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Wednesday, 4 February 2004

Tales of the Urban Burbs #3


Topic: Yidaho
The quiet got to me. It really really got to me. Pastel, torpid silence. Bare rooms, bare walls.
No phone, and my mobile dying without its battery (charger left the other side of the Thames).
I'd gotten into a routine of two cold baths a day, interspersed with massaging and pummeling of Malice's knobs and pipes. Inbetween getting to Crystal Palace to blog, begging for friends to house-sit during repairs or deliveries, and trying to assemble a flat-pack bed, things were becoming desperate.

Krystal came over while I was at work to let the bed delivery men plate up their parcel of joy for me.
Assembling the bed was a construction job of the utmost importance - I assembled the bed, slowly, carefully, remembering the sudden nocturnal crashes of the last one. I'd spent four years plummeting earthwards whenever a particular plank slipped out of joist. It was one of those occasions when I regimented not only the parts, but the washers, the nuts, the damn screws too, in a crazy jigsaw parody of what the frame was meant to become. Promised to reward myself with chip shop suppers.
Knackered from bed meccano antics, I fizzed onwards to put together the hi-fi. The complete silence afforded by Temporary New Abode has me flicking on teevee, radio, anything to hear a sound. I attached all the wires to the hifi while on the phone to Toulouse, who was making international calls from work. (gasp!) The hi-fi was a piece of piss - the next downside was that I've only brought one CD, but it's better than the silence pressing in. (All charity donations accepted; Maxinquaye is becoming old.)

After all that, tiredness was beginning to flake my brain into slivers, and I ran the car into a bollard I hadn't expected, just beyond my driveway. Yes, yes, yes, I know they're lit up with flashing harzard lights. Don't distract me from my whinge.
My fingers stank of grease and iron bolts. I nearly plunged down the stairs backwards while blogging too excitedly, and the consolation of more chips on the way home wasn't much enlivened by the metallic tang of iron filings.

But then two things went right.
In the morning, a welcome shock: Malice lurves me.
Malice offered up steaming boiling bubbling hot water. As hot as I can take it, she'll pump it. Hotter.
But she'll only do it at seven in the morning. (there goes my new lie in)
My other gift from the gods - the first, last and only time - I bought a Teddy. Starved of cuddles from psychologically damaged wayward felines, I was desperate. I bought Theodore Bear amid much cruel hilarity at my expense from the natives.
I cuddled him curled up on Pink Nasty for an hour, while watching Rotten in the Jungle. I took him to bed, too.
He has 2004 embroidered on his footpaw, to remind me I can only have him one year, then emotional maturity must become de rigeur. I'm to pass him on when the year is up. Being female, I can get away with this as if it's in any way psychologically normalistical. (Unless you actually know me, I suppose.)
Believe me, Theodore Bear has done serious sofa cuddle time for me already. Those cats should be nervous, because I woke up today still snuggling Theodore, to find jets of lovely hot water from Malice.

Things look up.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 8:52 PM GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 4 February 2004 9:41 PM GMT
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Blog Madness


Vote for me, or for that other person, whom I have to admit writes rather well, in Blog Madness ... please. 43 hours left to register your disappointment.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 10:12 AM GMT
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Tuesday, 3 February 2004

Tales of the Urban Burbs #2


Utterly wasted from hefting boxes, stinking like a navvy and unable to wash, all my carefully constructed stress-disguising routines disrupted, I didn't take the sleeping tablet.
Why? I was physically worn out, and had the complete joy of not having to leave my duvet nest on the floor until ninety minutes later than usual. For ten years my alarm had detonated at six o'clock. I'd planned the first morning in detail - a different luxury breakfast cereal each day for the first two weeks, two pots of coffee, leave the house five minutes beyond the latest time, just so HippyBoss doesn't become too comfortable with this irregular punctuality.
I reckoned without the wide-eyed sweaty pitch blankness that keeps you awake and counting all night long.
I reckoned without the unfamiliar dark windows, the different route to the doorway, the foreign distance to the bog, the different precautions you need to take when alone in a ground floor flat. Accustomed to whistling winds in a relaxing cold bedroom, now the only safe window is one cracked open *this* far, locked that way, an iron trellis padlocked across it. I need to burn it into my habitual memory to close curtains every day, not just once or twice a year, now.
And the murky shape at the window at the window at three in the morning is NervousCat, trying to balance on the ledge.
But most of all, I reckoned without disturbed, uprooted, stressed animals. SilentCat makes her disapproval known vocally. Very vocally. At three minute intervals. All night long.

I surrendered to the knowledge I wasn't going to sleep a good forty minutes before the morning alarm, to get stuck into the coffee and to try a new, sensitive technique with Malice, my wilful and capricious water tank. Suddenly, she purred responsively to my caress; reeking an animal stench, I began to entertain wistful, wild, ambitious hopes of bathing in her febrile, generous warmth. Malice responded with heightened sensitivity to my demands - began to rumble passionately, running her fevered, steamy gushes of love and piqued desire.
Confident in my mastery of her devotions, I brewed another pot. Ambled insouciantly back to Malice's moist embrace. Allowed myself a shiver while leaning to break the surface of the spite she'd seeped from her tenderest parts for me.

Granite coldness.
Like a grave.

