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Sunday, 28 September 2003

High Drama

Mood:  surprised
Now Playing: Not Cosi Fan bloody Tutte
Fuckit! Went to the ENO (at the sodding Barbican, which is a sod to get to), ordered interval drinks, found the vertiginous precipice 'pon which I'd booked my cheap seats, then me and Martin proceeded to attempt to bully six shy 19 year old girls out of their seats, all the while clutching the safety pole in a mild panic, when I looked back at the bloody ticket.


This page graced by sarsparilla at 4:37 AM BST
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Saturday, 27 September 2003

Mood:  celebratory
Now Playing: Cosi fan tutte

Off to the opera... tra-la-laaaaaaaaaaaaa!

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Friday, 26 September 2003

Cannibalise this

Mood:  hungry
Now Playing: wind blowing the leaves of the hawthorn that's outside the window

I've been wasting my sickie day browsing blogs in the sunshine and eating cheese on toast (PURE eighties food... I may move a step up to sardines by tomorrow), and came across some real gem quotes:

"Safeway, I'm convinced, is run by ex-convicts and sexual deviants. Why do I say this? I don't know, call it a hunch. This all may make me sound like a cheap, judgmental bastard and that may be true, but who gives a rats ass?" Tiberius Furioso

"Not that this really represented any real sort of problem for me because I definitely am a creature of habit - get off of work, go home, check out the same newsgroups in the same order looking for porn, go to the comic book store every Wednesdays (or Thursday in the event of a Monday holiday), rinse and repeat. [...] I am in obvious need of more social interaction." I Have No Life

"So what did I do ? The Cumbrian sausages are now mine, so is the cheese, the HP Sauce and not just the one, but both jars of Marmite. " My Boyfriend is a Twat

"The last time I was in church was for said mother's funeral, and I had to go to communion because all the old biddies would have been horrified if I hadn't and I forgot what you were supposed to say when you got the wafer. It's Amen." My hero, Eurotrash

"What the fuck's wrong with me, you ask? Well, I have always been very, very particular about my toys. I don't like them exposed to direct sunlight. I don't like them handled by unclean hands. And I don't like them near potential chemical fumes or even strange smells. Don't ask why; this is just how I am. [...] I am obviously overly paranoid something will happen to my stuff. It's a miracle that I've kept "The Girls" on open display like I have. The only way I've been able to handle this and keep my sanity is to start buying two of anything I really, really like. One can be taken out of the package, the other stays sealed." Fuck Everything

"Quit staring at my cunt."CreepyLesbo

God, people can be interesting. I just whinge about eating cheese.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 3:29 PM BST
Updated: Friday, 26 September 2003 7:36 PM BST
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Diarrhoea of a Nobody

Mood:  lyrical
Now Playing: Planes screeching as they prepare to land at City Airport

My blog looks like poo. Oh dear. May have to re-think that.
I know I could spend the afternoon doing a proper, more visually arresting template, but clicking on 'brown' somehow seemed less time-consuming.

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Vanessa/Female/31-35. Lives in United Kingdom/London/East London/Bow, speaks English and German. Spends 40% of daytime online. Uses a Normal (56k) connection. And likes Literature / Movies/Food / Eating / Drinking.
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This page graced by sarsparilla at 12:58 PM BST
Updated: Wednesday, 1 October 2003 1:17 AM BST
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Mood:  caffeinated
Now Playing: cars driving down a quiet street, sounding like waves on a beach

Time for another reading list:
Antony and Cleopatra - 2/10, still can't get past the first scene;
Julius Caesar - 8/10, so good I read it twice;
History books about Cleopatra - 8/10, but I only read the pictures;
History books about the Roman Empire - 6/10, mercifully brief;
History books about the changeover of the Elizabethan / Jacobean era - 9/10, bloody useful stuff for work;
Machiavelli's The Prince - 8/10, better than expected, but skipped the first half;
Plutarch's Lives - 4/10, I cheated and read the study notes first;
Playscript of Twelve Angry Men - 7/10, great reading when you're pissed, but difficult to recall a word the next day.
Is it just me, but when you leave the house at night time, do you hear something in the wind whistle and think it might be your sanity slipping past?

