Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Of things unknown but mostly hummers

There is a tiny fly in the jungles of South America that lays its eggs in an ant's head.

And a toucan can eat an adult hummingbird in revenge for stealing from its own nectar supply.

We used to enjoy hummingbirds every summer when we lived in Houston. Their teeny wings emit a deep bass sound, and they are sooooo aggressive that if they were particularly busy, even I would have to duck when going out onto the deck. In the late summer they gorge themselves on sugar water and fight wildly for it, which in the process strengthens them up for the migratory flight to the Caribbean. New ones would pass through on the way south from Canada sometimes, but our main type down there was, I think, the Lucifer, which looks a lot like the Ruby-Throated but it's not. Both are emerald green with buff-coloured bellies and a crimson or ruby patch on the chin - but the difference lies in the shade of red.
Their feathers are iridescent and it was something to watch them glinting in the sun as they weaved about catching tiny flies, or ducking and weaving at the feeder. They are nature's best aerobats and the only birds that can fly backwards. But they expend so much energy and their hearts beat so fast that they must feed almost non-stop, many times their own weight each day.

One time, Dad and I were standing at the dining room window watching a pair body-batting each other to the ground. At one point, they both went down and only one buzzed back up. We both ran outside to find the loser. Now, the grass in Houston, St. Augustine, is very coarse and stiff. The poor hummingbird had been pushed in so that his wing feathers were tangled up with the grass blades. Dad gently slid the little wings from the grass with his index finger, it let out a little squeak and hummed away.

The worst time was when I spotted a dead one. It seemed a shame to throw away such a gorgeous jewel-like creation. So we called a local taxidermist, who said that as hummingbirds are migratory birds we'd have to call the US Forest & Wildlife service for permission. Otherwise we'd be committing a felony or something, even though it was already dead (unproven of course).

Twice in my life I've held a hummer in my hand. They arrive in the spring, around March or April, when we still have a few chilly days - such temperature variations are dangerous for the hummers. They sleep in a sort of physical torpor so that when they awake it is necessary that they feel warm, and that they feed as soon as possible.

One morning, again gazing through the dining room window (it was like TV), I spotted a little body on the deck. I ran outside to pick him up, and returned with him to the warmth of the kitchen. I cradled him in my hand until he warmed up, and then he buzzed up out of my hand, knocking against the glass like a fly until I shooed him out and he went to the feeder.

The best time was when I picked another hummer out of the grass. Mum hastened to mix up a batch of sugar water, and I must have hand-fed him 3 large spoonsful before he was ready to go. Cheeky little thing just lay there in my hand, slurping it up like a Sultan.


Anyone missed the daily dose of amusement?

Video: Who DOES he think he is???

Game: Try to jump into the MINI!

McCord University interactive fashion quizzes


And finally, St John's Wood is the only station on the London Underground that does not contain any of the letters in the word "mackerel".

Who thinks of these things?

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Another movie Sunday

I've just finished watching North by Northwest with Cary Grant. It's another fine Alfred Hitchcock production. But why must he always have people hanging at great heights on the outside of buildings??? I guess that was how movie-goers in the 50s/60s got their thrills. They they grew out of it and progressed to high-speed chases, or what?

Lately I've been noticing how much they could get away with. Tell you what, some of that dialogue between Mr Grant and Miss Saint was not at all...saintly. They left little to our imaginations. And there was some serious snogging going on too.
In a reaction to today's clothes-ripping bare-skinned action, I think watching the sensual balance maintained by the older movies is quite enjoyable.
The other thing is, when you're young and naive, you just don't get the innuendo and it all goes safely over your head. But by the time you come of age, it all becomes clear, and during the movie this afternoon, you might have heard me exclaiming things like, "Oh my!" "Well I never!" "He said that back then???"


I went into Richmond yesterday afternoon with my grandmother for the best fish and chips I've had so far. It's our new tradition. Can never remember the name of the place, but it's ever so modest, been there for decades with the cutest little booths, on tiny King Street near Dickens & Jones. The chips are just as chips should be. The fish pleasant throughout, crispy on the outside with a light batter, moist and fresh inside. All washes down well with a glass of cool bitter lemon in the summertime.

On a gorgeous day like yesterday, the scene at the end of King Street was a distilled moment of English perfection: The private residences created from the Gatehouse and Queen Elizabeth I's Wardrobe face the green where there was a game of cricket in progress, with people sitting on the grass round the edges. Add to that the sunshine and the breeze blowing through the green leaves. If I could capture that moment in a bottle, I would have. All that was missing was the watercress sandwiches.
That area was once the courtyard of Richmond Palace.
From there we turned down Friars Lane into absolutely the cutest, dinkiest little street. A modest little tower at the end by the river, and the street lined with darling little raised Georgian houses with twee little gardens.

