Saturday, October 30, 2004

The day today

Today, I need to go and collect the Beast from the doctors, and pay the enormous bill. It's like having a pet, except I imagine cats are less troublesome. Except the boyfriend's cat, more of which on another occasion. That animal deserves a post all to itself. (Said boyfriend will henceforce be referred to as BF, for ease of typing).

Anyway, then I imagine I will have a conversation with my bank manager, something along the lines of:
BM Aha, Miss Johnson, I see you have been spending money again. You must cease and desist forthwith, or risk the wrath of the God of Financial Institutions. I don't expect to have to have this conversation with you again.
ME er.... But I haven't paid my rent yet...

Then I'll probably go and buy something pointless that I don't need, like food, or personal hygiene products, and it will all begin again.

Then I'm off to Brixton, to watch the BF play a strange gig at the Anarchist Toyshop on Coldharbour Lane. (Bet you never suspected there was such a thing, did you? I can't wait to see it. I can feel that it's going to be full of people that will provide me with juicy material for this blog).

Watch this space...

Two wheels on my wagon

I took The Beast into the Cycle Surgery yesterday, waving it goodbye with a heavy heart. The reason for my sadness actually had more to do with the whopping great bill they promised me on my return than it did with the fact that I will miss my baby.

My bike ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog. It’s heavy and cumbersome, and won’t prop up against anything for more than 3 minutes. This means that when I need to get something from my panniers, or tie my shoelace, for example, the Beast will behave until I am in a compromising position, and then fall on me.

I knew that it was due for a service, but I was holding out in the hope that someone might steal it. My last bike, which I loved with a passion, was stolen within two weeks of purchase. Fortunately the insurance forked out for this incarnation, but new and shiny as it looks, it is obviously thief proof. I came out of the office once a few weeks ago, and saw a very suspicious looking man checking out my wheels. Instead of fiddling with the lock, and attempting to take the Beast to a new home he threw it a look of disgust, spat on the wheel and abandoned the scene of the potential crime.

So, here’s the damage:

New cogs: £25
New chain: tenner
New brakes: £7.99
New front light: £20
Service and misc charges: £40

I’m thinking of buying a car.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Wake up call

There are some delightful ways to wake up, and some distressing ones.

Our neighbours upstairs, before we had the urban yoof posse (even I’m getting bored with them now), were quite nice. They said hello in the corridor and didn’t run around with concrete boots on. They did, however, occasionally like to indulge in very noisy sex, in the middle of the night, for hours. The first time it happened, I didn’t know what to think. All I could hear were screams and wails, and the legs of the bed scraping against my ceiling. I thought someone had been kidnapped, tied to a piece of furniture and was being repeatedly beaten, but then I woke up properly and realised what was going on. So I bought some earplugs and all was well.

Now I am woken only by my alarm clock, but in December, I’m off to India (yay) for work (boo!) for a couple of weeks. I’ve been to India once, and my boyfriend at the time and I travelled down to Kerala, after he had recovered from the dysentry enough to take the train. We hired a converted rice boat for a couple of days, and cruised the backwaters in a state of romantic bliss. As the sun went down, we ate pineapple curry and Indian rice pudding, and listened to drum beats drifting through the twilight. When we drifted into consciousness, it was dawn, and in the night, while we slept, the boat had been turned around so that we could sit out on the deck and watch the sunrise. As it did so, fishermen poled their boats through the mist, and we could hear singing from the shrouded riverbanks. It was ethereally beautiful. I wish I could wake up like that every day.

I also used to like hearing the early call to prayer when I worked in the Middle East. Almost without exception it made me feel at peace, and excited about the day ahead. Almost. There was this one old bastard at the mosque behind my hotel in Damascus, who sounded as if he was sitting on my window-sill with a loudspeaker. He used to commence his adhan with loud spitting and hawking through the mike, and then start off with an unholy caterwauling that made me leap out of bed in terror, and hide in the shower. God only knows how he became a muezzin. I did get quite fond of him after a few months, but I never managed to doze through it. Maybe that was the point.