What could I do?
I bathed in it. I'm sure it will be healthy for me. Malice only wants what's right for me, what I deserve. It's not her fault I annoy her, make her do these things. Provoke her.
Next week I'll buy her a new jacket, a fleece. Make it clear how I feel. Not think back to the flexible limbs of my combi boiler, or his pliable responsiveness.
Remain stoic. And cold. Very very very cold.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 8:47 PM GMT
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Monday, 2 February 2004

Tales of the Urban Burbs #1


To recap the tale I began way down in the comments...
I moved into my new, untelephonic Temporary Abode yesterday. The landlady had put in the most revolting sofa imaginable - now dubbed Pink Nasty - hideous to the degree even she had to admit it was so; she gave me permission to burn the thing, after shame made even she rip the pink frills off from it.
It's super quiet here in the Urban Burbs, there are no wires for the tv or hi fi, no phone, and nooooooooooo internet access. I hardly know what to do with myself. I've already pictured myself going quietly doolally in the pastelness of it all. I need to buy a really large, really violent dramatic looking blood red painting, and fast, or I will succumb.
I'm sat in an internet cafe in nearby Crystal Palace, clutching me a weekly pass to my undernourished bosom. I hope the cafe owner is rigged up to an invisible earpiece, because he doesn't stop giggling, except to sneeze. He seems to have African comedies feeding through his headphones. At least, the lack of clothing onscreen should indicate a temperate clime. In the absence of anything else to do with my time, you'll have to suffer two weeks of after-the-fact postings of my regrowth and adaptation in the foreign environment of downright Pengeitude here.

Despite the locale, the move went without incident, and the place still looks good (Pink Nasty aside).
In fact, the only blip in the entire place is the Great British water system. After a few years of the rare continental delights of a decent strong shower, I'm back at square one, trying to cajole the tempestuous attentions of a capricious and jealous immersion heater into giving up the love I need.
The shower attachment has an air of never having been taken seriously by anyone, and longs for a little attention and gallantry - bare untreated absorbent wooden shelves drilled into the wall directly beneath the rusted uncared for rose, an absent shower curtain vacantly gapes its protective lack, compounded by polished wood floors, lying defeated, expecting maltreatment beneath my ungrateful tread. Shyah, right, that's a power shower.
Last night I failed to communicate my needs to the hot water tank's H spot, hungry as it was for my ministrations. She retaliated sulkily, offering me an icy shoulder and a stream of lukewarm murk.
I relented to defeat and retired ignominiously to my half lit bedless nest: pillows, duvets and cushions arranged in a cocoon shape on the floor. I sprayed a familiar burst of an old perfume. Pulled out a sheepskin rug to lie upon.
Tomorrow.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 8:44 PM GMT
Updated: Monday, 2 February 2004 8:56 PM GMT
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Sunday, 1 February 2004

The Swiftocratic Oath


My name is Vanessa.
I am hereby taking the Swiftocratic Oath.
By swearing this oath, I am forever sealing my rights to sit at home, do nothing, or anything, that I choose to do.
I declare my freedom from the pressure of people who call themselves friends to socialize, not to be anti-social, but to be myself. I am a recluse.

It is my God-Given right to sit at home, and I'm choosing to take that oath.
I pay $1,131.75 per month for my home, and there's nothing better to do with my home but sit in it.
Signed

Vanessa


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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 9:56 AM GMT
Updated: Sunday, 1 February 2004 10:03 AM GMT
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Moving Day


Oooo oooo ooo000ooo000oo000oo

Bogus Landlady just rang me - she has keys to the new Temporary Abode that she was pretending is hers, she has a tenancy agreement written in jelly on rice paper, and she's waiting to let me in to get the keys, even though I was sure she'd run off to Hawaii on my deposit. She's real! The new Temporary Abode is real!

Oooo oooo ooo000ooo000oo000oo

"Our deepest fear is NOT that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, NOT our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?'; Actually, who are you NOT to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world."
Nelson Mandela, 1994 Inaugural Address
This is way better than Christmas. I got all the furniture I wanted to have in the Division of Spoils, and I'm not too fussed that Tybalt gets about #2K more stuff than me, and she's promised to bring back the old VCR she'd sneaked out, as long as she gets the ritzy expensive one.
Loadsa things happened yesterday, but I've been banned from blogging every single one of them Hmmph.
How much have I packed? Cup of tea making facilities. Tooth brushing facilities. Hi fi. Assortment of lamps. Furry rug and teev.
Oh dear, I should really pack some clothes and bedding, too. I'll start with socks. One can never have enough socks....

Oooo oooo ooo000ooo000oo000oo

This page graced by sarsparilla at 9:15 AM GMT
Updated: Sunday, 1 February 2004 9:48 AM GMT
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Saturday, 31 January 2004

Antici......


......pation

It's been a bugger of a week, with fourteen hour days, and so my flat is in a right tip (which doesn't matter too much as I forgot to call the estate agent and settle the fee for selling/viewing/whatever it's called), and the phone got cut off because I left the bills at work instead of paying them. Not entirely sure why the ADSL line still works, but as I'm moving out tomorrow, it's academic.

I'm sitting around waiting for the faulty heating system to heat enough water for a shower. I got it together to scrub the kitchen a while ago, but this has to be the first time in my entire life I've been tempted to do some reports for work rather than sort out my home life. Procrastination in reverse!

Waiting about for Tybalt to make an appearance so we can divide the spoils and come to an agreement of who gets what stuff from the flat's contents. I should also be packing stuff up for moving house tomorrow - Schwester Snowflake is coming over to help get the stuff there, and Krystal will be there to give me cups of tea once I've unpacked, but it needs to actually be packed into boxes and shit before all that.
All of which is why I've packed - in toto - zip. So far. And I'm sitting blogging instead of getting on with it.
I'm bricking it, actually.

No web access except at work, from Monday, and I hate looking at blogs at work. I have a deal with myself that if I work hard as I can, every minute that I'm there - no breaks or lunch hours, then I can walk out at three o clock each day without guilt or work to take home. It doesn't exactly mean I'm up to date most of the time, but it is a better life than previous years, where I'd take work home and allow myself three nights off to socialise a week.
Dammit, need to stop wandering off into flights of rumination and just get on with stuff. The damn cats move faster than me at this point.

Okay, so yesterday I did my possibly last ever drive north through the Blackwall Tunnel. It was so utterly depressing that I videoed an eighth of the ultimate journey home.

