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Saturday, 28 February 2004

Let's catch up with the damn calendar, hey?

Now Playing: The Grey Album / Yo La Tengo / Grateful Dead
Topic: Eurotrash
Thursday: Derby turned up in the ten minutes I thought I had to myself, and we collected Krystal from Crystal Palace (hence the pseudonym - there are methods to some of the bits of madness, you know), which not a palace, to go look at Eltham Palace, which is almost a palace. Confoozled? You will be. I've been trying to get to Eltham Palace for three years now, along with Kinky, so we can ooh and ahh at the Art Nouveau fittings.

We never made it, but this time, hell, I got there five minutes after closing, which as close as I've ever gotten, and at least got to look at the gardens. I ignored Krystal and Derby (okay, it was the other way around), and noticing a weird parallel between the Art Nouveau carvings I could see, and the heavyset figures in William Blake prints, done about 150 years earlier, I set to taking pictures that might look Blakeian.

First prize (of a nearly new refrigerator that I have nowhere to put) to the first person to spot which Blake print it's meant to remind you of. With a tie-breaker (where whoever can help me move my washing machine down three flights of stairs or fix my car) wins. What, me, manipulative? Desperate?

It was buggering freezing (hah, this post was written a fortnight ago, remember, before I actually knew what poverty and cold were), and we wandered over to Blackheath, for coffee, cake staring and pottering around the bookshop. I continued to take too many photographs (dunno what it is about digital cameras that means you take three hundred snaps when two good ones would do, but heck, I have bandwidth to spare this month), of skies, of hands of speakers animating their coffee shop conversations, of reflective shop frontages, of tulips, delicatessens, fruit. I really need a bright, preferable violent coloured large canvas in my beigeious flat, and Selfridge's will upscale a phot for #500, so I figure some print shop somewhere will do it for way less.

In the shops, something about the pompous, discreet middle classness of the place worked on my coffee high to transmogrify me from a mild mannered seeker of art nouveau bibelots into a raging cultural snob.
In the deli, I took umbrage at the request not to take pictures and resolutely took around fifty more covert snaps. Hey, Harv didn't introduce me to the world of commercial espionage for nothing, I can do spy stills.
In the tiny independent bookstore, I held forth loudly about Philip Roth's annoyingly gratuitous wanking passages. (Can't be bothered to explain.) I raged at the bloke working in Starbucks about the mispellings and grammatical errors on his door sign for fifteen minutes.

Later, there was a Thai meal in Crystal Palace with a load of people who all do the same job as me. Most of my friends eat Thai fairly often, but I'm the sort who finds a food they love and eats nothing but for the next six years, gorges on it till she explodes, and can't face it ever again - so I haven't gotten around to Thai gorging on more than a few occasions. Plus fried food, however exotic its point of origin, never much appeals when there's nothing else on the menu.
And the menu was the problem. The weirdness of poring over two sides of A4 and not knowing what a single dish might be is usually only something that happens on far flung climes. To find it in Gypsy Hill is disorienting. And the speed with which four out of six fellow diners ordered suggested they had just three dishes they knew weren't fried seal brains, also - though I wasn't brave enough to say.
I stuffed myself, then spent way too long - noticeably, oddly long - in the toilet. There was this weird silver ball in there, see, and I wanted to get it just right for a Mirror Project piece.
The evening ended with Derby staying over, then staying up till five in the morning chatting (I hadn't seen her since last spring; she's a trained counsellor - a dangerous combination.)

Friday: Derby was up and out for breakfast with an ex colleague and a six hour drive home after three hours sleep. Me, I slept all day, and when I did get up, it was to snuggle under a blanket on Pink Nasty and watch the entirety of CSI series one on DVD.
There's something enervating about living quite so quietly, then slamming yourself back into a social life that makes you feel a tad invaded after two or three days of socialising. My car had broken, and it was the perfect excuse to sit back and veg, crawl back into my shell, and hide from the world, happily.

Saturday: I thought I'd resolved my differences with Duch. I'd cut her for two weeks, she'd cut me for two weeks. I'd resolved never to get pissy about why - if anyone's unaware that shouting 'you donkey' repeatedly at people isn't going to increase their popularity, then it's not something I'm going to change by whining about it, and I swore to accept my mates for what they are. The week before had involved a five hour phone call, so we seemed quits, all bets off, as it were. Friday had involved mucho trauma by phone call too, and I'd arranged to travel the 25 miles and back to hers this night.
I reckoned without every single thing in the flat deciding to break that day. The AA guy fixing the car decided to take five hours to turn up - JatB got there quicker, and she was coming from the opposite corner of London. As soon the car it was finally fixed, I could rush out and get some urgent Jaffa cake replenishments. So the car repair guy says 'only drive it to a garage, it needs repairing NOW'.
Pfft. We all know that women's cars magically mend themselves if you leave them in the car park long enough, right?
Meanwhile, am running round the hypermarket, trying to get back in time to meet JatB, who's bringing a warm coat (it's getting colder...), and some small painted canvases for the beigeiousness, plus ringing fmc to see when I can visit her new place in Pantydrawer (or whatever the Welsh word for Swansea is).
Rang Duch and asked if it was okay if I didn't come over - fifty mile round trip, damaged car, rushed off feet, bloody frustrating day, JatB waiting outside my door, plus Duch was already going out earlier on with someone else. She agreed, and I thought that was that.