Handbags at dawn

This is a post about something so trivial and irrelevant that I’m going to hope to god no-one reads the kind of drivel I write.

It struck me last night that cycling is good thinking time, and one thing that has been occupying my mind more than anything else lately, is what to write on this blog. And despite the fact that I am convinced no-one reads it apart from me, I still write as if I’m talking to the world at large. Why is that? I think it’s easier to write if you pretend you have an audience, really. And posting musings and scribblings on the internet allows me the luxury of publishing my nonsense without having to be answerable for it.

Then I remembered something that I had been discussing with a couple of very wonderful friends that I have, on a recent jaunt down to Hastings to watch the bonfire. Has anyone been to Hastings bonfire? It’s very dark, and fiery, and heathen. And they burn crosses on the beach. The fireworks are phenomenal, particularly when very stoned, which I was. Anyway, I had a green bag with me. I have three handbags. I’m not really a handbag person. Someone I work with can’t leave the house unless her handbag matches her shoes, her nails and her underwear (possibly exaggerating there, but I wouldn’t be surprised). I couldn't live that way. I’d be constantly on the search for new and varied bags with which to brighten up the world a little.

It struck me, while I was wandering down the road with my two companions, that I was having some difficulty in locating something inside my bag, which isn’t large by any stretch of the imagination. One of my other handbags is the Mary Poppins Bag from Hell – you actually have to pretend to it that you’re looking for something else if you are to have any hope of unearthing what it is you really want. My green bag doesn’t normally behave like this, but I’ve noticed that since Glastonbury, where the above mentioned MPBfH first made its evil intentions clear, all my handbags have started hiding things from me. One of my friends said that her handbags also tend to do this. It’s quite distressing*. Is there a cure?

*particularly if you are desperate for the loo, and instead of yielding up your house keys, your handbag presents you with, variously, a cigarette lighter, a loose tampon, a handful of euros and a little tub of lip balm.

Beauty and the beast

Cycling home last night (sans headlight, thanks to juvenile delinquent dregs upstairs) I realised that you can find beautiful things that give you pleasure in the most unlikely places.Like the Rotherhithe tunnel roundabout: a perilous three-lane monstrosity that I have to navigate on my route home through Surrey Quays. It was raining quite a lot last night and I was very damp, although not particularly miserable. I don’t mind cycling in the rain, but it’s not very pleasant, and I was looking forward to getting home. Buses and cars swished past me, showering me with oily tyre-spray, and maniac bikers zipped past and down into the tunnel at a speed that I find scary, frankly. Anyway, round the roundabout I went, and as I approached the turn off, I smelt honeysuckle. I wasn’t even sure it was possible to smell honeysuckle this late in the year, but there it was, drifting through the mist and rain, delighting my senses. I feel grateful.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Fear and self-loathing

What to do. I want to put up some links to sites that I particularly like, many of which are to other very talented and interesting bloggers, who actually have something to say.
The problem with this is that people might read mine, and I'm not sure I'm ready for that.

Also, irrelevantly, I forgot to add that the fucking junior hoody-brigade upstairs have nicked my sodding front bike light, the little shits. Blatantly unscrewed the fitting and pilfered it. £30 it cost me, and it was like a searchlight. I'm calling the council.

If it looks like a joke, and quacks like a joke....

So, Robert Kilroy-Silk, madman and would-be leader of the UK's 4th largest political party, has finally thrown his toys out of the pram, and imploded into his own bizarre imaginary universe, where he is no doubt some godlike figure, presiding over the majesty that is the British Empire. The King is Dead. Long live the King.
He's a born entertainer. Not only does he continue to amuse with his well-groomed, yet deranged antics, he also brings to light the ridiculousness that is the UK Independence Party, who exist, according to their website, to "expose the true nature of the European Union", and to lead Britain to ideological freedom. Well, thank god. And it's about bloody time women started cleaning behind the fridge. The country's gone to the dogs.
The fact that even patron Joan Collins won't vote for them might cast a pall on things, but one look at their website was enough to hook me for life. I would vote for them even if it didn't look like an advert for a poundsaver 99p store, simply because of the new mug and tabard that you can buy in the shop. It's nearly time for Secret Santa, and I think all my present dilemmas are solved.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Thems upstairs