And I forgot my bally camera!!!

Well, next time then....

We lived in Surrey when I was little, and sometimes I wish I could live there again, but it's just far enough outside of London to be inconvenient, in my opinion. At least in SJW I can hop on the Tube and be anywhere in the centre of London within 15 minutes.

(I would like to add that I never want to sound like a tourist. The only reason I am now so aware of Englishness is that I lived away from it for so long in Texas. Had I never left, I would probably not get as excited about it as I do now; I used to look back and think, "Wow, is that how we lived?". But to return here and then have my soul fed with such lovely moments in time - well, I just have to share it - and I will never take it for granted again.)

Friday, May 27, 2005

Clockwise from top left: Me as a Modigliani, Botticelli, Japanese Anime, and Mucha.

I first heard about this on Erudite Baboon's page, one of my fave blog haunts.
It's the St Andrew's University Face TransformerPosted by Hello

Il fait chaud aujourd'hui, n'est-ce pas?

Eh. I'm hot. All dressed up to go out and can't move.

Rebecca, my dear, 25C is room temperature, how were you cold in that yesterday?

The other thing is, today being my day off, I got dressed and then thought, "Where AM I going today anyhoo?" I had vague plans I suppose, but hadn't settled. Might go off to Covent Garden and join the happy throngs.


Yesterday, having woken up in a foul mood and out of love with all of humanity, I was shocked when I turned onto Finchley Road to find a mass of it streaming over me in the direction of Lord's. Since I had to have a lot of patience with them because I was the only person going in the other direction, I took it as a sign from above regarding my early-morning remarks on the human race.

N.B. Nobody told me the Cricket season was back!

So I got to work eventually. The Abbey Road studio has prepared the outside wall for the summer's new tourists by repainting it - ready for the next set of Beatles-induced scrawl and scribble. Can't imagine how many layers lie on that surface.

I was filing some of the slides and came across an old pic of Sir Edward Elgar at the Abbey Road Studio, along with [some other major composer], back when it was actually his home.
This week I've been combing through an old postcard collection of composers, marking the ones that are not yet on the website and putting them aside for poor Sara to scan; labelling on the database the ones that are in the drawers, and once again, putting them aside for poor Sara to scan.

This week was a celebration at Lebrecht: they've reached 30,000 images digitised out of 60k total. So Elbie went to a Lebanese place to bring back pitta, hummus, baba ganoush, and spinach triangles. Norman came round with beers for all (yuck, compared to Rebecca's Pimm's) and I declined, so they clinked bottles and my bowl. Hehe! And we stood in the jungly garden outside, in the sunshine, the phones didn't ring...
And an hour later, when no one else was in the room, I gave Elbie my notice. We've reached the point where Lebrecht are the only ones benefitting from this arrangement. Now that I've learned just about everything there, I feel distinctly that it's time to go.

Some Oscar Wilde for your Friday edification:

At twilight, nature is not without loveliness, though perhaps its chief use is to illustrate quotations from the poets.
(If you read Wilde, you know why he says this.)

It is a very sad thing that nowaday there is so little useless information.
(If only he could see the Internet.)

Most modern calendars mar the sweet simplicity of our lives by reminding us that each day that passes is the anniversary of some perfectly uninteresting event.

I was working on the proofs of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

This is for all you girls out there, since we enjoyed it so much the last time. For your viewing delight, a selection of 3 scrumptious houses across the country. First, this lovely character cottage in Weston-Birt, Tetbury, Gloucestershire. 2 beds, one bath (oh dear), on the market for 285K. Sweeeeeeet. Posted by Hello

A lovely Minster cottage in Dorset, 3 beds, 2 baths. Going for 229K. You can barely get a studio flat for that in London. Look, two inglenooks! Love the leaded, mullioned windows. Posted by Hello

How about this one - a mews house on Dartmoor, which can be seen rising behind the back garden. Cute spaces. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A Return to Equability

My my, I'm watching Top Gear, and they are playing football with a team of Toyota Yaris's. A blue team, a red team, and a huge bouncy light football....carball. A bit like bumper cars too. Ouch.

Ooh, before I forget. EB, after commenting on your blog, I started watching TV and spotted a teenager with a certain haircut. So here I rise to the challenge: I am so glad that last year's distended mohawks are now out of fashion!

Now about confessions, the guiltiest I felt for a long time was after throwing a pen out of a moving train. There was a group of us taking the train from Paris to Mont St-Michel. Don't know why, but our teacher had to fill out a form - and - don't know why, but between a teacher and 5 girls, we hadn't a pen between us. Close to the end of the journey, we'd had too much fun - our teacher (a female, please note) kept giving us wedgies and we'd tied her shoelaces together a few times. So we were as good as drunk.
Came to a bend in the track and the pen, dropped in the middle of the fracas, rolled out from under the seat. It was truly nasty and dusty and wrapped in cobwebs. I picked it up, exclaimed, and flung it out of the window! Everyone stopped in their tracks with eyes wide as saucers: "Olivia!" (This is because I never do stupid things like that.)
I laughed saying, "But it was yucky!".
When the poor conductor came to collect the forms and the pen, there was a moment of hesitation as he waited for it and then realised he wasn't going to get it back. THEN I felt bad.