This page graced by sarsparilla at 12:56 PM BST
Updated: Friday, 26 September 2003 1:25 PM BST
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Days Missing

Mood:  rushed
Now Playing: target practice with the cat

Been way too lazy about blogging this week.
Tuesday was stressed at work till about 9pm, got home and split up with girlfriend - had way too few braincells left functioning to paraphrase that in any polite sense afterwards, so left it.
Thursday I went out to a pub in Balham to watch some liquid laughter-aerobatics, and drink way too much. For some reason, I thought the last tube home wasn't that important, and thanks to Tristan's superior taxi-directing skills, ended up back here at 1am, trying to sober up enough to focus on the two scenes of Coriolanus I had to read for Friday morning's 5.30 start (yes, really! Got to stop thinking about work constantly, it's becoming deeply sad).
Eventually I woke up in a foetal position slumped and drooling over the damn scenes at around 4.30 this morning, and realised that I was never going to sober up enough to drive within the space of one hour, so called in a sickie today.
It took me two hours to write the bloody fax necessary for [wankers I work with] to [disregard] the work that they'll [try to avoid doing] for me; at this point the hammering behind my eyes was matched by the concrete drills of the builders who've spent the last year and a half doing up the house opposite. Oh joy. Still, ex-DH has spotted them mostly playing footie inside the house rather than working, so maybe the day will be mostly tea-break and I'll get some kip.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 12:53 PM BST
Updated: Friday, 26 September 2003 1:06 PM BST
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Wednesday, 24 September 2003

celebrity stalker

I do, like most people, enjoy the odd moment of stalking my neighbours.
Mostly it's the odd, futile, (unexpressed) burst of (mildly contained) rage at their too-close coexistence. I'd purse my lips and mutter profanities at common or garden outrages: making any noise whatsoever, for instance, or daring to express their individuality in such unacceptable ways as smiling in the street, chatting to their friends and relatives on the step, calling to a pal from a car, or lounging on the window sills naked (despite lacking any visible sign of attractiveness, clothed or not) (yes, YOU, Vincent).
However, I don't actually tail, photograph, or collect jottings on the habits of common or garden neighbours.

One tends to find this all changes when you spot someone famous has moved in nearby, though. I mean, the East End of London has had in its day plenty of infamous residents. But not so many modern day slebs have fallen for the tawdry attempts at yuppification (read as: cheap housing for not-so successful City Boys and traders). The best I could muster was that awful Scots bloke who shagged Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors (really really not worth stalking... unlikely to last more than a week on Celebdaq, if he ever made it on there in the first place) - and Graham Norton.

Poor Graham. He must wonder how many times a week one not very fit jogger can run across his drive and back. And why she's so often eating fish 'n' chips.
Eddie Izzard once popped into a corner shop in Kennington for a pint of milk and some bread, and was not so discreetly followed around by me for a good half an hour.
The British method for noticing a famous person goes something like this:

rolled, swivel eyes,
pointedly ignore sleb,
hiss through teeth at friend,
determinedly stare in other direction, even if sleb is trying to get your attention
(for e.g. if you are about to mow sleb down in traffic, you must maim first, and protest "oh I didn't realise it was YOU" later)
kick friend and hiss even louder "Noooooooo, don't LOOK",
stare at sleb straight in face and pretend ineffectually that you don't recognise said megastar,
stiffly attempt to face a direction 65 degrees to the right of the sleb, while never allowing eyes to leave sleb's face at any time,
if sleb moves away, then shuffle clumsily behind him/her (in much the same manner as a comedy 1960s spy dressed as a large pot plant),
once sleb is almost out of sight: jump, lunge, run, shove, clamber over any obstacle until sleb is back within sights,
return to rolled, swivel eyes and ignoring sleb stage.
You can imagine how many night shifts I've had to spend parked across his drive while trying to work out the floor plan of Graham's flat.
So today, news breaks out that he's moving to America, where he hopes Comedy Central will appreciate his brand of humour! Camp humour in Britain is by now (and largely thanks to the massively over-exposed Graham) the exclusive preserve of bingo-loving pensioners and the Faliraki-going working classes. This applies equally to the gay audience.
Graham, current holder of last year's UK Worst Dressed Man award, will export his own personal brand of "chase me! / ooo-er, I said 'cock'... missus!" humour. He'll infest the light entertainment channels and make them his own. And at some small, oblivious level, he'll no doubt miss the shy, reserved class of well-brought up English stalker found even in the rough old East End.
Bet you Americans can hardly wait, can you?

