Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Off for a bit

Off to my writers' circle now, and then we are away in Scotland seeing The Scotsman's friends and relatives for a few days. Back late on Monday, so probably blogging on Tuesday. It's an exciting evening as it's The Heather Vineham Night, named after a former member, and there is a prize for the best spooky poem or story. I'm entering something, so I'd better go.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Ditch Monkey

I found a really fascinating blog today. Ditch Monkey is a guy who decided to dispense with renting four walls, and live outside for six weeks to raise money for charity. He liked it so much he has stuck with the lifestyle; like a lot of people before him, he wants to prove that material things aren't important, that he can live in the open with a camping stove and a tarpaulin.

The difference is that Ditch Monkey packs all his belongings into his back pack everyday, walks to the Oxford Tube (a bus link between London and Oxford), and commutes to his job at Sothebys (very posh antiques auction house in London, overseas readers) where he is working at his career as an art dealer. He is lucky enough to have a shower at his workplace, and he cleans himself up and changes into his suit and tie for the day, before travelling back at night.

This is a really interesting blog, with anecdotes about wildlife interspersed with accounts of how he puts his backpack beside his desk at work, and the dangers of packing a bottle of soy sauce amongst your worldly goods.

He was interviewed by The Observer recently. I'm intrigued to see how he will do in the depths of Winter...

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Christmas is coming...

Not blogged for a bit as I have been busy trying to do some "proper" writing, and also cuddling a three day old baby. No, not my 3 day old baby, I've not been that busy, it belongs to a couple of friends. Amongst other things, I went shopping in Kingston, for a pressie for the new baby and her 2 year old sister (because it's difficult enough having a new sibling getting lots of attention, without her getting all the pressies as well).

Normally, I quite like seeing all the Christmas stuff on the shelves, but I reached my limit in one of the card shops. There was an advent calendar for sale. But not just any old advent calendar. Oh no. This was an advent calendar for dogs.

Now I'm as soppy as anybody when it comes to animals but, in my opinion, a dog needs an advent calendar like a fish needs a bicycle. I was looking to post a link to a doggy advent calendar when I came across this site, and there's loads of the stuff. There's even a Christmas stocking for hamsters which is also suitable for rats!

Personally, I have no problem with rats. There are some water rats in The Thames near where I live and they are quite cute swimming about. Note to all readers of The Wind in the Willows: there is no such separate species as a water rat. They are just your bog standard brown rat which has decided to live near a river bank, and which therefore sometimes does a bit of swimming. Water voles, however, are different to normal voles. Anyway.

I fail to believe that there is any rat in the whole world currently looking forward to crimbo, wondering what they might get as a present. There'll be blogging pets next!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Strange Blue Outing

One of our favourite places along The Thames is Putney. You might know it as the start of The Oxford Camridge Boat Race, a chance to see sporting excellence in action. And not a chance to drink overpriced drinks from about 11am, and vaguely look up for about 5 seconds as the boats go past, no, definitely not.

If you're my age, you may remember the cartoon Mr Benn, that bowler-hatted chap who went to a special shop every week in Festive Road to try on a special costume (yes, yes, I know). What you may not know, if you're enjoying yourself in Putney, is that you're a stroll away from Festing Road, where the creator of the cartoon, David McKee, lived. He based the the cartoon street on Festing Road.

It's an attractive terraced street, worth a look if you're in the area. I was interested to learn that he based Mr Benn on the faceless, bowler-hatted individuals in the paintings of Rene Magritte, as just a mile or so away, in Barnes, you can pass the tree where Marc Bolam died, which also has a spooky connection to Magritte in this Rene Magritte painting depicting a tree, entitled September 16th (the date of his death), which he was supposedly obsessed with.

You might also enjoy this article, about the influence of drugs on Mr Benn.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Room 101

And tonight the topic is...motivational posters at work. You know the ones. Even if you've never worked in an office that has them, you've probably visited a place where you've seen them. Stuff like this.

They normally feature a beautiful landscape, or a mountain, or an iceberg, and have words like Challenge, or Risk, or Teamwork, below the picture. It's meant to inspire you to work harder, have a vision of how the company should operate, be imaginative. There's nothing wrong with any of these things. They are noble things to aspire to. But the people who put them in your your office don't want you to realise your dreams and desires, or follow your own inspired path.

They want you to work harder at selling double glazing over the phone, so that, instead of working for the second best double glazing company in Crawley, you are working for the best. Or, when you have dealt with the fiftieth pissed-off person who has had crap service from your crap company, complaining to your Barnsley call centre, when you know your five year old isn't well, and you've got bad period pains, you can look at a picture of a rock climber and know that Winners Don't Quit, Because Quitters Don't Win, so if it's busy, you can do a bit of unpaid overtime. Rather than just taking a couple of aspirin and going home to read The Hungry Catterpillar. Because that's quitting.

A particular classic is this one. This, you will notice, is a photograph of a challenging desert summit. The caption says: always set the trail, never follow the path. Now, I'm no climber, but I've done a bit of hill walking in my time, and I know this to be rubbish. If you are walking up a hill, or mountain, whether it be a in a Morroccan desert or The Lake District (and I've done both), as any hill walker will tell you, if there is an established path you stick to it. Otherwise you risk falling off the edge of a cliff, or getting lost, which might be fun in Richmond Park, but might get you winched off said hill with several members of a mountain rescue team calling you a pillock in Cumbria, or might result in your eyes being pecked out by vultures in some countries.

I have worked in several companies in the area of sales and marketing in my life, and I would say that the worst companies had a disproportionate tendency to display these posters. I presently work for a pleasant, professional company, and we wouldn't give those posters house room.