Good mood is back. This morning I felt depressed, especially after making the police report at the local station. And it was grey and drizzly.
But in the afternoon the sun came out. I called my Daddy in Houston to sing Happy Birthday, and he was so lovely on the phone. After that, the rest of my day was more cheerful.

It was also cheering to run into town for work. I went to the London Library in St James's Square again to drop off and pick up books. The old neighbourhood...And I am pretty established there really...
1) The lady behind the sandwich counter at Fortnum's knows me from when Christie's Edu was next to the auction house.
2) The guy who runs the Murano glass stall at St James's weekly arts market also remembers me.
3) I spotted a girl I'd known from Christie's crossing the road at Jermyn Street. I'm never good at calling across traffic at people who look busy, so I didn't bother.

I've forgotten all the things I wanted to discuss with you before yesterday's diversions, but it's late now so I will just provide you with the last installment of Blackadder.


Blackadder Goes Forth


Your brain, for example, is so minute, Baldrick, that if a hungry cannibal cracked your head open, there wouldn't be enough inside to cover a small water biscuit.


This is going to be art's greatest moment since Mona Lisa sat down & told Leonardo da Vinci she was in a slightly odd mood.


Get me a chisel & some marble, will you, Baldrick?

Oh, you taking up sculpture now, sir?

No, I thought I'd get my headstone done.

What are you going to put on it?

'Here lies Edmund Blackadder, & he's bloody annoyed.'



If we do happen to step on a mine, Sir, what do we do ?

Normal procedure, Lieutenant, is to jump 200 feet in the air and scatter oneself over a wide area.


As far as I can tell, you're guilty as a puppy sitting next to a pile of pooh.


George: 'My head... oh, my head... feels like the time I was initiated into the Silly Buggers Society at Cambridge. I misheard the rules and tried to push a whole aubergine up my earhole.'


So, we're a bit stuck.

You can say that again, George. We're in the stickiest situation since Sticky the Stick Insect got stuck on a sticky bun!


They've [the Russians] abandoned the Eastern Front.

And they've overthrown Nicholas the Second, who used to be bizarre.

He used to be the Czar, Baldrick.


However, the Teutonic reputation for brutality is well-founded. Their operas last three or four days. They have no word for 'fluffy.'


Sir, is there something the matter?

You're damned right there's something the matter! Something sinister & something grotesque. And what's worse is that it's going on under my very nose!

Sir, your moustache is lovely!


Forgot this excerpt from Blackadder The Third:

How Baldric will pretend to behead the King and then help him escape.
The king must wear a pumpkin head -- one with eyes, nose, moustache and beard painted on, and a wig placed on top.

I will balance it on the King's head, like this. Then, I will cover his real head with a cloak, and then, when I execute him, instead of cutting off his real head, I will cut off the pumpkin, and the King survives!

I'm not sure it's going to work, Balders.

Why not?

Because, once you cut it off, you have to hold it up in front of the crowd and say, "This is the head of a traitor," at which point, they will shout back, "No it's not; it's large pumpkin with a pathetic moustache drawn on it."

I suppose it's not one hundred percent convincing.

It's not one percent convincing, Baldrick. However, I'm a busy man, and I can't be bothered to punch you at the moment.
Here is my fist. Kindly run towards it as fast as you can.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Angry angry angry

I am angry. And also a bit light-headed, this Vino di Tavola Rosso is stronger than the Bardolino I finished last week.

I was nearly mugged this morning, a few steps away from my front gate, yes, here in SJW...
Four youths (apply all stereoptypes here) approached me fast, and one elbowed me to the ground.
I shouted at him, "How DARE you!" As the other snatched my bag, I turned round and snatched it back. They ran off - in the direction of the council estate of course, baggy clothing flying out behind and I got up and dusted myself off. Found a cut on my hand and went back home to dress it and tell M. & S.

After I'd caught my breath, I was LIVID. As little respect as I have for youths of that sort, I have tried to give them a chance, and now they've burned even that bridge. I cannot but see them through even cloudier lenses.
Why do they do it? For the thrill. For money I haven't got.
Why weren't they in school? They've got "better" things to do.
And why did the British government, in its infinite wisdom, see fit to inflict decent neighbourhoods with council estates housing the margins of society???

