Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Morning harmony

I tend to have routine songs that go through my head on a regular basis: On the Road Again (Shrek-style) for starting the car, that kind of thing. They're sometimes annoying, sometimes endearing, to me at least.

Anyhoo, in this house there is a mug that I tend to use for coffee in the morning. It's a Christmas mug, and the mornings find me heating milk, singing "Oh, the weather outside is frightful..." Sara switched it one day to a cat mug, and the two of us appraised it, considering the possibilities.

One morning of What's New, Pussycat was quite enough.

So, there's a new mug. And with it, a new song. About a laydee in satin tights, fightin' for our rights...

Truly, she is a wonder.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Ah, the V&A does it again.

On Friday the museum's late night was devoted to Retro Hollywood glamour. The place was swinging with classic songs, and there was much milling around with a glass o'wine, watching the glammed-up world go by. You could play Golden Age dress up in vintage clothes, have your hair backcombed and set, and get your red lipstick & black eyeliner applied by the professionals. There was a curator-guided tour of the Grace Kelly exhibition; and the world of Edith Head was evoked by Oscar-nominated costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis (the lady who gave Indiana Jones his fedora and Michael Jackson his red 'Thriller' jacket).

Of course, no human being could squodge all that in to one evening. We chilled out in the garden, took in some of the live old-style radio theatre (spooky murder mystery, of course), then somewhat unplanned, we did the Hitchcock & Friends table quiz in the sumptuous cafe. In true table quiz fashion, it ran very late (in a museum locking up kinda way). And though we were a team of two, 'The Women Who Knew Too Little' ranked!

Lovely atmosphere. And as intended, it got us thinking about glamour, which reminded me of the photographer Toni Frissell, who conveyed glamour exceptionally well.

Here's one I've posted before, taken at Weeki Wachi (home of live mermaids!) in 1947.

She makes it look effortless :-)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Carnival Dress

I rarely warm to advertising, but this makes me smile every time :-)

Have a lovely weekend, all X

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Citylife Report: When Foxes Attack...

...Sandals. When foxes attack sandals.

I should back up a little. Due to the Three Kitties in a Catflap-Free House situation, night-time tends to be active; inevitably, some/all of them want to come in or go out. We got into the habit of leaving a sliding door ajar but security-grilled. The cats slink through the grille; everyone gets to sleep; easy-peasey.

Until the fox slunk. As foxes do. Beatrix Potter tried to warn us. The fox slunk in and - well, "upset" the general living room area. And then chewed Sara's nice leather sandals into teeny pieces. Little sandal apocalypse, right there.

This morning we surveyed the downstairs, hypothesising how much more damage he could have wreaked (handbags, laptops, sofas, coats). All things considered, it wasn't too disasterous.

But really, why on earth would a fox need footwear?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Light as a feather

My mom gave me a lovely collection of Emily Dickinson's poems years back. At the time, I hadn't read Emily's work for ages (since being scarred by the whole 'you can sing all her poetry to The Yellow Rose of Texas' revelation).

Anyhoo, that edition, which had a bright yellow flower on the cover, is one I think of from time to time. I thought of it - and its optimistic cover - this morning, when talking to someone who's coping with physical pain, facing an operation; someone with a clear sense that life's going to have more than its share of difficulties for a time.

  Hope is the Thing with Feathers

  Hope is the thing with feathers
  That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

  And sweetest in the gale is heard;
  And sore must be the storm
  That could abash the little bird
  That kept so many warm.

  I've heard it in the chillest land,
  And on the strangest sea;
  Yet, never, in extremity,
  It asked a crumb of me.

    --Emily Dickinson

And Emily's hope led me on to Thich Nhat Hanh:

Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Jingle all the way

Pineapple Dance Studios in Covent Garden is a little universe unto itself. Since 1979, when its founder turned a former (pineapple) warehouse into dance studios with spin-off branded clothing emporium, it's been all go.

