Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Charles Dickens once lived in Camden (16 Bayham Street, to be precise). If he came back today, stories like this would make him feel right at home. I reproduce a particularly nineteenth-century portion here:

The mutilated bodies of a woman and teenage girl have been found dumped in bin liners behind a pub in Camden, north London. A double murder inquiry has been launched after the remains were found by a homeless man foraging for food in a bin in Royal College Street. He carried the leg parts to a nearby hospital for tropical diseases where shocked staff called in police. One of the black bin bags found behind the College Arms contained a torso, believed to belong to a white girl aged as young as 14. Two sections of a leg, thought to belong to a white woman in her 30s, were found in another bag at the scene.

Everything about this story makes me feel sick - children murdered at Christmas time, people with nowhere to live being forced to scavenge for food over Christmas. At the risk of sounding like a Daily Mail reader (I assure you nothing could be further from the truth), is this how far our "progress" has brought us?

Still, on more cynical note, I hope this latest atrocity will be the final pin in the bloated pig's bladder that is FPD Savill's ploy to sell one-bedroom flats on Prince of Wales Road for a third of a million pounds a go. "Oh, but this *is* a nice area. Really it is. So there are a few murders, and the filthy Silverlink train runs right outside your bedroom window, but it's a small price to pay for the convenience of living so close to Iceland, Woollies and the Drinker's Paradise off-licence..." Would be house-buyers are strongly advised to get a grip.

Monday, December 30, 2002

Aha, found the answer to the Beacon Hill question, thanks to www.thorneycroft.com. Apparently it's named after one or more Beacon Hills in Wiltshire, as a Wiltshire landowner, Thomas Poynder, owned the land in Holloway on which this and other streets were built on the 1870s. So in a way, it is named for the ancient beacon fires lit by prehistoric colemen, just not in that actual place.

Saturday, December 28, 2002

I'm not much in the habit of linking to "interesting things I found on the internet" (that's really for the boys, I think), and still less to things I read in other people's blogs. But I've got to make an exception for this fabulous thing I found via Ben Hammersley - someone has started to write up Samuel Pepys's diary as a blog! We're probably witnessing the start of a new craze for 2003 (I'd write up Dorothy Wordsworth, if I had the time), but you do get the feeling that however cool and modern this is, the paper versions are still going to be around when the websites have long gone. Whoever said we're living in the new Dark Ages was undoubtedly correct.

[...] I wrote the above, and now I've had some more thoughts about it. Now I've linked to Pepys's diary on the sidebar there, it's like he's here among us, walking the same streets, eating the same leftover turkey etc. It's like a telescoping of time, ourselves and our past selves suddenly living side-by-side. And I love the whole linking thing - links to maps and explanations and descriptions of places etc. When I was very little I had a persistent fantasy about writing a diary and putting it in a huge tea-chest with all of the objects and photos of people, places etc. that I had referred to in the diary. In my teens, I did keep a diary in a box (actually a series of yearly biscuit tins) together with related objects, and I have several of these boxes in my cupboard still. So I suppose in a way I was envisaging a kind of blog format, with the source text and the links to mentioned objects close by... who'd have thought that it would come to be so easy and take up so little space!

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Merry Christmas to you all - hope you had, and continue to have - a fab festive season.

I've just started reading The Fields Beneath by Gillian Tindall. It's an incredibly detailed history of Kentish Town, intended to be a blueprint for uncovering the history of inner suburban areas everywhere. It's beautifully written, completely authoritative and with an excellent wry sense of humour woven in.

Who would have thought that town planning could be so fascinating - anyone who's read Emergence and liked the sections on organic versus planned developments will enjoy the minute (I mean really minute, there's practically an inch-by-inch description of where the River Fleet and its tributaries used to run) detail in this book of how urban areas develop and are built. I'm on my way to becoming a Kentish Town bore, and am already delighted at the knowledge that Anglers Lane, which my street runs off, used to be a track taken by people going to fish in the river Fleet (also known as the Ken Ditch, from where Kentish Town takes its name) before the river was encased in an iron pipe and built over.

Note to Mark - you would really like this book - get it from the Owl Bookshop! Same goes for anyone else who lives in Kentish Town, Camden, Highgate, Holloway and surrounding areas. Maybe I'll even find the answer to my question about Beacon Hill in here.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

By electing to spend Christmas Day together just the two of us, it seems that H. and I are conforming to no demographic known to man. He's a meat-eater and I'm a vegetarian, which essentially makes it Christmas dinner for one, yet the fridge is full of stuff designed for extended families - 18 chipolatas (the lowest denomination available), half a pound of pork, sage and onion stuffing, a month's worth of potatoes, and a giant net of sprouts. Unable to face the prospect of a giant bag of carrots, I've opted for one of those teeny trays of baby carrots, with some baby leeks thrown in for good measure. H is getting smoked salmon for a starter (another giant pack, most of which will probably end up in the cats' dish) while I'm having an onion tartlet. For the main course, H. is getting a kind of pre-stuffed chicken breast affair, and I'm having vegetarian Lincolnshire sausages. For pudding I'm making a tarte tatin - it was going to have pecans in it, but I seem to have eaten them all already.