Now I'll waste a good hour trying to get that link to work. Hah. Bet Tybalt's arrival coincides with me being reduced to toenail picking. Desperately trying to pretend today will not happen. Oh hurry up and come, tomorrow.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 1:06 PM GMT
Updated: Sunday, 1 February 2004 9:33 AM GMT
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Friday, 30 January 2004

Closeted


How many of your childhood loves were somewhat pink tinged, when you think about it?

Marge Simpson's sisters? Shyah, sure they're sisters.
Mister Magoo? Or just a confirmed bachelor?
Velma was a given, but the blond guy in Scooby Doo? You can't tell me that bouffant hair and ultra white tight shirt wasn't saying something.
One Smurfette for a whole gay village of Smurfs?
Mister Benn - yeah right, goes into a cubicle and discovers an exciting new world of fulfilment and red indian outfits.
Marmalade Atkins - boy did I have a baby-dyke crush on her.
There's something just a little too eager about the speed with which Bugs slips into a pink slip.
Tintin - Jimmy Somerville haircut and that poodle... pffft.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 7:19 AM GMT
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Thursday, 29 January 2004

Oooh it looks like 'Weather' here


It's a layer of ice on top of snow, on top of ice. Shall I drive, or shall I take the train?

I have a meeting somewhere I'm not sure of from six till seven. I'm supposed to be in a suit. Sod that. I'm in combats, boots and an oversized sweater that I've slept in.

If I get the train, traditionally, I try to arrive four hours late if it's snowing, so that the boss doesn't get too comfortable. It also means I'll have to walk - or rather, tentatively slip and slide to the address I'm not totally sure about - to the meeting. I'm willing to bet I'd be an hour late for that.

Hmmm. Train has coffee and croissants. Car has heater and black ice. Train has cancellation excuses. Car has traffic jam excuses. No gloves - Tybalt chucked em away. Croissants. Coffee. Train wins.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 7:04 AM GMT
Updated: Thursday, 29 January 2004 7:05 AM GMT
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Wednesday, 28 January 2004

Fustian Vapours


The Whitbread Book Award was announced today - another good book to read. If I were speaking to Duch, or to be precise by now, as I have done my answerphone - dialogue of grovelling to no effect, if Duch were speaking to me, I'd ring her now and rant about it. I'd rant this:

The Booker is shit. Shit books win. Shit books make the list. Good books rarely ever get nominated. The shortlist is always crappily done - they couldn't help but select DBC Pierre after leaving out any main heavyweight competitors this year.
You can tell which one's going to win, anyway, regardless of quality or readability - a Booker book is recognisably pompous and over egged, much like an Academy Best Picture is literary, epic, and has a panoply of A listers in it doing overly 'dramatic' turns.
The Whitbread should be shit. The Whitbread is patchy - a game of chance. Some years it's laughable, but increasingly, this oddly unequal popularity contest is turning out more winners than losers. I like the way children's books are left to thrash it out against adult books, poetry, anything. No boundaries. Its very inequality seems to be managing to turn out the books that *should* have won the other prizes - you know, the literary prizes not judged by a panel of bollock brained celebs.
I never notice The Pulitzer coming out, so I don't know that it's definitely shit, but I doubt it, because I've never read a Pulitzer fiction winner that wasn't life changingly good. Okay, it's restricted to American literature, but Americans have been the global artistic and intellectual masters of the novel form for the previous fifty years anyway, so there's no real loss there, surely? If you read some Nabokov instead of all that Heinlein, you'd know that.

Which all brings me back to The Big Sodding Read. I've ranted before about the dire intellectual state of a country that can only vote for children's books or Jane Thicko Austen in its list of all time favourites. But there's something more that has been bugging me. It's that even at the time, I failed to point out that The Lord of the Rings is shit.

I know I shall offend the geek nerd corner, but really - that is not decent writing. Nice picturesque films, blokes. But the writing? It's shit.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 6:17 PM GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 28 January 2004 6:39 PM GMT
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Plagued by Ice Gobbet Gremlins


The weather site says it's 'fair' but I just blew my car's fuses trying to use the windscreen wipers on great two inch gobbets of ice stuck to the screen. It might only be 2 degrees C, but I can't drive a car with no wipers legally - it's specially stupid in sludge, when black crap is going to get thrown up onto my windscreen on any of the big roads.
So, cheers, gunky gobbets of ice, for giving me a morning off where me and my too big ski jacket get to go to Barking, one of the four corners of the Eastern Empire. I'm sure my boss won't mind that I've had three times the normal amount of days off this year. Or that Tybalt threw all my reports away (I've been trying out the line 'I'm not doing them again', but I haven't yet pushed it.)
And the little extra touch when you made the hot water heater bust so I had to use a kettle to wash for the last three days was nice. I nearly jumped sleepily into the freezing shower every morning, which I'm sure had you in stitches. I'm not sure if you're behind the mouldy bread, the too old cauliflower stinking out my fridge, the boiling hot coffee pot exploding over me, or the milk running out, but I wouldn't swear you weren't.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 8:04 AM GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 28 January 2004 8:14 AM GMT
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Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Long Division


Right now, I'm vacillating between rushes of energy and relief that I'm moving away from here this week, bursts of paranoia that something will go wrong, and regret tinged with repentance that I'm leaving this home that I love.
After four days of my ringing her, Tybalt calmed down enough to speak to me again without screaming, and we've agreed to meet on Saturday to decide how to divide up the spoils of war (aka the furniture from our soon to be sold flat). She was nonplussed about why I or she would particularly want this or that useless over-large piece of furniture that costs yet more money to store than it originally cost, but I pointed out some problems.
I know from bitter experience many years ago that this sort of thing is what sticks with you when all the dust and recriminations subside. I've never forgiven Lanky Ex for dumping my green crockery set. Not that I particularly want a green crockery set. Pffft. But he took it, and he dumped it, and it was mine.
R eminds me of my favourite line from Shallow Grave: "we know the price of it, but we don't know yet what it cost". These things go deeper than what did it 'cost' you?

