Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Summer in the City

I love London in the sunshine and each year I fall a little bit more in love with the city in the summer.

Although I've been here nearly 12 years now, when the sun is shining, I feel like I'm on holiday as it is so different from what passes for summer where I'm from. Even walking down the road near where I live feels like being somewhere exotic when the sun is out.

Lots of people moan about the tube being unbearable in the heat, but really there is so many great things about London in the summer that more than compensate for this discomfort. In the past couple of weeks, I've drank sangria in a park listening to dance music from around the world, I've picnicked at a Jazz Festival, swam outdoors, and wondered around like a tourist with my camera.

This week, I've been enjoying free lunchtime concerts in Victoria Embankment Gardens. The easy-going sounds of Gershwin played by a happy quartet. An old man dances along. Japanese tourists rest for a while to take in the music. Workers eat their lunch and chat to colleagues. I lounge in a deckchair, with my book.

This is what contentment is.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Gone to the Dogs

Walthamstow Dog Track to be precise.

I’d never been to a dog track before, the OH is from Walthamstow and it is closing down soon. So when a group of friends said they were going on Saturday night, I was rather enthusiastic about it.

Sadly, I was disappointed.

It was far too crowded and it was very hot, so moving about was a huge effort. People looked like they were melting in the heat.

I had hoped to visit the information stall about adopting retired greyhounds (wishful thinking) but I didn’t get anywhere near it due to the congestion.

I only bet on one race and lost.

The best bit thing there was the sign outside of the stadium, but annoyingly I didn’t bring my camera.

No Yellow Jersey for me

I thought I'd make better use of the facilities at the leisure centre I joined having only used the pools. Not quite feeling ready to go to the gym, I had decided that I would go to some of the classes instead.

Quite why I picked "Aerobiking" I don't know. Even less rational was my decision to go for the first time on the hottest stickiest day I can remember. I was hot, bothered and dehydrated before I even got going.

Cycling standing up, cycling sitting down, cycling leaning forward, cycling leaning back, cycling with my arms in the air and cycling uphill.

My legs had turned to jelly by the end, and suddenly the swimming pool looked so inviting that I went for gentle, cooling swim afterwards, glad to be back in my comfort zone.

Today, I still ache.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A rose by any other name

There was a story in the news this week about a New Zealand judge changing a 9 year old girl's name and making her a ward of court. The cruel parents called her Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii. What were they thinking?

When I was at home in the north briefly last weekend, I commented on a young child who was playing dangerously in the road. I was informed that he wasn't from the nicest of families.

His name was Dante. Not a name you'd expect from a white Norther family, but it got worse. Dante is one of four children.

Charisma (this is a girl)



As boring as it might be, I think Simon had been most fortunate.

(Apologies to anyone reading who is called any of these names, but they aren't traditional working class northern names and sound particularly daft in this context. Elsewhere, I'm sure they are fine.)

Overheard Conversations No. 3

Waiting for a bus last night on my way back from the local Jazz Festival, two young women walk past me.

"The thing is with my grandparents is that they are the perfect size, so its not like..."

I didn't hear the rest. If I didn't have bus to catch, I would have followed as I was curious to understand what she meant. I didn't realise there was a perfect size for grandparents.

I've heard of children boasting that "my dad is bigger than yours" but never "my gran is a better size than yours".

Can anyone enlighten me?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

No More Odysseys

As I’ve got older I go out less, or rather the going out I do is different. Whereas in the past it would have been bars and clubs, these days its more likely to be cinemas and restaurants. And I really don’t mind that most of the time. I haven’t had the interest or energy for clubbing for a good number of years.

But occasionally I do miss those epic nights out, those ones that you only have when you are young, where the night takes you on an adventure, where you end up somewhere entirely differently from where you planned and meet weird characters along the way.

Last night I saw a film that made me think about these nights out. “Wrong Numbers” was the low-budget debut by Alex Holdridge who directed “In Search of a Midnight Kiss” which I loved. It was about one of those epic nights, following two 19 year olds quest for alcohol. It was perhaps a juvenile story, but well-written and acted and I’m not so old as not remember what those nights were like.

You just don’t have these kinds of nights out when you’ve got a mortgage and a (semi) serious job. You go where you intended to, you have enough money to get home and you stick the friends you came with.

Gone are the nights of;

  • Drinking syrup-like real ale from a beer festival because everywhere else is closed (me)

  • A homeless man vomiting in your car (characters in Wrong Numbers)

  • Going to the wake of a stranger to continue drinking (me)

  • Attempting to steal beer from a shop by just running out with it (characters in Wrong Numbers)

  • Ending up in a cabaret club hosted by a Japanese transexual that you've never been able to find since (me)

  • Being lured into a religious group's meeting on the promise of drink (Wrong Numbers)

  • Walking home barefoot from a club and buying a freshly baked loaf from the bakers at 6am (me)
Actually it is probably for the best because while they are happening, those nights rarely feel much fun.

One ticked off the list

I'm a list addict. I can't get enough of them. I've recently discovered the "1001 Books to Read Before You Die" (a feeble 9% read) and "1001 Films to See Before You Die" (a not great 24% seen). I haven't got around to the "1001 Albums" list yet - I'm too busy reading books and watching films.

I've mentioned our office works of art before, mainly to moan that I'm not a fan. Then yesterday, we had a woman arrange to come to the office specifically to see one of our pieces, because it is in the book "1001 Paintings to See Before You Die".

