Friday, December 28, 2007
Hyde Park on that morning everyone got grounded. Sorry but it was beautiful
My last week in London has made me hungry for it. I stare so shamelessly, I'm sure I should have been arrested many times over. And now I finally have the means to record these extraordinary moments. My life on the road will be a success after all. I've joined Flickr. I'm staying with Mr T and he knew how to do it.
Still, I'm determined to have a simpler life after all this travelling is over. I don't want to learn new things. I simply want to sit and read the 600 or so books I've stockpiled over the last year because books are hideously expensive in Australia and they also don't have a habit of leaping out of Oxfam bookshops and grabbing hold of your wallet. I'll never have to leave the house again.
I've done some fun things in the last week including spending the best part of a day in Hyde Park skating and going on rides and joining the Christmas throng in Oxford Street for the last time. Whereas I dislike shopping, I quite like the sight of other people doing it. It allows me to indulge in moral superiority. It's an issue for me getting my backpack down to a managable weight in any case. Once you've filled it full of mosquito repellent and malaria tablets, there's little room for anything else. I've had to learn to live without an umbrella even.
Does anyone remember the television programme My Friend Flicka? It was a show about a kid and a horse. There were lots of these entertainments around at the time. In the sixties, people in the country waited until they were pensioners to have one lonely child whose best friend was either a dog or a horse or, on rarer occasions, a kangaroo. Quite often one of the parents died and the other withdrew to his or her whittlin' or weavin', leaving the poor child with no recourse but to confide in their hairy friend.
The series was based on a trilogy of books by Mary O'Hara which Ialso lapped up. There was a 1943 film with Roddy McDowell too. In those days it was mandatory to have Roddy McDowell in any child/horse/dog combination. Ken McLaughlin, erstwhile friend of Flicka the horse had a toothless old uncle Pete who 'cut his teeth on a branding iron'. They don't make 'em like that any more. I once even wrote a series of songs which had a working title of Thunderhead, after the second book in the Flicka series.
Once getting older just meant losing your teeth, whether or not a branding iron was involved, and settling into elasticated waistbands. I've resigned myself to a month with just one pair of shoes so you can see my resistence to 'not letting myself go' is low, to say the least. The other day I was at a party and a friend who's in her late forties told us she was asked by a train conductor to show her 'Senior Rail Card'. She has a young son who is often assumed to be her grandson but no way does she look sixty.
It occurs to me that the nip-tuck culture has created an expectation that sixty-year-old women will now look forty-five. I didn't go through the whole politicising process of the seventies to end up in a situation where I feel obliged to have a facelift just to look my real age. It's absurd.
I am however grateful for the delete facility on the digital camera. Any snap that dares to infer that gravity and I have engaged in mortal combat is despatched to the ether from whence it came faster than Shergar's ashes. I may be above nipping and tucking but I'm certainly not one for shying from ducking and diving when it comes to the cruelty of the lens. There is no chance of me looking like Flicka on Flickr...
Monday, December 24, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
House of Pants has, this very day, passed into new ownership. The procedure is not dissimilar to how I imagine a ransom exchange going down. Your solicitor phones you to confirm that your money has been transferred into the bank account of your choosing. This triggers frantic phone calls from the estate agent, demanding to know when you're going to bring in the keys. You toy with them, the agents I mean. You have to. You also play with the keys. It's your last chance, after all? 'I'll be there within the hour', you say.
In reality, you're still hanging on the phone to Hackney Council's bulky waste service trying to get your old mattress and ironing board picked up. Yes friends, I have finally fulfilled my lifetime ambition of leaving my twenty-year-old Warren Evans mattress in the street. Only now can I truly call myself a Londoner.
I was also a bit held up waiting for people to collect all the superfluity I advertised on Freecycle. Miraculously, even my wackiest items found homes. What are the odds of four pairs of different sized Wellington boots (don't even think about asking), being taken by the same person? What would you say if I told you his name is Godfrey and his son runs an organic farming project? Result, hey! Three people phoned about a tambourine. Draw your own conclusions.
I dawdled away that hour and then some, largely because I could but also because I kept finding dirty patches even though I'd cleaned for a solid week. There is a weird rule of house selling that dictates you'll be forced to clean on a week of dull days only to find that the sun floods through your slimy windows on completion day, illuminating every organic red pesto spill you've ever failed to deal with appropriately.
After eleven years, you want to pick your own moment. It seems crazy after the months of fretting about it, but the situation demands that time bends to your will. So, I'm on the 236 bus, very likely for the last time, and the agent phones to tell me my buyer is there waiting to 'take possession'. Seriously, what do they think you're going to do - abscond with the keys? Apparently so. The key handover ceremony involves the agent taking a colour photocopy of all sets of keys and getting both the buyer and seller to sign the copies.
Do you have a kitchen drawer that looks like this?
Good, I am normal. I'm going to give you a piece of advice that you will never follow and neither will I. You will attempt to clean out this drawer approximately once every five years. When you do so, you will find at least one set of very large bolts. You will have no idea what these are and why you have them. There will be three of them which will give you the perfect excuse to throw them away. You'd think twice about it if there was an even number.
These are the 'travel bolts' for your washing machine. You would be wise to put them in an envelope and label them. No, I'm pretty sure I won't either.
Here are two of my three lovely removalists.
And yes, you will note that I've managed to transfer photos. After the fiasco of spending fifteen quid on a pointless lead, I ended up in Jessops in Islington where I had to discover from a ten-year-old that all I needed was a Universal Card Reader. Duh! So, why isn't anyone telling me this stuff?