This page graced by sarsparilla at 11:50 PM BST
Updated: Thursday, 25 September 2003 12:21 AM BST
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Monday, 22 September 2003


Mood:  a-ok
Now Playing: BBC1 (Cripes, it's gorn downhill, etc...)

Me: Where did you go in Melbourne?
DH: The Great Ocean Way.
Me: Where's that?
DH: It's near Melbourne.

Recent conversations with the DH have developed a theme:

Me: How was your day?
DH: Uh.
Me: Sorry?
DH: Weird.

I may be well dense but even I can spot a pattern if repeated frequently and emphatically enough:

Me: So what did they ask you to do at your new job?
DH: Work.

Upon analysis I think I may - perhaps - have detected a slight recurrence.
Now I just have to work out what I did wrong, when and where....

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Sunday, 21 September 2003

Mystic big-Mouth strikes again

Mood:  accident prone
Now Playing: I Am Kloot; Suede; The Kills (while in five hour traffic jam)

My buttocks ache like anything, and not from sex, from exercise. This is where the countryside has it all wrong.

Spent ten hours driving to and from forest this weekend. Made super special by spraining my gas-pedal ankle last Thursday. (wearing stiletto heels and a wee skirt all Friday definitely improved that situation... oh yes.) Agonising rictuses 'r' us... After six and a half hours, I decided to buy a map (just after I spotted the English Channel, lurking somewhere it really shouldn't have been).
After 8 hours, I stopped slowing down when driving past wild forest ponies. If they want to be cheeseburger, it's allright by me.

Still amazed by how powerful the Ageing Goth Pound is becoming in this country. Small five-house town Burley possesses two working covens. Apparently Lymington's 'literary links' are all satanist or Dennis Wheatley-related (according to the local information centre's leaflet). Someone somewhere is about to make their fortune out of mass-marketing string fingerless gloves and frilly white shirts, no doubt.
Added to this, every town I've visited ever now has a crappy shop selling plexi-glass wizard figurines, or tin dragons and sorcerors (often on motorbikes).
There's some new national magazine called something like 'Psychic Take A Break' which is staffed by the most extreme camp / mentally defective looking journos and one newsreader type dishy/classy woman writer. The dishy, classy looking journo turns out to be the worst of them all - works a problem page racket where problems like 'my little boy has liver failure' are answered with dodgy tripe that advises turning off the dialysis machine and trusting in the power of a tibetan spit candle, instead.

And finally, the marketing wonder that is EvanEscence. These people should be required reading on MBA courses - the first musicians to spot and exploit the gap in the market that allies Goth doomyism to Christian youth.
So simple! Why did nobody else think of fleecing this lot? It's the Pope's very own Marilyn Manson.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 11:44 PM BST
Updated: Sunday, 21 September 2003 11:57 PM BST
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Saturday, 20 September 2003


Mood:  lazy
Now Playing: Arvo Part - Fur Alina

Oh dear, I have a stinking cold. Woke up with a cat nestled at my groin and another at my shoulder, and half a snail drizzling down my face. Apparently I had been snoring like hell - perhaps this sounds to cats like a giant tiger-purr.

