Sunday, October 28, 2007

I'll Pack Next Weekend, Honest

For someone who's meant to be packing up her flat ready for the Big Move, I'm having a lovely time merrily filling it with more stuff.

Here are some things that have found their way into the flat over the past few days:

1. A 1940s wardrobe that I bought ten years ago, and which has been in the possession of my brother and the lovely L for the past five years or so. Inside it's divided into wood and glass compartments with neat enamel labels reading 'Shirts', 'Hats', 'Ties', 'Pyjamas', and so on. 'There's one section that leads to Narnia,' said my brother, matter of factly, 'but I got bored of that one. I prefer the 'Hats' section now.'

2. Two office chairs, one orthopaedic, one not.

3. A large, old, seaman's chest (the wood and metal sort, not a torso, that would be horrible), of the sort that, if my life were a Susan Cooper novel, would probably yield up an ancient brass telescope case with a rolled up map inside with obscure instructions written in Old English, pointing to the location of the resting place of the Holy Grail. (I've checked though, and it only has air fresheners in it.)

4. Two more Pantone mugs. I already had the orange one, and now I have the lime green and the red one* as well. These are the greatest mugs ever, and I will not stop until I have them ALL.

5. A black silk 50s-style dress with a big bow on it, for the awards bash on Thursday. In my mind I look like Audrey Hepburn in it. Then I remember that Audrey Hepburn wasn't five feet tall with a scruffy blonde mop, and that I probably look more like a dwarf version of Jilly Goolden.

6. A second-hand copy of The Fields Beneath, by Gillian Tindall, which I had a copy of before and then lost**. It's the most engaging and beautifully written bit of social history you're ever likely to read. It's a very female take on history: eschewing dates and battles and timelines for a more organic view of how London's ancient past can still be sensed and detected and felt in the present.

(In fact if Tim is still on his mission to read more stuff by female writers, then I highly recommend this, and I'm sure Chuffy! will back me up.)

Here's an extract:
In this sense, the past can be said to be still there, not just existing in the minds of those who seek it, but actually, physically, still present. The town is a palimpsest: the statement it makes in each era is engraved over the only partially-effaced traces of previous statements.

Freud used the image of the ancient city as a metaphor for the Unconscious: he envisaged a city 'in which nothing that has once come into existence will have passed away and all of the earlier phases of development continue to exist alongside the latest ones.' He was talking about the Unconscious of one individual, but perhaps the city is a more obvious metaphor for Jung's Collective Unconscious of the race: we may know nothing about our nineteenth- or seventeenth- or fourteenth-century predecessors on the patch of territory we call ours, but their ideas and actions have shaped our habitat and hence our attitudes as well.

In Blake's poetic vision 'everything exists' for ever: experience is total and cumulative, nothing, not one hair, one particle of dust, can pass away. And in point of fact he was right. Matter is hard to destroy totally, even though it may be transformed by time and violence out of all recognition. In the pulverised rubble lying below modern buildings is the sediment of mediaeval and pre-mediaeval brick and stone [...] Many of our London gardens owe their rich topsoil to manure from long forgotten horses and cattle, and vegetable refuse from meals unimaginably remote in time. [...]

Seeing the past is not a matter of waving a magic wand. It is much more a matter of wielding a spade or pick, of tracing routes - and hence roots - on old maps, of reading the browned ink and even fainter pencil scrawl of preserved documents, whose own edges are often crumbling away into a powder, themselves joining the fur, flesh and faeces to which they testify.

I think it's probably because of this book, which is a social history of Kentish Town in London, that the four years I spent living there seem somehow more meaningful than any time I've ever spent elsewhere.

7. A green shield bug, which has been put out of the window twice, but somehow keeps finding its way back in. Which is amazingly tenacious, seeing as I live three floors up.

In other news, today Mr BC and I met Billy and Llewtrah in the street. Imagine that, eh, just running randomly into other bloggers in the real world! It was as though the very fabric of space and time had been rent, and creatures from the Otherworld had crossed into this one.

It was raining, though, so we didn't chat for long.