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
It's not, however the photo that I wanted to put up tonight. House of Pants now resembles a junkie’s doss house. For several days I've been sleeping there on my ancient mattress which I fully intend to leave in the street. I’ve been waiting a generation to do that. I will, however, phone Hackney Council's free bulky waste service and ask them the pick it up rather than just abandon it like everyone else does. I took a photo of the grubby nest in which I've been sleeping, but it's trapped in the Kodak like an outtake from Jumanji.
I also don’t have access to the picture I took of the lovely removalists from Birmingham who magically spirited all my stuff away. Quite what my assorted chattels plan on doing in Birmingham, I can’t imagine. I can only hope Barney stays away from the Bullring. I've had him cryogenically frozen in a charming 1950s cocktail shaker I had lying around. It seemed a shame to offer it on Freecycle when it could provide a perfect temporary home for Barney. I’ve never seen him happier and, to be honest, the silence is bliss. I have a photo of that too.
The removalists were incredibly efficient, and therein lies the problem. Somehow the little lead that connects the Kodak to the computer slipped through a crack in the security cordon I set up to separate the ‘needed on voyage’ items from the rest of the tat I got fed up sorting out and just piled in a corner. Needless to say, that lead and my spare contact lenses are now languishing in a warehouse in Birmingham and I have put the Bosch electric drill, my Gore-Tex jacket and ski gloves on Freecycle. I found them all in the rubble after the removalists had left. I actually ran down the street after them with my nearly new Dr Scholl's sandals and that was embarrassing enough.
So I slipped out today in time I didn’t really have, to buy another camera to computer lead in order to carry on posting my own photos. After wading through several layers of queue-disrespecting tourists in Peruvian bobble hats, I finally found a nine-year-old in Curry’s who appeared to understand what was meant by ‘a lead that connects a digital camera to a computer’. Seriously, these can’t have a specific name can they? What would you call it? A Kodakacon? A Compudak?
Mindful of the propensity of modern manufacturers to create unique connection systems in order to maximise income from accessories, I asked said nine-year-old, ‘are these universal?’ He nodded, of course he did, as he would have had I asked him, ‘are these a cure for cancer, do you know?’ So I get back to my house-sit and locate a chainsaw to open the carton. It clearly proclaims itself a Digital Camera USB Cable so there is no question of gingerliness on my part in getting to the produce. I need to liberate my pictures, fast. The lead does not fit the Kodak and my £15 is up the spout. Calling all Freecyclers - anyone want a camera to computer lead that probably won’t fit your camera?
It's now clear to me just how seriously difficult it’s going to be managing my cyber-life on the road. I haven’t even left town yet and I’ve already lost the ability to manage my images. I now have total sympathy for all of Britney Spears’s multiple personalities.
What used to constitute my ‘stuff’ has all taken a separate journey and I feel very free. I don’t worry about it because none of it is that important. Some of it gave me grief, and I’ve a few stories to tell, particularly about the piano – but that’s a post in itself.
You know me as someone who trusts no one – because I’ve said so often enough. However, when I travel, I become a person who trusts everyone. As soon as the backpack goes on, I willingly place myself at the mercy of strangers, and few have let me down. Perhaps I should spend the rest of my life travelling. I wouldn’t complain if offered that opportunity, believe me (provided someone could sort me out with the right camera/computer interface).
Leaving this city where I’ve spend half my life, and the flat where I’ve lived longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere else apart from the council flat across the road I left it for, is overwhelming to me at present. I like overwhelming, most of the time.
It was weird for me, and quite embarrassing, to have loads of strange men milling around House of Pants packing my, errr, pants. The worst moment was when they pulled out the washing machine. It had been in-situ for some eight years. The layer of grime confronting us made a mockery of the Quentin Crisp assertion that ‘after four years, you don’t notice the dust’. Believe me, it was noticed. The guys found they needed ‘a smoke’ immediately after its discovery. Either dust is very sexy, or they were revolted enough to absent themselves while I applied enough Cillit Bang to invalidate Kyoto. My final exposure as a slovenly cow was strangely liberating.
Ever helpful, the removalists explained that I needed a ‘blank cap’ to put over the hole in the pipework exposed by the departure of my now quite clean washing machine. I responded with my ‘I should know about this, why?’ look, whilst wondering if it had anything to do with contraception. It sounded vaguely familiar. Undaunted, the head removalist brokered a call to my local hardware shop who signposted me to a plumbing suppliers in Hackney Road for the ‘blank cap’ that would render my kitchen sink usable again.
Opposite Hackney City Farm, I found a plumbing shop full of young Asian men all calling each other ‘uncle’. The removalists insisted I take the companion part. It was a useful piece of advice as the term ‘blank cap’ meant nothing two miles down the road. One of the ‘uncles’ produced a piece of brass confidently. I asked how much. He said ‘One pound twenty.’ I’d given the removalists my last twenty-pound note to buy themselves a couple of pints. In Birmingham, you can actually get a couple of pints for twenty quid. There was next to nothing in my purse. I asked the ‘uncle’ to direct me to the nearest cash machine. He said, ‘how much you got?’ I was able to draw together 60p. He said, ‘Okay, okay, now go.’