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Friday, 19 September 2003

Caviar and Camping

Mood:  hungry
Now Playing: Rachmaninov

Today I made my own Russkie blinis, and ate them with creme fraiche, caviar, rose petal harissa paste, smoked salmon and a big marinated olive and tomato salad. Turns out that once ensconsed in your stomach, fifteen blinis feels very much like three normal sized pancakes. Hom! (As we used to say back when we used to take the piss out of munching with too much in your mouth, Ken Hom and poofs in the same breath.)
I also had lunch on the roof at work, with a magnif view of most of London's skyline. The morning mist had cleared, and the horizon stretched from Elmstead Woods to Crystal Palace transmitter, to Canary Wharf, the London Eye and the Gherkin.
If anyone ever does see the view from the south east, can you tell me what the abnormally large tree is? The one that has looked for the past five years like an abnormally large Mr Staypuff man, waving? It's abnormally large.
Not bad for a Friday's feasting, and so I'm off to bed early, liberated from the horror of Sex and the City at last.

Up early tomorrow to drive to the New Forest for a weekend en famille. Ooo-er!

This page graced by sarsparilla at 8:53 PM BST
Updated: Friday, 19 September 2003 9:03 PM BST
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Mood:  accident prone
Now Playing: silence

I got an unexpected reprieve from Shakespeare duty today, which means I don't have to read the play for another week. I shall spend all the extra three hours this gives me fantasising about getting enough sleep tonight.

I also no longer have to record the dreadful SATC on Friday nights for HarvardBoy, as the DH can take over now. The idea that some real humans somewhere might be like this overpaid, overaged, self-obsessed materialistic gorgon-fest was getting me down considerably.

Went out to Duch's place last night, where we both downed an entire bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape while loudly boasting of our new no-alcohol regimens...hmm....
No doubt this had more than a little to do with The Whingeing on yesterday's blog, which got posted eight separate, drunken, premenstrual times. D'ohhhh.

Recent - verbal - comments on my blog:
"it is funny, but it makes me feel slightly weird and stalkerish to read it"
"here's my IP address; so you will know when I'm reading it"
I love having bonkers friends, me. :o)

This page graced by sarsparilla at 7:28 AM BST
Updated: Friday, 19 September 2003 9:00 PM BST
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Mood:  incredulous
Now Playing: jatb on the phone

Have you ever been forced into a role you didn't want to fulfil?
I mean, something a little like when you visit your parents* for dinner in your thirties and they still tell you to eat your carrots; there's a split second of shame when you realised you actually whined.
(*generalised example, I don't mean my parents! before Sue tortures me with carrot anecdotes while camping in the forest this weekend.)
About six months ago I felt that I was stuck in (what I suppose US psychs would term) a holding pattern of always being the bad guy in pretty much all the relationships I have. Friends, colleagues, partners. The one who says no, the one who gets annoyed, is hard to contact, is selfish, doesn't think about others, never returns calls, cuts you off for weeks without reason, doesn't react rationally, goes off on one, etc. There's a certain, icy power in that, but you also end up finding it difficult to speak about any emotion. Not good. Not progress.
So part of the purpose of the summer, alone with me, (well, the purpose after the Having No Money At All purpose) was to be On My Own. Nobody to incriminate me, or tempt me to be difficult, or make me feel emotionally blackmailed into being what they want me to be.
It was a tad lonely on the odd occasion, but what happened little by little was that I seemed to turn back into me again. Slowly. Slooooo-o-o-o-owly.
I could do what I want, listen to what I want, go where I want, see whomever I want, to do whatever I wished. This is not normally the case. It wasn't all roses, and I think the bloody blog itself is testament to how dispiriting enforced isolation can be at times.
Come September - new academic year, new promotion, old girlfriend returning; the old habit of feeling the pressure to fit into other people's expectations of how they'd like me to be resurfaced. I resisted; I like this new freedom. And people don't like it. The DH does not like it.
I'm getting used to the rolled eyeballs when I don't respond as demanded to some barked request. A heavy sigh if someone enters a room and I'm in it. The sulks if my comments are not quite what was expected. Friends and colleagues who've hung in there over the summer have already been through this, seem to have given up trying to shove a stereotype onto me, and mostly now comment on how much more like my old self I seem after more than a few years of being rather remote, distant and unreliable.
I have to gamble that the long-term positive response is a pattern, a prevailing one.
I wonder if this change is a good thing? Or am I just becoming older, more stuck in my ways? More smug in my selfishness? Perhaps it's more of a fear of change than a change at all?
I turned down that promotion today. I haven't spoken to anyone I saw when out socialising about it, because I don't care what they think. I'm sick or carping competitivity, snappy one liner put downs, working all hours to show how bloody successful I am. I don't want to be a fucking management consultant. I want to please me, not you.
But then, the question becomes... how far does the Brand New Selfishness go before it needs to be stopped?