Never having set foot inside any dance-related building before, I was fascinated by the distinct worlds of the myriad studios. The ballet folk looked austere and serious; a girl band were rehearsing with gusto before a line of seated men; contemporary jazz folk hung out in the corridor, looking suitably chic.

I however, was there with our little Hips-Don't-Lie group, for belly dance. Because it's always good to be able to laugh out loud at oneself :-)

We wear little jangly hip scarfs, which let you see and hear any kind of movement your hips make. And we go through the basics of swaying and hip-dropping and shimmying, little scarves jingling as we learn. 

"I love the hip scarves," says one dancer, as we're packing up. "Even if you just hang them up. Like a decorative wind chime..." 

Talk about on the same page.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bedraggled Monday

Following a night of torrential rain, it's now simply lashing. The cats of the house react variously to the weather: Dubh is fascinated but mostly stays in (her current bout of cabin fever will be soon eased by 'Murder, She Wrote'); Max goes out in the rain specifically so that he can bounce back in and be towel-dried (loves the pampering); and The Lady Cat of the House, well, she *really* hates this weather.

In coffee terms, it's a two-pot day.

And in other, delightful news:

Friday, August 20, 2010


Overcast, blustery day here. I was dipping into various collections of poems this afternoon, and went back to Rumi's The Guest House. I like its take on non-discrimination between 'good' and 'bad' feelings, that the human, in acceptance and laughter, is somehow more than all of those transitory emotions. One that leaves me happily pondering...

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-- Rumi

Have a lovely weekend, folks. And for those whose birthday parties I'm missing, we shall catch up before too long X

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Seedpod

Continuing on a bird theme, I'd like to introduce you to today's postal treat: The Seedpod.

Friends of mine designed and turned these gorgeous pods from native Irish oak. They're supereffective when hung singly, or in groups of three.

With their lush colour and contours, they enhance any backdrop: they look funky against cement, rich against lush foliage. If we had invented Tactil-o-vision, you could feel their silky smooth grain & satisfying weight... but images will have to do for right now.

The bijou size of the feeder encourages small birds into your garden (though I'm curious to see how the Krypton-Factor-esque South London squirrels tackle them).

Anyhoo, they're the ideal mix of beauty & practicality, and are available at an internet near you: theseedpodbirdfeeder.blogspot.com. For any questions email: theseedpod@yahoo.com

I'm off to play in the garden :-)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sometimes, it is easy being green

Shortly after I arrived here, I was walking with Sara, and heard a strange squawk above us. Glancing up, three long-tailed birds with green feathers and rose beaks flew overhead.

Here be parakeets. Green, ring-necked parakeets, to be precise.

There are several major colonies here in suburban south London. By last year, their numbers were estimated at 40,000.

As to the how, there are various urban myths: parakeet couples escaping from quarantine; of Jimi Hendrix releasing birds in the 1960s in an attempt to jazz up the grey. But the birds have been bred in the UK since the late 19th century, so they probably just got into wild, and discovered they were unperturbed by the winter chill.

Whatever their origin, their green does lush the place up!

Chelsea Blooms

Some images from Chelsea Physic Garden, where I spent a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Founded in 1673, it's a lovely place: mostly open-air, with a tropical corridor of wooden greenhouses. It nurtures a variety of plants from around the world (with Jamaican provision gardens a current highlight); plants that made fortunes and empires and transformed lives: cocoa and tea, orchids and mandrakes and bananas and Cinchona, from which quinine is derived.

Medicinal plants are of course a focus: the Garden of World Medicine offers traditional plants from ayurvedic, Maori, Native American, Chinese and European herbal medicine. The Pharmaceutical Garden lays out beds of plants in world-wide use for anaesthesia, oncology, parasitology, cardiology... The deadly nightshade is in the cardiology bed, covered in jet black, poisonous berries. Its latin name - belladonna - comes from the plant being historically used by women to dilate their pupils. Cuck-koooo.