When I got home, I found the cap fitted. There’s a lesson there but it’s far too esoteric to be contemplated at present…
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Where there are leaves, there's hope - Elegantly head-dressed Wednesday
Pants is at the very end of her elastic, emotionally speaking. Forgive my converting to first person. I want sympathy, and lots of it. I am distraught, seriously. The move is not going well, (Barney, will you shut the fuck up!!). I wish you to know that cyanide commercially available on the internet is not of sufficient strength to dispatch a hybrid, especially one of Barney's indomitable fortitude. I should have worked that one out from the speed at which he turned the tables on the yellow fever.
Whatever possesses hypoallergenic pet manufacturers to persist with conventional selfish genes, I can't imagine. Surely the trade-off for threatening the stability of the global environment by unleashing a potentially lethal cocktail of genetic tutti frutti upon the hearths of the developed world is that all the undesirable characteristics of traditional species are 'designed out'.
I look at Barney and I think, what is the point of you. Barney says he now knows how the Duchess of York feels (except for the whole toe-sucking and being Beatrice's 'mummy-and-best-friendy' thing - which not even Barney is prepared to contemplate).
Christmas, divorce and moving are even more stressful than death for most people. (Arguably, if you're dead, you're no longer stressed, and that's something to look forward to). I chose to do them all at once. Although, having your hybrid pet put into cryogenic suspension doesn't technically count as divorce, I'm sure the personal toll is equivalent. I checked it out thoroughly.
Someone rather creepy from Furriers 4 Justice contacted me because he thought I ought to be entitled to some compensation and wondered whether Barney had a decent coat. I told him I presumed so since a Stella McCartney cashmere blend hooded jacket at £1,495 appeared on my last credit card statement. Since the order was for a size 000 and was placed at 4.15am, I figured it wasn't a panic reflex on my part.
Moving, after eleven years in one place can throw your inner project manager into a major time-frame crisis. I always thought I could accurately predict how long it would take to complete any task. I also laboured under the serious misapprehension that I had hardly any 'stuff'. The three cavernous built-in cupboards at House of Pants have been sleeping Tardii. They conceal items I could never have imagined owning.
These new discoveries have created a massive time lag as I go, 'Barney what the fuck is this?' and Barney goes, 'how the fuck should I know'. Then we have to glare at each other suspiciously until one of us backs down and makes a cup of tea. Then there's the inevitable dilly-dallying over which pile the object I never knew I owned goes into.
There are five piles
- Definitely going to
- books, underwear. Australia
- Not sure - anything that isn't familiar but looks like it might have a purpose.
- Things to give to other people - tennis balls for my downstairs neighbour who's a tennis coach. Freeview box for my friend's son to watch the History Channel.
- Put on Freecycle - virtually anything electrical that I can't get clean - which is most of it.
- Backpack - the things I'll need for the next three months.
What I've noticed the most is that everything is so dirty and it's taking forever to get it all clean. Just as well Barney and I have had our diphtheria shots. (Now that I've decided on the cryogenic suspension, I'm looking forward to waking him up in gentler times. He might have turned into Buck Rogers by then).
The movers are coming tomorrow and I've managed to pack 25 boxes. In my panic, I'm sure to have packed important documents I find I need tomorrow, like bank statements and instructions on how to stop direct debits from being extracted from my account for the rest of my life. Oh, and I finally get around to signing up for online banking, beating down perpetual doubts about the security aspects, only to discover you can't transfer money internationally with it. Sorry? I thought the point of the internet was that it has no international boundaries.
Is it just me or is it so much harder to get everything done now? Maybe people with complex personal lives and an inexplicable penchant for switching utilities suppliers are used to this level of aggravation but it's all new to me. Why is it so difficult for suppliers to comprehend that you are moving house? Aren't we a predominantly transient population these days? Isn't it just a matter of hitting a key?
And then there's the insidious trait of modern city life which dictates 'what's my problem is your problem'. My new neighbour across the hall gave the neighbour underneath his old washing machine. Nice gesture you'd think. It's been sitting outside her front door, blocking the hallway for three weeks. I've left her notes telling her my movers are coming tomorrow. Still it sits there. Tomorrow I'll have to do something about that and live with moving men in my house for two days. They seem nice but they'll ask all sorts of questions I can't answer and I'll have to clean the bathroom tonight, just in case they want to dirty it up again.
Come Saturday, it will all be over. (Barney, will you shut the fuck up!)
Monday, December 10, 2007
Having a moment like this guy back in the summer of 2000. I snapped him in Islington on my way to a meeting I seriously didn't want to go to. The summer of 2000 was like that.
I dream of having this whole moving business over. I have nine pairs of scissors and can't find any of them. Going to India as an emigration interval was at least the stupidest idea I've ever had because it just makes everything so complicated. I'll love it when I'm there and it will all be worth it.
The demon that is Barney has flatly refused to help with the packing on the flimsy grounds that none of the stuff to be packed is his. Doesn't stop him using same I might add.
Anyway, must get back to the boxes. If you've got a mo, you might want to check out Barney's own webpage. He was memed by Signs so I succumbed to the pressure. I had a few emails suggesting I might be flouting the anti-discrimination laws, and even though they were obviously from himself, it hardly seems worth the bother to gag him. Barney is the hybrid for which 'enough rope' was invented.
I'm going to be otherwise occupied for the next week or so...
In the meantime, check this out - That's So Pants is ranked 3rd in London's hottest blogs over at London Daily Voices where Wednesday's post is also in the top ten this week.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Anyone had one of these lately, ever?