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Wednesday, 17 September 2003

aversion therapy

Mood:  sad
Now Playing: muted teev, showing images of carnage and violent bloody deaths..... eeek

Some people are scared of snakes, frogs, mice, bluebottles. I go freaky at cockroaches.
I saw a programme on teev tonight where people explained morbid fears of hedgehogs. The phobia, right, is that they might sink their teeth into an ankle high death grip, and have to be sawn off.
Another (nice, normal, apparently well-adjusted bloke) needed intensive therapy to open a tin of Heinz baked beans. This involved taking a bowl of baked beans and using his finger to sculpt a baked bean map of Australia. Even I found that a little disgusting...
Makes me feel a bit better that for the last seven weeks, incrementally, in fact, my fears have focussed entirely on visualising everything that could go wrong when the DH comes back.

Like the people in the teevee show, perhaps it's actually a sign of progress when all your fears are realised for you.
I have to admit that barricading yourself in the bedroom and yelling 'I don't give a shit' could be improved upon as a greeting.

Minor good things:
New Model Blogger Eurotrash, has linked to my blog, after I de-lurked on her comments, called her "wet" and told her wake up to herself. Rah! What a woman.
Coincidentally, according to a New York Times algorithm, my blog's writing style is decidedly masculine. I queried this in terse, masculine sounding emails, to no avail. Apparently, terse, snippiness is a male preserve. (tell the boss that...) Call me Leon.
In the which case, fuck off.

No, really.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 11:22 PM BST
Updated: Wednesday, 17 September 2003 11:33 PM BST
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Tuesday, 16 September 2003

Mood:  caffeinated
Now Playing: talk radio

busy busy busy busy busy busy

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Monday, 15 September 2003

To drink or not to drink?

Mood:  spacey
Now Playing: Classic fm (snakes alive!)

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind / To suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, etc, etc....

Reasons to drink wine:

I have had a really difficult day. Not a stressful day, not a hard or tiring day, just difficult. Sort of a fucked by the fickle finger of fate day.
The sort of day where you'd really quite like a glass of wine at the end of it.

My car broke down in the Blackwall Tunnel. I managed to get it to the exit and off the road by rumbling along in a sweat-stained panic. Thank Christ. If I hadn't done that, most of Greater London's traffic would have ground to a total halt. Aaaargh!
Waited in the disused Millennium Dome car park for three hours for the AA (slight error in their procedures, they're normally ace). Drank as much coffee as I could lay my hands on. Had given up on coffee and started in on sushi and bento boxes for early lunch by the time they fixed the car.

I was also supposed to do appraisals for three people whom I manage today; three of the most terrifying people in the whole organisation. So terrifying that I can't remember what the appraisal process is, or what I'm supposed to ask them. I telephoned them at 3 o'clock (coward!) and begged for a stay of execution. I have till Wednesday. Like, shyah, management techniques will be my new religion by then.

See, all good reasons to have the odd glass of wine. Or two.