Get back to find the answerphone message from hell.
I am the devil. I am unsupportive, mean, have abandoned my friends.
I am thoughtless, and worst, guilty of not being kind.
Oh shit.
So I pressganged JatB into coming with me for moral / normality support to Duch's, and set off. An hour's drive to NE London. Another drive to the pub, where I got sick of drinking cheap, flat cola, while others downed exspensive Belgian Trappist fruit brew. Can't pubs serve proper coke? Cinemas manage it. A restaurant in the Village, too much food, and watching people downing Sambuca after Sambuca. Lifts home to NE London, lifts home to NW London, 2am dash home to SE London. And the car dies.
Still, at least I cleared my name.

Sunday: spent in bed, or watching dvd's under a blanket, freezing my socks off, recovering from spending all night driving the car to its knees, and wondering why I feel obligated to nutters.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 7:06 PM GMT
Updated: Sunday, 29 February 2004 4:32 PM GMT
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Friday, 27 February 2004

Wanna Buy a House?

Mood:  lazy
Topic: Yidaho
Four things:
this is pretty

this surprised me

this is for sale - two careful owners

I knew I'd feel like this today, after a three hour long appraisal. Like a sugar-deficient crash.
Still, I have broadband. Wooo!

This page graced by sarsparilla at 8:37 PM GMT
Updated: Friday, 27 February 2004 11:02 PM GMT
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Wednesday, 25 February 2004

The Continuing Dull Diary of Last Week

Topic: Eurotrash
Wednesday: Got up too late to meet Krystal and Derby at the British Museum (thank god, had enough seminars in there/at the museum tavern while at uni to last me a lifetime of damn Egyptian mummies and olde englyshe caskets), and rolled into Seven Dials at the crack of three pm to meet up for shopping and... erm... walking and sipping coffee. No fucking at all. (theatre joke, okay?)
It was freezing brass monkeys, and I had to wait forty minutes at Seven Dials so the whole afternoon involved lots of racing about the West End - tea in Neal's Yard, snacks in Chinatown, wandering through Soho, Golden Lion Square, Bond Street, Selfridge's, Marble Arch ... all very normal, although I have to wonder how come since I moved out of reach of a London Underground station, I've spent more time in central London than any point since I lived there?
Ah yes, the touristical fun and games started when I tried to board a bus at Marble Arch. I had cheap tickets to see Bombay Dreams (which troubled my brain exactly as much as watching an opera did, fact fans) in Victoria, and needed to get there fast. It's over a year since Derby moved Oop North from London, so I was trying to look all hard-nosed London local, by charging up to the third bus stop without checking the schedules, and hopping straight onto the first bus that came along. Mistake. Seems that Mayor Ken has introduced bus token stands, so that in congested areas, you pay your money to a machine, then simply wave a slip of a ticket on the actual bus. Didn't tell me about it, though, didya, Ken? Even though I pay #1600 a year in council tax, ya bastige.
Red-faced, I suffered the indignity of bus-driver-rudeness, getting off the bus again and watching it speed away, and most gallingly of all, German Tourist pleasantly showing me how to work the token machine. Sigh.
Next bus was a Routemaster, so I brushed off the shame, left the German vandalising the token machine (hah!) and thought I'd be able to regain my Thirteen Years in the Inner City Local's Demeanour.

You know the answer already, don't you?
Two minutes into the journey, having fought weary battles, red in tooth and claw, to gain seats on the bus, I looked up at the route map on the wall. Wrong bus.
Cue every single person on the bus telling me how to get off and get a bus to Victoria. This is London. This is wrong. People in cities this big don't talk to each other. They're not helpful. As Quiet Writer put it the other day, long spells in big cities breeds disconnection of the strongest sort. Come to London, where we ignore you because We Prefer It That Way. You don't chat on the bus!
Red faced and more like a tourist than ever, I fought my way over the help-offering throngs to get to the exit. Routemaster buses have an open platform at the back, meaning you can jump on and off any time the bus slows down (except if you're paraplegic of course, when you can only fall off, no jumping on there for you). Only this is no bloody use to you if the bus is speeding around the Hyde Park Corner junction, in the middle of eight lanes of traffic all doing 40mph at the time. And leaving by the exit lane diametrically opposite to the one you want. Lovely traditional West Indian bus conductor did his best to cheer me up by encouraging me in a hysterically-pitched scream to jump off and dart amongst the traffic via a strip of dirty grass verge every time we skimmed a traffic island at breakneck speed. I was nearly crying as I protested that I would break my neck because of the breakneckingness of it all. Eventually, my cowardice meant we ended up back at Marble Arch, and having to walk for half an hour to cross back over Hyde Park Corner. The fascination for the entire lower deck was palpable, all craned their necks to see my crestfallen trudging as we got off, still brassily debating how I should best have managed the transfer to a Victoria-bound bus. Glad I lightened their day. But by now I don't think I'm going to shed the feeling of being a tourist in my own city.
One hundred yards from the next bus stop, three Routemasters heading swiftly towards Victoria skim past us. At exactly the right moment, Derby whips out a hand and leaps onto the passenger platform of the last one. She screams encouragement at me. I leap.
Mid-leap, I begin The Wail. The one that the widows in Palestine do on telly. The heart rending "NOoooOOOOoooOoooooOOOOOOOooooooOOOOOooooooo" that makes every single head on the lower and upper decks turn to see me miss the platform and land in the gutter.
Derby keeps my nerve up by uttering encouraging whooping and screaming noises as the bus pulls away, accelerating. She's joined in this by one or two amused London commuters on the seats nearest the doors. I run.
I can run. I just can't be gainly about it. Or fast. Or successful. I was always the one who gave up in the hundred yard dash at school, and not only came last but walked the last half, whingeing noisily. But now, I ran. It was like Chariots of Fire and a heart attack, crossed.
As the bus got to the stop, I was a mere thirty yards away. The lower deck roared to the driver to wait, as one, I swear. Panting, sweating, wheezing, I hurled myself towards the platform. Derby did some celebratory whooping.
And I desperately tried to control my raging redfaced gulps, groans and unfit gasps as I oozed past faceless solicitor type forty something blokes. All of whom were giggling.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 9:14 PM GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 25 February 2004 9:18 PM GMT
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Whingeing Pom Alert