Twenty-five years ago, I left the then police state of Queensland Australia because of the total randomness of that state's interference in its citizens' private lives and because the music was better, obviously. For all this time, including living fairly precariously in squats and participating in decidedly fringe pursuits, I have evaded the attentions of HM Woodentops until now - one month before I officially resign my post as a council tax paying Londoner.
As a respectable middle-aged 'IC1 female', I was yesterday officially 'stopped' at Hackney Wick Station under 'Section 44 of the Counter Terrorism Act'. Admittedly, I was carrying a back pack. Our dozy little station serves about a dozen people an hour so why Hackney Police thought it was a reasonable use of police time to deploy ten officers to find some people to question about terrorism here is anyone's guess.
I was approached by a WPC who asked me if I'd be willing to answer some questions. Thinking this was a type of public consultation and since I'm currently harassing people for a crust under this very pretext, I truly thought it would be churlish of me to refuse. Next thing I know, Sister Sledgehammer has pulled out her fucking Stop and Searches book. Never mind the chummy, chummy approach. I had no right to refuse. Below is the net result of my encounter.
I've scratched out my personal details but it's hardly worth the bother since I know the police are keeping these on a database which was almost certainly hacked into by every under ten year old in the country before I'd bedded down last night.
The flimsy excuse under which I was 'stopped' was to ask me if I'd 'seen anything suspicious' on my way to work. I was tempted to offer that I'd noticed a Brazilian or two hastening to work but was wary of sparking a mass panic, if not slaughter. I thought the better and assured the WPC I'd nothing to report.
Before anyone gets steaming with me about the police needing to be seen to be vigilant when it comes to taking the threat of terrorism seriously, let me just say I'm very glad to have lived the last twenty-five years in a country where I am and feel free to protest. And I did. I told the WPC I found the method of approach invidious. Since the train still hadn't come and I liked the word so much, I harangued the Sergeant and demanded the name of the Borough Commander. I told the Jim Royle-alike Sergeant I'd write a letter of complaint. He looked so pleased I wondered if I'd inadvertently ticked another target box.
When I got to work with the Stop and Searches duplicate burning a hole in my hackles, railing for all I was worth, a black colleague quipped,
'You should try being black love.'
And rightly so. I have black friends whose kids could probably paper their bedroom walls with these things. I wouldn't expect to be treated any differently from my black friends' teenage sons in the same situation. But here's the weird thing. It seems to me my Stop and Searches experience was an exercise in collecting gratuitous but usefully comparative information. Put simply, they grabbed the opportunity to 'question' someone other than a young Asian male under Section 44 of the Counter Terrorism Act, because there was actually no one else around.
No one with a conscience wants the police to be constantly harassing young black and Asian men but, how is taking down the details of my attire going to avert terrorism exactly?
I snarled at the WPC,
'Well I certainly hope you meet your targets'.
'It's not just about numbers.'
Stupid fucking cow.
If you're the type of person who thinks that you've nothing to fear if you've done nothing wrong, you might want to rethink. It's very scary but the police can't seem to find a better way of keeping us safe but to treat us all as a potential risk to safety.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Bad news, for Barney at least. As you can see, he’s had an adverse reaction to the jabs for
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Edwyn Collins in his studio by Henri Kyriacous
‘I’m learning to sing again’, Edwyn Collins tells a devoted full house of fans in the bijou Arts Theatre in
Sunday, November 25, 2007
The Rudd celebrates the end of a long drought - from the Sydney Morning Herald
Australians are waking up to the first new government in eleven years right about now. Labor has won the election. It was a result that, although widely predicted, few dared hope for. I know how great it feels and I'm very much looking forward to enjoying the new mood when I return to my birth-mother country early next year. That there's a pointless full stop, (and I hope this doesn't come across as gratuitous tautology on my part), after 'New Leadership' on the banner above, indicates a refreshing lack of slickness. After ten years of British New Labour's 'style over substance' approach to public interface, I find the lack of attention to presentation cause for celebration.
I imagine the conversation with brand for u on this campaign that went,
b4U: What's your goal for your new brand?
Team Rudd: We end up running the Government.
b4U: Yes, but what's vision behind that?
Team Rudd: More people vote for us than the other guys.
b4u: Whatever. That'll be $500,000 (please, thank you).
Money well spent.
There was, to be fair, a certain cringing at House of Pants over the Kevin07 campaign. I can only say in defence of the incoming Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, if your name does happen to rhyme with the calendar year in which you're making your first stab at high office, you should go with the linguistic flow. Kevin's just nerdy enough to get away with it, and sodding well did too. Sis Pants, who incidentally suggested the title for this post, tells me that locally the Ruddster is known as The Milky Bar Kid. As long as he continues the Kid's tradition of giving rather than taking, we'll get along fine.
When I talk to Ma Pants in the morning, I know she'll be thrilled with the Ruddslide. She's a total Ruddite and won't mind me saying so. What we know so far is that the new government will withdraw Australian soldiers from Iraq and sign the Kyoto agreement. Already I feel as if I'll be going to live in a place that is so much more like the home that I recognise. I didn't know the place that imperilled and brutalised human beings fleeing persecution. I didn't understand the place that allowed working conditions to be eroded to a level below decency for the first time since the Great Depression. I do know that a change of government could make all the difference. It has before. And now there is hope of halting the march of greed and self-interest that made Australia all icing and no cake.