And if you are the sort of person that likes these types of slogans, always remember that There Is No I In Team. If you like motivational posters you might find it helpful to imagine the phrase below a picture of something natural, like a horse peeing, or a rotten potato. But always remember, there might be no I, but there's a ME if you look hard enough.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Strangest link ever

Many thanks to my friend Dave, who I met up with in my writers' group on Saturday, who sent me this great link. It's The Bible... in Lego.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Night out

On Saturday we we went out for a curry in Brick Lane. I had been at a writers' meeting, and The Scotsman met me at The White Hart. we didn't choose it for any particular reason, just because it was close to Aldgate East tube station. It's a basic, but welcoming and acceptable pub. It wasn't until we sat down that we saw a large notice on the wall, a chalk drawing, talking about a murder victim called Martha who was found at the back of the pub with 39 stab wounds. Unfortunately, we couldn't find out very much about the murder because most of the picture was covered by a big screen showing a World Cup qualifier. I did wonder whether we were in Ripper territory. A quick Google today, however, shows that the pub is very near to the site of one of the Jack The Ripper murders, that of Martha Tabram. They claim the murder site is behind the pub. They sell Hoegaarden as well, so worth a visit, although the fittings in the pub are disappointingly modern. Incidentally, if any readers have come here via search engines looking for Ripper info, or any regular readers are interested (yes, all seven of you), you might like to have a look at Alan's blog.

On to Brick Lane for a curry. The great thing about Brick Lane is that, not only do they have approximately 40 very reasonable curry restaurants, (I don't like to call them Indians as most of them are Bangladeshi), some of them allow you to bring your own wine, which the four or five off licenses will open for you. We chose a restaurant, which I would link to, but I can't remember which one it was. We had an excellent meal, but an even better time people watching.

There was a table of 12 people, obviously students, about five feet away. After a short time, it became clear that they were a university football team, having a meal after their third match of the season. There were several cans of beer on the table, bought from the nearby offie, and they were enjoying themselves.

As students do, they started talking about somebody they knew, who had downed a bottle of wine in 27 seconds. I went to the loo, and when I came back, The Scotsman pointed towards them. One chap had risen to the challenge, and somebody had scampered to the offie a couple of doors away for a bottle of white wine. I'm assuming it wasn't exactly the most wonderful vintage. He poured it into a pint glass, and another, smaller, glass. they counted him down...16 seconds. He did go very red, and look a bit green (good job he didn't go and stand in the middle of the street, there could be carnage), but he settled down to his curry quite happily.

Well, we had a great curry, and by the time we left the captain was beginning his speech, congratulating the team on their performance. He produced a bottle of vodka, and he had arranged for the waiter to bring 12 glasses. Each team member had to down their share of vodka, and then have their breath lit with a cigareete lighter, which was rather dramatic. We left then, but I don't expect that they were feeling particularly perky the next day. And I don't think one of them will fancy white wine again.

Back on the tube, unremarkable but for the fact that near Richmond a well-dressed, well-groomed man in his fifties lit up the most enormous spliff, which smelled tantalisingly good. And everybody beamed at him in a good natured way. Another night in London.

Update: Alan has kindly left a message regarding Martha, which is far more informative.

Friday, October 07, 2005


I was going to blog tonight but I'm really tired. In fact, I'm so tired that I tried to look something up on Google and typed in by mistake. So, I'll just say that I've looked at my referral statistics, and I wish good luck to the person who came here looking for "cartoon rabbits shagging". I'm sure you lead a full and happy life. And if you couldn't find anything, then maybe you've identified a gap in the market! If I ever spot somebody who has "Bright Eyes" as their ring tone when I'm out and about, I'll know who you are...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Books etc.

In our spare bedroom, we have about 500 books piled up on the floor. We only moved into this house 9 months ago, so we still haven't organised any shelving. I was browsing through them today and I was struck by what a diverse collection it is.

There are books that remind me of places, like the Jennifer Paterson cookbook that I found in a damp, outdoor space in Hay on Wye. Hay on Wye is a wonderful place on the very border between England and Wales, filled with 39 second hand bookshops. Some of them are little more than sheds, barely sheltered from the elements, and with a box into which you are requested to put 50p per book.

Hay on Wye is a lovely town, where you can walk Offa's Dyke (it's a long distance footpath, not some exotic sexual preference), and go into a pub so old fashioned, that when we entered, I was the only woman in that particular part of the bar, and when one of the men playing pool said the word fuck, the middle aged barman gestured towards me and told him to mind his language!! Can you imagine that in London?!

This particular book still smells of the open air, beside the castle, and contains recipes like Scotch Woodcock. I always plan to tell The Scotsman that he's getting that for supper. He'll envisage some sort of roasted bird, maybe with a red wine sauce, and all the trimmings. Imagine his surprise when he gets scrambled eggs on toast with two anchovy fillets crossed on the top!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Conversation in Teddington Pool

Whenever I hear a particularly priceless piece of dialogue, I always make a note of it. About 18 months ago I was in Teddington Pool, changing in a cubicle. In the next cubicle was a mother with her son. I overheard the following.

"Mum, you've got a vagina!"
"Who told you that word?!!"
"You did."
"No I didn't, who told you that word?"
"Well, we'll talk about that when we get home."
"Can we talk about Thomas The Tank Engine and Mercedes when we get home too?"
"Yes, I think that's more appropriate at your age."

I will never know the punishment visited on Philip (perhaps a mischievous older brother), and nor will I know whether the subject of vaginas was ever subsequently visited over their evening meal. It made me giggle though.