in cooking duck, I thought it was time to combine the two in a grown-up, proper menu. So... three duck breasts, a bag of wild samphire, a pound of luscious fresh cherries, a pile of sweet potatoes, three bulbs of fennel, a head of romaine lettuce, Turkish rose water, baklava and fresh fat strawberries were all combined over a laborious but loving 48 hours to create this:

Aperitifs: Organic elderflower cordial with sparkling spring water; wild Norfolk samphire and spicy poppadums
Main course: Seared duck breast with fresh cherry sauce, crisped sweet potato domes, braised fennel and romaine lettuce
Dessert: baklava, rose water strawberries, scented creme fraiche with organic Bath honey, Portuguese coffee
Wine list: sparkling spring water, La Bicyclette French shiraz, 2005

Over the last weekend, I've been doing some more cooking, for the relaxation but also for the experimentation and challenge to myself. Late on Saturday night, I was making vegetable bean burgers so I could comfort my various hangovers with a burger and chips without resorting to any horrendous fast food outlet.

And most of Sunday was spent making the following:
28 samosas using wheat tortilla wraps - the idea is to stick them in my freezer then bake them when I want them. No frying and the tortilla wraps make very pleasantly crisp shells around a moist and tasty lamb, potato and onion filling
3 batches of lentil and spinach curry - plenty of iron, all the B vitamins and vitamin C with little salt or fat, lots of fresh flavours
2 batches of beef rendang - with more fresh ginger than normal so I expect it to be sharper and more interesting than how it normally turns out
steamed nori and minced pork rolls with water chestnuts, steamed brown rice, steamed sliced greens with ginger and a fillet of unidentified fish my mother gave me for my freezer a few weeks ago


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Please do not make references to Imelda Marcos
She had lots of shoes too, but they are all in a museum now. My lovely shoes are free to walk the streets of any major international city I might care to wander. Look at my 17 pairs of beautiful shoes:

There are only 16 pairs in the picture as I am wearing a pair of pink flip flops just out of shot. They are all lovely.

Bow down and literally worship at my feet!

This is the kind of blog entry that comes from idle moments at home with a digital camera and a rare urge to really tidy my wardrobe.

Monday, June 11, 2007

"Where have you been?"
Thursday 17 May 2007 Take It Home by These Horses at BAC. A fun evening which has unexpectedly led me to booming early 1990s dance music. I am also now a big fan of the Flashdance soundtrack. Full review here.

Saturday 19 May 2007 A long evening bar-hopping around London Bridge with Tash, Katy, Lucy and Ali and catching up on all the news: refurbishing flats, the medical training applications scandal, playing Darth Vader in the Star Wars exhibition, contraception, boyfriends, husbands, friends and enemies, the weather, the perfect bra and gin. Lots of gin. I don't remember eating at any point. In fact, I don't remember much of this evening at all, except how happy I felt when I crawled into bed.

Tuesday 22 May 2007 Londonist editorial meeting and a PR meeting in Shoreditch / Old Street. More bar-hopping but for entirely semi-professional reasons. We did not drink whisky which was unusual. And sobering.

Thursday 24 May 2007 More PR events, this time a lot of Pimms on the lawn that suddenly appeared on Trafalgar Square. It was very pretty and sunny and, oh my, isn't free Pimms rather lovely?

Friday 25 May 2007 Back to Shoreditch / Old Street for my first meeting for the Critical Writing Initiative. Lots of work to do and it's clear I'm not going to be allowed to just coast through this, but we had organic pizza by the yard and got to know each other as a group and naturally, we have a blog to keep us going.

Saturday 26 May 2007 I got locked into the Ladies toilet of the Hackney Empire with five strangers and we discussed "What is Non-art?" for an hour while being taped by an artist who was positioned outside the room. We piled into a nearby pub once the cameras were turned off and continued our Washroom Talk, then each got our payment which turned out to be a Smurf-coloured bar of laundry soap with a cunning key pattern pressed into the top. I love it. It smells of 1952. The full story of the Washroom Talk is here.

Sunday 27 May 2007 A very civilised vegetarian brunch with the wonderful Eleanor and Sarah in the wonderful Ottolenghi. It was raining. It was crowded. Sarah had been travelling in maddening loops and whirls around North London to join us, eventually giving up on the collapsed Northern Line and arriving stylishly though flustered in a cab. Then, replete with vegetarian goodness, I spent the afternoon with my parents, plotting our journey to France and exhausting myself with family gossip.