F'r instance, case in point: I have no teevee in my new Temporary Abode (or bed, or washing machine, come to that). I could take the big bastard swanky widescreen digital effort we have here, with its video and dvd player. But if I do that - especially given that I watch teevee about three times a year - I'm taking something that Tybalt is hugely more invested in, and staking a territorial claim on it.
Kinda: You want it? Come get it... sorta thing.
There's a medium sized portable teevee and video in a cupboard that's not being used. I could easily take that, and p'raps buy myself a cheap dvd player. (What? Mix and match with the other one? They're different colours for gawdssakes. I am gay, you know.)
But if I took the portable, I'm saying: I don't want the teevee I paid half of a thousand knicker for. You have it. I haven't given you enough ridiculously ostentatious gifts over the years to match the sanity you've already taken without thanks or forgiveness. Here, have some more.
That just wouldn't do.
Added to this who-gets-the-good-piece debate, there's other stuff too emotionally loaded to slice up, a la King Solomon - a stupidly expensive chest of drawers which took Tybalt forever to put together and is worth around #500. She did so over a weekend when I was defiantly out racing around and getting blotto with pals she didn't like and had 'forbidden' me to see. Yet she doesn't want it - it reminds her of the agonising irritation of painstakingly putting it together, on her own. I love the thing, even though I always felt it was assembled as some sort of reproach to me. Yes please, I'll take that one, thanks. The other, ugly, chest of drawers was #30 secondhand from a junk shop in Holloway Road. So what does Tybalt get that's worth as much moulah as the poncey drawers?
JatB suggested that rather than feeling aggrieved that I have to take the (goddamn bloody sodding blinking bloody) cats, we take one each. Now there's a lawyer's mind... Split them up? Not going to happen. Who'd have the naughty one? Who gets the puker? Some things can't be split fairly.

Without a bed in my new Temporary Abode, the problem of who gets what becomes more immediate for me. Inevitably I wondered - possessively - about the king size bed here that's too big (lack of snuggles - always a bad sign in a relationship), and has suddenly plunging midnight wooden slats which wake you up by tumbling you earthwards at innopportune moments. No way will the flat look like the yuppie show home we've been trying to simulate without a big bed in it.
I do also have two cheap single beds in the spare room which stack. Thought about taking the smaller one from underneath. The bedrooms here would still contain beds, but at least I wouldn't be sleeping on the floor in my new Temporary Abode. I'm going to feel dislocated enough without severe sleep deprivation on top.
However I was defeated somewhat by the prospect of lugging a mattress down six flights of stairs, across a freezing dank and dirty yard and fitting it into my fairly big (but not a bloody tardis) car. Unlikely.
Unlikely in a Del Boy Trotter shaking his head, clucking his tongue and sucking his breath in sharply impossible way.
My dad offered to come up and help move it. Blimey - I don't want to see my dad having a heart attack hefting bloody stupid mattresses up and down the stairs just because I was dumb enough to get dumped by Tybalt.
And there again, I'm five foot ten, this is a five foot eleven single bed. Given the heat seeking cat-missiles, as well as room for pillow leverage, I'd spend more of my time hanging off the edge of the too short mattress while the moggies enjoy the fruits of my duvet than I spent comfortably asleep.
Profligate that I am, I avoided the entire issue by purchasing a cheap as piss (but not as wet) double bed from Argos, deliverable next Monday afternoon (I'm going to sneak out of work and hope the bribes I'm preparing for the customers will shut them up about it). That means one night sleeping rough on the manky floor, and then I'll own five beds, total. Ag.
I suppose it will match the three hoovers. (Start running a hotel?)

Perhaps in a way arbitrary divisions would be as fair as anything else I considered?
See, I thought perhaps if I got the contents of both bedrooms, including computers, and Tybalt got the contents of the living room and kitchen, it might be roughly equal value. But even without a bed to sleep on, I can see there's fuck all point in having four beds.
Next avenue of enquiry had me dividing every room into North and South, with one person getting each room's southerly contents. The South side turned out to be vastly more wealthy than the North (you'd have thought a Lancastrian childhood would have prepared me for that...), so there's no way I'm even suggesting that one.

I want what I want, and I don't want to be mean, or to lose out on what I can't have. This week's question for me is: How do we do this? Especially how do we apportion ownership of the things from our lives together without it feeling like a C section?
How do we make this omelette with these here eggs?

This page graced by sarsparilla at 5:26 PM GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 27 January 2004 5:58 PM GMT
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Monday, 26 January 2004

Conspirators


Bad news for Legomen....

They've learnt how to operate a touchpad mouse. The velociraptor gene lives on in cats.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 7:10 AM GMT
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Sunday, 25 January 2004

Folk Knowledge


The Dancer Upstairs is a gorgeous film. Directed by John Malkovich, who is a prig, a pompous pseudo intellectual, and a fool (evidence: any dvd directors commentary involving this arsehole), it is accidentally a lovely slow story about a policeman tailing a terrorist for ten years in Peru, starring the beautifully arranged Javier Bardem.
My favourite line is Javier's strangely out of place comment: "they say that if you draw a map of everywhere you have ever been, you will see a picture of your face."

How lovely.
Yeah, that's right, I tried it.

So. My map is clearly a picture of a sphincter. Ah.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 11:43 AM GMT
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Saturday, 24 January 2004

Looking for Flies in the Ointment


Now Playing: Tricky - Maxinquaye

I paid a small fortune for my new Temporary Abode today, and five hours later, my paranoid fantasies have fixated on the key clue: the bogus landlord was too nice. We ended up down the pub, today, setting the world to rights. Nobody connects that quickly, and that comfortably with a stranger, surely? Patently, it's part of her conman's patter, was merely minding that flat for a friend, and is off to Hawaii on my savings right now. Laughing.