Mood:  smelly
Topic: Hurtling to Obscurity
My 302nd blog entry since I started in July 2003.

I'm feeling very sorry for myself - very poverty stricken, very cold, very hard done by. My savings are going to paying the rent on the new place, while I'm also paying the mortgage on the old. Suddenly, Tybalt thinks this is not a shared expense (unlike when it seemed likely to be her expense, I might point out. )
Said savings run out at the end of March. Complicated, now, by the fact my car is broken and I can't afford to get it fixed, which means I have to walk for forty minutes along a traffic clogged road to work. It's not so bad in the mornings, although the empty stomach doesn't help, but the evenings when I can't cadge a lift from peachykeenyboy are freezing, particularly since I left my ski jacket in Belfast airport for someone to nick, and I can't afford a new winter coat, and I don't have a hat or gloves. (JatB gave me a coat, but the arms are too short, so I'd be a frozen stick wristed scarecrow.) Whinge. Whine.
It means I have to get up at the same time as I did when I lived the other side of the Thames, twelve miles away. Moan. I'm getting deep and meaningful looks at work for wearing trainers, but the size of the blisters and cuts on my feet mean I have a fairly putrid looking get out clause. Whimper.
It makes stomping out to the Internet Palace to blog a little arduous, involving stepping out from a barely heated flat into a freezing bone cracking gale of sleet as it does. More Whine. Whingeosity.
On the upside, it'll help me to walk off all those choccy biccies I've stolen off peachykeenyboy instead of paying for lunch, lately. (The man can afford it, stop giving me that reproachful look, you.)
I managed to buy a hat and gloves for #3.50 from the hypermarket tonight (although my abnormally small head means the hat looks fucking awful). And best of all, this morning, the point along the final hill when I got to tired to walk with energy and fall into a defeated trudge was a good quarter mile further along than yesterday.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 8:34 PM GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 25 February 2004 8:36 PM GMT
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Tuesday, 24 February 2004

Borrrrrring Diary Post Again....

Topic: Eurotrash
Tuesday: Trying to get phones, electricity, voting rights and gas connected, I come up against the age old problem of the esoteric password you can't remember. That, and the claws scraping against iron Glaswegian accent of my interrogator:
GHN [Glaswegian Hard Nut]: Ah give yez a clue, iss a freevurb.
GT [Gullible Twat]: A what?
GHN: A flee burr.
GT: No, I'm sorry, I didn't understand that.
GHN: A feemur.
GT: Um. Ahhh, right.
GT: No, I'm afraid I didn't get it.
GHN: Ah'll spill it feyoh; iss a F.L.E.B.O.U.R.
I'll give you a clue: look at the URL up there.

Then an expensive meal out at the Cafe du Jardin by the Royal Opera House, with yidaho. I ate steaks of rare ostrich, washed down with quantities of champagne (well, a few glasses). Unforch, I got a cheapo internet deal on the food, so (it's not necessarily subsequent, but I hold strong suspicions) the service, timing, seating, delivery, and refreshment was all shit. One hour and fifteen minutes between bread roll greetings and ordering your initial drink is not really on, is it? I've had better meals at bloody Nando's. And better customer service in Tesco. Still, the table was too dark to see your food, that may have been a bonus.
And the ostrich steak? Well, it wasn't as tasty as the time Toulouse fed me a pig's ear, but it had the texture of beefsteak, with the taste of a peculiarly tasteless porkchop. And knowing I had bloodied ostrich inside me gave me the queasies, all right. Still, company was excellent, and not knowing the way home in the slightest, I set off driving without a map and made home it through pitch black wonder-where in thirty five minutes flat. Amazing.
Still don't know the way home from Covent Garden, though.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 6:20 PM GMT
Updated: Saturday, 28 February 2004 6:05 PM GMT
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Monday, 23 February 2004

Me, the Internet Palace, and a Diary Open. Less Than Fascinating

Topic: Eurotrash
So what's been going on?