* I have been gently reminded that the red one is not in fact mine, and that I must curb my mug-lust lest in my delirious state I also falsely claim ownership of this one.

** It would have been very fitting if the one I bought yesterday in the Oxfam bookshop in Turnham Green Terrace had turned out to be my original, lost copy, but sadly this was not the case.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Is Poking Flirting?

These days I get more people searching for 'is poking flirting?' than any other kind of Google search, due I think to this post.

Frankly I don't know and I don't care, but for anyone who really wants to decode the socio-sexual-cultural semiotics of their latest Facebook poking experience, this bloke has made an exhaustive list of possible meanings. Pick the one that makes you happiest, I suppose.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Question Time

People keep asking me questions that I can't answer. All I can do is gape at them and say 'well, er, I don't really...I mean I haven't really thought about it much, to be honest.'

Which is fine if the question is something like 'Are Ant & Dec a gestalt entity?', or 'Do cats have souls?'. Unfortunately, the questions that I keep getting asked tend to be more along the following lines:

  • Why are you leaving your job?

  • Why are you moving to Cornwall?

  • What are you going to do there?

  • How are you going to make a living?

  • Why do you keep making cakes?

I'm not sure that 'gaping' is an adequate, adult or mature response to any of these questions, to be frank, so later on I am going to sit down and write a detailed life plan for the next five years in a nice notebook.

Or I might just make another cake.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Humiliation Of The Long-Distance Blogger

Tonight my alter ego has the dubious honour of having been selected to liveblog an awards bash whose logo is a massive purple cock.

As if that wasn't enough, I've also been promised that in between picking up gongs for 'most egregious twat' and 'services to misogyny', attendees will be encouraged to poke me, pick fights with me, and stroke my multicoloured fur.

They did call me 'A-list', though. 'A-list idiot', I expect they meant.

Monday, October 22, 2007


On a completely unrelated note, I see that Radio 4 has officially launched its new blog round-up programme, which is now called iPM.

It has a blog, where you can submit ideas for stuff they could include.

First broadcast is on Saturday 10th Nov, at 5.30pm. Tune in to find out if they cover Spinny's recent fling and Hannah's latest saucy escapades! This could be bigger than The Archers!

'F' Is My Second Favourite Letter, Though

I tend to avoid the F-word, because whenever I use it I always end up unintentionally horribly betraying the sisterhood in some way.

And also I can't help thinking that a lot of feminism only serves to ghettoise women further, and is therefore completely counter-productive, and that what we should really do is just get on with things without drawing attention to our gender every five seconds, and oh arse, I just did it again.

But sometimes I do get a bit riled up, like just now when I was perusing a leaflet that fell out of our industry rag, the inimitable PR Week.

The leaflet is for the Fast Growth Business Awards 2008, and the categories are as follows. See if you can spot the incongruity:

1. T-Mobile Fast Growth Business of the Year

2. Service Business of the Year

3. Product Business of the Year

4. Retail/Leisure Business of the Year

5. Online Business of the Year

6. Best Use of Technology

7. Innovative Business of the Year

8. International Business of the Year

9. Angel or VC-Backed Business of the Year

10. PLUS New Business of the Year

11. AIM New Business of the Year

12. Female Entrepreneur of the Year

13. Financial Director of the Year

14. Green Business of the Year

15. One to Watch

I can't work out if the award organisers have established category 12 because they think that female entrepreneurs deserve a little pat on the head for doing something that's the preserve of men, or because they think women are unlikely to win in the other categories because their companies won't be good enough.

Still, at least they didn't say 'women entrepreneurs', eh, English language fans?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Guardian Fails To Turn Britain Middle Class

In a front-page story today, the Guardian newspaper admitted it has failed in its attempt to turn Britain middle-class.

A poll commissioned by the paper revealed that "of people born to working class parents, 77% say they are working class too. Only one fifth say they have become middle class."