On ya Kev. The whole country woke up, smelt the low-fat latte, and saw that evil bastard Howard off. Not only did he lose the election, he lost his seat as well. Don't think you can start moaning about 'unfair dismissal' either Johnnie - you took away that right, remember? Let's hope your local Centrelink takes a tough line on lazy prats like you and hassles you to do voluntary work.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Pants with Pa Pants taken by Ma Pants a rather long time ago
I know, I know. It's all about me again and the presumption that I somehow represent elegance. All I can say is I have only my fantasies now. This is me and Pa Pants who died just before I came to live in
The dress was dark pink (and white, obviously). Ma Pants probably made it because she made all my clothes in those days. I also remember with great fondness the little baby pink angora bolero I'm wearing which probably means it was passed down to a succession of dolls. By the time my younger sister was born we were into more serviceable clothes. We were outdoor kids and I don't remember much about the clothes from then on until I was old enough to make or buy my own. This photo was taken just before my sister was born.
Another era is drawing to a close. Ma Pants was about the age I am now when Pa Pants died. When I left
I remember those last days in
Cut to the present. On any given Wednesday, like today for example, I travel to my temporary job in Ilford, which is nice and pays very well. From Ilford Station, I cut through a big shopping mall rather than walk down the dim, cold streets to my workplace. The mall is draped with pretty lights and Christmas grottoes and has been since the beginning of November. I don't even bother to protest about that any more. I do wish though that we could have had fairy lights in the trees in those dim, horrid years of the 80s when it would been really appreciated, rather than now when many of us can at least escape Britain cheaply and the feast of lights just shrieks 'global warming'.
It's fair to say I'm a little sad with the way things have turned out for me over the last twenty-five years. I love my life and I've never been unhappy in
This morning, shuffling through this could-have-been-anywhere mall, I heard good old ABC, distilled as walk-on-by musak. Shoot that poison arrow through my heart, world...
Monday, November 19, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
The Maharajah of Katpur by Michael Weigall 1986
My neighbours moved out today. You can't imagine what a relief that was - not I hasten to add because I didn't like them, far from it - but because they and I have been on exactly the same sales trajectory with our properties for the last 15 months. We had the same mendacious landlord and the same sweet but slightly off-the-ball lawyer. That they completed today makes me believe it is possible.
I've spent the better part of this week trying to fit the vast amount of information required by the High Commission of India onto its one page visa form. I've printed out half a dozen so I can keep practising my miniature calligraphy with the aid of a philatelist's magnifying glass. I hope to be able to make my final submission next week. I've already been subjected to one major scare over this when the High Commission shut down its Special Delivery postal service for a time. I had heard this was the only reliable way to get yourself a tourist visa other than to start queuing immediately after you stopped queuing for
Barney, my hypoallergenic owly-cat is yet another complication in my plan to spend a month unwinding in
Unsurprisingly, Barney perceived these found artefacts quite differently. And they say relationships with men are difficult. In short, a messiah paid a personal visit and the repercussions are still being felt at House of Pants. Never mind my entreaties that the 'Maharajah' to my certain knowledge was an (admittedly talented) alley cat from
However, those damn pearls are so blatantly fake. I know this because I have a set of real pearls and they do not look like that. I showed them to Barney and he bit them. This is where I totally lost my rag. I shrieked, 'that's diamonds, you fuckwit.' What do you think Barney did? He sunk his big owl beak into my sodding finger, that's what. The small diamond thereupon is unaffected, proving my point. However, I suspect it will be quite difficult for me to play a flattened ninth chord for the forseeable future.
I had hoped that after all the trouble to have Barney classified as an interactive Bagpuss by D.A.F.T. (Department of Animals and Furry Things), I could just pop him in the top of my backpack with the zipper slightly open and no one at the border would be the wiser. I assumed they'd be so busy scanning the microscopic writing on my visa, they might not notice that my backpack was making its own way to the taxi rank.
The problem, as I've explained exhaustively in the past, is that Barney is not the ideal combination of owl and cat. For example, a cat sleeps twenty-three hours a day. What a blessing that must be for its lucky owners. Barney keeps owl hours which means he's on the internet all night gathering all sorts of misinformation. Having discovered the Cat Empire has its own national orchestra, there is no dissuading Barney that it has about as much global relevancy as UKIP. No biggy. It just means that we have to make a slight detour to Katpur to pay our homage to the 'Maharajah'. I can live with that if it means the little guy has something to tell his genome inheritors.
Fake pearls notwithstanding, you have to admit that Merlin (undoubtedly now deceased as this photo is over twenty years old), is rather elegantly attired. Barney has been at me to post an Elegantly Dressed Wednesday image that reflects his 'community' for some time. Until he came into my life, I had no idea that cultural diversity could embrace such a broad church, as it were. I'd like to be able to tell you that I feel enriched by the exposure to new points of view but when I continuously spend the early hours of the morning resetting all the spam filters on our shared computer after Barney has spent the night googling the words 'pussy' and 'lick', I'm afraid my natural inclination to tolerance quite deserts me.
Anyway, he's sulking now after our tiff. He's hardly touched his smoked salmon roulade with cream cheese cake dessert. Slowly but surely, we inch towards destiny, however hideous it might turn out to be...
Monday, November 12, 2007
A little over a year ago, I received a very charming, not to mention welcome note from Charles Johnson, the editor of Obsessed with Pipework. Three of my poems had been accepted for publication in the autumn 2007 edition. Not only that, he had even added the postscript ‘more poems at any time, please.’ I would have sent some too, except I thought I was going to be leaving the country any minute, as opposed to a decade yet to be determined.
1) Believe you’re right about absolutely everything.
2) Outwit any opposition immediately (not as difficult as it sounds).