Fuelling my paranoiac mood swings are the omens of ill fortune, which are coming thick and fast:

Omen 1: no sleep. My lesbian neighbours have houseguests. Loud, raucous houseguests who take full advantage of London's nightlife, then find themselves locked out in the small hours. The logical solution is to lean drunkenly on Vanessa's doorbell for fifteen minutes solid when you're locked out of your house at four in the morning, isn't it? Two days in a row?
Omen 2: dirty corporate sneaking around. Harv asked me to spend today taking sneaky photos of promotional displays of Uncle Ben's rice in a variety of supermarkets, for a German marketing firm. Paranoia already twitching, I decided to wander round with the camera at waist level, idly scratching the button as I repeatedly stroll up and down the pasta aisles. Accidentally switch camera onto video record. Start checking what I've snapped in checkout queue of supermarket number 3, and find it's a swooping, tumbling, rollercoaster death ride of horror, only in a supermarket, and with pot noodle artillery bombardment. Video replay shows that the cleaning lady by the spatchcock chickens spotted my subterfuge early on. Still, I didn't get arrested.
Omen 3: stalker. About six years ago, I had an underage stalker - used to follow me around with a camera, bother me all the time, ineffectually, ring me up constantly, and tried to break into my house to see me. I told her to leave me be, and all went quiet. Walking into the supermarket near Temporary Abode, I ask a portly assistant where the cat food is. Cue lurid technicolour intro to Cape Fear playing behind my eyes, as stalker wearing a supermarket uniform turns round. I chat politely with stalker. "So, how's the stalking going? What've you been doing with yourself? Got much time for stalking these days?" She's been working here four years. Seems aggrieved at me about this. Fair enough, I'd rather stalk me than pack rows of tights onto shelves as well.
Omen 4: plunged helplessly back into a pre-telephonic era. BT telephoned me to demand overdue payment. I explained the by now familiar get out clause: "I know it seems unreasonable, but Tybalt packed it into one of several thousand boxes, and I can't find it unless she starts speaking to me again." It didn't work on the boss at work, but seems strangely hypnotic for BT guy, who sounds like Liam Neeson.
I start panicking because I've forgotten to stop paying for dial-up access, since getting a broadband account with a different company last July. Temporary Abode has no phone line, but does have cable. Will I be paying for three different internet connections by the end of the week?
Seems not: the minute I upload 400 blurry photographs of Dolmio / Uncle Ben's / Pot Noodle / my hip, my broadband modem breaks. Argh. Am forced to rely on chinese takeaway and pistachio kulfi for amusement until I remember I can still use the dial up.
Maybe they're bad omens. P'raps I'm just a cynic.


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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 11:03 PM GMT
Updated: Saturday, 24 January 2004 11:26 PM GMT
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Friday, 23 January 2004

Smug Second-Home Wanker


After tramping round every vacant flat in the five mile expanse between Dulwich and Penge, I reached my desired climax, and rented a new flat out. I have two homes!
Here's a demographic profile of my new area:

Type 24: Partially Gentrified Multi-Ethnic Areas

Likely characteristics
Found almost exclusively in Inner London.
That's the first time I've seen the word 'exclusive' in conjunction with 'Inner London'. It has an unusual ring to it, much like a sharp unlikely blow from an unexpected hammer.
These highly cosmopolitan neighbourhoods contain a mix of rich and poor and people from different ethnic backgrounds living side by side. They are found in large concentrations in areas such as Islington, Hackney, Haringey and Lambeth.
Or in other words, everywhere pikey-but-gentrified that I've already tried living, yeah? Shabby bedsitter estate number 15; I'm going to run out of bits of London to live in soon.
Heavy ITV viewing Low
Good. No commoners, then. (Except for when I want to watch 'I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here' next week, to see Jordan and Johnny Rotten bitchslap each other to prove who's the better media whore.)
Ownership of stocks and shares Low
No yuppies, either. Rah. Although that means further to drive to Waitrose.
Microwave purchases High
Yay for readymeals. I wonder if there'll be a General Municipal Bing at six o clock.
Buying home with a mortgage Low
Yeah, well, it's not exactly desirable, sarf east Lunnun, roight? If you were going to invest twenty five years of your moulah in a building, you'd probably want to avoid anywhere so pikey, too.
2+ Car Ownership Low
Population Aged 0-14 Medium
Good. Means I can get into the sweet shops past the anti-little-bugger-security.

Demographics
The age profile of these neighbourhoods peaks in the 25-44 group.
Sounds horribly quarter life crisis ... be alert for Alpha course buttonholers, then.
There are also above average levels of 0-4 year olds and 15-24 year olds, but 40% fewer than average over 65 year olds.
No need for a cull, then. I'll leave the flame thrower in my east end home, and expect everyone to be capable of striding at speed along the pavements with no more need for shoving the weak from my path.
There are above average proportions of single person households, especially single non-pensioners, and households with 6 or more members, but below average proportions of household sizes in between these two extremes.
Every single flat I looked at was owned or occupied by divorced people, so that sounds right. I guess Imelda Marcos aside, there's a limited market for shoebox rentals.
Ethnically, these are very mixed areas. The proportion of the population who are black is over 10 times the average, and there are also above average proportions of people from Asian ethnic groups.
Strange, I thought it was a white-caribbean-turkish area. Asian? Okay, so I know I'm moving away from an area that's 97% Asian, but blimey, I haven't seen more than fifty Asians on the streets down there in ten years.