Socialism of course. Oh I didn't mean to make political statements tonight. But I suppose if they didn't spread them around they'd be accused of creating ghettos. So, despite the fact that London has its good areas and its bad, everywhere is closer to equalisation through the presence of the council estate. A notorious phrase in itself.
However, safe or dangerous neighbourhoods - isn't that what naturally happens in the rest of the world?

When I lived in Texas, I once took the wrong exit for downtown and was lost in Houston's Third Ward. (Compare to any city's worst neighbourhood that you WOULD be caught dead in at midnight.) If you don't have to be there, you're not.
Criminals would actually have to make an effort to go out to River Oaks or The Woodlands.

Just when I've spent hours going on about how safe I feel here compared to Hackney. Many incidents happened to me there, but never an actual mugging.
Here, nothing at all happened until this. I think landing hard on the ground is the dynamic which changes everything.
However, any Londoner can tell you, it's bound to happen at least once in a lifetime. Everyone has a mugging or a pickpocketing story to tell.

Oh well. Will make a police report in the morning. Oh joy, I will now be on the record of the British justice system.

I went there this evening, but the sign on the door said hours were 9-5. How typical. While London's office workers and professionals are now working from 6-9.


I had so many interesting things to discuss with you, but they will just have to wait until I am in a better mood.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


There is a gorgeous blackbird sitting on my window box singing away. He can't see me, but I'm practically sitting next to him on the other side of the window, being serenaded.

Last night I watched
Bright Young Things, the adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies by Stephen Fry. It takes place amongst the fast-living upper-crust set of 1920s London. It was funny, but disturbingly so. At first it made me uncomfortable. There was something maddening in the pace of their lives. But at times it made me laugh, and then cringe. It was a beautiful, excessive, wild, exciting, tumultuous, and dissipated time. Interrupted by World War II and the reactionary conservatism of the 50s, Society didn't return to such dissipation - or short hemlines/short hair - until the 1960s.

While I did my laundry, I watched Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Sidney Poitier as the black Dr Prentice who is in love with JoJo, the white daughter of a newspaper publisher. Both mothers are for the marriage. Both fathers against. The cook, who is black and who brought up JoJo, is also against the marriage and even gives the Doc a good telling off for his presumption. The entire situation is held together well in a finely balanced tension. Everything has to be resolved in one evening, before the Doc flies to Geneva.


I chatted with my mother tonight, and she too watched a Sidney Poitier movie today, all the way in Texas. What is it, his birthday today? It was To Sir With Love. I haven't seen that one yet, but I mean to. It's from the book by Ted Braithwaite, who would become Guyana's first ambassador to the UN (probably after independence). My mother met him in the 60s - there's a photo entitled "Ted's cocktail at Vernon's". Mr Braithwaite (in characteristic bow-tie) has his arm around her shoulder as he's chatting away with some ladies, wives of the local doctor and lawyer, and Mum has turned to smile at the camera, cocktail in hand.

I once asked my Mother, "What does the olive in a cocktail taste like?" She replied, "Like vodka."
FYI, a cocktail made with gin is of inferior quality.

She did have a nice colonial life, the last generation to do so before Guyana gained independence from Britain in 1964. Anything the Mallay daughters did got into the papers because their father was such a pillar of the community. Miss Edward travels across the country as a model ambassador for Fluff detergent. Tea with the Argentinian ambassador and the founder of Bic pens, dances at The Pegasus Hotel's Palm Court, The Races.

Coincidentally, the Pegasus was one of the hotels worldwide that Hodge's father managed in the early 70s, but by then the people who could afford to get out, did so - including my mother and some of her siblings. One of them stayed to live through the privations of Communism - even down to receiving weevily Soviet rations. Fortunately it is now a republic with a re-opened economy and lots of expats are returning with businesses.

One of her aunts was a forward-thinking woman who started wearing trousers in the 30s, before it became fashionable, so people called her the eccentric one.

Another was called Evangeline, and indeed looked like an angel in her wedding dress and curly locks - for years I wanted to use that name for a daughter of mine, but found it rather too tragic that she ended up an invalid with a back injury.

One of the cousins is Guyana's Agriculture Minister and President's Special Envoy to the UN ((not to mention whatever it was he did when he went to Russia)). I've never met him, but decided to skip his visit to my aunt's house last month.

I'm always drawing circles, making connections. (Is there a technical term for this?) ...Thus it is telling that an IQ test recently pointed out Pattern Recognition as one of my strongest abilities. Order out of chaos. Building block for logical thinking, etc.

I always feel guilty after talking about myself in this way, but then, it is one reason for the existence of Blogging.

OK, have I had too much red wine? Yes, get me some water...!

Friday, May 20, 2005

Spending pennies (no not *that*)

Wonderful day, but didn't get out of the house as early as I would have liked.