3) Love the written word more than life itself (I hasten to add this does not preclude enjoying life to the brimful, obviously).
It now falls to me to pass on the roar to five other bloggers. Well… you know I’m a bit of a bucker of systems at the best of times and even I know enough maths to realise that by the time this thing gets down a few layers, you will find it quite difficult to find someone who hasn’t got one. I’m not being mean or anything (Barney – shut the fuck up! A little friendly advice to anyone who has US$4,000 disposable income lying around – DO NOT BUY A HYPOALLERGENIC HYBRID PET WITH IT). Where was I? Right. By the power vested in me (however dubiously), I bestow a Roar for Powerful Words upon,
Baroque in Hackney – Ms Baroque spends her spare time teaching lions how to roar.
Reading the Signs – As a cartographer of experience, Signs has few equals.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Portrait of Pants by Barbara Bennett
The abandon with which I am currently exploiting Scorn and Noise's distinguished idea of celebrating Wednesdays with elegance probably deserves some kind of public flogging. (Please someone, I have so few pleasures in life). Pardon me, my manners have deserted along with my previously strict adherence to personal hygiene. I have forgone all sense of decorum by my shameless self-promotion, not to mention my attempts to raise awareness of artists whose work I own. Be assured that I am aware that I have a problem and I will seek counselling if hell is ever in imminent danger of freezing over. You have my word.
The problem is, (and this can't have gone unnoticed), in all things blog at least, I seem to have lost that je ne
I have considered trawling the archives and recycling a continuous stream of 'best of Pants' posts, rather like one's beloved BBC does with its digital channels. The BBC delights in rolling out wonderful, wacky gems from its self-assessed 'golden era' that hardly anyone watched at the time but everyone remembers with great fondness, and rightly so. It then rather cleverly goes on to create shows in the same mode to capitalise on this touching nostalgia for false memory. Life on Mars - much as I loved you - you were that show.
Early Pants posts inhabit the same void. They were wonderful but no one was tuned in to them. You have my word for that - or you could visit the archives and post me a reality check. Or you could post me an actual cheque - I never knowingly refuse money.
I so easily slip off the point these days. Anyone who visits my comments might be aware that a well-known writer recently popped by to track down a long lost actor of his distant acquaintance through this blog. He'd googled her name and come up with That's So Pants (what must he have thought?), as another friend of this actor had commented that I looked like her in a photo I'd posted. The consequence of this exercise is a significant percentage of the blogosphere is searching for one Berys Marsh.
The other day when I was negotiating my half awake self through the increasingly chaotic transport hub of
Barbara is a great capturer of the moment. I didn't prove so great at it. I lost Barbara's number some years ago and what I should have done was run after her screaming, 'Barbara, Barbara.' It's not that I care what people think, after all. It just didn't occur to me. And she slipped away.
In my own defence, that was the day I got onto the train at Hackney Wick only to have the driver announce,
'This train is full of vomit',
or so I thought. (Seriously, it isn't outside the realm of possibility on Silverlink Metro).
Actually what he said was,
'This train is for the moment... slowing down to comply with' ... blah, blah, wrong kind of leaves on the track, classic autumn lame excuse for slow running... blah, blah.
So I was chuckling away to myself about this lovely Mondegreen and trying to avoid getting trampled in the changeover crowd when I thought I saw Barbara and reacted more like an extra in Minority Report than my true self.
This EDW I present myself (again, boring, sorry) but also this great picture of me which I think does capture both my natural haughtiness (genetic fault - can't do anything about it) and my permanent sense of just not being comfortable, no matter where I am. It also sets in stone my weirdly lazy right eye (thanks Barb - history so needed that). For the record, that's a fan I'm holding, as opposed to a pan pipe.
So, I'm hoping that this post will put me back in touch with Barbara Bennett again. I'm going to leave
If only I could still fit into that little black dress...
Monday, November 05, 2007
PC backlash starts in Leicestershire - Pants
This weekend I’d timetabled in sending out letters to literary agents (in between episodes of X-Factor and reruns of The Lion Man, obviously). I got as far as downloading the most recent list of approachable reject slip compilers and set about trying to compose an interesting and engaging covering letter. I am still sitting here bewildered nearly forty-eight hours later.
I know what's going to happen though. They'll think I'm so boring they won't bother to read on...
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Art by Mike Wade
There was a delectably dressed toddler in Ilford Town Centre late this afternoon dressed as a pumpkin. He was unselfconsciously parading his wee self about the mall to the delight of all assembled under the pretty mauve fairy lights festooning the pedestrianised high street. I could indulge myself in a moan about why we in
Monday, October 29, 2007
Frozen Moment, Leicestershire. By Pants
Cows will actually stand and stare at you if you point a camera at them, which is, I guess, the reason that there isn't a Big Cow Diary on one's beloved BBC2 with Saba Douglas-Hamilton tucked up in a Prada fleece waiting to pounce on a rarely spotted beastie. In any case, cows don't have spots, only the occasional patch, as far as I know. I'm no zoologist.
I call them 'cows' as a shorthand but interestingly, there seems to be no word to describe this animal that can be either a cow or a bull. There is only cattle, which is a plural describing a group. I know it's the same with sheep but you can't say 'a cattle' in the same way as you can say 'a sheep'. Sheep are clearly designated as either rams or ewes. Goats are divided into billies and nannies. Pigs are gender defined as sows and boars. Even chickens are either hens or roosters. So how come the big guy misses out? Not even Wikipedia is sure how the whole mess should be presented.