Tuesday 29 May 2007 We arrived in France and started our fortnight of ice-cream, coffee, beaches, moules and frites, cheese, pate, rillettes, Chinese rice porridge and medicinal soup, card games, chess, Scrabble, running along the seafront, buying more than we could carry in the local market and supermarkets, standing on chairs to complete our mosquito massacre, oysters, idle gossip, changing nappies, taking naps, birthday cake and... spending a lot of time with a very special little girl... Full Flickr set of photos here.

Sunday 10 June 2007 Our wedding anniversary. Hard to believe it's been a year - so much has happened, so much has yet to happen, I could happily marry that man again and often say so to him. We still had gift vouchers from the tottering pile of wedding presents and spent the last of them on a set of a kitchen knives in the shiny Habitat on King's Road and then shared a big platter in the Asmara restaurant in Brixton. There's something about this Eritrean restaurant which relaxes and unites us; we ate with our hands and scooped up thick stew and vegetables with torn off scraps of pancakes then lingered over the aromatic coffee that was served to us with the full ceremony, some incense and big bowl of freshly popped popcorn. We went home and lit the heart-shaped sparklers we had saved from a wedding card given to us last year and had a little sparkly moment together on the patio. A very happy anniversary.

Thursday 14 Jue 2007 To Artsadmin for Richard Deacon's Prototypes - a fun evening of model railways, real time train schedule re-enactments, train crashes that failed to crash ("OH MY GOD!"), dropped scripts and reluctantly autobiographical musings on watching trains pass through Southall from a fifth floor flat.

Friday 15 June 2007 Yet more PR events, this time a tasting tour of Borough Market which was so good, I almost wept. I love Borough Market and oh, god, this tour made me love it even more. We met the people running their stalls and tried wheatgrass juice, hand-dived scallops, wild samphire, the perfect parmegiano reggiano, white balsamic vineger, red wines that are better chilled, various Spanish hams including one made from a breed of pig rescued from extinction, Isle of Wight tomatoes in oil, honey infused with white truffles and... oh, lots of things, lots and lots of delicious, fascinating things. We finished the tour in Roast overlooking the market, sipping chilled muscadet and knocking back a few oysters.

And then after all that, I went home and enjoyed a very giggly and oddly literary late dinner with my husband in our local Thai restaurant, so close by we could see our front door. We eavesdropped on the couple next to us discussing their wedding plans and felt superior and nostalgic as well as rather overfed by the time we crossed the road to go home.

So. That's where I have been. Where did you go?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"But what will you do once you've quit your job?"
Since Friday 27 April, the following has happened:

- I quit my job after 3.5 years and had a very drunken, hilarious leaving party. My colleagues gave speeches and lots of leaving gifts that made me realise how well they all they know me despite my best efforts to keep any interesting part of myself out of the office. Among the gifts were a world map of endangered animals, a map of 16th century Spain, a cactus, an envelope of used bank notes, a specially designed events evaluation form (my area of responsibility from day one on the job), a bag of pear drops and a book of days out in London.

- I have had my first ever professional back, shoulder and head massage and spent a day at the Porchester Spa. Hopped around between the sauna, steam room, icy plunge pool and lounge area, then left feeling cleansed and free and light. Then we went to the beautiful Bedouin restaurant nearby and replaced all the nasty toxins we had lost during the day and sat puffing away quite happily on a hubbly bubbly pipe. Absolute bliss. We're going to do it all over again, oh yes, we are.

- As of today, I am Co-Editor and Events Editor of Londonist.

- As of today, I am an aunt to a little girl who has just arrived in France. Congratulations to my sister and brother in law, and hello first grandchild in the family!

- I turned 27 and marked the day by being unemployed, lying in bed at 4pm with a family size bag of crisps, a glass of cold Muscadet and The Guardian, then prepared endives jambon for dinner, after which I fell asleep on the sofa, content and happy and a little bit older, in the arms of my husband while our Seinfeld DVDs played quietly in the background.

- It's just been confirmed: I'm one of three very lucky people to be accepted on to this year's Live Art Development Agency Critical Writing Initiative. I am so damn excited, this is an excellent opportunity to work with artists, established critcs and journals, publications, I get a grant to help with the costs of seeing performances and will very gratefully receive all the support and encouragement to get started on the road to professional criticism.

"But what will you do once you've quit your job?"