Sunday: I did my washing. That may seem simple, and if I could work out a way to get my washing machine from the third floor of a flat in East London to Pengeistical Paradise, then it might actually become simple. However, currently I'm at the mercy of Service Wash Mistress, who is one who likes to scold excessively. This week I returned ten minutes later than the time she suggested. I should have known she likes to go on a break at that moment, it turns out. That in fact she's quite entitled to shut the shop and go home during that break if she wants to. And that would show me to turn up at the right time. Plus, manmade fibres in pillow protector cases will melt in a hot dryer, so I'm a terribly, evil soul, for asking her to wash some. She bundled the wet ones in a bag with my dry washing to teach me the error of my ways.
It's not me being rude or overly middle class (in that bullying wheedling kind of way that sets my teeth on edge when I hear other pushy middle class types complaining) - I'm passive to the point of supine in any confrontation that I don't care about winning. (Note the implied codicil, please; I love real confrontations.)
Fourteen pounds, correct change please. Next instalment this Saturday. Let's see what she can think of for me to do wrong by then.

Monday: my parents came to visit my new flat. I tried to make them walk the two miles uphill to Dulwich or Crystal Palace (and ergo any cafe that doesn't serve a side order of melted lard with any order, drinks included), but they moaned and whined and complained. Blimey, i thought my parents went yomping on the Wiltshire Downs every weekend. Was I surprised. And not a bit relieved.
So we decided to grab some food - from the nearest pub, because my mum's poor shell shocked tootsies were hurting (snnnn, would never dare say this to her face, but as she'll be reading this from home, she's out of thumping distance). So we went in the pub whose grammatical horror of a name: "The Two Half's" has me wincing every time I pass it, where the horrible seats and chairs of yore have been ripped out, and replaced by a caribbean pool parlour.
Ordering fish n chips, you don't expect that much - you do, however, expect not to catch them pulling a plate out of the freezer to go straight into the microwave, and you certainly don't expect to find a wimpy burger salt packet nestling secretly underneath your mouldy damp chips. Sigh.

Ack, a fight breaks out agaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaain in the internet palace. I'll finish this tomorrow. Arrrrgh.

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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 9:12 PM GMT
Updated: Saturday, 28 February 2004 6:05 PM GMT
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Topic: Hurtling to Obscurity
Yeah, I'm getting broadband, me. Famous last words.
I am superwoman, honestly I am. I fixed the bars that fell out of the window. I dealt with the toilet blockages (ew). When all the curtain rods fell down, I put up new ones. I called the AA about the car refusing to start. I found the cat that wetn missing, and deflected them from the new slamming the wardrobe door all night game by judicious use of stinky perfume.
I sorted out the estate agent's leaflets on my old flat, and learnt to live with how their fish eye lens had made my sky blue walls look vomit inducing turquoise. When Duch went ape at me for no reason on the answerphone, I politicked my way out of it.
I wore four sweaters so the raging blast of chill winds racing through my flat would not harm me. I spent the weeekend under a blanket. I retrieved a coat of sorts. I even tried to go buy a hat and gloves, without too much success.
I tried to walk the two miles uphill to the internet cafe to blog.

But I failed. The wind was whipping a new parting in my hair and I couldn't get up that damn hill. And sought refuge in my duvet. Sigh.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 1:53 PM GMT
Updated: Saturday, 28 February 2004 6:07 PM GMT
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Thursday, 19 February 2004

Too many visitors and things happening this week to pause for breath for even a second, it seems. Hopefully I should have broadband access at home by the weekend, and I can learn to blog daily again.

In the meantime, jatb is about to give up her extraordinarily well written blog. I'm sad about that, but I really want her to keep on writing. Fingers crossed. Somehwere.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 8:03 PM GMT
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Wednesday, 18 February 2004

Brave New World

Topic: Shy Lux
A strange congruence between two opposite ends of the culcha spectrum yesterday.
I watched a lifestyle show that veered off wildly out of safe and rewarding and into very very Wrong. A poverty stricken Glaswegian family were given a month's paid relocation to Tuscany, to change their lives. They spoke no Italian, had no savings and no skills to sell.
The wife was a nurse, but Italian bureaucracy wouldn't allow her to practise. She was a chiropodist by trade, anyway and no-one in Tuscany particularly worried about whether their feet looked nice. They kept their children out of school a few months to 'avoid upheaval'. Then the husband had a stroke, became paralysed down one side. He moved into an Italian nursing home fifty miles away, where, not speaking the language, he was unable to communicate at all as he tried to learn how to walk and feed himself all over again. The wife, with no income, was forced to leave the fantasy isolated farmhouse that the TV show had rented for her, for the nearest city, and could no longer afford to leave her children to find work. Which would be unskilled anyway, as she had no contacts, no family and no Italian.
Being thrown on the mercy of the local city meant her children were made to attend the local school, where they began to speak Italian. Through her eldest son's football games, the wife began to learn the language, haphazardly, via contact with other boy's mothers.
Their 'lifestyle makeover' had plunged them into the worst situation they could have dreamed of, and there was no happy ending. In the saccharine fixed grins and orchestrated anomie of a daytime TV schedule the jarring effect of this slic, this intrusion of raw, cutting reality and hardship was unsettling. It was as if someone had come to the party and pissed on the birthday cake.
I thought about it later on, staying up late to watch an awkward TV adaptation of Brave New World. It's fairly obvious that culcha acts as our modern day soma to some degree. But the Controller's advice to the Savage, just as in the book, stood out, juxtaposed within a messy, flabby, adolescent plot, irritating and gnawing at your conscience like all big truths do. The insect in the amber.
And it's this: without pain and sadness, we have nothing of any worth in our lives.
Art, religion, love, philosophy, science - they originate in tragedy, they stem from dissatisfaction. If we lose the social instability from which tragedy springs, we lose the rest.
I had a really shit day yesterday, but that's what life is all about.
I want good, evil, pain, beauty, freedom, sin because they're part of being alive. To be awake is not to be alive.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 3:03 PM GMT
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Sub Conscious