Reasons not to drink wine:

But Dave K told me (after relating a hilarious tale of a holiday in the Spanish mountains with his new gf's children and no sweets) it was a good idea to go on the wagon (that and never to holiday with anyone's children), and he was right. I'm trying to get 6 hours sleep a night, but actually I'm mostly getting 4, with about 2-3 nights of sheer devilment where I get 5. That's not really enough time to sleep off more than one glass and leads to hangovers like you wouldn't believe.

It's getting pretty hard to stop at one or two glasses, too, I mostly can drink a full bottle, and that's a bit stupid.

Plus, I went out and got trollied all weekend. (Much good it did me, in the pikiest gay nightclub I've ever had to misfortune to smash a glass in.)

But most plus of all, the DH flies home tomorrow (she'll get here by Wednesday). She doesn't know the locks have changed on the front door. Owing to a slight disagreement of the sort all couples no doubt encounter from time to time, the night before she went, when I threatened to change the locks and throw her stuff away, I haven't actually dared to tell her this.
Of course, some things are easier to say than to email (and certainly easier to say than to blog - to say this blog is tangential at best is quite an understatement of the true horror^^^tedium of daily life in Catford). However, I can only really telephone her at about 12am-1am ish my time, to get her at 8am hers. The combination of staying up combined with the fact of 6am starts has meant that every single time I've rung her in Oz so far, I've been pissed out of my tiny skull.
You've never really felt like a functioning alky till you've drunkenly blurted crap at someone who's just woken up on a weekday.

God, blogging can be tedious. It's taken me half glass of Shiraz just to get this lot typed.

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Vanessa/Female/31-35. Lives in United Kingdom/London/East London/Bow, speaks English and German. Spends 40% of daytime online. Uses a Normal (56k) connection. And likes Literature / Movies/Food / Eating / Drinking.
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United Kingdom, London, East London, Bow, English, German, Vanessa, Female, 31-35, Literature / Movies, Food / Eating / Drinking.

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This page graced by sarsparilla at 9:27 PM BST
Updated: Monday, 15 September 2003 9:29 PM BST
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Sunday, 14 September 2003

God takes the Central Line

Mood:  smelly
Now Playing: cat purring steadily

Good Lord. I went to Leeds yesterday, and found it's gone all ritzy and metropolitan now ... there was a 'delicatessen' near the station selling pork pie and mushy peas. Hmmm. Some ways still to go, there, Leeds.

The journey to King's Cross was utterly bizarre.
Firstly, two wrinkly round faced old people on the tube were rubbernecking and smiling beatifically at the other passengers for so long that I began to believe they were incarnations of some deity, briefly mortal, and come down to bless us all before the tube rammed us into a twisted pile of metal and charred bones. I got off at Bank, rushing slightly to get away from redemption.
Secondly, I saw a fat little boy waving shyly to the train driver as the tube swung along into the platform. Made me wonder when it is exactly that we stop believing that firemen and train drivers are Gods who walk the earth? Evidence: count up the number of trains and fire engines you waved desperately at as a kid .... and the bliss when they tooted a horn. You remember roughly when you stop believing in Santa Claus, but when do you stop believing in train driver-gods?
Thirdly, after having a snippy email exchange about whether you can tell someone's class by their clothing (my argument was that all clothing is drag in some manner), I decided to dress upper middle on the journey to Leeds. This took the form, partly, of a blue shirt**. I rarely ever buy or wear blue shirts, due to a slightly paranoid inner voice telling me that blondes who wear blue shirts look like NHS staff.
Boarding the tube at Holborn, a squat old gent dressed in tweeds and Toad of Toad Hall get-up was so impressed at my manners, that he toook great care to enunciate "Thank you, Nurse."

(** Strangely, whenever speaking to someone in Leeds I eventually mentioned that I was from London; clear assumption: "I hail from a superior city; kowtow accordingly"***)
(*** whether the blue shirt had any connection with the geographical arrogance****, I have no idea)
(**** needless to say, kowtowing failed to occur)

Was barred from the bar in a ritzy hotel (for nothing! It was the others who were pissed-up angry and flailing, not me! Barred by association), yet still persuaded them to bring me breakfast in bed. The concept of room service itself was enough to carry me through most of the Full English breakfast, but even I couldn't stomach the sheer levels of lard-swimming involved in a Northern variant of the meal.

