Thursday, March 31, 2005

Odd one out among the Kandinskys... Posted by Hello

Umm, out of titles for once

Good thing I had to wake up early today - Clogs nearly came through the ceiling I believe, waking me up at 6.30 rather than 7.30.

Although my interview was in St John's Wood ("Oh, it's just up the road from my house!"), it took me half an hour to walk from one end of the 'hood to the other. Actually, it's called The Wood. Oh irony, we used to live in The Woodlands (TX). Anyway at least if I do work there, I will be healthier! I would not take the bus...unless I had to.
Abbey Road is loooong, but the famed Beatles studio is at the top of it. People write messages and signatures on every street sign, and ALL over the gated wall in front of the house. For a house it is, actually the house once lived in by the composer Edward Elgar - he of Pomp and Circumstance fame, you know, the music played at every graduation in America...
So back to the signatures, the first message I read said, "I hate The Beatles."

As for the interview, it's postponed until tomorrow as the interviewer was off sick today. At least I know to allow myself more time.

So back to Clogs, when he came home tonight, we were all in the kitchen - Suzy with final preps on dinner for her and Michael. Clogs to start his dinner. And me to wash my dinner dishes and make my pot of tea.
Clogs was thoughtful enough to apologise for making noise and perhaps waking me up. I said, "Yeees, what happened did you fall over???" Suzy laughed and added, "You can't get away with anything upstairs with Olivia in the room below."
I wondered how we would get around to the window-rattling disturbances. And when we did, at least everyone was present.
After that, Clogs and I had a very nice conversation.

I watched the original Japanese version of The Ring last night. Only because I happened not to switch it off, and then, rather like the people in the movie, found I could not switch it off. I was annoyed at myself for that.
Blood and gore I can handle, but when that girl crawled out of the TV I had to watch from behind my fingers. The famed video itself is not even scary, it's just weird and incomprehensible and that is how it throws our psychological switch.

I'm glad I can end this on a funny note. One time, Suzy and I were talking about which Requiems we like (Mozart, Faure, Gounod), and she told me that Michael didn't know what a Requiem was until he met her - he had thought it was a liqueur.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

From an email my dad sent me yesterday. Apparently, Pizza Roma on Dairy Ashford in Houston has closed down in style! Posted by Hello

Gene Kelly and VW

All you Gene Kelly fans out there have GOT to check out the very cool VW ad for the new Golf GTI.
It's worth watching, that's for sure...

We have a new tenant at the house, he moved in on Sunday. A Japanese banker who has just married a concert violinist back in Japan. They were engaged for two years and he's never heard her play!
He is the loudest stair-climber I've ever heard. Fortunately, it's not too bad once he's in his room, above mine. OK I take that back as I type. What should I nickname him?

Anyway, I'm thinking, I know someone who plays the violin and I can't wait to ask him to play!

Did I tell you? I've been promised a new TV/DVD player for my room, and my current TV will be moved into the smallest bedroom upstairs. Oh, goodie goodie gumdrops!
If that's the case I might invest in Freeview. And I can borrow DVDs from the library. It should offer hours of diversion, now that everyone else is so busy I can't go out in the evenings.

And oh golly can he slam the kitchen door. I guess it's only Japanese girls who know how to be quiet.
And me, the first morning after I'd returned from the US, I came down to make breakfast. Suzy was in the kitchen and she heard me coming and said, "Oh, tippy-toes!"

Let's name the banker Clogs. Hope I remember I said that...

Monday, March 28, 2005

Billy and Ballet

I LOVE Billy Elliott! What a lad. I enjoyed the scene in the car with his ballet teacher when they have a yelling match, and he tells her, "Alright, don't lose yer blob."

It has taken me a long time to watch this movie. I love ballet, but I avoided it because I can't stand anything set in those gritty northern mining towns. It's difficult to imagine that only in the 80s there was intolerance towards males who aspired to dance.

I fell in love with Billy when he argued with his Dad, after he'd come and dragged Billy out of ballet class. As he ran off to go to teacher's house, I thought, "This lad has spunk! Go Billy!" His father begins as one insensitive working-class so-and-so who doesn't know how to give his aspiring son a chance!
To think, he attempts to insult the teacher by calling her middle class.

There is a huge irony in that, although Billy is a deep thinker and does not belong with the rioting yobs in the streets, he is perceived as 'gay' by the mining community. Even were he gay, he could not be less respectable than the men in town who get drunk and make fools of themselves everywhere.
And although he's the one doing ballet, his best mate is the one who dresses up in his sister's clothes and puts on her lipstick. "Just coz I like ballet, doesn't mean I'm a pouf."

I also love the scene where he decides to stand up to his father in the hall, and dances defiantly before him. And father finally gives in, rather admirably I might add. He braves the rioting strikers to go to work to raise the 2 grand for Billy's RADA training. Giving his son a chance after all.

Billy (rather disgusted at his dad): Have you never been to London? It's the capital city!
Dad: Well there's no mines in London...
Billy: Is that all you think about?