I had this dream where she came back from Sao Paulo and I had to tell her that there's no point pretending. No matter what we do there's nothing going to be different. I can't explain her reaction, but it was exactly like in reality, when she offered to make up, and I was cold, and it cost me some.
I felt like I'd murdered someone.
I woke up, and I found every muscle was tensed, so I didn't move and wake her, so there'd be no sign, or contact.
It took me a few minutes to emerge from the dream and realise that she wasn't in the bed.

It was a very familiar feeling, trying not to touch someone, trying not to wake them. It was stressful in a way that being on your own has never been.

I've been avoiding putting my house on sale. Four months since I should have done it.
I had to do it yesterday. It wasn't my favourite thing to do ever. And I woke up feeling tense in every muscle, looking for someone who wasn't there, worrying she'd know that in my dream I'd killed her.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 2:48 PM GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 18 February 2004 3:07 PM GMT
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Obvious NoseJobs

Topic: LondonLifer
It irritates me. When movie stars have perfect noses ... just fourinches too smallfor their faces. Otherwise physically perfect, these midget noses make their eyes and cheeks look like satellite dishes. In a worst case scenario I'm irredeemably reminded of a beautiful woman morphing slowly into a boxer dog. What's wrong with a normal sized nose, anyway?

The Worst Defamers of the Pert Nostril

5. Kate Hudson
4. Gwyneth Paltrow
3. Keira Knightley
2. Charlize Theron
1. Julianne Moore

This page graced by sarsparilla at 2:43 PM GMT
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Monday, 16 February 2004

Films That Make Me Cry in a Ridiculously Overblown and Disproportional Fashion:

Topic: Empty Fridge Light
The Nutty Professor
Vanilla Sky
The Pianist
Love Actually
The Last Samurai
Oh, the shame of it all.

"I call people rich when they are able to meet the requirements of their imagination." Henry James.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 2:00 PM GMT
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Attack of the Fifty Foot Mindflab

I just experienced a Vanessa Mindflab. Like a Vulcan Mindmeld, but crap.
I walked out of my flat, intending to walk across the drive to the car, and go to the Internet Palace at Crystal Cafe, when Derby rang up. She's visiting London later in the week, and we wanted to plan some shows - I'm despereate to see the Balanchine triple bill at the Royal Opera House on Thursday, but am more in the market for the #4 tickets than the #70 ones, so I figure that one matinee is my only chance.

I want to see Balanchine's work because I've been brooding on greatness lately. Not in a Caesar way, I mean other people's greatness.
There's that thing of when you describe an artist's work as 'great' and usually you mean for this decade, or if you're lucky, great in the context of the century.
There's very few people you'd call great in the classical sense of the word - great like Da Vinci, great like Newton, great like Michelangelo or Shakespeare - certainly in the last century.
(I was surprised to find that some people don't consider Picasso to be great on the Michelangelo scale, actually, but there you go, these things are subjective for a few hundred years at least, aren't they?)
So anyway, Balanchine died in the eighties and was fabled to be one of the greatest choreographers that lived ... so a triple bill of his work, at the ROH as an added plus, is irresistible - much in the same way as when you attend university, you're culturally obligated to go to at least one lecture by whomever that instition's world beatingly great mind of the moment is - whether you understand quantum physics or not. Culcha, innit? How could I have lived in the twentieth century and not see Balanchine's choreography?
I digress.

Given that the Thursday matinee is on at the same time I'd agreed to spend with Derby, some pussyfooting about was necessary to secure agreement. I mean, you never know if people actually like ballet, do you? I don't, so why should they?
Attack of the Vanessa Mindflab occurred at 6 pm, when the phone rang as I left the flat. I was midway through walking three feet to my car. At 6.20 I rang off, and the Mindflab ceased. I look around and find I'm on a British Rail train to Charing Cross.
How did that happen? Train tickets cost #4.70, my savings only pay the rent till April, and that's my Balanchine money gone. I'm not very good at living within reduced means, and if I'm going to start lapsing into fugue states where I wake up halfway to Wales, things can only get worse.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 1:58 PM GMT
Updated: Monday, 16 February 2004 2:05 PM GMT
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I stayed in all Saturday morning unpacking, paying bills and cleaning while some bloke fixed the window he cracked last week. It would have been quite calming - you know, bath cleaning, feeling of pointless achievement, all that - if the presence of Window Bloke hadn't made Scaredy Cat hurl herself at the window until she escaped.