It was so lovely out, a jacket was barely necessary - about 62F (17C) - and sunny - although the breeze was a bit stiff which meant perpetual dust in the eyes. Ah London.

A funny thing happened today. Veronica (cleaner) was doing the ironing and Christopher (handy-man) was under the stairs painting the shelves. I went into the front garden to test the temperature, and just as I turned to go back inside, the front door started to swing shut with a gust of wind from the back. I ran at the door and just as my hands made contact !SLAM! it was too late! I yelped, knocked, and Christopher came to the door. He likes to tease and this was the banter through the letterbox. --Who is it? --It's me! --Who's 'me'? --You know, the 'me' you greeted this morning! -- ...There's no one home! --Are you a ghost?
Then 'the ghost' let me in. Veronica was in the kitchen doubled over with laughter.

One day I will ask Christopher if he lives on sugar alone, because he is always beamingly cheerful and he even talks bouncy. The Perky Polish Chappie who belongs at Disney World.

As pretty as it promises to be tomorrow, I think I must stay in and print out CVs, do laundry...Maybe take a walk in Regent's Park. I walked today, all the way from SJW to Waitrose on Finchley Road. I didn't feel like spending train or bus fares. Plus, it was a lovely day to walk, and I had my most comfy shoes on. But then, I bought so much food that I couldn't see myself trekking the half-mile from SJW station to the house, so ended up dishing out a fiver for a taxi. Only the second time I've done that, mind.
Egad! You know you're desperate for a proper job when you start counting the pennies in a conversation. (Plus, what if my dad is reading this?)

Oooh yum! I just opened the package of Ferrero Giotto I bought today at Waitrose, and popped one in. They're white wafer balls with a hazelnut cream centre. Smaller than Ferrero Rocher and without the bothersome solid hazelnut. (Only 1.49 for 40 pieces!)

...This is what happens when I don't get my usual chocolate supply from Fortnum & Mason, I get led astray.
Suzy went to F&M to buy a christening bib for her new grandchild, due in July. She'd had lunch there and was still full to the gills hours later. So while my feta and courgette balls were in the oven and my pita bread in the pan, and I was humming away with Mozart, I heard my name hollered from the back of the house. The smell was too naughty.
When I was washing the dishes later, Suzy popped her head in and said, to my puzzlement, "Oh you are a tantalising woman! [Cheeky pause while I raise my eyebrows] ...With your delicious smells emanating from the kitchen!" She said after that, she and Michael were forced to eat ................an apple.


From Blackadder the Third:

Edmund Blackadder:
Oh, God! If you want something done properly, kill Baldrick before you start!


You look as happy as a man who thought a cat had done its business on his pie, but it turned out to be an extra large blackberry.


And if you don't answer, then the booted, bony thing with five toes on the end of my leg will soon connect sharply with the dangly collection of objects in your trousers.


Ambassador: I hate you English. With your boring trousers and your shiny toilet paper and your ridiculous preconceptions that Frenchmen are great lovers. I'm French and I'm hung like a baby carrot and a couple of petits pois.


Am I jumping the gun, Baldrick, or are the words 'I have a cunning plan' marching with ill-deserved confidence in the direction of this conversation?


Honestly, Baldrick, sometimes I feel like a pelican. Whichever way I turn, I've still got an enormous bill in front of me.


This man probably owns half of
Lancashire. His family has got more mills than you've got brain cells.

How many mills?

Seven, sir.


Hire you a horse? For ninepence? On Jewish New Year's Eve in the rain? A bare fortnight after the dreaded horse plague of
Old London Town? With the blacksmith's strike in it's fifteenth week & the Dorset Horse-Fetishists' fair tomorrow?


We're as similar as two completely dissimilar things in a pod.


Baldrick, does it have to be this way? Our valued friendship ending with me cutting you up into strips & telling the Prince that you walked across a very sharp cattle grid in an extremely heavy hat?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Sugar and spice and...

From the children's rhyme:
Little boys are frogs and toads and puppy dogs' tails, but
Little girls are sugar and spice and all things nice.

From a mature perspective, I'm now thinking puppy dogs have cute tails, nothing nasty about them at all.

Now, about that SUGAR. The only salt I know I consumed yesterday was in the butter on my toast, which was then covered with Nutella chocolate/hazelnut spread.
And the bit I sprinkled on my pesto, tomato, mozzarella, and basil focaccia sandwich. I had a hot chocolate with that, completely forgetting I was scheduled to keep up the hot chocolate tradition with Philippe that evening!
Then when I returned to the office after lunch there was a small marble cake sitting on my desk! Three of us had to finish it, and I was sooo full after that. No space for dinner.