And on exam day at RADA, it's good old Dad who forces Billy to continue the course, even though this genteel environment is a completely alien world to both.
What he says at the end of the interview after a string of apathetic "I dunno's", is what finally redeems him...That something changes, he feels a fire in his body, he sort of disappears, like a bird, sort of flying...yes, electricity...
And perhaps this deep emotional experience is what the board is looking for. Anyone who undergoes the rigorous training of a dancer needs that fire in the bones.
And as Mr Elliott the miner descends into the bowels of the earth, he has allowed his son to fly on the wings of angels...!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

For Queen and Country

I just love the documentaries over here. I am watching a 3 part series called The Queen's Castle, an intimate portrait of life at Windsor Castle.

Today's episode concerns the State Banquet planned in honour of the detente cordiale between England and France. The guests of honour were President and Mme Chirac, who were to stay in suite 204 with his and hers bathrooms, a drawing room with a footman, and one of the best views in the country - that of the Long Avenue. Has to be seen to know what I mean.
After the banquet, the evening's entertainment would be a performance of Les Miserables for which the cast and crew would make a mad dash from London after that day's performance. The celeb who played Jean Valjean wondered aloud at the choice of Les Miz, as he thought that would probably offend everyone.

Perfection in everything is the rule at Windsor.

A scene of two men called the Fendersmiths who, using an old traditional fenderstick, place over 100 chairs exactly 27 inches in front of each place. Then they stand back, squinting, to make sure it's straight, and will return to a chair to tap it into line. They joke that it should become an Olympic sport.

A woman in the kitchen is making butter crowns. Every guest has his or her own dish of two little butter crowns. As she rolls a small ball between two wooden panels, she comments that when the Queen was a little girl, she and the Queen Mother used to do that job. It's a tricky thing to learn. After rolling the ball, it is placed on the royal seal which has been dipped in cold water, and then she pats the pat with a paddle and voila! you have a royal pat of butter.

Even vegetables that don't look right are whipped right off the golden chargers before being whisked into the State Dining Room.
The meat course for the evening was, I think, Angus beef from Scotland, which the chef and his assistant had travelled up specifically to see before it was shipped down south.

The old fellow on the roof had taken down the Union Jack in preparation for Her Majesty's arrival home. Constantly in phone communication with the ground, he must wait until the Queen's car is within the gates of Windsor Castle before hoisting aloft the Royal Standard.
As he ties the rope around the mast, he quips, "For Queen and Country." This is a phrase used by any loyal British subject, and one that was of course part of our motto in Girl Guides and Brownies.

As she made her pre-banquet rounds of the dining room and theatre, I was tickled to hear the Queen say, "Yeah, sure....uhuh."

And even Her Majesty, that veteran of State Banquets, can still be impressed by the preparations.

I found a pleasant irony in the fact that the president of the French Republic which had struggled so hard to free itself from a Monarch and then an Emperor, would come to its old nemesis England, to be feted by its Queen, the figurehead of a monarchy which has lasted for nearly 1,000 years. Broken only once, for 11 years by the short-lived Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, in the golden revolution England once more returned her monarch to the throne to restore, I think, the world's most successful kingdom to its rightful place in history.

The lady cuts a fashionable figure here, probably turning heads. She has her lap dog, a necessary fashion accessory. circa 1912. Image courtesy of Condé Nast. Posted by Hello

From 1915, another fashion plate of a lovely lady with her live fashion accessory. Condé Nast. Posted by Hello

Easter and Parades

E: Happy Easter!
F: Joyeux Paques!
I: Felice Pasqua!
G: Kalo Pascha!

Unfortunately it is not a sunny day and it feels cold. After a sunny Saturday which ended in rain, what do you expect?

Easter Parade with Fred Astaire and Judy Garland is on. I love Fred and loathe Judy (her daughter's even worse). Can you believe the part was originally intended for Gene Kelly, but he dropped out after breaking his ankle? I don't think I could see him in such a light-hearted role. He was more sexy and muscular than Fred, who was more of a gentleman from another era and as the movie is set in the 1910s, he is perfect for it. I mean, to see Kelly dancing with Cyd Charisse in Singin' in the Rain is enough to make any lady swoon.

Fred's old dancing partner, Miss Hale (part for which Cyd Charisse dropped out due to pregnancy), cuts a dashing figure reminiscent of the popular look of the day. Lady in walking suit with elegant dog. A couple of pictures for you.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Peter Rabbit Centenary

I keep hearing about it, and can hold back no longer! Peter Rabbit is 100 this Easter! Do I need to tell you how much I love those stories? I had the whole collection of Beatrix Potter tales before I can remember, and a large frieze encircling my room.

So in honour of the world's most endearing bunny, please check out the Peter Rabbit website and enjoy a few minutes of joyful innocence. Also, check out the World of Beatrix Potter, her home in the Lake District - and wait for the pair of ears at the bottom of the page!

And Now...Unless you want to be converted into a rabbit lover, then read no further.

Over 20 years later, what did I name my first wabbit? Why, Flopsy of course. Flopsy Bunny Cottontail. All our buns shared the family name of Cottontail, just like Beatrix's characters. After Flopsy came Lulu, Muffet, and Dapple.

Flopsy was a gorgeous white rabbit with red eyes. She was totally angelic, affectionate and so cute - she knew it too, and would exploit us just by sitting pretty. She was Mum's favourite.