Cat logic. A strange man is tapping at the window at the front of the house. One must throw oneself bodily through another window, at the rear of the house, and run wildly into the great unknown in case he ever comes in.

It being Scaredy Cat, the disappearance caused no alarm. I noticed the window a little further ajar than I believed I'd left it, so I shut and locked the thing, and carried on cleaning, scrubbing, paying bills. It started to rain. A memory did flicker, then, of when ScaredyCat once ran out of the french windows at Duch's house to hide in a clump of bushes. She was too scared to move, even when I stood right over her; as a strictly indoor cat, she'd never experienced rain before, and thought it might Get Her.
Chuckling at the memory, I wondered where she'd hidden herself, and got on with scouring the bathroom walls with bleach. The frenzy of cleanliness was bound to occur only irregularly, and I had to reap the benefit quickly before the fit passed from me.
Two hours later, Window Bloke decided not to bother fixing the rest, and scarpered. No reappearance of Scaredy Cat. In fact, increasingly smug expression settling over the features of Other Cat. (they live in fervent hope of the other cat's sudden death.) It dawned on me what I'd done.
I opened all the windows and yelled. There was no way a creature with a brain the size of a jelly tot would remember the way back in. Dragging on a hoodie and trainers, I ran out into the communal garden to stand in the mud and the rain, shouting cat blandishments at the bemused neighbours. The garden backs onto the lawns and sheds of several large, grand looking houses - the sort that indulge in stained glass hall windows and subdued peeling porticos. I know this because I had to scramble in an ungainly fashion over the six foot tall fence to scream into each garden. After thirty minutes I found me an extremely sad and bedraggled Scaredy Cat, who sliced a deep gash in my hand before I scrambled back over the mud and now broken fences to throw her in through the back window.

At this Precise Minute Other Cat leapt back out. Made a beeline for the fence and scuttled under an improbably narrow crack.

Suffice to say, my pastel carpet is now trailed over with solid lumps of crusted mud, my cats have had a right old adventure, the likes of which they'll be wailing and grumbling about for at least four days, and I have a stinking cold.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 1:40 PM GMT
Updated: Monday, 16 February 2004 1:45 PM GMT
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Brief Encounter

Brief Encounter, ITV1, 2am.
The temptation!
The knowing that it's so good (so bad it's good), you could stay up, but the stilted passion is so deliciously far under the surface of stiff upper lip, that it probably wouldn't keep you awake if you did.

Celia Johnson. This is what I always used to wish being a lezzer was really like.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 1:20 PM GMT
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Saturday, 14 February 2004

We Fear Change

Mood:  hungry
I thought I could do flavour opposites - my favourite popcorn is sweet mixed with salt, I love sausages pancakes and maple syrup, I really get off on bacon with mash and sweet custard. The last week contradicted my assumption that I'm able to be adventurous with food. It proved that thirty something hardening of the taste arteries has already begun. You know, the process that has you unable to vary your tastes in food, music or pop culture by age thirty seven, and makes the onset of Meldrewism a mere matter of time.

First off, Dee brought some sweets to Belfast from her last jaunt to Japan. Dee tests X Box games for a living (too late, geekboys, she has a bloke) and goes to Japan to try out unreleased new games a lot. She brought some salted plums to Belfast.
Her rare, favourite, delicacy.
Dee was generous enough to offer us one each, despite them being her favourite foodstuffs, and only available at great effort and expense in the land of the rising sun. The pressure was high to respond ... if not well, then politely. Gratefully, anyway. They were like miniature purple nectarines - furry, a little larger than a fat man's thumb, and smelt faintly like urine.
Mistake number one was saying that out loud. A tentative lick of the bruised looking fur revealed a strangely yellowed salty taste - much like when you lick the shell of a pistachio. Mistake number two: "ugh, it stinks of piss."
Apparently, they taste better than they smell, so I reminded myself that this was a gift, a treasured sacrifice, and bit into the thing. Mistake three.
An acrid flood of pickled egg pungency had me running to a sink to spit the thing noisily and publicly. If you met me in person, I'm dead polite, you know. Manners are important to me. I'm ashamed to say (four) that I made gagging noises while Dee watched me spit her precious fruit prize into spit covered pieces into the bin. In fact I only stopped going on about it hysterically when Yidaho came in, so that I could smile, smack my lips, tell her they were just peachy delicious, why didn't she try a whole one?

But it could well have been an aberration (sorry, Dee), a one-off taste explosion nasty.
Rather than a paralysis of my ability to experience the new. However, last night's menu sampling at 'Garlic n Shots' set the seal upon my atrophied sense of experimentation. Set the seal, padlocked it, threw away the map. But good.