No wonder these guys sought out the Kodak last weekend in the Leicestershire wilds. Clearly, they were pleading with me. 'Pants, tell us who we are and why we're here.' Fat chance of me being able to solve the bovine conundrum. I can't even get a fix on my own future. I might have simply spray-painted a large yellow 'M' in the frozen ground but that would have been cruel and sent the wrong environmental message. It most certainly would have attracted carrion from miles around and possibly a fleet of people carriers to boot.
Being out in the countryside very early in the morning has a profound impact on the way one perceives the world. At the very least, it requires you to reconsider the received wisdom that 'Britain is getting overcrowded'. Unless you think these bovine creatures are somehow a contributory factor, space deprivation doesn't seem much of a threat.
A weekend idyll can't be appreciated in full relief unless it's prefaced and epilogued by passing through an emotional passport control that leaves you in no doubt that you've simply attained a limited visa to explore a kindlier world. As a wakeup call to re-entering the urban jungle, the Number 30 bus to Hackney Wick rarely fails.
'You fuckin' caaaarrr', remarks the polite young lady as she shoves me aside and stomps up the stairs. There's no way that a demon vixen from Haggerston will stand between me and the top deck - the only bearable location on any form of London transport. I follow her up, hoping to secure a seat at the opposite end of the bus.
No such luck. Two seats, right at the back, facing each other. Defiantly I sit down opposite my insolent disparager, stow my weekend backpack under the seat, shoving aside several half-full KFC cartons and ... open The Guardian. It does the trick. She gets off two stops later.
Reflecting on the whole experience, I pause to ponder the original of the expression,
How now, brown cow?
I google it and discover it has no purpose other than to demonstrate the correct pronunciation of rounded vowels. Perhaps no one told the cows. Possibly they've considered the question and have come up with a bovine solution to the perplexing notions of 'how' and 'now' and could even have mathematically linked them. We may never know.
I've been fine tuning The Full English and fleshing out the scene I found hardest to write in which Ben attends a bullfight. In the time I lived in Spain I never went to the toreo. I did know a few bullfighters though and I was often invited to go. I'm against gratuitous killing. I understand that there are elaborate rituals that humans have devised to allow male domestic animals for which we can find no other purpose beyond the plate, to display some semblance of their natural behaviour via a battle. The question is whether or not there's any point in breeding domestic animals up to adulthood for the sole purpose of allowing them to display their 'natural' behaviour synthetically. Bulls would have once fought each other for breeding rights. I'm guessing that human intervention has rendered inter-bovine dating slightly more scientific.
When the lot of almost every living creature on the planet is controlled by some idiot politician, capitalist or oligarch with a jacuzzi-centred agenda, we could say we're all being milked, whether we have an awareness of it or not...
Thursday, October 25, 2007
George Eliot statue, Nuneaton. By Pants
George Eliot was born on the Arbury Estate just outside of Nuneaton in 1819. I want to write a much longer post about her once I've read Scenes of Clerical Life. Much of it is set in Nuneaton and the local Waterstone's sold me a copy of the Wordsworth edition for an inspiring £1.99.
I chose to spend the day in Nuneaton after a blow out weekend with my cousins the family Ozmicro at their charming somewhere up north cottage. The nearest town is the delightfully named Ashby de la Zouche. I know it as the place Ivanhoe is set and I know that because Heather is writing a musical adaptation of Ivanhoe in The Way of the Pear. So, I read it a few times.
There were several birthdays involved in the weekend and Pa Ozmicro had won a timely luxury Fortnum & Mason hamper. The empty box will make a useful clothes basket, I'm sure. There was a rugby match, I seem to remember, which we watched at the pub where OZ4 works. We were all quite glum about the outcome because not even Australians like the South Africans. Ma Ozmicro is a fabulous cook and OZ1 was visiting from Jersey. Family eh?
Pa Ozmicro dropped me off in Nuneaton at around 8am. I had a seat booked on the 2.35 Rich Bastard express which I intended to claim come hell or high inflation. I found a lovely Italian cafe called Leonardo's and ate a leisurely breakfast. It was only briefly interrupted by a nutter claiming to be a painter and asking me if we knew each other. 'Grow a long, grey beard', I told him, 'then come back and ask me again. And, while you're about it, invent me a flying machine.'
I found the library where the George Eliot collection is housed. Most people in the room were reading the sports section of The Sun. Nuneaton is not the thriving market town it once was. It didn't bother me because I had no competition whatever for the material I wanted to read. I didn't have a lot of time but I wanted to peruse her notebooks, observing her handwriting and thought processes before going out to imagine her in the town.
George Eliot's formal education ended at age 16 when her mother died. It was an unusual upbringing. Her father Robert Evans was a surveyor and land agent to Sir Roger Newdigate, the master of Arbury Hall and grand patron of literature. Born Mary Ann Evans, Eliot's road to self-determination would have been unlikely even for a man of her class. Her circumstances were exceptional. Although her mother's death required her to devote herself to household duties for a time, she was given free ranging rights to the library at Arbury Hall where she continued to educate herself to a classical standard that is virtually incomprehensible today.
I sat reading her notebook in which she considers Plato in Greek, Descartes in French and Locke in English. Naturally, there are also copious passages in competent Latin. Here was a woman so gifted in so many ways who was reliant on good will and even better luck to get herself schooled up. Even then, she had to publish under a man's name. Even now, she's still George Eliot and not Mary Ann Evans. More later...