The elephants are still at it. They're all about ten, and stand there looking sullen and slouchy every time we ask them to keep it down. Several times in the last couple of weeks, I feel I've known what it's like to be the parent of teenage kids.
Actually, while they are noisy, and sometimes excessively so, they don't bother me too much. I can tune them out after a while, for the most part. The flatmate, however, cannot. Every bump and scuffle, every bass thud, every giggle that comes through our ceiling drives her closer to apoplexy. They've reduced her to tears twice in the last week, that I know of. The council have been brought in, letters have been written. The eviction campaign is well underway.
But, and this is the thing I feel bad about, I find it really difficult to go home now, because I know that she will be upset by it, and that our evening will be spent wincing every time they galumph across the floor, and I will be waiting for her to explode and call the police. Its like living with a time-bomb. And I hate seeing her upset, so I join in and bang on the door, and shout, and beg them to keep the playstation volume on low so we can't hear them blasting things to bits, but it kind of destroys my evening too.
What is to be done?

Ranting. Because I can.

The human race is doomed. Not only does a half-witted corporate slave lead the free world (whever that is), we're turning into blinkered, selfish automatons. It doesn't matter, does it? No-one's going to die if your train gets delayed by 10 minutes on the way into London Bridge, and you're a bit late for your meeting. The earth won't self-destruct if you don't force yourself into the next tube carriage, or shove that little old lady out of the way to get down the stairs a nano-second quicker.
From the way everyone was acting this morning, you'd think that getting to work that little bit quicker was a matter of life and death. And I had to listen to these two women, spouting absolute nonsense about their daily and VERY boring journeys to work, and details of how they are frequently disrupted, for twenty minutes. I thought (hoped) they might actually bore themselves to death, but no.

I like people who aren't afraid to talk to you, which is good, because they're invariably nuts and I seem to attract nutters. The last person who engaged me in friendly conversation was a large bearded man on the tube, with a laugh like sandpaper, who told me all about how he was off to collect his final installment from twenty grand's worth of backpay owed to him for years by his old company. He picked me because I had a briefcase, and the girl who'd just got his pay sorted had a briefcase too. I like that. We had a nice little chat on the escalators. Then there was the singing Irishman dressed completely in green, who reassured me that he hadn't had a drop for thirty years. They both made me feel like a human being. Which is nice. But this morning I felt like a faceless robot, trapped in an anthill. Can we please stop being drones? What are we so afraid of?

I say all this today, but tomorrow I'll probably be huffing away with the best of them, and stepping on as many pregnant women as I can find. C'est la vie.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Insanity looms large.

I am so bored that I have begun to write facetious replies to colleagues' mundane emails, and then delete them before sending them. I think I am becoming unhinged.

HTML? er.....

I knew this would happen. No sooner do I get myself set up with a nice little site, on which I can publicise my musings and meanderings, than I feel an urgent need to fiddle with it and make it better. I'm not satisfied with the simple blogger template - I want my own! And I want it to look funky! And I want STUFF in my side bars. So last night I sat down to see if I could work it out - other people do it, so how difficult can it be?

This is where my innate impatience and need to know everything immediately did not come in handy. HTML is a mystery to me. I looked on the template, I looked things up under blogger help, I looked on the internet. I looked for 3 hours, and I still don't know where in my blogger template I should be putting stuff so that it doesn't end up looking like it went through the Star Trek beaming machine and came out with three heads. I'm going to need to work on this...