I began with a garlic beer - light Scandinavian lager, with chopped, raw garlic floating at the head. (One glass. Don't like so much the process of having to chew my beer.)
Next, rubbery game in a garlic goulash, with aioli, accompanied by mashed raw garlic mixed with a little potato. J@B had kalamari stuffed with chopped garlic. By this time, I was swimming with nausea, and had to check there was no garlic in the damn ginger ale as I dropped bunch after bunch of garlic, desperately.
Once the queasiness was quelled by parsley munching, I ordered the dessert - opting for garlic chocolate truffle with a garlic and raspberry coulis, while J@B had a skewer of whole roast garlic cloves dipped in chocolate sauce laid across garlic honey ice cream.
It was putrid. The flavours didn't so much blend as wash over you in separate consecutive waves. For bravery's sake I managed two teaspoons, then had to make a dash for the Haagen-Dazs shop and espresso with six sugars.

When did I lose my ability to appreciate the new? Although I do value the ability to wield the mighty power of the truly atomic garlic burp - certainly proving useful in securing seats on the train journey home - it's a sobering, frightening prospect. Nothing new. Ever again. Ulp.

Yeah, yeah, okay, so the irony's not lost that most people wouldn't dare feast on a garlic layered smorgasbord the evening before Valentine's Day, but I did get a Valentine, thankyouverymuch. From my mobile phone company. Innit.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 4:40 PM GMT
Updated: Saturday, 14 February 2004 6:00 PM GMT
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Tales of the Urban Burbs #6

Welcome to a new stage - no longer a commuter, now a Burb Dweller, I get to enjoy only the Social Commute.
One problem. Why can't I read a train timetable? Somehow the fact that my local train line runs from London Bridge through Penge, Croydon and then back up to Victoria throws my sense of direction off totally. That's a train from London to London, fact fans. Blew a few of my synapses.
Anyway, going back into the city centre really brings home to you the age barriers of the city. I mean the disparity between the twentysomethingness of Soho and the creakysomethingness of the Urban Burbs. Hell, I don't look even a little bit old out here ... and a fortnight away from the city gates and London is suddenly transformed into somewhere with that weird film set feel (much like NYC when you spot a steaming subway vent, and have to check round for possible sightings of Dick Tracy).

London Bridge station, though, emphatically is not a place for tourists. It's a local station, for Commuter People.
A map, ma'am? I couldn't possibly. Advice on what line is quickest, ma'am? I'm very much afraid that I couldn't tell you. Directions, ma'am? Oh dear, no. I'm sure I couldn't help you, ma'am. Allow me to ask my LUL colleagues. (These would be the LUL fuckwits who later advised me that Charing Cross is definitely on the Jubilee line...)

Waiting for a tube. Then the next tube. Then the next. The next. And the next.
It dawns on me that it's not actually going to get less crowded in here, and I'd better board one of the things. This actually isn't crowded by London standards. Just give in, and shove.
Still my new touristical status means I get to be far more brash and intrusive with my camera, and never have to worry about sporting the appropriate social class identifiers. And the people. Colourful. Pretty.
I can't stop staring.
Is my mouth hanging open?

This page graced by sarsparilla at 4:13 PM GMT
Updated: Saturday, 14 February 2004 4:27 PM GMT
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Manglement Bollocks

Mood:  caffeinated
Bastard sodding work kept me doing 14 hour days for the latter part of this week, so I couldn't get to the internet cafe before it closed at eleven. I had my first (crap Sarf East Lahndan equivalent of) 360 degree appraisal. (ie, loads of important interviews where I invite feedback within a 24 hour period, not an actual HBS type manglement bollocks appraisal. The place I work is still lagging in about 1982 in manglement terms...)

So anyway, my superiors think I don't do that much, I'm idle, and shiftless. They note my unkempt attire, my poor punctuality (one verbal warning) and my laughably high sick rate (one verbal, one written warning, on an annual basis, over the previous decade). They feel frustrated at my inability to prioritise bureacratic paperwork over getting the job done well. (They said this! Don't they see how foolish that makes them look?)
They suspect me of failing to do even the basics correctly, and think there may be some merit in investigating my records. However, in public, they prefer pretend that I'm faultless and a paragon of civic virtue from whom my colleagues could learn a thing or two. They find me deeply frustrating when I pass on promotions I don't want, and think I should believe in myself more. Sheesh. Cheers, madhippyboss.
My colleagues think I'm a workaholic who tries to do too much. And fails. They think I'm married to my job, but wish I were more empathetic. They think I interfere too much and realise that I never delegate because I don't trust them to walk and chew gum at the same time. However, that gives them less work, so they don't mind in the slightest. Because of this, they mostly forgive me for never fulfilling any request which might be difficult or cause me inconvenience (symbiotic relationship, see?) They're fully aware of my governing precept that if you don't want to do a job, do it supremely badly (you'll not be asked again), and find it ridiculous. Which I think is a fair cop.
My junior colleagues think my content and delivery is top hole, old bean. They frequently think when I train them up, my presentations can't be bettered, doncha know. However, when I set up projects, they frequently can't understand what I want them to do, because my verbal instructions are so painfully contorted, even (especially) when they ask for clarification. I'm disorganised, apparently, and in high pressure presentations they think I panic and give out way too much pointless paperwork. All true, I have to say, although I do regret saying 'damn, be brutal in your evaluations, I'm never doing this crap again' a little, now.
My suppliers think I'm without parallel, the only person at my company who gives them any hard data useful to work with, or positive feedback; however sometimes they're surprised to note that I can't recall who they are.
My customers prefer dealing with me to other colleagues, but think I'm disorganised, and I don't set out projects and expectations clearly enough. They think it's somewhat out of order that I can't be bothered to get to work on time in the mornings. Also, they don't like to tell me that they like dealing with me, because I might get smug, so in face to face dealings they enjoy pretending that I'm twenty times crapper than the previous faceless operative. Gee, thanks for that, guys.