Socio-Economic Profile
The Socio-Economic Profile is biased towards the higher status occupations, with above average proportions of professionals and white collar workers. There are also above average proportions of people with academic qualifications, degrees in particular. Travel to work journeys are most likely to be by rail.
Jeez, so we can all swap dog eared copies of Shakespeare favourites on the walk to the shiatsu masseuse, yah? If there's all these graduates living there, how come I only meet the thickies and inbreeds at work, huh? Do I smell funny?

Attitudes
Bro.
Despite the heavy consumption of bacon and fish in these areas, overall, some people are more than twice as likely as average to have a mainly vegetarian diet.
Argh! Argh! No! Smelly, dirty veggies. Ugh! I already spotted two wholefood shops. You know what that means: farts a lot, and holier than thou, leftier than thou, more arrogantly, annoyingly liberal than thou. I did think there were rather high concentrates of SWP members in the area, if my colleagues are any indication.
Wait a minute - high bacon consumption? Ahhhhh - hypocritical lying smug bastard vegetarians, then. Oh, that's all right. That sounds quite human.

They are very keen to try new brands although they are less likely than average to buy new gadgets and appliances. They like to keep up to date with technological developments, and they like to get off the beaten track when they go on holiday. They are keener than average on radio and press advertising.
Oh dear, this isn't going to help me kick my worryingly middle aged Radio Four habit. It's been snowballing already, and that's when I live in a student area. I'll be the one braying at the sound of Woman's Hour, daily, within eight weeks.

Housing
By far the most striking aspect of the housing profile is the proportion of homes which are converted flats; at 46% of homes, this is nearly 12 times higher than average. In addition, the proportion of bedsits is over 9 times the average. Consequently, the number of small dwellings with 1 or 2 rooms is very high. There are virtually no detached homes in these neighbourhoods and the proportion of semis is also very small.
Unless you live in the Big Rich Fucker Houses facing the royal park, yeah. Then all bets are off, because you probably mowed down Mr Demographic Survey with your SUV while running Jemima and Jack to prep school, what what.
In terms of tenure, all forms of rental are important here. The proportion of homes rented from housing associations is over 5 times the average, and the rate of furnished rental is 4.6 times the average.
Does it count as furnished if I don't have a bed or a chair?

Durables
Car ownership is relatively low - 56% of adults have no car.
Sounds like they're all tofu munching sheep shagging hippies, that's why.
There are, however, over 5 times more cars than average costing over #20,000 and over twice as many company cars. Purchase rates on most Durables are low, with the exception of microwaves which are bought by 77% more people than average.
No doubt I'll not have to repeat my Important Advice about putting hot chocolate in the microwave, then. Cars that cost #20K? That's bloody stupid, that is. Nah, I have a 'London Car' - looks like shite, cost me fifty pee, and you're not worried about scraping it all up the side of a shiny Merc, if that's what it takes to bust into the traffic jam. I love that moment where you fix the other driver with a steely eye and a shit eating grin that says 'it'll cost you a packet to repair that.'

Financial
The income profile reflects the mix of people living in these neighbourhoods. There are high proportions of people earning under #5,000 per annum, a peak in the #20-25,000 band and another in the #40,000+ band. Overall, ownership of Financial products is below the national figure, though 61% more people than average are opening new savings accounts. I was thinking of opening a supermarket loyalty card. Forty pee off if I spend #5 million on toasted muffins, or summat.

Media
2.6 times more homes than average have cable television, and the ownership of satellite television is slightly above average. The profile of daily paper readership again reflects the mixed nature of the population. The titles which have above average readership levels are The Guardian, The Independent, The Mirror and The Sun. The Sunday papers which are more popular than average here are The Observer, The Sunday Times and The Sunday Mirror. ITV viewing is very light, but commercial radio listening is heavy.
I've only ever seen people reading The Sport round there, myself, but if you say they can read long words, I suppose they can read long words. I read the Times and the Torygraph. But only for the pictures. I hate Sunday papers - if the locals read that many of the ten ton multi-insert broadsheet biggies, let's hope there's a massive recycling collection on Mondays.

Leisure
On the whole, slightly fewer than average holidays are taken in these neighbourhoods, though winter holidays and long holidays are much more popular.
Povvies, eh? Can't afford Lanzarote in season.
People are also 4 times more likely than average to stay in their own holiday home or timeshare, and more than twice as likely as average to visit a far-flung destination.
Depends what you count as far flung. Skegness is a fair drive. Actually, central London is a fair old journey from this place.
Propensity to visit pubs and restaurants is slightly above average,
Yeah, well, they're all single dads, aren't they, marking time between divorced-dad Saturdays, by the sound of it. At least the busty barmaid has to talk to them.
but people are 50% more likely than average to regularly drink wine at home.
Oh stop taunting me with it.
People here are not particularly sporty, although a few sports have above average participation rates - tennis, athletics, dancing and table tennis.
All cheapy, then. Wait a mo - dancing? Dancing? What kind of dancing? Mick Jagger dancing in the streets? MC Hammer dancing? Square dancing? Morris dancing? Oh please oh please oh please let there be drag queen afternoon tea dances.
Cinema, theatre and art galleries are all much more popular than average.
Coooooooool. Well, it would be, if I believed a word of it. Mr Demographic survey rolled up at your door, and you hypocritical bacon snarfing buggers all lied, dincha, you all pulled the door too against your XBox, your home cinema, your broadband connection for streaming porn and your dartsboard, covered up your 'Beginners Guide to Drinking Too Much Lager Without Puking' handbook, tried to look cultural and lied through your damn teeth at him, dincha? I would've.