Anyhoo, there's a great poison section, neat bee hives (which yield 140lbs honey per hive in a good year), and an ornate gate at the wall by the riverbank that is only opened for royalty... and manure :-)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Friday 13th

On Friday, the lovely Sara took an impromptu half-day and we decided to head out for the afternoon :-)

I had planned to visit the Natural History & Science museums (mostly for present-shopping purposes): little did I realise the effect of School Holidays... We abandoned the Natural History upon seeing the queue, and snuck in as far as the shop in the Science museum. And there I wriggled through the crowd, trying not to freak out. Shopping achieved, we took refuge in the myriad delights of the V&A: a half-scone devoured by Hitchcockian pigeons; paddling folk (including Sara); Eleanor of Aquitaine's effigy; and the Small Spaces exhibition which was dotted through the museum.

Then it was time to head for Brompton Cemetery, which dates back to 1840. We were attending the annual Dr Death lecture in the chapel (hosted by the extremely welcoming Friends of Brompton Cemetery). The talk was supposed to be sepulchral symbolism, but Dr Death's laptop exploded (in Friday 13th fashion), and his back-up talk was on the Victorian relationship to death (black plumes, black plumes, everywhere). I really enjoy old graveyards, and this place, after hours of darkness and rain, was suitably atmospheric. Lovely walk around.

The wackiest part of Brompton was its avid supporters. Someone came up to Sara with the opener: 'Don't I know you from Kensal Green cemetary?' Apparently there's an entire circuit of cemetery folk...

Friday, August 13, 2010

An Horatian Ode

Last night Sara & I met the Lady of Enigma at Charing Cross. A few weeks back, I had asked (as I do for most tube stops sooner or later) 'Why is Charing Cross called Charing Cross?'.

It begins with the happy marriage of Edward I and Queen Eleanor of Castile (featuring 16 children. Eeek). When Eleanor died (close to Lincoln) most of her was brought back to London for burial at Westminster Abbey (her entrails stayed at Lincoln Cathedral. Eeek). At each place where the procession stopped for the night, Edward had built a memorial cross in her honour. Hence Charing Cross.

These days the original wooden cross is long gone, but there is a monument (not in the original spot) in that flamboyant gothic style the Victorians loved so very much.

Anyhoo, post-Cross, we sampled Richard Harris's old haunt (The Coal Hole), and following many dumplings & noodles, we went to the Lamb & Flag: it's the oldest pub in Covent Garden (over 300 years at least) and used to be known as The Bucket of Blood. And there it was that the little star of our evening appeared, while we were chatting over a late pint.

It was a mouse. He appeared under the stools, and scampered along the base of the bar. He was a small pale mouse, and half-bald. All things considered, he was an odd-looking mouse. He came towards us, ducked briefly into the fireplace, then reemerged to retrace his steps. A couple at the bar lit up when they saw him, and followed his progress out of our sight. They seemed quite charmed.

As we left, Sara paused at the bar: "I think you've got a mouse problem".
"Oh yeah," the barmen chimed, "Horace".
Apparently, he had been there for some time. They tried numerous methods of removal, including putting down that vicious sticky paper, which did indeed catch and stick him firmly. Horace, however, just ripped himself up (hence the half-baldness) and scampered off. They said he reappeared later with a "What are you gonna do about it?" look on his face.

Ah, Horace. Little Londoner, tough-as-nails mouse. Such a delight :-)

"Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant."
-- Horace (not the mouse though, the other one)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Meandering path

A friend posted Maya Angelou's Still I Rise this morning, and the journey began. I hadn't read the poem in a couple of years - and hearing Angelou recite it is a totally different experience:

Reading through some of her poetry, I ended up at TED, listening to iconic designer Philippe Starck talk in his self-effacing, comic way about 'our beautiful story' and being a good mutant. He covers human creativity, poetry, toilet seats, supermonkeys; how easily we fall from civilised to barbaric society, and our 'duty of vision', to look up, to see farther: "Arise the angle of vision" as he so endearingly phrases it. It's a nebulous free-ranging talk (which some find infuriating), but it's thought-provoking.
Philippe Starck thinks deep on design | Video on TED.com

Starck also does a killer impression of primordial soup. Bloop bloop bloop :-)

Anyhoo, then came Toni Morrison and Odetta, both speaking from different perspectives on overcoming, on being greater than any sorrow or disadvantage or anger you might feel or face. Which coincidentally fit nicely with the short film Words from NPR and Radiolab, referred today from openculture. In a short space, it offers a lovely wide perspective, giving a nice sense of things being greater than any one instance.