Christmas Day is the only day in the year that I ever cook, so we're not expecting Nigella Lawson quality, or even Delia. But if the worst comes to the worst I guess we could always crash Jamie Oliver's place up the road, break his arms and nick his turkey dinner. Incidentally, I confirm that there is no Sainsbury's within miles of Oliver's Kentish Town pad, so I can only assume he actually shops in Somerfield like the rest of us.

Monday, December 23, 2002

Went to see the Two Towers last night in the seriously horrific new complex in Fulham Broadway (shudder). I *loved* the film, it's got such amazing scenery, and the Man, the Elf and the Dwarf are great, although the Hobbits continue to be deeply irritating, especially Elijah Wood, who has about five lines in the whole film and spends the rest of the time looking pained and pathetic and in need of a good slap. The Ent was just as I had imagined from the book, and Gollum is spot on.

The Two Towers is all about impending war, and I spent at least half of the film in tears because it's all about to come true, and we're on the wrong side. It's difficult to feel good about Aragorn & Co pelting the Uruk-Hai with arrows, and the Riders of Rohan turning up at the 11th hour like the Prussians at Waterloo, when you're plagued with a queasy feeling that Sauron and Saruman are just Bush and Blair with beards. The Middle-Earth/Middle-East connection is too close for comfort too. Well, if it comes to it, I'm with the Ents, even though the "Which Lord of the Rings Character Are You?" test has me down as Galadriel.

Friday, December 20, 2002

Wooo - one superhuman effort later, and all the Christmas cards and presents have been wrapped, sent and delivered, the Christmas tree has been bought and decorated, peace has been made once more with my grandmother (whose 92nd birthday it is today - happy birthday, Granny!), the cleaner (whose name is Lolita - I kid you not) has been given her Christmas bonus, and all the work-that-had-to-be-done-before-Christmas is complete! Wooooooo! I'm off to have a nice hot bath and a game of Tomb Raider to celebrate.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

When, oh when, oh when will it end? It's the week before Christmas and I have back-to-back meetings all week, was in the office till 9.15 last night ploughing through piles of rubbishy work things, the Christmas cards haven't been sent, the Christmas presents haven't been wrapped or sent (but at least this year they've been bought), I'm owed four thousand pounds in expenses and consequently haven't got any cash, I got a speeding ticket, the VAT man is after me and I haven't eaten anything sensible for days. Things have been like this for two and half years solid now. Is it actually going to be like this for *ever*?

Apart from all that, I keep meaning to say something about the Lilac Time. I used to have this huge crush on Stephen Duffy (I await charl's disdain) when I was 15 and he was in the charts with that dreadful "Kiss Me" song. Then when I was 17 he came out with the first Lilac Time album, now tragically discontinued, which was the greatest album ever (I await nibus's disdain) - beautiful folk-pop melodies and quirky lyrics that managed to stay just on the cool side of twee. How I *loved* him.

Sadly, in the early 90s I went all indie and rave, and Stuffy and I went our separate ways. Last year, though, I bought the Compendium album, which now lives in the CD player of my horrible soulless company car, and it's like rekindling an affair with a childhood sweetheart. In my mind, over the intervening decade and a half, he wrote all those love songs for me and for our long-lost romance. In a parallel world, I could have been the Girl Who Waves At Trains. In this world, it turns out that I am just the Girl Who Keeps Excel Spreadsheets. Perhaps it's not too late - Stephen, if you're reading this, please come and rescue me from corporate purgatory.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

A mammoth work week just gone, featuring 15-hour days and a particularly enjoyable 48-hour stretch with no sleep and no food other than vending-machine hot chocolate and vending-machine blueberry Frusli bars. At one point I somehow managed to get myself quoted in the press in Norway. Still, by yesterday it had become clear that my project (product launch) was an overwhelming success and that [whisper it] senior management was very pleased. Given that senior management is currently in New Zealand gearing up for the semi-finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup, I personally doubt the veracity of this.

In other sailing news, huge excitement welled up on Tuesday as it seemed that against all odds, Sanjola had pulled into the lead of the Atlantic Rally, ensuring safe passage into the history books for Cap'n Dicko and First Mate Jennifer. Sadly it turned out that our seafaring heroes were heading in entirely the wrong direction, and had to pull a quick U-ey round the Cape Verde Islands to rejoin the others mid-fleet. Looks like they'll have no trouble fulfilling Cap'n Dicko's ambition of being in St Lucia for his birthday though. Go, Yacht Sanjola!

Ooh, and as ordained, Smat has now got a blog. And a new job! Go Smat!

Got to go, Simon Schama's on telly. The Picts, Simon!