Met Philippe outside of the Häagen-Dazs Café in Leicester Square. And then I went for broke. He had a very tall glass of chocolate chip ice cream layered with chocolate sauce.
I had another hot chocolate and a refreshing lemon tart...*sigh*

As a result, even hours later, I was probably buzzing. I don't really get hyper, but my eyes kept popping open and I didn't get to sleep until about 2am. *Yawn*

Oops, I just made myself yawn!

Today by about 11am my body was begging for salt and all I could think of was what tasty dish I would have for lunch, so I went out to the Thai restaurant up the road where the owner now knows my name and my taste in food. I had crispy spring rolls and mmmmmmmmmmmmmm a gorgeous warm glass noodle salad with the usual - lime, coriander (cilantro), lemongrass, chili, peanuts, onion, ground pork.

"Strangers on a train" - that's how Philippe and I met, on the Eurostar from Paris to London. He'd never been to England before but came over to study at UCL (and now he's getting his Master's at Imperial). We got talking, and I never got around to reading Le Petit Prince, and we've been in touch ever since. As I said, we do hot chocolate, and since introducing him to H-D, nowhere else is as good.
P is usually a pretty good taskmaster when it comes to practising my French - I think I'm beginning to speak faster when I remember the words or don't translate in my mind first, but I still listen like crap, so thank goodness P speaks so clearly. Quite unlike the garbled Parisian accent - he's from Bordeaux. However, he's attempting to improve his vocabulary (as if he needs to!) and it's a bit of a see-saw, English usually outweighing French. C'est dommage.


A former football trophy cup was sold today for a cool half a million pounds to an anonymous telephone bidder (ooooh), making it the most expensive item of football memorabilia ever sold.
That's all I have to say about it. I daresay Rebecca knows more, as it took place at Christie's South Kensington, where she works!

Lovely to read the catalogue entry. It's long, as it's their star lot, but essentially that's how we learned how to catalogue at Christie's Edu, for hours in the afternoons, object after object.
It's this thorough training that gives me such a hard time when I try to label the pictures at Lebrecht. When cataloguing, we were taught to plonk down everything we possibly could about the object, while still being CONCISE and following a prescribed pattern. When labelling, I must hold back on description, and so much which seems important must be left out. That's how it feels to me. Bit of a dilemma - having spent so many years trained in the sciences, I was a pro at brief phrasing. Then I found the cataloguing descriptions a real challenge, although I could always get flowery when telling a story. And now, returning to brevity is a new challenge, especially when it comes to art historical images.

On Wednesday I labelled some gorgeous images of George V and Queen Mary, to be scanned from a 1935 publication of the Illustrated London News Silver Jubilee commemorative edition.

In other news, the London Eye is in a ground rent wrangle. (Say that 5 times fast.) I imagine the City of Westminster (Is that where it stands? Or is it Lambeth?) has raised the rent - to a million pounds. It is the most popular tourist site in the world. Can you imagine that? What was it before? And as such, I doubt London would elect to lose it, so there was mention of it moving to Hyde Park. Actually it would be interesting to move it every 5 years, giving visitors a new outlook over the city!
Just like la Tour Eiffel after the Paris Exhibition of 1905 (?), the Eye was meant to be dismantled after the Millennium celebrations, but it was so popular the revenue was an obvious benefit.


True to my new habit, here is your daily dose of amusement:

More Blackadder II:

From the infamous turnip episode:

Baldrick: Not to worry my lord, the arrow didn't in fact enter my body.
Blackadder: Oh good.
Baldrick: No, by a thousand to one chance my willy got in the way.


It's green.

Yes, my lord!

Percy, the colour of gold, is gold. Whatever you have discovered if it has a name would be called green.

Percy: [on discovering the secret of alchemy]
Oh Edmund can it be true, that I hold in my mortal hands a nugget of purest GREEN??


Oh, yes, I touched her once.

You touched her where?

In the corridor.

I've never heard it called that before.


Then he's vanished. Completely vanished.

Like an old oak table.

'Vanished,' Lord Percy, not 'varnished'.


As you can see, neither Edmund Blackadder's servant Baldrick, nor his cohort Percy, are very bright...


Engrish - provides hours of silly laughter, I promise. I mean really, I am sure they lock the creative teams in a room with an English dictionary and a thesaurus. Eenie meenie mynie mo....

True meaning of the word HORSEPLAY

A taste of things to come: A very revealing Ultrasound

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Sunny Tuesday

Any of you girlie-girls remember the lovely Japanese pencil cases with magnetic lids and pop-out drawers? They were the bees-knees back in the 80s and I had all sorts. Beautiful Sunday, Hello Kitty, etc. Filled, of course, with the precious pens, pencils and erasers that go along with them.

When we were little, my girl friends and I used to have a Stationery Swap Club at school. We'd bring our folders of gorgeous Sanrio stationery and barter while we sat cross-legged in a circle at playtime. I bet I would have a proper giggle if I could go back in time and watch.