Lulu was a really intelligent and neat rabbit, my baby completely. Mum refused to have anything to do with her because she was a biter. I used to say she wore a white shirt and gloves, cinnamon trousers, and white boots, with a splash of white on her forehead. She was my merry Dutch girl, always full of beans and forever learning stuff! Who said rabbits were stupid?
She'd get a look in her eye and I used to pre-empt her bites with "Nu-uh!" (Bunny No), and you know what she'd do? She'd hesitate while adjusting her thoughts, and then kiss the spot she'd meant to bite.
She did other non-rabbit things like climbing, shelling sunflower seeds, and chasing things on string, even standing up and reaching with her paws. She used to stretch like a cat, sit like a Sphinx, and sometimes cross her front paws like a laydee. One time, Mum was on the phone while Lulu was ready for her afternoon nap. Still intent on listening to the conversation, Lulu sat Sphinx-like and bleary-eyed, with her ears twitching and her head bobbing as she fought to keep it up. Bless her little cottontail. I used to call her my catdograbbit.
At other times she would do the bunny roll, the ultimate expression of a relaxing rabbit. From a standing position she would just knock her legs out and flop over with a bump before gracefully stretching full length along the floor. One time while my French teacher was over for dinner, Lulu did the flop right in front of her, and Trina exclaimed that she thought Lulu had just died!

Did you know rabbits waggle their tails when they're being mischievous? Seriously, they "talk back". The waggle, the ear toss, and the peep over the shoulder as they gallop off are signature rabbit cheekiness. But they can also be quite rude, by stamping their feet and grunting if they disagree with you.

We brought Muffet and Dapple home at the same time. Muffet was tiny and fragile at first, but a typical brown rabbit with the white tail and creamy belly. We called him Miss Muffet at first because he was so little and we thought he was a girl. When he was new, he would take a couple of hops and then stop to regroup, looking like a Muffet on a tuffet, hence the name. He was so frail I thought he would snap when I picked him up (once he'd grown he wouldn't let us hold him, but that wouldn't stop him from sitting in my lap and chewing holes in my clothes).
Eventually he grew really sharp nails and a wild side, even down to running pure zig-zags. He was still cute to look at though.

Dapple was a mini Rex - her white velvet fur was "dappled" with grey, and her eyes were the same colour. Her velvet coat was so soft that the nerve endings on our fingers couldn't pick up the sensation, so when we touched her it actually felt like our fingers had disappeared. However, she was a very silly girl; we thought she was the boy because she started the humping with Muffet. When they were grown up, there would be competitions in which Muffet would do his job (with very bad aim) and then Dapple would turn round to hump him back and there'd be a circular tangle of bunnies while she pursued his tail. Very odd.

At the same time, she was extremely nervous and would clench her little paws when we picked her up. Buns love bananas but Dapple loved them so much she would inhale her slice till she couldn't breathe, silly girl. Plus she was so lazy that she would strangle herself on the rim of her bowl and then we'd hear a little "woodchuck sneeze" while she caught her breath.
Also, she had these useless curly whiskers so whenever she ran around the house and we heard a little thud, we knew Dap was bumping into furniture.

Flopsy died when Lulu was middle-aged, so by the time we had Muff and Dap, Lulu was a matriarch. However, she really hated Dapple and, spinster that she was, she didn't know what to do with herself when Muff was around. A couple of times Lulu chased Dap down in the garden and bit her (of course), eliciting from poor Dap a toe-curling scream and a puff of fluff.

So Dap and Muff lived together and Lulu luxuriated in her own large cage. I believe if she were human she would have owned a couple of cats by then. Still, she and I shared a deep affection. The day I learned she truly loved me we were at the vet for a checkup. He'd put her onto the floor to let her air out, while Dad and I sat on chairs against the wall. She hopped about a bit looking lost, and then she came up to me and leapt right into my lap! Oh joy! My bunny looked for meeeeee!
I miss the nape of her neck, which is the part of the rabbit which stays babyish. By rubbing the tips of her ears, I could activate her automatic grooming response, so up would come the paws, grooming the face and ears (cat-like).
Rabbits purr by gently grinding their teeth, so Lulu and I would sit together on the floor; I would whisper and she would purr, and I'd kiss her cheek and she'd kiss me back. Sometimes she might kiss my entire face, and it's such a thrill when a rabbit whiffles in your ear as she explores. They do keep strict accounts - kissing, scratching and 'niffing are all exchanged in equal parts. I have to lavish attention until the bunny thinks I've done enough and then it's her turn. When my turn comes round again she will settle in for it and if I am too slow to reciprocate there comes the reminding nudge. Rabbits are great nudgers, insinuating their heads under a lazy hand, just like dogs: "Rub my head now please." And if the response is still too slow, there may be a short reminding nip or tug, "Hey you!". They also nudge to say, "Get out of my way, big person."

The day Lulu died, I was still at university studying over the weekend for exams. She'd been suffering with arthritis for months and at times her back legs would just give out. Every weekend I used to lay her out and she would let me massage her joints. One weekend I was at home and we were watching her in the garden - she had been sitting quietly under a garden chair, when suddenly up she got, leaping and spinning. We said at the time that was her last fling, and how right we were. She died the next weekend after waiting all week for me to come home. That morning, Mum put them outside for their daily play and they ran off. Pretty soon, Lulu came back up to the deck, seeking - once out to play, a highly unusual occurrence. Mum talked to her, asked her what was wrong, and rubbed her all over. Lulu went away again, and in the evening when Dad went out to bring them all in, he found her little body under the deck stairs. Of course I was not informed until exams were over.