Pffft. Like I give a shit.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 3:03 PM GMT
Updated: Saturday, 14 February 2004 3:14 PM GMT
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Wednesday, 11 February 2004

Blog Profitless


It's not a fair contest if you forget to vote for yourself!
Bah, I lost by one vote. That Teddy's gonna get a grumping for this.

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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 7:35 PM GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 11 February 2004 7:56 PM GMT
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Tuesday, 10 February 2004

Drink! Feck! Gurls!

Well a mere ten hour delay enabled myself and yidaho to observe all forms of airport life - from the family man who sat nursing his black coffee and glass of red wine, while his wife and child tucked into a 7am full english breakfast, through poodle woman, who appeared to have secreted an untamed poodle into her topknot - heaven knows what security made of the contraband hairpiece; to an early morning amiable looking witch wandering through Gatwick Airport's Knickerbox. I know witches need frilly knickers, too - but cheap continental flights? Why? Broomstick out of order?
Belfast was snowing and colder than Switzerland - I was shattered after four hour's sleep and chilled all the way through despite the ski jacket. I was also the unluckiest twat alive - I worked out I'd missed my flight after putting the wrong postcode into the RAC online route planner. I shan't say whose I put in, by droopy brained mistake, but suffice to say I should not be daydreaming about stalking them while farting about at the internet cafe, anyway.
Urgent texts from cat sitting Tybalt proved the demonic felines fouled up her night by waking her through bloodied scratches at four o clock in the morning (logical; it's the time I fed them a day previously). Hah. One night's care in six months I think qualifies them to scratch slightly.
I must have looked well dodgy, because airport security searched all my bags for the first time in my entire well travelled life. This is an internal flight for fecks sake. They pulled out my smalls and swiped the inside of my bag for Semtex traces. Bastards. I was carrying that jewelled pink G string for a friend.
My bad luck run continued in Belfast as I got the serious giggles in a pikey Bingo hall near the Shankill Road, as we tried to understand what number 'sabannty sabann' might refer to, while I handily and time savingly had marked most of the bingo numbers some time earlier. Yidaho helped out by shoving bingo dabbers in my mouth whenever I lost concentration, and Dee made us even more popular with the locals by noisily interjecting outbursts of loudly voiced religious respect (note to self: comments such as 'Jesus!', 'Christ, no!' and 'So shoot me' don't go down Well in the Shankill Road area.)
I capitalised on this by making sure that my inappropriate attire got us banned from the Belfast night club and forcing all the perfectly trendily dressed folk to come back to Tess's house and take copious amounts of, erm, thing, while bribing Vic and Nik into shouting karaoke blandishments at the neighbours on a miniature PA system. For eight hours. My voice has gone now. I'm sure Tess's neighbours feel really bad for me, there.
Not only did I fuck up the morning and the evening, for my next trick, I lost my oversized expensive ski jacket in Belfast Airport on the journey back. Poor bored Yidaho had to stand around swathed in stinky bags while I argued, shivering in my shirt sleeves with all-weather jacketed Easyjet and Norn Irish customs staff, ending up with the too too helpful advice: "we won't tell you where the Lost Property Office is, they don't answer the phone, and you should go ask them yourself, or you can get the last plane home."
Ah, right, that would be the plane for which I have to queue on the tarmac runway in my shirtsleeves in the snow, would it? Taking me to the airport where I have to queue at one in the morning, alone, in a state of ... erm ... near undress at the courtesy bus stop to access a darkened, three miles away 'long term car park'? So I can wander around alone and underdressed in the small hours looking for my car without getting jumped or catching pneumonia? Damn, I'm going to make sure I never turn up for the cheaper, early flight for you bastards, you can always heft your arses finding seats for me at no extra cost on your most popular planes if that's your idea of how to treat customers.
So I have a stinking bloody cold, now, and I had to sniffle in bed reacquainting myself with my teddy bear last night instead of blogging. Hence the post Belfastian hiatus.
Whingeing done with though, I had a really good time, because the people I was with were such mad conversationalists. I'd do it again, anyway.

Bitch of the day (shamelessly stolen from Paul): today I paid bills and wheedled with Free UK broadband suppliers, a division of ClaraNet and now officially CUNTS and WANKERS of the highest order, because they won't cancel the account at my old address which neither I nor anybody else will use, then they politely rang me back to let me know I need to pay an entirely new #60 connection fee at my new address. When I asked them what was to stop me from deserting their stinking cunting stupid bollocking company and signing up with a company that would charge me in a less swingeing money grabbing fashion, they politely agreed ... nothing. Can a disconnected telephone voice sound like it's blushing?

This page graced by sarsparilla at 9:24 PM GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 11 February 2004 7:36 PM GMT
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