Darlings, I'm going to start LIVING...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Good Friday in London

A walk from one side of Hyde Park to the other in order to see my parents and cousins for dinner, just as the sun began to set. I got caught up in a Critical Mass rollerblading event and was briefly surrounded by a huge clump of rollerbladers all dancing, slipping, lurching and gliding along to a thumping Euro-disco tune broadcast by a guy on a bike

Two competitive cousins trying to outdo each other in hugging me goodbye (one year old Aaron wins because he was intent and serious and didn't seem to enjoy it at all but was determined to cling on longer than his sister)

The top deck of a bus that reeked of spilled beer and fried chicken, which I've come to realise is standard on all London Transport buses after 10.30pm

The top end of Edgware Road just beginning to look busy as the affluent Arabic community began to gather for a typical "warm-weather" Friday night

A group of quite good-looking young men playing cricket with a bag of oranges, some traffic cones and proper cricket bats at about 11.30pm on my street corner

A pair of tramps lying back to back outside Oddbins off-licence, shouting and singing at each other

There were two, perhaps three occasions when I almost trod in vomit. It will clearly require a few more sunny bank holidays before the public learn to hold their wine once they've sat in a pub garden all day

Monday, March 12, 2007

Five Things You May Not Know About Me

1. I have had minor cosmetic surgery on Harley Street.

It was expensive. I've never regretted it.

2. I never, ever, ever blowdry my hair.

Not even at a hairsalon. I would rather walk out with wet, freshly cut, unstyled hair than have my head super-heated with warm air. My hair is very, very, very black (almost blue-black), and also very, very, very thick and heavy, dead straight and absorbs heat to such an extreme, there is always the risk I will pass out in the hairsalon chair if my hairdresser attempts the arm-breaking task of blowdrying the black mass on my head. So, no blowdry. Ever.

3. I have never climbed a tree.

I've vaguely swung on a low branch but have never had both feet off the ground or been higher than two or three feet up the trunk of a tree.

4. I smoked for 8 years.

From the second I turned 16 up to midnight 31 December 2004, I smoked Marlboro Lights, maximum 15 a day. I had a brief period of smoking American clove cigarettes with sugared filters. Towards the end of my tobacco tenure, I rolled my own cigarettes and was smoking only two or three tiny daily roll-ups for a while. My husband then quit very successfully with the Alan Carr method and I felt confident I'd quit and stay smoke-free too, so for the last month or so before my date to finally stop, I smoked all sorts of things in one last smoky romantic fling: menthol cigarettes, roll-ups made with liquorice paper, with menthol flavoured filters, different brands of rolling tobacco, different brands of cigarettes, cigars, shisha pipes... then I stopped. I have not smoked for over two years.

5. I don't wear a wedding ring.

We didn't manage to organise wedding rings in time for our ceremony and still haven't managed it. I wear my engagement ring. My husband has an unadorned hand.

That's all for now. More to come if I think of anything else.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Bradshaw, BAFTA, Bloggers and Exceeding The Discipline and Ethics of Print Journalism

Thanks to the lovely Ms Banks who is currently working her fingers to the bone at The Guardian, myself and 3 Londonist chaps were invited to a debate entitled The Role of the Film Critic in the Digital Age at BAFTA, jointly organised by the newspaper and the academy. We were able to chat to our favourite film critic Peter Bradshaw and Mike had a his moment of shameless hustling with Nick James, editor of Sight and Sound.

While I'm not a reviewer or critic of film, I consider myself to be both regarding live art, and the debate was fascinating as well as frustrating to me, even though it was not my particular art form. The mediums in which I write - this blog, Londonist, my private longhand journals, the articles that will hopefully one day be included in mainstream print media - are all at a point of change. The growth of online self-publishing and the abandonment of established editorial discipline and ethics is unnerving.

But to me, it is also exhilarating. What a privilege, to be at the forefront of this change! I embrace the challenges, I exult the contantly shifting goalposts, I think it's wildly exciting to be part of the team that says "Well, we're going to do it differently and we're going to do it like this..."

I was dismayed at the end of the debate to find that there was so much fear and trepidation in the room, and it was such a pity because I thought that fear and nervousness, as is so oftent he case, was based on ignorance.

I contributed several paragraphs in the Londonist post here.

And The Guardian has its take on the event here.

Well. What do you think?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

"Bad Photo, Great Haircut"

Still loving my new haircut. I've avoided having a fringe for years as the idea of it reminded me of the pudding bowl haircut I had throughout my childhood. But, just the other night, I was getting ready for bed and caught sight of myself in the mirror and thought, "Damn! That's a great haircut! You rock that fringe as much as Louise Brooks and Pulp Fiction-era Uma Thurman ever did!" So I stood and took pictures of myself until I felt a bit silly and went to bed.