It had to be removed from the wall in our Chief Executive's office and brought down to reception for her to view it. She was apparently very pleased to have seen it and quizzed our operations manager on how much he knew about it (nothing) and how often he allowed himself to ponder it (never).

It is "The Edge of Night" by David Austen. It is a black square canvas with a blue line in the middle. I don't have any strong feelings towards it one way or another, although I do wonder if we could make a little money on the side by charging people to look at it.

I've definitely seen Picasso's "Guernica" too, so I can't have more than 999 left to see.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

No Rain

Without presuming to put myself at the centre of the universe, I think I have the ability to bring on droughts.

Since I started the outdoor swimming, I've really wanted to swim in the rain. The summer weather has been changeable. There have been frequent outbreaks of rain and some absolute downpours.

And yet whenever I go swimming, it never rains. I have been swimming outdoors 23 times and not one drop of rain has fallen during those times.

I have even walked there in the rain, only for it stop once I reach the pool, then resume again when I'm returning to the office.

As superhero powers go, the "ability to stop rain by swimming" is pretty lame.

The Demise of the Muffin

In the interest of clarity, I should have perhaps called this post, The Demise of the English Muffin, but out of stubborness, I didn't.

It has come to my attention that the word Muffin has now come to mean what we used to call an American Muffin. That is an individual sweet cake with a distinctive top and stem shape, often flavoured with chocolate or blueberries. But it wasn't always this way.

We had our own muffins, it didn't need to be described as English and those other things, were called cakes.

I was musing this recently (my mind being a strange place) and it transpired that my own OH didn't even know what a muffin was. After half an hour of failing to describe one to him, I determined to educate him. I bought a packet and served it toasted. He liked it but now insists on having it with Marmite, which I find rather wrong.

So muffins have made it onto our monthly shop, which we do online. Only this time, they are all out of muffins (have I somehow started a revival?) and send crumpets instead. I like crumpets, but they aren't the same thing, and it may be a bread product too far for the OH.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dungeons and Depravity

Apart from associations with the-Ex who was living there when we split up and as far as I know, is still there now, York conjured up images of cobbled streets and tea shops, a refined, gentile place. This York was no where to be seen at the weekend. The York of this weekend was one of glittery 80s clubs, low quality champagne, Wetherspoon's pubs and feather boas that shed feathers at an alarming rate.

And a strip-a-gram who looked like Gavin Hensen made into a cube shape.

It was a lowest common denominator, cliche of an event. It wasn't my cup of tea and to commensate I took refuge in way too much of the cheap champagne because drinking is something I've had a certain amount of experience of, whilst standing on tables, showing my underwear was (and still is) outside of my realm of experience.

The one genuine (good clean fun as opposed to seedy fun?) part of the weekend was the visit to York Dungeon. We'd arranged to be the last tour in and have (yet more) champagne served to us in there. I'm not normally scared by this sort of thing, but even I was jumpy with nerves half way through it.

I love my friend and some of the other girls were great, but it did remind me why I'm more often, happier living in London than I would be in the North.

Still at least, I didn't bump into the-Ex.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hen Dos and Don'ts

Hello. Apologies for the silence. I've been preoccupied with something and didn't feel like talking, even to myself on the internet, but I'm coaxing myself out of it and thought I'd post the overdue hen report. Actually there isn't really much to report, but I should write something.

The T-Shirt
At 6am in Newcastle airport, wearing a t-shirt printed with the slogan "Hen Do" was actually pretty subtle. There were girls in tutus, a large party dressed in what I hope was meant to be bad taste and several stags in silly garb. We also had to wear it for our "big" night out on the Saturday. Again, it was pretty tasteful compared with the hens in bondage, the stags as superheros and the cowgirls.

The Accommodation
It really wasn't as bad as my sister had feared, except (and this is probably a pretty big except) there was an overwhelming smell in the corridors that I can only describe as chemical fish. We never quite managed to work out what it was or where it was coming from, except it wasn't so bad on the day that the cleaners didn't come round, so we thought they might be using some fish-based detergent.

The Pool
Before I went I was on an excercising binge and it continued well into the first day of the trip when I swam loads and tried to start an aqua aerobics class in the pool. My plans to get up early for morning swim were scuppered not by too much alcohol, but by the policy of locking the gates to the pool until 10am.

There really wasn't any scandal or gossip. There weren't any fallings out although by the time I came home I was looking forward to some time to myself. I'm off on another one this weekend though, this time to York.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Vive España (Part 2)

Tomorrow I’m off to Spain. Not to congratulate the team in person on their football win, but for my sister’s hen do.

Our destination isn’t Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville or any other place that I’d have welcome the chance to go to. Our destination is the Costa del Sol.

Months ago when it was being planned, my sister’s opening line about it was “Now I know this won’t be your kind of thing but…” Of course, I was always going to go, although jokingly I did say that I couldn’t guarantee that I would enjoy myself.

I was looking forward to it (you’ll notice the use of the past tense here). A few days in the sun with my sisters (and a few complete strangers) sounded quite nice. Even on the Costa del Sol, I should be able to have sangria and tapas.

Then last week, my sister informs me that she has had some t-shirts printed with “D’s Hen Do 2008” and mine has the word “Bridesmaid” on the back. I questioned the need for the year on the t-shirt as it implied that it might be an annual event but they had already gone to print. Apparently we are all wearing our t-shirts on the journey. “At least you won’t get lost”, smirked the OH.