Dad used to call them "runny babbits" and we used to love watching them gambol in the garden, like little lambs. It's like an uncontrollable reflex. Put a bun out on the grass and after a few seconds of soaking in the atmosphere, she will shake out her ears, waggle her tail, and then through her little body will thrill a spasm of pure JOY as she springs off the ground to make a mid-air turn. Then there might be a mad dash round the garden as she revels in free bunnyhood. They do this out of nowhere at random moments!

If you watch rabbits being rabbits and don't feel happy then there is something amiss...

Happy Birthday, Peter Rabbit!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Tempering the depth of today's blog with a pic of a perfect Dallas sunset in December. I could have taken a photo like this *every day* from the balcony. Posted by Hello

Ritual connections and stream of consciousness

Wow! Watching "What the Mesopotamians Did For Us", with Adam Hart-Davis.
I just saw a Mesopotamian exorcism. To rid you of a demon thousands of years ago, they would scatter crumbs around you, you would spit on the crumbs, gather them up, and take them out into the DESERT where you would scatter them in all directions for the god of rodents. Id est, the rats would eat the bally crumbs, wouldn't they?

Some of you may remember my presentation last year on Aby Warburg's visit to the Hopi Indians in the Southwestern US. Remember their snake rituals? They would dance and pray for rain at harvest-time (go figure) using serpents and a sand painting on the floor - the snake would hit the ground so hard it would be partly absorbed by the sand, a magic throw intended to force the snake to invoke rain and lightning. After days of this, the serpents are released into the DESERT as messengers to, I guess, the gods of rain.

Compare to the old Judaic scapegoat ritual, in which the sins of the people of Israel were ritually placed on the back of an (I believe) unblemished goat which was sent into the DESERT to make atonement for the sins of the people. The man chosen to send the goat out had to, as always, take a ritual bath before returning to the encampment.

Note that I have continually emphasised the word DESERT in each paragraph. Each culture sends their spiritual detritus and/or messages into the desert, which seems to be an ancient point of contact between man and the divine. No mention of mountains here, eh?
Imagine how many comparable desert/serpent rituals worldwide I haven't mentioned...I bet the Australian aborigines have some good ones. And let's not even start on Africa.
Oh wait, not done yet: In my Warburg report I also made mention of the bronze serpent on the cross which Moses used to HEAL the Israelites when they were suffering from a plague of snakebites.
This is comparable to the caduceus of the messenger god Hermes, once his exclusive entry to audience with Zeus, also attached to Asclepius the god of healing, and today a symbol of the medical profession. Keyword, HEALING.
And what about when St Paul killed the snake that had bitten him by casting it into the fire, and he remained unscathed?
Let's not even get into the serpent in the Garden of Eden, but....consider. The serpent - representing good and evil in every culture, even in the Bible.

I could go on for ages now I've gotten started but will shut up shop and make some tea.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Atomic disappointment and odd dreams

Well, I ignored the tugging sensation as I walked past St John's High Street last night - past Cafe Rouge, Cafe Richoux, Pizza Express and even past the temptation of Carluccio's at the end of the street...Determined to get my Atomic Fries at Ed's Diner up on Finchley Road.

While it was great to be out and about, my enthusiastic memory of those fries is certainly brought into question. What was I thinking? They were OK, but not that great. I did sort of enjoy the Classic bottle of Coke (after some of the fizz had dissipated), but have never been able to finish a can, let alone a bottle.
They were playing some really good 60s music; I was able to identify The Beatles and Mamas & Papas.
And all the staff had transmogrified into Russians. The cool Aussie I'd chatted with last summer was not there. Sorry for using such a big word for such a trivial situation, but sometimes the first time you use a word it pops out when it wants to.

So there I was pronging my fries and ... I had forgotten how easily eating alone without a TV lends itself to deep and moody musings. Care to join me?

I don't give guys enough credit for having a memory. Mere days after making a dinner plan, I start thinking, "He's not going to show up." So the day before, after reining in my impatience for the former part of the week, I send an email or a text to confirm or remind. Do I lose points for that? But seriously, you don't hear from them otherwise.
(In fact, do I lose points overall for being a girl with a blog? I know it's getting popular, but still. Aren't we girls supposed to be mysterious, to have that air of mystique clinging about us so they'll want us even more?)

Bear with the angst-ridden musings of this former psych major. It's never going to leave me, is it? Oh the horror, the horror!
Guys tell us girls that we think too much, and they're right, but if we don't do the thinking, no one else will.

Oh! I had the stupidest dream two nights ago, and I don't think I was running a fever, either. And I rarely remember them nowadays. You know you've made it to girly-girl-hood when you dream about going out with no makeup on!
I dreamt I was at a cafe with a close male friend (no names here, but I have mentioned him before) - and I spotted my friend Gemma! (No logic, she lives in Houston.) I said, "Gemma!" and after greetings she looked at my friend and insinuatingly said, "Aha." And I firmly said, "Nooo." (Oh alright then, it was the one I had dinner with last week!)
We all sat together and from there it went downhill. To cool my hot tea, I poured it into the outside pocket of my purse, which was made from the same material as my Rainshedder coat. He got up to fetch me a mug so I could pour it back in. Meanwhile I commented to Gemma, "I'm not wearing any eyeliner." (In as scandalous a tone of voice as if it had been underwear.) Then added, "...Or mascara. In fact [as realisation dawned] I'm not wearing any makeup at all!"
There the dream ended, but I wonder if the makeup was a Freudian substitution for clothes.