Food and Drink
The proportion of people doing their grocery shopping on foot is 45% above average.
Until I get there, shyah. Think I'm carrying a shopping bag ten yards from the corner store? Puh. I'm driving my lardy arse to the hypermarket, where I can drink MaxPAx cappucino, eat cold, greasily breaded turkey drummers, and eyeball racks of cheap #2 nylon shirts while I shop.
Freezer ownership is below average, though consumption of frozen beefburgers is extremely high.
Frozen beefburgers? Frozen? Puh-lease. Haven't you people gotten into venison yet?
Other popular food products are ground coffee,
[puke]
fresh and dried pasta, fruit juice, bacon, fresh fish and fresh fruit. The most popular drinks product by far is table wine, though draught beer and gin are also more popular than average.
Gin. Now that's more like it. Although it's a fairly good job I don't drink anymore, given the sheer numbers of clients within a five mile radius, it's always better to live next door to old ladies who have gin. For emergency medicinal purposes.

Thank christ for partially gentrified, because, if I click on the map just four streets away, the profile becomes horrendous - all unemployment, teevee dinners, and car crime.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 8:54 PM GMT
Updated: Friday, 23 January 2004 9:17 PM GMT
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Thursday, 22 January 2004

Agenda


Item: I finished all my work by half eleven this morning, so instead of waiting around catching up on paperwork until the half past three meeting, I scrawled 'gone home; not coming to meeting' on an old bus ticket, and buggered off.
Evaluation: I did leave my mobile number, and it didn't ring, but as it was a meeting of two people, me and peachykeenyboy, I feel sure I shan't get away scot free with that one.

Item: The traffic wardens are murder round here - last year I had to pay #300 to get my car unclamped after it spent 16 minutes in the wrong bay outside my front door. Today, I had to get into the doctor's to pick up a prescription, there were no spaces, it was pissing down, so I parked illegally on the corner, and ran in the rain.
Erratum: I parked illegally in front of the illegally parked, occupied, council car clamping van. They finished their sandwiches, and slunk off in shame.

Item: Ringing up prospective landlords and saying 'before you get too excited, I have two cats. Yes or no?' is quite funny.

Item: Assured by Dave that #650pcm isn't a terrible price for one or two bedroom flats in zone 3, and assured by my customers that I'd be mugged, killed raped and bombed in Peckham, Penge or Anerley, I found three flats to look at tomorrow night, with the possibility of moving in on Sunday. I worked out what 'pieceful', 'w/m', 'f/kitchen' and 'OSP' meant, but I have no idea why flat number three is 'p/b'.
Evaluation: No tube station nearby. I'll be living in the middle of nowhere, and while I'm paying the mortgage here on top, I won't have the money to escape. But it'll be dead leafy and green.

Item: I shall be living near work. That means I know fairly well (in an 'and I don't want to know them any better, thank you') at least two thousand people who live or have recently lived there. I know, because I just got out my calculator and made sure.
Priority: Eeek. Thank god I don't drink any more.

Item: I was supposed to finish this report, see, five weeks ago, but I dragged my feet and dragged my feet, and now it's up against the last deadline. And Wickedex has put it in a box somewhere I can't find.
Action: Oh shitshitshitshitshit.

Item: I'm going to change all the pseudonyms on here. HarvardBoy is already Harv. Ernesto just has to become Coriander. Duch really must stay the same, I'm afraid.
Assessment: I need a new name for Wickedex.

Item: Speaking of whom, I don't think she was happy to find me in when she arrived this afternoon. She said 'what are you doing here', turned round and left. It took two phone calls, a lot of screaming and me hanging up to find out. Apparently I'm so selfish that it will take her forever to forget 'this' (ie, me being too depressed to clear out boxes last weekend). She was all Boy, this shall not excuse the injuries that thou hast done to me*. Pffft. Take forever, then. I shan't be there to care.
*Addendum: Actually, that's it. That's the name. Tybalt.


This page graced by sarsparilla at 9:20 PM GMT
Updated: Thursday, 22 January 2004 9:21 PM GMT
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A Lightbulb Switches On


Harv came over from Hamburg last night and gave me some of the sort of advice that makes you sit bolt upright in your chair and wonder how the hell you didn't think of that yourself. That 'of couuuuuurse' moment when something just makes sense.
He says he's said it before, and so I'm sure have others, but it was only this time that it triggered my dull creaking brain into action. I feel so much better now. I'm getting cracking on the plan right away.
I'd sat in the hall cupboard before going out, wondering if I could fit a bed in there, and hide, irrationally. Meeting up with Harv in a weirdly unFrench French restaurant in Mayfair (why do all Mayfair bistros make you think of Michael Caine, somehow?), we were sat too close to other tables. The candles, attentive waiters and darkened panelled ambience conveyed enough false air of intimacy to ignore people at the next table, four inches away, just sufficent for the film star next to us to avoid eye contact. But the idea we weren't crushed together unnaturally was patently false - I could have twitched a muscle sleepily and touched someone on either side. It was silly to pretend this wasn't happening. We couldn't help but talk to people either side of us. It would have been weird not to notice that when we spoke, their candle flickered.
Sometimes you can't keep up the pretence that you have enough space to breathe comfortably. The light above my head pinged on, and I decided what to do.
He said what was going on in the ever bleachening ever emptying house I built with Wickedex was too hard to cope with; impossible to ignore it, insane to try. He said move out. Move out now. Do it right away.
Bing.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 7:10 AM GMT
Updated: Thursday, 22 January 2004 7:31 AM GMT
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Wednesday, 21 January 2004

I WON


The Ugg Boots have gone!!!
I mean, so has everything else - looks like I've been burgled by neat-thieves - but they're gone! Rah!


This page graced by sarsparilla at 6:34 PM GMT
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Tuesday, 20 January 2004

Literate, Cathartic, Bleak, Volatile Relief


I asked Billy to tell all about the most captivating musical experience he ever had, so I guess I ought to step up to the plate myself. (no idea where that expression originates...)