Meanwhile, I'm still digesting the extremely detailed scene-by-scene account of Babel as given to me by my mother last Friday. She mentioned she had watched it with Chinese subtitles and I casually asked, half-interested, what she thought of it and what happened in the film. 45 minutes later, she was at full volume, full speed, and had only described to me the first third of the film. She kept mixing up Morroccans with Mexicans so I got very confused, and has re-christened Brad Pitt as Blad Pettar which I love dearly. For some moments, I thought she was talking about Blue Peter which was even more confusing than mixing up Morroccans and Mexicans in the context of this film.

I don't think I'll watch it after all. It just wouldn't be the same without automatic shouted-out Cantonese audio-description with simultaneous running commentary about who in our family is getting married next, what my dad thinks of my proposed career change from employed to unemployed and why did I want to cut my hair to look like Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra? She got really fat later in life, and she's friends with that creepy Michael Jackson. He's a paedophile. He killed his monkey because he thought he was going to prison and he didn't want anyone to look after it but then it turned he had could sell his theme park and move to Dubai to become a Muslim and repent...

And so on. No film is really complete without it.

Monday, February 19, 2007

"Good Morning!"

It's probably a sign of a relationship coming to an end, just through the attrition of time and familiarity, when a colleague greeted me this morning with a smile and a cheery

"Good morning! Hope you had a good weekend, happy new year to you!"

And all I could think of saying in reply was:

"Oh, go fuck yourself."

Time to leave, before I actually start saying these things out loud, rather than typing them up here in furious bursts of outrageously unreasonable and inappropriately disgruntled behaviour.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I'm officially in with the in-crowd. Come and visit me and my cool friends.

I'm also a food geek. I've been experimenting with non-cheese cheese and have attempted to make raw flapjacks this week. I've been thinking about the food writing that I want to do (and who I want my food writing to be read by) and have decided that the only way to develop the way I want to develop is to try as many different things as possible and broaden my repertoire of recipes and basically challenge myself more.

So this week, I bought a small block of vegan cheese. And I regretted it.
It is vile but strangely compelling. One of the main ingredients is potato starch. It's like a block of compressed instant mash flavoured with the "parmesan flavoured" powder that cheap pizza parlours put out on tables. I am convinced the stuff is evaporating in my fridge. The ingredients are:

Water, potato starch, non-hygrogenated vegetable fats & oils, soya protein, yeast extract, thickener: carrageenan; salt, flavouring, emulsifying salts: tricalcium phosphate, colour: carotene

What the fuck is carrageenan?

I'm a big cheese fan - I'm happiest with the bluest, softest, ripest and most pungent, full fat and perhaps unpasteurised stuff that is available (but never goat's cheese. Oh, god, how I hate goat's cheese). I feel like I have betrayed some sort of community by bringing this vegan atrocity into my house and onto my cheeseboard. Mea culpa.
Munda cor meum ac labia mea. I can't even cook with it because it doesn't melt the same way real cheese would. I haven't even considered grating it; when cut into very small pieces it has a tendency to crumble then reform into what looks and feels like nearly dried toothpaste.

However, my raw flapjacks are a success. Raw food diets are so odd and against everything I have been brought up to believe about food (salad isn't food, it's just a pile of *ingredients* on a plate according to my dad, the Chinese chef) that I had to investigate.

A raw flapjack is basically a handful of dried figs soaked in warm water so they're soft and moist then put in a blender for a short while so they form a sticky paste. Into the paste, I pressed an equal amount of muesli, seeds and some chopped dried apricots, then wrapped it all in clingfilm and chilled it in the fridge. Not bad, a good breakfast snack that doesn't crumble too much and is not only completely raw but vegan too.

Next week: I'm going to be entirely kosher. Oy vey!

Monday, January 29, 2007

"Just try to relax. This might feel a bit odd..."
I've had a very busy but very productive Monday in the office, which is very rare. Still, I've just had a weekend of activity and productivity so I'm hoping this streak of energy for Getting Things Done continues. Hard to believe that only a week ago, my Monday was like this:

I went to work and had a fairly productive morning

Had lunch and brushed my teeth thoroughly afterwards

Went to the dental surgery ward of Guy's Hospital about 5 minutes walk away from my office and incidentally, only two minutes walk from the Old Operating Theatre which I had visited on Friday. The dusty bottles of ether and strychnine, the 2 inch wide syringes and rusty, gigantic saws for amputation were still lodged very prminently in my imagination. I was pleased to be in the 21st century about to have surgery and at the same time feeling absolutely rotten about it.