Gone off the kitchen this week, with my duck legs in the freezer. Might pop round to Pizza Express to pick up a new pasta dish I like. Oh wait, you only say 'pop round' if you're old...

Sunday, March 20, 2005

A bit of a whine

"Oh dash it!" as Bertie Wooster would say....

Once again dating plans fall through as the Fig's father is visiting this weekend from Paris and didn't leave as early as he'd thought.
I know I have complained before about no one having time to have a life. I have time and still don't have a life - probably because I'm too busy waiting for everyone else to get lives. Irony.

Speaking of nicknames, it's a tonne of fun nicknaming people. AleB (Rebecca), whose blog you will find in the list, apparently calls her guy E (for Eurotrash, though he's nothing like that) but I read her blog again today and she is now using his real name, Giuseppe.

I won't do it for my friends, as you have seen. But I may take to it for mentioning certain people. Like the Fig above. Look, now that nickname's stuck!
I never intended to speak about the Fig but...sometimes these things become so intertwined with my blogs that I can't help it.
(If you want to know what Fig stands for, there are 3 nationalities in those 3 letters, and two of them love figs. Care to hazard a guess?)

And so, I am ready to go out but with nowhere to go. I might visit Ed's Diner at the O2 Centre to 'prong a moody forkful'* of their excellent Atomic Fries. I gotta tell you about those! Mmmmmmmm. Great fries with little bowls of dips: chili, salsa, guacamole (all the best I've tasted so far in London), nacho cheese, and sour cream. I spent the first few minutes dipping individually, until it got so yummy that I dumped it all in and stirred. Looked plug ugly but tasted deeeeeee-vine.

My mouth is watering and on that note, "Ed's Diner, here I come!"

* Another Bertie Wooster quote

Friday, March 18, 2005

Concorde and whatever

Hahah! I am watching a programme with grumpy old women complaining about stuff like women who have to dump out their handbags to find the ringing phone, drivers who don't signal, or why single women love cats. One lady said, "Cats don't give a sh**, they come and get fed and then bugger off again, showing their bums, which is a very rude thing to do." LOL.
However, the previous series Grumpy Old Men was much funnier. Men are funnier than women. Women can't tell jokes. To prove the point, a few years ago I was at Lydia's house and we were giggling in the living room, telling jokes. I had my own repertoire back than, all forgotten now. Lydia had just finished saying that women can't tell jokes because they can never carry off the punch line, when her Mum came in to see what all the laughter was about. We told her we were cracking jokes, so she attempted to tell one and of course to prove the point, it all fell apart at the punchline, which of course had us girls in stitches. I did the very same thing last week, so here is how it goes. We tell the main part of the joke pretty well, but start trailing near the punchline when we realise we can't remember how to make it go together. We end up forgetting the punchline, retelling the joke in a fluster, and then spluttering over the punchline again until we manage to squeeze out a poor semblance of it.
Yea, men tell better jokes.
I will stick to telling them online. Punchlines don't leave me when I'm typing.

Last night Anthony had a great simple one.
----What's Postman Pat called when he's not at work?

Owww. It was funny.

"You don't 'pop round' when you're young. You only 'pop round' when you're old."
(Still watching Grumpy Old Women.)
Old village ladies who clutter up the road while they stand around chirping and chatting with their baskets on their arms.

When I started this blog, the point I'd meant to make was about the Concorde, but that's escaped me now. I wish I had flown on the Concorde. It is an icon of the 20th century, even though it ended up being a benefit to no one.

I can't end this on a serious note, after all that talk about jokes. So here is one:
An Irishman coming home from the pub was attempting to unlock his front door. The local policeman spotted him and went over to ask if he needed some help. The Paddy replied, "Aye, if you could just hold me house steady while I get the key in the lock..."

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The supremely elegant, immaculate Park Crescent designed by Nash. Neoclassical, and contemporaneous with the aforementioned Regency lady. Ooh big words when I'm tired, that's funny. Posted by Hello

Further along from the fountain avenue, a particularly Parisian-looking building outside the park, juxtaposed with a ghastly modern sculpture within the park. Posted by Hello

One of my favourite views at Regent's Park - what I call the Secret Garden Avenue. I like to imagine a Regency lady running along it with her petticoats fluttering behind. This probably didn't exist back then, though. Posted by Hello

Spring is Springing...

'Allo 'Allo

.........Do any of you remember that show by the way? You know, the cheesy British WWII comedy with the hapless Nazi occupiers and the equally hapless French villagers who used the local cafe as the underground resistance HQ. My fave character was the gendarme (policeman); he had a hilariously overdone accent, and no one knew what he was going on about (perhaps because he was an Englishman pretending to be an Englishman pretending to be a Frenchman). "Good moaning."

Anyway, that was a huuuuge tangent and I hadn't even started!