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
It's beautiful, sleek and fast and everything a train should be, unless of course it's also expected to function as a conveyance, in which case it fails miserably. I know one's beloved Simon Hoggart of The Guardian is always rabbiting on about cattle refusing to travel on it but I honestly thought he was over-egging the omelette for dramatic effect and that he, however grudgingly, paid his tenner and moved up to first class. Now I get it.
Last Friday I took the Virgin Pendolino to Nuneaton and discovered yet another reason to despise 'Sir' Rich Bastard Brand Name. The Guinness Book of World Records people are interested by the way. Since I am the kind of anal retentive who researches travel well in advance rather than the hell raiser who takes a whim to whiz up north that I expect you all think I am, I managed to secure a fare rather less than the price of a package holiday in Fuerteventura. In the process, I secured a seat.
You may think a seat would be a mandatory requirement if you are travelling on a long distance train to, say Liverpool, and paying over £80 one way as the woman I ended up sitting next to did. Even when I've got a seat booked I arrive early enough to check the big board at least ten times and then ask two separate railway employees to ratify the information on said big board - computers have been known to be wrong and I don't want to start my holiday like poor M Hulot, running up and down stairs.
Just to be on the safe side, after I've studied the little board on the platform and satisfied myself that my intended destination appears before my eyes, I will challenge the conductor with a probing, 'is this the Nuneaton train?' Then, and only then, will I literally run down the platform frantically searching for an alphabetically designated coach before arriving in my seat a full ten minutes before the train is scheduled to depart. My personal motto is 'obsessive compulsives don't miss planes' or, in this case, trains. Besides, years of travelling on the Silverlink Metro have engendered a mistrust in trains leaving at the right time that I doubt I will ever truly overcome.
And it was as well that I did deploy every precaution in my vast arsenal on this particular trip. I assumed defcon 4 when I discovered a woman draped across my seat and the one next to it with a desperation I haven't seen since the Wimbledon queue on Day 1 in the sad days when Tim Henman was still playing. There was always the feeling that if you didn't get in before lunch, he would be out of the tournament.
The woman was easily seen off and I settled into my seat noting it had less leg room than you would expect to get on an under fives Disney ride. Shortly afterwards, the woman who'd paid over eighty quid parked herself anxiously beside me. There was a reserve ticket lodged into the top of the seat but she said there were no other free seats and she could only hope the person who reserved it had prematurely died. Apparently they had died or come to their senses, because she stayed put. She was one of the lucky ones.
Ten minutes into my one hour journey, I got up to go to the toilet. There are two of these serving around 240 people in 'economy' - yes, well - class. They are located at each end of the 'economy' section. The one at our end was broken so I had to hike through three carriages to reach the other. The full horror of a Friday night on the London to Liverpool was revealed as every available standing inch was occupied, including those concertina spaces between carriages. Since a Pendolino crashed not long ago, you might be forgiven for thinking that a nod to passenger safety might have been diplomatic, at least for a time. Chance, fine thing, Rich Bastard profit margin - work it out.
After virtually swinging my way through the carriages on the handrails, I ended up in a queue for the one serviceable toilet catering for approximately 500 people. I count myself extremely lucky that I was able to relieve myself at all. While waiting in the queue, I got chatting to a Liverpudlian guy perched on a fold down dickey seat in front of the toilet. He told me he'd seen it worse. He was drinking from a can of Special Brew which did not appear to be his first for the day so I can only imagine he'd hardened himself to the ordeal rather like a mutant from one of the Star Wars films that exists merely for the purpose of illustrating the relative horrendousness of the experience.
Forty minutes into the journey, I stood in another queue and bought a can of Carlsberg and a packet of Walkers 'Baked' ready salted crisps. It cost me over £3 and I just about managed to gulp it down and call it dinner before journey's end. I remembered the guy with the Special Brew on my return trip yesterday and bought a can of Stella and a packet of Hula Hoops (55% less fat!) from an off licence at a cost of £1.15 before boarding. It was a much more comfortable trip, although I still had to eject someone from my booked seat.
I paid £30 for my return ticket. I regard that as reasonable for a super fast service halfway across the country. Lordy, I can just about get from the West End to Hackney on the bus in that time. I don't always get a seat on the bus, but it's 80p not £80. If I was one of those poor sods relegated to standing over the coupling, I would have had something to say about it.
What makes Rich Bastard Brand Name the most vile and contemptible creature on the planet is (among a vast and diverse array of other things) that his trains have four 'economy' cattle trucks carrying five hundred passengers under the delusion that they are in a civilised country in which they are travelling on regulated public transport and an equal number of first class coaches with about three people in each one. It used to be that if the train was really full, you'd get an announcement saying you could use the first class carriages.
Clever railway people give you the choice of paying a tenner and getting an upgrade. I say clever because once the train has already left, there is no chance whatever of selling the hundreds of empty seats in first class. Did Virgin clock that opportunity? They did not. The sad woman who had forlornly tried to bag my seat told me she'd inquired about an upgrade and was told it was the full price - £161. You can get a return flight to New York for that - and you get a seat, provided you don't fly Virgin obviously.
And what could possibly have possessed the rail regulator to allow an operator to put on an intercity service with an equal number of first and economy class carriages? Has there ever been a time in Britain where that proportion would have accurately reflected the train travelling demographic? So much for demand-led services.
One could draw unfortunate parallels with past scary regimes whose gleamingly advanced railways were the emblem of their supremacy in all things. But then again, the fascists prided themselves on their trains running on time...