I sat in a scary dentist's chair with an amazing 23rd floor view of London

A very nice nurse and a very nice doctor dressed me in a bib and a lot of paper towels and unwrapped some trays full of shiny tools

Then they gave me four massive anaesthetic injections in my lower lip

Then they cut into the swelling that has been distorting my lipstick for the last few months and removed the cyst and damaged saliva gland that has been causing all my disgusting and disfiguring trouble

There was a lot of blood. I had to wear goggles because there was a small amount of gory spurting and both doctor and nurse had to lean on my face in order to get the curved blades in at the right angle. I counted three different types of scissors being used on my numb and swollen lip

Two stitches and lots of swabs later, I was on the tube home

My mouth was still numb and a bit bloody when Mr Avenue came home and we couldn't enjoy our usual "welcome home" kiss which made me rather sad because I would have liked a bit of comforting

The anaesthetic finally wore off and I was hungry so despite the soreness of the incision and the bruising along my lower lip, we had dinner

I went to rinse my mouth with hot salt water as recommended by my surgeon and decided to investigate the site of my operation

There was a bit of blood. And there was one less stitch

I had eaten one of my stitches

I had had quite enough for the day, so I went to bed early feeling rather creeped out with myself but was mildly cheered when I went through my wallet the next morning and realised I had won a voucher for a bag of frozen beans from Sainsburys

A week later and there's a definite indentation to mark that something had happened to my lower lip but apart from that, I can eat again, I can paint my lips red again, I can bite into hard green apples without worrying about bursting the damned cyst and best of all...

... I can kiss again. I'm very, very, very pleased. Aren't you?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Falling Asleep on the Train Will Be Very Different This Time
While Prandial ponders the heavy footfall of his carbon tread upon this earth, I'm congratulating myself on having undertaken a flight-free five day solo tour of the south coast of England last August which took me from Lyme Regis in Dorset to Bridport, West Bay, Dorchester, Winchester and Brighton. I took lots of pictures. There were lots of cathedrals, Roman ruins, cooked breakfasts, apple trees, charming little hotels, thoughtful strolls along quiet beaches and uplifting climbing around beautiful cliffs. I finally wore out my hardcore walking sandals as I must have walked miles each day, over all sorts of terrain. And I spent a lot of time on local buses that were not much bigger than a minibus, sitting next to old folks with baskets and trolleys who were spreading their shopping between three or four market towns or sometimes sullen teenagers longing to have something to do in their long summer holiday. I overheard a lot of gossip, a lot of tutting and sighing and cackling in soft West Country accents put forth by all age groups and genders.

Though I had to plan carefully to get to my destinations in time and not spend too much of my day getting on and off local buses, I felt connected with the places I was travelling through. I felt safe and protected among these people who were always quick to offer advice ("oh no, that bus will take you hours to get there... just nip across that field there... when you see the house with the red door, it's only another ten minutes past the duck pond...") and who were proud of their towns. I really enjoyed counting apple trees as I trundled along between villages and towns; the buses were often so slow, I could wave and pull faces at babies being pushed in their buggies alongside the bus lane. I spent a lot of time on trains too and felt my imagination and creativity stirring as the landscape passed by and day turned to dusk then into night as I made my way from one town to another.

Ryanair makes me sick. I'm always ill after flying with them - and Easyjet. Even British Airways makes me feel flu-ish after I've flown with them. Airports are depressing and unglamorous places. I always feel sad when I've rushed to the airport, bags packed and ready for adventure and then I have to sit still for hours when I want to be on my way. It's awful to land somewhere I've been looking forward to visiting only to be grumpy, grubby and badly treated when all I want is to feel excited and enthusiastic and start my visit feeling relaxed and clear-headed.

With that in mind, and taking on board Prandial's thoughts on carbon footprints, and my own pleasant experience of local transport and long train journeys, I've booked another holiday for Mr Hypatia Avenue's birthday.

We're going to Edinburgh. In March. By sleeper train. We'll be away for 6 nights, two of which will be spent in our bunks, in our cabin, which we will board at midnight at one end of the country and depart at breakfast in a completely different town, very far away. We've picked a "boutique bed and breakfast" which is "straight-friendly" and "dog-friendly" and run by two lovely men and their Scotch terrier, just outside the town centre (some local buses may need to be used). Travel has just got a little bit more interesting with the new emphasis on ethical and environmental responsibility and I'm keen to take up the challenge. I may not have a very big carbon footprint but it's nice to know I don't have to risk enlarging it to have a nice time away.