Treaty, to spend a couple of hours in the company of lyrical speakers and inspiring images.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Plotting death

Wednesday planning with Time Out: of all the forthcoming events over the next week, I'm thinking 'the annual Dr Death lecture' might be intriguing...

In other news, the new ubersleek kettle arrived, and emits no sounds indicative of pulmonary distress.

Meanwhile, the FM-ing process continues, accompanied by spearmint tea. Refreshing :-)

And in tech news:

New Apple Friend Bar Gives Customers Someone To Talk At About Mac Products

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Afternoon tea

Rainy day here. Kitties have spent the day curled up, splayed out, or playing in the bathtub (little sigh; sorry Sara). As for me, I'm ensconced in a phase of the book dubbed 'Frankenstein's Monstering': it basically consists of shoving oodles of little touches and snippets of information into the text without a care for smoothness. For the Planing Stage shall come later :-)

Anyhoo, in other news, Thich Nhat Hanh is speaking tomorrow in the Hammersmith Apollo on 'Global Ethics for Our Future'. And so this poem of his is appropriate, before I head off to put on the (teeny tiny travel, soon to be replaced by Fullsize) kettle:

Drink Your Tea

Drink your tea slowly and reverently,
as if it is the axis
on which the world earth revolves
- slowly, evenly, without
rushing toward the future;
Live the actual moment.
Only this moment is life.

--Thich Nhat Hanh

When switched on, the teeny kettle sounds like it has emphysema. I am absurdly fond of it, and wait happily as it slowly and valiantly brings water to the boil. Go, little one!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Back on the air

Caught up with family ever so briefly last week. And though we were mostly too busy playing/eating/talking to take pictures, I did take some snaps when we went to feed the swans...

Back in London, I scoped out the National Gallery's exhibition on Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries, filled with the behind-the-scenes techie side of art, and the faking thereof. Very CSI :-)

The weekend was a perfect mix of sleep catch-up and venturing out into the Outside World: antiques and fecky shops on Northcote Road and Merton Abbey Mills Market. We caught the tail-end of Balham's Summer Festival, arriving in time for Imagine the Beatles. A gorgeous sight: London folk, young and old, smiling in weekend sunshine, blasting out the 'Nah nah nah na-na-na-nahs' of Hey Jude. As though summer would never end.

Alrightey then, time to put on Pot #2 and get back to wordey work :-)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Service Pause

Hello hello... I shall be offline for a few days, for some zippyquick travelling.

Take care, little Online World. Back soon X

Monday, August 2, 2010

Weekend Hideaway

Saturday night we got all glammed up and headed to the Hideaway Club in Streatham to listen to Lillian Boutté. She is a powerhouse of a singer: named 'New Orleans Musical Ambassador' in 1986, she was the second jazz legend in the city's history so honoured (the first being Louis Armstrong).

The laydee's got charisma. She and her supersassy niece Tanya sang a great mix of laid-back New Orleans jazz and funky R&B. Highlights included Louisiana 1927 (written for an earlier deluge, updated for Katrina) and a phenomenal rendition of Proud Mary, which ended the show.

The club was pretty mood-lit, and the stage shots didn't come out great. Therefore, the images are mostly concerned with the Superglam Eyelash Plan. Mine went a smidge awry, when my sleek black feathery lashes self-destructed upon opening. Luckily we had a spare set (in krayzee purple). Fun fun fun :-)

Sunday was a FlumpFest, which went smooth and by the numbers :-)