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


So, here I sit, waiting for inspiration to strike. I've only just started this blogger lark, and already it is sucking me in. I feel compelled to post something new today, but I haven't done anything remotely interesting, and so it's a bit difficult.
I haven't even read anything much in the papers, apart from the fact that Sandals have finally decided to lift their ban on gay couples.
Didn't do much last night either, except sit around and watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I cried again. I think I must be going through some kind of hormonal upheaval. It's very thought provoking though. Would you really want to lose the memory of people that you've loved, even if you end up loathing and despising them? I fell for - read 'became briefly, yet dangerously obsessed with' - someone at university who delivered to me by hand all the lessons I will ever need on How To Choose the Wrong Man. Now, I would love to erase his smug, overly dimpled face from every corner of my brain, but unfortunately, I rather value the bolshyness and inner strength the experience eventually left me with, so what can you do? Apart from plot his eventual downfall and dream that he will burn in hell for all eternity for every single one of his cowardly and vindictive crimes against women; and there are many. (Not that I'm bitter. Much.)
Anyway, it was ten years ago. I've almost moved on. The alternative was to turn into a caricature of stalker movie baddies, sitting in a darkened room filled with cobwebs and dust, and spanking new up-to-date computer and surveillance equipment, dispensing justice while muttering to myself constantly in manner of Gollum. Yesssss. I like that. Is it too late to change my mind?

Monday, October 11, 2004

...autumn, winter...

Firstly, don’t you think that ‘wintry’ is a wonderful word? It sounds like Bing Crosby, log fires, and mulled wine, and all those clichéd moments that I spend my winters trying to recreate. The way the weather’s going though, I’ll have to hire a snow machine to fulfil half of them. It’s not the same any more. Global warming. *sigh*

Also, I like that feeling you get when you’re blown into a pub in front of a whirl of freezing wind and dead leaves, and it’s warm, noisy and smells of beer and smoke. And everyone tuts and shouts at you to shut the door. It makes me feel as if I’m in a Victorian novel. Except without the pea-soup fog, gruel, workhouses and dark satanic mills.

Secondly, why is it that I can shop all day, and only experience the vestiges of fatigue, while when I’m going round a museum, no matter how fascinating, my legs begin to buckle after one floor? Am I alone in this? I was quite proud of myself though – I managed to identify TWO painters before having to look at the useful little plaques on the wall. So, Stanley Spencer and Canaletto are quite famous, and have pretty distinctive styles, but even so, for someone as uneducated in the world of arts as myself, it was a major achievement. I know Art! I do!

Anyway, I had a really nice weekend. Museums, good food and relaxing abounded. It made up for Friday night. I don’t mind having a good cry, but this, I am sure, was overkill. If you ever need to really cry your eyes out, do the following:

Get 1 bottle of white wine
Sit down in front of ‘All About My Mother’.
Get up and change the DVD to Lilya 4-Ever.
Sit down.
Cry a lot.
Weep down the phone to anyone you can find, worrying them unnecessarily, as you are unable to articulate, save a few incomprehensible squeaks and phlegmy gurgles. (In my case, the person concerned was very concerned. Except that he was so drunk he didn't remember the next day when I mentioned it.)
Finish the wine.
Go to bed with cucumbers on your eyes.

It inspired me to give some money to the incredibly fantastic Unicef campaign to end child exploitation, and I never give money to charity (except Amnesty International), mainly because I spend my working hours persuading other people to give to one.

I’ll try and keep my mind off it by steeling myself for the ongoing fight with the elephants upstairs, who have turned into psycho-elephants from hell, and have now invaded the hall and stairs, sitting there smoking and drinking as if it was some social centre. Don’t they have a flat to go to? Perhaps there’s only so many elephants you can fit in a Lewisham flat. Maybe they're multiplying exponentially, and soon I won't be able to get in the house for elephants. They'll be squeezing out of windows, and falling willy nilly like rotten fruit onto the pavement. It'll be like navigating the garden path in the dark after the rain, trying unsuccessfully to avoid stepping on snails.

Anyway, I'm getting carried away. Back to the begging.

Christmas is coming.