...All this just because I used an adjective before the day of the week...

And now I can't remember what I really meant to blog about.
If you really want to know, I've gotten into a general mood in which I've stopped noticing the world and have nothing to share...

So now it behoves me to rely on others for our entertainment. Blackadder to the rescue:

Excerpts from Blackadder season one:

Percy: Only this morning in the courtyard I saw a horse with two heads and two bodies.

Blackadder: Two horses standing next to each other?


Blackadder: Run away from the hills! If you see hills, run the other way!


And a good one from Blackadder II

Right, Baldrick, let's try again, shall we? This is called adding. If I have two beans, & then I add two more beans, what do I have?

Some beans.

Yes...& no. Let's try again, shall we? I have two beans, then I add two more beans. What does that make?

A very small casserole.

Baldrick, the ape creatures of the Indus
have mastered this. Now try again. One, two, three, four. So how many are there?



And that one.

Three...& that one. So if I add that one to the three, what will I have?

Some beans.

Yes. To you, Baldrick, the Renaissance was something that just happened to other people, wasn't it?


The Surrealists would be proud...

You'd better be in a soundproof box when you watch this:

The printer isn't working, but the mouse is fine:

Saturday, May 14, 2005

For Jia Li

I spent the afternoon chatting with Michelle in Port-aux-Basques, Newfoundland. (I like saying that...Port-aux-Basques...so juicy!).......Anyway, she seemed a bit disappointed that I hadn't blogged today. So here I am, blogging. As if that bally 500-question e-mail wasn't enough!

Clogs still makes mysterious mis-steps upstairs but I might be getting used to it, plus he does seem to make an extra effort to be quieter in the morning. The other day he told me a funny story about what one of his colleagues would say on the phone. He asked the guy, "Why do you always say 'Hello Mike, Alright Mike, Cheers Mike' to everyone?"
It's how a Cockney sounds when saying 'Mate'


This is how long Tony Blair pauses between his phrases:
...............I've just come from....................Buckingham Palace...........where the Queen.......has asked me to..............form a new government.................which I will do.

He gets through entire speeches in this way.


'Streuth, I have run out of topics. Here is some more amusement.

Listen to the Chinese take-away-delivery order-order

Watch the Crazy polar bear fitness machine

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Ce n'est pas un titre.

...reference to Rene Magritte.

Remember in my last blog I mentioned most aristocrats were related somehow?
A couple of years ago I read that George Bush, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill were distant cousins.

President Bush and Princess Diana are also related, through Henry Spencer, a minor squire in Northamptonshire - which is where her ancestors made their fortune on sheep-farming in the 17th century. (My Icelandic ancestors owned the largest sheep farm in Lambastaðir, but not being in England it got them nowhere. [Pout])
Most people who made fortunes in the 17th century received some sort of title from the monarch, usually because they found themselves in a position to fill the royal coffers and have a bit of say in things, and then the best-looking wives might become one of the queen's ladies-in-waiting.

Funny how I got around to that, because that's exactly what happened with the Churchills - John gained a fortune serving in the war, became Duke of Marlborough, built Blenheim Palace, and his wife (Sarah? Georgiana?) became l-i-w to Queen Anne. Anyway, in the 18th century the Spencer line split with a marriage to the Churchills.

Bringing in the American contribution in the 19th century - I think without the American fortunes poured into the British aristocracy, it would have foundered - Consuelo Vanderbilt married the 9th Duke of Marlborough.
(Speaking of Americans, Diana is also related to George Washington, whose ancestor is buried in the parish church of Althorp.)

When I was at that Stowe Benefit banquet at Christie's last year, young Alexander Spencer Churchill opened the proceedings. His grandfather, the 11th Duke of Marlborough, sitting at the next table, was the spitting image of Sir Winston, only thinner. (To explain the relationship, Winston was the cousin of the 9th Duke.) I kept sneaking peeks because I couldn't believe my eyes at the family resemblance.
And if you think about it, Diana's father had the distinctive Churchill eyes too. She got hers from her mother by the way.

I promise not to talk about history and aristocrats for a long time.


I shared a funny story with Suzy the other day. My father's name is Oliver, so obviously when I was little, I thought "all of a sudden" was "oliver sudden".

Suzy said that when her son Julian was little, he thought the Highwayman cry of "Stand and deliver!" was "Stand on your liver!"

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Lots of Circles

Well people, it's 5 more years of Blair.

As much as the country resents him for sending them to war, the voters still returned him for a 3rd term. Not so puzzling when you consider how wishy-washy and non-platformed the other two main candidates were.
Michael Howard for the Conservatives, and Charles Kennedy for the Liberal Democrats...see? I can't even say anything about them...