Ah yes, Spring is springing. Indeed! I went for a walk yesterday through Regent's Park to Christie's Education and totally enjoyed the daffodillies waving their heads in the wind, and the lovely little white and purple crocuses covering the grass. In fact, I even got a sniff of newly-mown grass, mmmmmmm. Southwest winds caressed London for the first time in months. I think some trees blossomed overnight.
However, just to steal our joy over the balmy sunny start to the day, the afternoon grew breezy and blew in the rain.
Today was another story - WSW winds blew the rain away again and we had non-stop sunshine,and 64 degrees F (18C). Enough of talking about the weather, that tried-and-true English past-time.

Gosh, what a nice evening I had. I. could. not. stand to stay in another evening, so I forced the issue which is something that needs doing sometimes with friends. They are literally all so busy working, studying, and being exhausted that I don't get a minute in edgewise. I know it will be worse when I get a job. Haven't things changed? When my mother was working here in the 70s, they used to go out all the time, to cocktail lounges, Chelsea jazz clubs, West End shows, etc. Now all people do is go home and flop.
Anyway that was another tangent. I called my bestest friend Lydia but she's exhausted and unwell. I called my other bestest friend, her twin brother Anthony. He will be reading this at some point...Hi Tone!!!
He was also exhausted and getting on the train at Canary Wharf, but after a power nap he got off at Finchley Road to change to the Metropolitan line and must have felt so much better he called me and we met for dinner anyway. And omigosh he looked great (sorry T) - I kept telling him he looked all Helmut Lang-y, all over black with the coolest black rectangular-framed tinted specs I have ever seen! (By Red or Dead) Told him he looked like he owned a modern art gallery.
For those of you not in the know, Helmut Lang is THE minimalist designer: sleek, mostly black, for the hip and cerebral urban fashionisti.

Now that's the catch with sharing your blog with all your friends. You have to talk about them at some point.

Hm, all that fashion excitement has tired me out. Can't finish the post and it's time for bed. Ciao!

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Sunday Tangent

Today I went to my aunt's for Sunday roast. With Yorkshire pudding of course. For you Yanks, it is essentially a pancake mix baked in muffin tins. Goes a dream with brown gravy.
Then Mother and I got on the bus to see Choral Evensong at St Paul's Cathedral. The traffic was going nowhere, and the bus inexplicably decanted us at Liverpool Street Station. We were already late, so we decided to go exploring. We went along Bishopsgate where we fell in love with that new office building with shops below, sort of classic modern brass wood shopfronts...
Ended up in Spitalfields Market. The crowd was of the tie-dyed, vegan, incense-burning, body-pierced type. Selling sprouted salads, vintage clothing and furniture, handmade bags, Tibetan furniture...and a REALLY dreamworld shop. I can't even begin to describe it. Um, think of Tim Burton or Alice in Wonderland in rainbow colours, pink being dominant! Little girls who want to be princesses probably have dreams like this! Mostly little rabbit people in gorgeous satiny outfits and beads, and ribbons, and buttons, and birds in snowglobes, and glitter. Even the ground in front of the shop was covered with glittery confetti. Awesome and over the top, but totally what you NEED if you are feeling depressed.

We got a bit lost on exit, and ended up on Brick Lane (the land of now-reputable Indian restaurants, where the spiky-haired army jacket types live in trendy new loft conversions).

It was another day of going in circles, so we ended up at Liverpool St Stn again and parted ways at Oxford Circus.

Well my mind is all taken with the pretty shop front, so as a former princess I'm going to go away and luxuriate in the memory of it...


Mother and I went to Fortnum and Mason yesterday. We did the entire Piccadilly/Soho thing. If you're not one of my American readers, you can skip this post unless you're hankering after an impression of Fortnum's.
It could be described as a department store, but it's more of an establishment. Founded in about 1707 by a footman of the royal household called William Fortnum, and a grocer called Hugh Mason. Long story.
Plush red carpets everywhere, wood panelling...A much more classy, old-school affair than Harrods. I can go an entire year without stepping foot in that brash palace. Leave it to the tourists, though they make a pretty good presence at F&M as well. Fortnum's signature colour is reminiscent of a Georgian drawing room. See a bag that colour and you know where the bearer has been! Those of you who were at Christie's King Street will remember how much better (and cheaper) their sandwiches and wraps were than the overpriced overtoasted ciabattini things produced by the Duke Street cafe.
I go there once a month for my chocolate and other luxury supplies. On Saturday I spent more time browsing than ever before and bought:

  • A little box of F&M Elegant Chocolate Thins: dark choc squares infused with little violet petal crystals (floral explosion in the mouth!) in a cute little box this colour embossed with gold script.
  • A jar of French Greek-syle oil-cured olives..............................Mmmmmm, writing about it, I decided to open the jar and try them. Marinaded in herbs, the olives still have a wonderful creamy flavour.
  • A box of F&M royal blend tea bags, created in 1902 in honour of the coronation of King Edward V. (???)
  • A tin of F&M crepes dentelles enrobees de chocolat noir (fine lacy crepe wafers covered in dark choc) - so fine they literally melt in the mouth. The pic on the lid is a drawing of two white-wigged 18th century dandies having tea, pinkies fully extended, simpering smiles and eyebrows raised.
  • At the chocolate counter, Mother picked her own combo box: my fave coconut ganache logs (cocobello), spicy passion fruit squares, dark choc covered ginger (her fave), and cherry kirsch. All in a lovely box, and, like many of their items, tied with a ribbon in that colour.
Did all that talk of choccy make your mouth water???