God, I love this posting by email thing. I can post whenever trivial things come to mind.
Like now, when I suddenly remembered, in the middle of musing about my forthcoming visit to Tesco, that they are selling Christmas Crackers, and have been since mid-September, after which terrible revelation I vowed never to shop there again. Unfortunately I feel like making a risotto tonight, and the local Turkish shop, while wonderful, does not stock arborio rice, chicken stock or parmesan cheese. They do have those little tubs of powdered cheese, that masquerade as parmesan, but the brand in this shop isn't very good at it. It even calls itself "Dried Italian Cheese", which frankly screams 'identity crisis'. My mum used to use some terrible stuff called Eurocheese, which she kept in an enormous family sized tub. She brought it on holiday to the Lake District, and when we read the ingredients, it said "Dried Matter, 87%, Fat [or something similarly unpleasant - probably lard or grease] 13%." Eurocheese is now a byword for all things abominable in my family. So it's either horrible Christmassy Tesco's or nothing. Or roasted vegetables with balsamic vinegar, over cous cous. mmmm.
Maybe this stream of consciousness thing should stop. I should consider what I'm writing more. Maybe.

New toy!

I'm trying to post a blog by email, because I didn't know you could do this until just now. Unnecessary, and yet essential to try it out.
Also, I'm a bit fed up. Mind you, I have lots to do, so it should probably be short.
Hmmm. Also, I'm confused. I thought I'd figured out the time thing, but it clearly is not after 11pm, so I think I've buggered it up. Still, it should be right on this one, should I get the address correct (and my secret word is a bit strange, so it'll be embarrassing if I don't, because the post-master here will be rather bemused. Either that or she'll think it's internet porn.)
Anyway, la la la. I may spend some time tonight trying to work out how to put stuff into the side bar, so I can pop some pics in (of course I will be wearing a paper bag, but I'm sure people, if there are any that actually read this, will be fascinated to see pictures of me in a paper bag, posing outside various well known landmarks). Perhaps also some links to sites I find interesting. Mind you, I'm such a techno-fool that it will probably take me years.
Ooh - is it 4.15 already? Scary.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Bleeding cash...

I’d like to live in a place where it’s really really hard for me to spend money. I’m a total shopaholic. I spend money when I feel bad. I spend money when I feel good. Sometimes I spend money without even realising I’m doing it. I don’t actually have much money, which makes this all rather difficult and stressful. I also worry about my rampant consumerism, in a world where too much rampant consumerism is causing many ills and injustices. It’s bad. It’s like a long-term, giant version of shopper’s guilt. I went on a course a while ago, and did you know that if the whole world were to reach the levels of consumerism that northern countries enjoy, we’d need FOUR planets. FOUR! So, either we need to calm down, and start being respectful of the planet (i.e. stop buying pointless and wasteful things), or we’re going to have to speed up the space programme really fast.

So, I have a theory. I should move somewhere where it’s really hard to spend. And really far from anywhere that internet shops deliver to. And where there are no off-licenses or pubs. (No, scratch that. I must have off-licenses and pubs. They are fundamental to the continued enjoyment of my existence). And I’d take a couple of friends with me, so that I’d have someone to chat to in the pub, in my shop-less wilderness. And some chocolate. Obviously.

Cold turkey. Just in time for Christmas.


"Dixon was alive again. Consciousness was upon him before he could get out of the way; not for him the slow, gracious wandering from the halls of sleep, but a summary, forcible ejection. He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of the morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he'd somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by the secret police. He felt bad."

This quote, by Kingsley Amis, in Lucky Jim, was introduced to me by a hardened drinker on a very boozy holiday in France recently. It's quite simply the finest description of a hangover I've ever heard. I thought of it when I woke up this morning. Then I did what any sensible person will do after a hard night's drinking and smoking (aaagh - I've given up! I have, I have!), which is...

1. Alka Seltzer. (plink plink fizzzz)
2. Food. Preferably something heavy and greasy and pack to the gills with cholesterol.
3. Sit in the corner and moan softly.

Repeat every 4 hours

Why? Why?

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Jungle Fever

Elephants have moved in above us. They stamp about and trumpet loudly deep into the wee small hours, shunning daylight and inviting over their elephant friends to share in the fun. Flatmate and I are attempting to live a normal life, hampered by the need to shout at each other across a space of four feet, while the furniture bounces uncontrollably around the room. I wonder how long it will be before the kitchen shelves fall down?
Boots are going to have a run on earplugs. I can feel it in my water.
Am I getting old?
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