The first gig I ever went to was at the Mean Fiddler in 1991. I'd been to loads of festivals, and I'd followed local bands about making puppy eyes on a regular basis, I'd even played extremely badly alongside three or four indie chart toppers on their worst, most drunken gigs, but weirdly, despite living with a musician who'd charted, (once, heh), I'd never been as a punter to a proper single big name gig. So for my first gig ever, nervy, wired, not a bit drunk on gassy beer from Irish pubs, I chose Henry Rollins.
Here's what AllMusic has to say about Rollins:

Styles American Underground, College Rock, Alternative Metal, United States of America, Alternative Pop/Rock
Tones Fiery, Passionate, Thuggish, Aggressive, Literate, Cathartic, Bleak, Volatile
In the '90s, Henry Rollins emerged as a post-punk renaissance man ... Since Black Flag's breakup in 1986, Rollins has been relentlessly busy, recording albums with the Rollins Band, writing books and poetry, performing spoken-word tours, writing a magazine column in Details, acting in several movies, and appearing on radio programs and, less frequently, as an MTV VJ. The Rollins Band's records are uncompromising, intense, cathartic fusions of hard rock, funk, post-punk noise, and jazz experimentalism, with Rollins shouting angry, biting self-examinations and accusations over the grind.
Similar Artists: Greg Ginn The Red Hot Chili Peppers Minutemen Jane's Addiction Husker Du Gone Fugazi R.E.M. Shudder to Think Jawbox Sonic Youth Faith No More Dinosaur Jr.
Roots and Influences: Minor Threat The Velvet Underground Thin Lizzy Suicide Led Zeppelin Dead Kennedys Black Sabbath Bad Brains Iggy Pop Phil Lynott Ted Nugent
1991 was a pivotal year for Rollins, for better and worse. The Rollins Band inked a deal with Imago that promised much-improved distribution, and also appeared on the Lollapalooza tour. But in December of that year, Rollins and his best friend, Joe Cole, were held up by gunmen waiting outside of Rollins' L.A. home. Cole was fatally shot in the head; the devastating trauma of the incident never quite left Rollins, and occasionally (though indirectly) informed his subsequent work.
Yeah, well 1992 was a pivotal year for me, too, but in 91 I was still germinating. Although the sugar was turning to alcohol by then.
I lived in Kentish Town, in a poxy one room bedsit, above a drug dealing drummer who drummed all night, below a mad pensioner with Parkinson's who never wore anything more underpants, and tended to shit on the landing outside my door. I was living cheaply so that I could afford not to go home during student summers, and in order to have more money to discover London's nightlife. This meant the Mean Fiddler was a stagger away from the local bad boy's pub, next door to the second best chippy in Camden. Muso boyf and I had a pissy row early on in the evening, and he stormed off to nod sagely from somewhere stage right. I stood on the fire exit steps to get a better view, and tolerated the racket of the support band. I think they might have been Silverfish, but it was a terrible gig for them, much worse than any they did when they got even more unpopular. I was wired, and I was in a pissy aggravated mood. Hurry up and get this fucking farce over with, I thought. I haven't any more money for beer.
Rollins burst onstage. Now, I was brought up laughing at shoegazer indie bands. 'Hard' for me was the moth-top fopsies of the Jesus and Mary Chain. Bands full of sweet, soul searching boys whose pseudonyms belied that they all used to be called Jeremy. My finest audience moment so far had been yelling (while off my tits on some substance or other) 'crack a fucking smile mate' at Lou Reed (oh, the wit). I had no idea that men like Henry Rollins existed.

Stripped to the waist, skinheaded, monobrowed, rippling with muscles and tats covering his entire spine and calves, in cycling shorts and nothing else (these were the days before Kiedis made such displays acceptable), a pitbull terrier in human form, Rollins looked like a bad case of steroids gone wrong. My eyes boggled and the thought flashed through my mind: "Fuck me, it's Buster Bloodvessel. Oh God."
I was certain I'd be slinking away from a neo nazi mosh pit within twenty seconds, trying not to be noticed.

Wrong. He was thrash, and it was electric. He stood barefoot on the stage and screamed, bent over double, till his undeniably mentally disturbed looking face seemed to be spitting the words directly at the stage floor, a few inches away from his nose. Each lyric was screamed in this contorted pose.

Okay, so the energy convinced me to stay for two or three tracks. Infectious. I pictured the boyf nodding sagely in a 'jazz' fashion, laughed cruelly, and bopped up and down excitably. Didn't matter what the music was like, the buzz was energised.
Then, between songs, Rollins talked. And talked and talked. He talked about what had happened to Cale. How seeing your best friends brains blown over your shirt make you reassess whether you want to act like a new metal dickhead all your life. He read some of his poetry on the matter.

He analysed how he felt. He weighed up relationships he had with his family, with his friends, with friends of his friends. He blogged aloud, essentially. It was intriguing: this thrash merchant, this angry looking single neuronned purveyor of white noise, was articulate. Emotionally aware. Intelligent even.
But what really captured me wasn't any of these things. It was his humour. He knew how he looked, and he played with it. With my expectations. Just when he'd suckered me into the New Man, emotionalguyintouchwithhisfeelings thing, just when we were eating up all the details of his therapy, he turned to the issue of a pal's girlfriend, whom he'd never really connected with. He analysed the difficulties they'd faced, and explained his decision to put the past behind him, and document his newfound feelings and understanding of her in a song. I was ready for a slowie on the rebirth of a friendship - a poem in acapella format.
"one - two - three - four - crouch: YOU FUCKING BITCH - I HOPE YOU DIE - YOU FUCKING BITCH."
God, I thought I was going to piss myself laughing.
I came out of my first proper gig ever walking about two feet above the ground, pogoed my way into the chippy and picked up the bloke. Bounced, shouted and laughed my way home.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 10:18 PM GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 20 January 2004 10:38 PM GMT
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