After Fortnum's we walked along to Virgin Records on Piccadilly Circus (used to be Tower Records) and bought classical choral stuff. Durufle, Handel, Rutter.

By then we were hungry, so we continued on to Soho's Chinatown where we had dim sum. That's the best lunch you can ever have - 3 or 4 small items on each plate, so two people can finish 6 or 7 dishes with ease. We had char-siu cheung fun, king prawn dumplings, grilled peking dumplings, Vietnamese spring rolls, prawn and chive dumplings, and steamed custard balls. Lashings of Jasmine tea. Happy tummies.

Still, we continued on to the Haagen-Dasz cafe in Leicester Square, a very popular spot where the queue went out the door, but it's always worth the wait. Their rich hot chocolate is the best in town, made by melting the belgian chocolate ice cream in steamed milk with frothy cream on top. Decadent..........Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Then we took a stroll into Trafalgar Square, where, on a whim I dragged Mum into the National Gallery. This time I showed her some paintings from 1600-1800. Last time, I had taken her to the Renaissance section in the other wing. It was packed full of people, probably for the Caravaggio exhibition.

Then we were at Piccadilly, almost back where we'd started. Always nice having walked in a big circle while getting everything done in the right order. I wish I had a pedometer to see how far we walked.
I left her at the bus stop to catch the bus straight back to my aunt's and then I walked back to the station to catch my train to SJW.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Breath of even Fresher Air!!!

Hello, hello!
I am redecorating already. Hope you like the new colour scheme. I think the black was hard on the eyes, and wanted something a little smoother, more relaxing. This is a place my friends like to visit so it should be a bit like an oasis.

Unfortunately I lost my cool links :-( Bear with me while I get it all up and running again!
And then I'll put up some nice Italian photos for you (Vanessa...!)

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Breath of Fresh Air

Thanks to all of you who have been leaving comments for me! I enjoy them very much.

Well, you you have gone for long enough without any pictures. The problem with starting a blog at some point, is that you have to start with the present, and all the amazing things that happened the month before are sort of old news. Still, I felt I had to share my France pics, and better yet, what about my Italy pics???

I've been having a terrible week of it. Everyone (dates, friends, even my cousin) who said last week that they would see me this week have been impossible to pin down! Those I have dug up are now suggesting next week. It's always like this. Seven days of drought followed by seven days of deluge. I hope to unfurl my umbrella next week, then, in the people department...

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Beautiful People...and....Iceland???

I just read an article on MSN Careers which names a number of studies about good-looking and/or taller people earning more and getting better jobs than shorter and/or more homely people. Not too good-looking, though as such people are thought to be quite empty-headed. But just attractive enough. Why would short people earn less? Do they look as though they need less money for survival because they are smaller?
It's no one's fault, just part of human instinct (as always, that unknown and uncontrollable "other" that excuses or explains lots of our behaviours). They say we are hard-wired to prefer symmetrical, attractive faces - proven by babies, who spend more time staring at nice faces.
However, hiring managers say they are more attracted to exuded confidence rather than the face. So: maintain upright posture, confident bearing, direct eye contact, dress well, etc., and you will attract more people and receive more warmth and respect. This is so true.
But in London, one must spend a lot of time with eyes on ground to ensure one does not step in any of the nasty things produced by millions of people and animals in this teeming metropolis.

On to other things. Can you believe it: I am feeling a bit down at the moment, and of all things, a former classmate tried to set me up with a guy who wanted to take me to a Henrik Ibsen play? Even on my sunniest days Ibsen is a bit much...I saw a Strindberg play on TV the other day and that was just ghastly. What is it with those Scandinavian playrights? They're as bad as the Russians. It must be the weather. You think England is bad....

Last year, I saw a movie called Reykjavik 101. I would be loathe to admit to anyone that my grandmother is Icelandic, if that were their only exposure to Iceland.
One very pathetic group of Icelanders hanging on to existence in the perpetual darkness and nearly-endless blizzard of a sub-Arctic winter - something's bound to break. And in this case, it was the twentysomething narrator, who lived a pointless life with his mother. He and everyone else frequented the same bar and they'd all already slept with each other, but he was sort of going steady one-and-off with one girl from a wealthy family. Unemployed for ever, he had no social skills and even less grace, but he was not bad-looking. In the course of one winter, his girlfriend got pregnant and decided to keep it; he went for a most embarrassing dinner with her parents at their big house; his mother started flamenco lessons and fell in love with the hot lesbian Spanish instructor, who moved in with them and then mother came out of the closet; between both situations, he tried to commit suicide and failed as he had with everything else. Rather funny scene where he lies down in the snow with his suicide note in his hand and waits for the snow to cover him. After a while, he falls asleep and then it starts to rain so he gets up and walks home, soaking wet. In the end, he learns to accept his mother and her chica, and they all adopt the baby.

A long time ago, I learned that Iceland has the highest literacy rate AND the highest illegitimacy rate in Europe - all for a population of only a quarter of a million! I doubt it has changed since then. I mean, what else is there to do?
Alright, the official website makes the best of it for visitors, but when you live there it's different.