Interesting points:

The City and Westminster are still under Conservative hold. (Why are they twinned like that?) Of course, Kensington and Chelsea too. And Putney (with a female MP) - that's where Mr Howard went to resign his leadership of the Tories after losing the election. Note these are the parts of London with the high concentrations of affluence.

The Lib-Dems have the largest constituency since the 1920s. (Pardon me if I did not express that correctly.)

The first black Conservative MP has gained a seat in Parliament..........representing the royal town of Windsor, no less - that quiet tweedy, brass-buttons, rowing-on-the-river town, of which the Queen is also a resident. And he grew up in..........Peckham, of all places! To you western hemispherians, that's a bit like Harlem or maybe the Bronx.
BUT (big but) --- he is a self-made IT millionaire, half-white, and obviously resides snugly in Windsor because we news-watchers got to hear from the man who has been his tailor for the last 10 years...

And finally, 39% of the electorate did not vote. I count myself among them - forgot I could vote, didn't register, and furthermore couldn't pick up a thing any candidate said. To me they just stood at podiums being incoherent. I feel cheated.

Probably the rest non-voters felt the same way. Of the remaining voters, 22% went Labour, 20% Conservative, and 14% other.

The "Other" parties over here include:
1) The Green Party (the Greens) - I guess they're very environmental.
2) The UK Independence Party (UKIP) - Say NO to Europe.
3) Respect - started by a Scottish MP sacked by the Tories, who gathered a large constituency of Muslims in Bethnal Green (how?) and won a seat in Parliament for that borough.

There are more, but I can't think of them.

I wish Tony Blair well in the next 5 years. At the end, he will have been Prime Minister for 15 years. That's a large portion of anyone's life. The next generation of voters will have only known life with Blair at Number 10. I still remember Thatcher and Major. But still, in my lifetime I could have seen double the number.

Of course if we want to get pedantic, I could add that soon there will be nearly two generations who know only Elizabeth as queen. It is entirely possible that one day I will have seen 3 monarchs on the throne. E, C, W.

Did you know that Camilla...............................................oh alright, the Duchess of Cornwall's great-grandmother (Alice Frederica Edmonstone Keppel) was royal mistress to Edward VII? They're also 9th cousins once removed but I won't get into that. Most aristocrats are related somehow.

When Prince Charles and Camilla met at a polo match in the early 70s, she said to him, "My great-grandmother and your great-great grandfather were lovers. So how about it?"

Speaking of Keppels, another descendent of Alice, Judith Keppel, became the very first millionaire on the UK edition of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Final link: By law, the Queen had to get permission from the Prime Minister before her son could propose to Mrs P-B.

Camilla is also a Shand. Princess Diana's mother Frances left her husband Viscount Althorp (before he became the 8th Earl Spencer) for Peter Shand Kydd, when Diana was only 6. Shand Kydd was heir to a wallpaper fortune. We had that wallpaper in our house.

There, circle complete.

So...how did I get from Anthony Charles Linton Blair to Charles Philip Arthur George Windsor to Camilla to the Shand Kydds? From Prime Minister to Prince to mistress to wallpaper? I do not know.

Enough cirlcles already, I hear you screaming. Yes, time for bed.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Priceless Pascal

I was labelling a title page from the original edition of the Pensées by Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) and was inspired to look up some of his quotes after reading his famous Wager.


  • Dieu est un sphère infinie, dont le centre est partout et la circonférence nulle part.

God is an infinite sphere, of which the centre is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere.

  • L'homme est un roseau, le plus faible en nature, mais c'est un roseau pensant.

Man is a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed.

  • Notre raison est toujours déçue par l'inconstance des apparences.

Reason is always deceived by the inconsistency of appearances.

  • Tout notre raisonnement se réduit a céder au sentiment.

All our reasoning is reduced to yielding to sentiment.

  • Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point.

The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.

  • Entre nous, et l'enfer ou le ciel, il n'y a vie entre deux, qui est la chose du monde la plus fragile.

Between us, and heaven and hell, there is only life, the most fragile thing in the world.

  • Eloquence is a painting of the thoughts.


Let us weigh up the gain and the loss involved in calling heads that God exists. Let us assess the two cases: if you win, you win everything: if you lose, you lose nothing. Do not hesitate then: wager that he does exist.

  • This is a binary choice. Anyone remember the old computer programming language, PASCAL? If...then...go to....If not...then...go to...?

In other words:

~~ If God does not exist and we wager for, then we lose nothing and gain nothing.

~~ If God does not exist and we wager against, then we gain nothing and lose nothing.

~~ If God exists and we wager against, then we have infinite loss (Hell, or eternal separation from God)

~~ If God exists and we wager for, then we have infinite gain (Heaven)

Sunday, May 01, 2005

My two style icons and leading ladies of the 20th century: Louise Brooks, the original Twenties flapper, and Audrey Hepburn, who needs no introduction. Posted by Hello