Finally, hard evidence that UK cats are becoming ever more pampered. In the process of buying off guilt by feeding super 'spensive Sheba catmeat to my poor, neglected little, pretty, mewling things, I noticed the Cat Powers That Be have rejigged the catfood, to make it look much more like scrapings of human food.
Doubtless the overindulged little epicures simply did not feel sybaritic enough when stuffed to their splendid little gills with mere 'cat' food.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 10:06 PM BST
Updated: Monday, 29 September 2003 11:28 AM BST
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Saturday, 13 September 2003

Flat caps and whippets

Mood:  lazy
Now Playing: dub reggae

I'm utterly incredulous that I could have a hangover, *and* the squits after a pint and a half of Leffe blonde last night. The curse of drinking in Kent; there's always a moral price to pay later.

I should be getting my stuff sorted to go up to Leeds today. It always seems a bit odd to be going to Yorkshire - I admit that I quite like York and Leeds now, but years of indoctrination at Lancastrian and Scouse primary schools induce a gut reaction of pity at any mention of Yorkshire. Sure, you know it's there, and you feel for them - they can't help being from Yorkshire... but why would you want to go there?
What for?

Anyway, by 6pm -- assuming I can find the train tickets, get dressed and ignore this hammering headache -- I shall be looking for clubs in Leeds.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 10:15 AM BST
Updated: Saturday, 13 September 2003 10:18 AM BST
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Friday, 12 September 2003

Mood:  chillin'
Now Playing: Foo Fighters

For the past two days I ate not much more than prawns. Prawns, crab, fresh salmon, and so on. With tons of chilli and lime. And butter.
I found out that prawns make you fart like a bastard, belch like you're Welsh, your stomach rumbles constantly and you feel quite ill. Combine it with 3 inch heels, and it's an accident waiting to happen, frankly.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 11:13 PM BST
Updated: Saturday, 13 September 2003 12:18 AM BST
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Thursday, 11 September 2003

9 / 11

Mood:  don't ask
Now Playing: Jazz

I've been talking to a lot of people about what their version of 9/11 was. Where were they, and what did it feel like for them? Here's my account.

I didn't know anyone in the building or in New York, and I didn't lose any friends or family. It seems slightly odd that something a continent away had so much effect on us in Europe, but it was massive. Everyone was astounded by it ... like watching an accident that you can do nothing to stop.

I was teaching in North London. I finished the last class of the afternoon at around 4pm, and was packing away my stuff to get upstairs to afternoon registration, when Panayiotis, a generally hysterical greek drama teacher in his fifties, burst into the room sweating and all wild eyes. He burst out with "Pakistan have bombed New York City! Everybody is dead! Look on the news - this time tomorrow Pakistan won't exist any more. The Americans will wipe them out!"
I couldn't really understand what he was trying to tell me, but as a child of the eighties I'd hidden behind the sofa during 'Threads' and'When the Wind Blows', so a huge chill went down my spine at the words 'Pakistan won't exist any more'.
I went upstairs where I usually registered a sixth form class in a computer room, and asked them to log onto CNN to find out what was happening. That was the second scary moment - when we realised that CNN was down.
Nobody could raise any news. We all agreed to go home and listen out for what was happening. Some kids decided if America had been bombed, there'd be a war, so they wouldn't have to do their exam projects or come in tomorrow. I wandered in to the empty staffroom, and scoffed at the latest rubbish that Panni had come out with, and one or two stragglers interrupted to tell me it was true.
I decided to go home and find out. It was a two hour drive, and I heard the real story on Radio 4 as I sat in various traffic jams. I'd been up the WTC the year before, and was thinking about the photographs of us all standing and waving on the viewing platform. Later on, when the buildings fell, I thought more about the pictures of us in the malls deep below.
I'll never forget the moment when they interviewed a bystander who was describing the scene before her, the confusion - then she screamed and screamed as people first began to jump. I had to pull over then. It was too horrible - a situation where people were alive, but had so little chance of escape that they would choose this.
They replayed that sound clip again and again, on into the next day, and the next. It's the sort of thing that sticks with you way beyond the sell-by date.