Back in the 60s, my grandmother visited my grandfather's homeland of Cyprus. She said, "Who would want to live in such a hot rocky place?"
When grandfather visited Iceland, he said to grandmother, "And how could you live in this bloody cold rocky place?"
She's fiercely proud of her heritage though. Her sons often asked, "Well if Iceland is that great, why did you marry a Cypriot?"
My Amma is about 86 and very strong, it must be the Viking genes. She once referred to the "old lady down the hall" before realising that the poor oldster was only 4 years older than herself. We got a chuckle out of that. But there you go, the other day I said that I should visit Iceland with Amma before she gets old...awkward pause followed by the correction "older". When you have a relative called Helga, you can't pass up a visit.

Icelandic joke for today:

Q: What do you do when you get lost in a forest in Iceland?
A: You stand up!

Icelandic Superstitions:
If cows lick trees, it will rain
If your head itches, it will rain
In late winter, knitting at the doorway will lengthen the winter
If you sneeze three times before breakfast on a Sunday, you will gain something during the week.
Good one:
If you see nine cows in a shed, with a grey bull beside the door, and all of them lie on the same side, you are in luck because you will be granted one wish.
[What are the odds of that?]

I am not making this up: a picture taken at midnight in summer
Another visual thrill: The Northern Lights

And on that thrilling note, THE END

Friday, March 04, 2005

Snow and Castles and the Universe

London has been thrown into chaos by a heavy snowfall this morning. It fell beautifully, stopped around 10am, lasted about 10 minutes, and then typically began to melt. By lunchtime it was raining and an hour after, the sun came out! Wait another hour, it might start snowing again.

There is a series on called Castle in the Country on BBC2. It's all about daily life at Glamis Castle (pronounced Glaahms), the Queen Mother's birthplace in Scotland. The presenters learn about maintenance, secret housekeeping tips, medicinal uses of trees and plants, and family recipes - as well as all the juicy stories surrounding life at Glamis. When Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon's father inherited the earldom of Strathmore, little did she know of the future which awaited her. During the First World War, the castle, as with many British country homes, was converted into a hospital. Lady Elizabeth kept an autograph book for soldiers to sign upon discharge. The presenter showed some lovely entries and sketches on a few pages, and then one shocking one from 1917 which elicited a gasp from me (until I reached the postscript):
May the owner of this book be hung, drawn and quartered.........................................
Hung with diamonds, drawn in a coach and four, and quartered in the best house in the land.
So there you go. The Lady Elizabeth was courted by, and married, Prince Albert...In 1937 he ascended the throne as King George VI with his Queen by his side, and the royal couple moved into Buckingham Palace! What prophecy.

On to more plebeian thoughts...Although the Universe is a rather noble thing...
How many people have come up with a Theory of Everything? Last year I saw a documentary on it hosted by Professor Brian Greene from one of the eminent East Coast universities, who developed it in his book The Elegant Universe. Essentially, scientists are trying to combine Einstein's Theory of General Relativity (large-scale) with Quantum Mechanics (small-scale) in order to come up with ONE equation to explain the universe on all levels.
On Sunday I had a friend over for dinner and he was reading aloud from a book about Ken Wilber, a sort of psycho-spiritual guru who has also come up with a Theory of Everything. Of course, less scientific and more philosophical. It's hard to retain info while cooking, but I gathered that Wilber is seeking a holistic approach to body, mind, soul, spirit in every aspect of life...and the universe.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Maya and miscellany

Wow, and we thought bling-bling was a new idea. I am watching a documentary about the ancient Meso-Americans (What the Ancients Did for Us, BBC2, with Adam Hart-Davis). In the cleanliness segment, we are learning that they rubbed flowers and scented plants under their armpits, bathed nearly every day, and brushed their teeth with charcoal, salt, and frayed twigs. Now to the bling bit. They decorated their teeth! I've just seen a 1200 year old Mayan tooth with a spot of jade embedded into it. They would bore a small hole into the tooth, shape a precious gem and glue it in with a mystery glue recipe. Bejewelled teeth: invented by the Maya!

Speaking of non-Western cultures, Vanessa told me about a breathing workshop that she and Jordan attended the other day. I've been hearing lately about how the Asians already breathe more deeply with their bellies, whereas we breathe shallowly with our diaphragms. Ironically, all babies breathe with their bellies and then grow out of it at some point. We could all benefit from a few minutes of deep-breathing each day.
Now I have to complain. Vanessa said that the instructor also told them to stop asking "why?" Stop asking why, let go, and breeeeeeeathe. Well, why stop asking why? This former science major is pouting at the thought. That's how we make all our advances and progress. But there you go, that's Western science versus Eastern philosophy. Western accumulation versus eastern renunciation. And so on. Today with the emptiness of purely modern life, the human soul cries out for fulfillment, and so a balance must be struck between science and spirituality.

On another note, my young friend Michelle in Canada started her own blog today. She dedicated her first entry to me! Aw, bless. Quite honoured actually. I've known her since 1999. Last night, she taught me how to dance techno via her webcam, it was fun! daa dum-dum, daa dum-dum, da-da da-daa dum dum (di-di, di-di, di-di) If anyone can identify that song, please leave a comment and I will reward you with praise.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Salve, Julius Caesar (Musee Calvet, Arles, April 2004) Posted by Hello

The Papal Palace (Palais des Papes, Avignon) in the early morning sunlight, as we entered the square through a rather narrow gap (April 2004) Posted by Hello

My Street

Pretty 1820s stucco terrace I call home (London) Posted by Hello