The survey points to extensive failures across the board at the Guardian, including those of high-profile education initiatives aimed at persuading oiks to eschew McDonalds for wood pigeon roasted in truffle oil, cultural policies including the promotion of Hot Chip and TV On The Radio as healthy alternatives to 50 Cent and Rihanna, and efforts to persuade readers that driving to the nearest Sainsbury's to buy a designer canvas bag is better for the environment than nipping out to Costcutter for 20 Superkings and a copy of Closer.

"I just don't understand it," said Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger. "We even made the paper smaller so that proles could read it more easily. And this is the thanks we get. Honestly, to look at these survey results, you'd think some people were actually proud to be working class."

Unbowed by his lack of success, Rusbridger cheerfully announced a new initiative: to bring a little bit of Islington to a small village in Uganda. "It's amazing when you think about it, but some people in Uganda have never even heard of Carluccio's," Rusbridger said. "We asked one lady what one thing would make her life easier, and she simply said 'more time to talk to my friends'. We can do better than that - we're going to fly in copies of Observer Woman every month so the women of Katine can fully understand what they're missing out on by not participating in 21st century society."

"Thanks to our amazing experiment, pretty soon every woman in Uganda will be queuing up for Dr Hauschka Rose Day Cream and high-waisted pencil skirts," he added. "These people need never be unhappy again."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Blogger: Its Part In My Downfall

Lynn threw me into a fit of navel-gazing existential anguish by asking me in the comments of the previous post: 'Why do you blog?'.

My first reaction was to assume Lynn was telling me that my blog is pointless rubbish and that I shouldn't bother, but after two cervezas, some execrable doo-wop music and a stomachful of popcorn, I became slightly more sanguine.

My reasons for blogging have changed a lot over the years. When I started, it was because I wanted to learn HTML, and blogging seemed like a good way to do it. I could learn HTML while writing about myself, which was irresistibly self-indulgent. Also, it was what all the uber-geeks you read about in Wired were doing, and I wanted to be an uber-geek and be in Wired too.

As it turned out, I failed the entry-level test for blogworld geekdom by a) not living in San Francisco's Mission District, and b) not being very good at HTML. You can tell this by the fact that my early posts have no titles - in those days Blogger didn't have a field for entering a blog post title; you had to code titles in by hand. There was no comment functionality, either - you had to use a little commenting plug-in built by someone else, usually a chap in a garage in Sacramento, and the comments used to crash every time the garage chap's server fell over due to MASSIVE WORLDWIDE DEMAND. Happy days.

Anyway, then Pyra Labs sold Blogger to Google, and Google fixed it so you didn't really need to know any HTML at all, so that plan went out of the window, although it turned out, much to no one's surprise, that I quite liked writing about myself, so on I went.

Or rather I didn't, because I moved to France and fell out of the blogosphere for a couple of years, before making my glorious return in April 2005 [hmm, I decided to take this bit out...]

Later [and this bit] I left the marital home in a desperate bid to retain my own sanity, and kept on blogging as a kind of outlet for all the things that I would have discussed with ex-Mr P had we still been together, and to try and make some kind of sense of my life, which seemed to have gone horribly, incomprehensibly wrong all of a sudden, and for the company of the readers and commenters, who are all lovely people and who saw me through some quite emotionally difficult times (thank you all, lovely blog readers and commenters).

Nowadays I'm terribly happy and emotionally quite calm, so these days I blog because I get to use words and writing styles that I can't get away with using at work, and because when I find something funny I like to write it down, and because I really, really like tiny mundane minutiae that might never get recorded otherwise. And if other people sometimes like reading it too, then even better.

Along the way I've met some wonderful, fascinating, interesting, lovely and gorgeous people, several of whom have become good friends in real life. And by reading other people's blogs I've learned lots of things - the blogosphere is a massive cornucopia of people and things and ideas that you would never have known about otherwise, and that's why I love it.

So I don't expect to stop blogging any time soon, and in fact I now have two blogs, one personal, one professional. All the better to write about myself with.

I'm still rubbish at HTML, though.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Man With A Horse

Mary said: 'I stayed at the same hotel a few years ago. I seem to remember that there is a rather wonderful sculpture in the town, but memory fuzzy, someone on a horse I think?'