It wasn't till I got home that I saw the images on the news. Most people I know recall it as a visual thing, and certainly, when the second plane crashed, it was as chilling as watching the first smart bombs explode onscreen in the first Gulf War. But, it was radio that told me about it first, and that really humanised it, because it was all ordinary people, standing in the street, just like Londoners do when there's yet another bomb scare, and chatting about what might be going on.
When the second building went down it was horrific. There's a beauty and majesty in watching buildings being demolished at any time, and in a horrible sense that fascination was mixed in with the realisation that this building was full of innocent people. The scale, the occupants, the symbolism of it all - it was really tangibly a 'big' moment, and I remember stuffing my hands into my mouth in horror.

That was the start of a really really hard year at that school. The anger felt by everybody at what had happened was palpable. For us that was a problem, because the majority of our students were immigrants, recent immigrants, many of them from Afghanistan. They hadn't bombed America, and it became a matter of urgency to avoid a religious war happening at the school. Fearing a riot, we took care to hold our two minutes silence for the victims of the four plane hijacks, the people killed, and for victims of terrorism everywhere.
The next day, the personal attacks on the children travelling to school began. The school was situated in an opulent, middle class area, and the students were by and large bussed in from areas like Haringay, further into London. My 17 year old female students often stopped coming in - if they wore a headscarf in public, they would be spat at by fellow bus passengers, and told that the deaths were their fault. Young girls, told that they'd killed thousands of people because of a piece of cloth that represents piety and religious faith. It was incredible, really.
For the next six months, the whole school had a bomb threat almost every week. At one point we'd be stood shivering on the sports field every other day. Because there were Afghani refugee children at the school. One particular afternoon, the police who by now regularly patrolled the place deemed the threat real, and we were all told to leave the site and go home, as it would take six hours to secure the building from any threat. It was raining, October, kids had no coats on, no money, and lived ten miles away. The teachers had no money to give them to get home, either - all our cars were trapped in the car park, and our car keys stuck inside the school. There was nothing for it, but to ask children to look after younger siblings, and to walk home in pairs and threes; make sure they weren't in public alone. I recall that time sitting down in the playing field to wait the six hours, unable to walk the 16 miles home, watching these little kids shivering as they set off. Because some of them were Afghani. Incredible how some people's minds work.

This year, I tried not to memorialise it at work, although I had last year. Today I chatted to one student with learning difficulties who had been in NYC at the time - his memory of 9/11 is of being grounded for no reason, being unable to fly home for an extra week, and being stuck with a family who didn't dare to let him out of their sight for an instant. His feeling about 9/11 is simply that he hates America, because he got grounded. It's sad and kind of innocent, at the same time.

This morning I started to wonder about the reasons that it had felt so shocking, given that we in Europe were so far away.
(treat as a given that it felt shocking because it was shocking - yet it's not the only such carnage in living history - look at the entry titled 'Have You Forgotten' on 3rd September on here for a reminder of times when we were the terrorists.)

I think obviously the increase in global media meant we witnessed a visual record of tragedy as it happened in a way that had never happened before.
But it wasn't just that - it was the sense that this was not a media event. If anything, it was the first truly unmediated media event. You could see that the picture behind the newsreader wasn't meant to be doing that. You could see that the newsreader was as stunned as you were; he just didn't know what to say.
And you could also see too much. I never want to see the pictures of those people jumping ever again.

Each year I have to give seminars contrasting American and European cultural attitudes. This year was the first I had to specify we were discussing a time and a culture that was 'pre-9/11' - to an outsider, American attitudes to themselves and the world seem to have changed irrevocably since then.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 8:51 PM BST
Updated: Thursday, 11 September 2003 9:26 PM BST
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