It turns out there are a lot of sculptures in the town, including a massively ambitious effort depicting The Meeting Of The Old World And The New World, but the only Man/Horse (indeed Man/Horse/Pigeon) combo we've seen so far is this one, which is, let's say, a *non-traditional* equestrian statue of Alfonso IX apparently granting a royal charter to the town of Baiona:

Note that even though Alfonso reigned in the 13th century, he was very fashion-forward, in his belted smock dress, leggings and Ugg boots. I fully expect to see Sienna Miller wearing a crown with a live pigeon on it to Glastonbury next year.

But I wouldn't be surprised if this were not the same statue as Mary saw, because Mr BC and I have been heroically unadventurous on this holiday, opting instead to spend most of the time indoors with the curtains drawn; he writing sketches about dentists, and I reading the local papers.

Even with my shaky knowledge of Spanish (exacerbated by the fact that the paper seems to oscillate at random between Castilian Spanish and the local dialect Gallego) I can tell that El Correo Gallego's worldview isn't dissimilar to that of the Daily Mail. Tuesday's lead story is about a group of villagers who have clubbed together to buy a flat in order to prevent gypsies from buying it, moving in, and turning the kiddies' playground into a drug emporium. "We're not racists," a local resident is reported as saying. "We just don't want gypsies here."

Later, an entire page is devoted to the tale of an abandoned dog and the apparent refusal of 'the authorities' to do anything about it. The Correo's intrepid reporter hies himself to the scene, accompanied by a photographer, to discover the dog in situ. Intrepidly, he phones the council himself, only to be told that the dog man is out, the dog van is at the garage having its brakes repaired, and that he should call back later. He intrepidly calls back later, to be greeted with an answerphone message informing him that the office is now closed, whereupon he goes home.

I think things have gone a bit quiet round here since the days of Columbus and Pinzon.

The Meeting Of The Old World And The New World: not the sort of thing that happens a lot these days.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Three Magic Kinds

We have a new contender for 'Best Mistranslation into English':

I was going to post a photo of the eight-poster bed too, but I think some things are best left to the imagination. Instead, here are the Atlantic waves breaking on the rocks below our window:

The Atlantic: not the Spanish Main, apparently.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Galicia Is Far

I'm in Spain for a week or so, sleeping in an eight-poster bed in a suite that's bigger than my flat, in an ancient walled fortress overlooking a marina in which Columbus's tiny backup caravel, the Pinta, is casually moored among the yachts*.

Are these battlements, or crenellations?

You came in that thing? You're braver than I thought.

* Just discovered the Pinta is a replica. I have a feeling the fortress may be, too. The lichen, is, however, real.

Lichen: real.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Westward Ho, Then

You know that thing where you meet someone on a chat forum, but they've got a made-up name, and so you don't realise straightaway that it's the same person whose blog you've been reading (until you start to notice some lexical similarities in their writing and begin to suspect it), and then someone* proposes a real-life forum meet-up, and you go along, and it turns out that the person whose blog you've been reading and who you've been conversing with on the chat forum is actually really very nice and likes Neal Stephenson too and everything, but you're married so you don't think anything of it, and anyway you aren't actually sure he isn't gay, and then later your marriage ends for unrelated reasons and you start hanging out with this person a bit more and you seem to get on quite well and everything and then about nine months later you ask them out on a date and they decline, and you aren't really surprised because you didn't think they were going to go for it anyway, and then three months after that you're both sitting on your sofa discussing how pleasant it is being single when the other person quite unexpectedly leans over to kiss you and says that they would like to see more of you after all, and you're very happy, but at the same time it's all quite complicated because you have to leave the country the next week, and then eight months later you come back to the UK and it's all still going very well with this other person and so you decide to leave your swish London job, your fancy London office and your nastily-carpeted London bachelorette flat and move to Cornwall (which is nicer than London, and a one-bedroom flat there doesn't cost three million pounds) to live with them?


And hurrah!

* That 'someone' being, of course, the lovely cello, to whom I am indebted, probably along with Neal Stephenson, for my current state of happy Cornwallwardsmovingness.