Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Parakeets of Clapham

I have finally seen these mythical beasts with my own eyes – a rowdy group of around 12 birds were squabbling over a plane tree trunk outside Holy Trinity, Clapham – a most exotic sight and sound in the current deep freeze. The birds seemed completely undeterred by the weather: they have obviously acclimatised well.

Of course, nothing exciting can happen in the UK without being attacked by zombie bureaucrats – the poor parakeets are under sentence of death because they are too foreign. Are parakeets Brazilian? Avoid the tube!

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Voyage of the Damned

AKA our staff office party. A “Dinner” and “Disco” “Cruise” from Kingston to Teddington and back. Boss entertainingly tore up the dancefloor. I was sorely tempted to jump overboard to escape the horror. The horror.

Got back home at 3 am. Drunkenly frootled around in the kitchen for something warming and came up with excellent inspiration: hot cocoa with a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream. Yum!! Definitely doing that again.

Mum ‘phoned at 6:45 am Saturday morning.

I was still attempting to make breakfast when my houseguests arrived from Cambridge around 6 pm. Inexplicably, my porridge oats exploded in the microwave.

My niece found them much later on when she was preparing convalescent food for her catastrophically ill pet rat. I know how it felt. It was that sort of weekend.

Diet – wk 10th December

Coffee x 4

Crisps x 0

Choc bars x 1

Pack choc biscuits x 1

Once again, not too bad. Also, Saturday was a virtually food-free day – spent the day largely in bed recovering from The Voyage of the Damned.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Diet: wk 3 December

5 x coffees

1 x packet crisps

1 x choc bar

On the whole, not too bad!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Faking Fingerprints

I’m rather pleased about Labour’s ongoing funding scandal; at least that distracts the government from its all-out misbegotten attempt to destroy our civil rights in the name of ‘security’.

Of course, they also had the recent scandal about half the Nation’s personal info going missing in the post on a couple of unencrypted compact discs – hopefully this will make ID cards harder to introduce. But the government is taking the stance that ‘biometric data’ will make ID cards more secure.

Ha. More people should be aware of Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science column about Biometrics in The Guardian (24th November. Ben Goldacre's Bad Science blog here)

Crucial quote: “every time you touch something, if your security systems rely on biometric ID, then you’re essentially leaving your pin number on a post-it note.

…In fact you might sense that the whole field of biometrics is rather like medical quackery: as usual, on the one hand we have snake oil salesmen promising the earth, and on the other a bunch of humanities graduates who don’t understand technology, science or even human behaviour. Buying it. Bigging it up. Thinking it’s a magic wand”.

Ben points out, frightingly, it has already proven easy and cheap to fake a fingerprint either from the original finger, lifting a fingerprint from a glass surface, or reconstructing a fingerprint from digital data alone (ie the way fingerprints will be stored on the ID card). The faked finger thus produced fools scanners 80% of the time.

Hooray for our Brave New World.

Diet: week 26th November

Much better!

Chocs x 0

Crisps x 1

Coffee x 3

Yay! Must keep up the good work . . . .

Monday, November 26, 2007

Diet: week 19th November

. . . And the wheels fell off this bus.

OMG. Oh, the shame:

1 x apple Danish

3 x full-fat caramel lattes

2 x M&S cream slices
3 x chocolate bars (one of them a mars bar)

2 x packets crisps

1 x tube Pringles (the crack cocaine of crisps, and 750 calories a tube!!!)

4 x M&S custard tarts

1 x massive wedge carrot cake

1 x very large sausage roll

1 x M&S freshly baked chocolate chip cookie

I’m thinking keeping a food diary and noticing what I am eating is skewing the results: I am Schrödinger’s greedy cat. Diarising is forcing me to obsess; therefore I eat more!

This Sunday I shall bake Nigella’s nectarine and blueberry galette as a reward IF I manage to be good all week.

Here goes.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Hedgie's First Law of Croissants

The more difficult crumb-control, the better the pastry. So, if your black cashmere polo neck is festooned in golden crispy flakes, the pastry is very good indeed.

I am enjoying a quick pitstop in the V&A's new cafe, an ambitiously large space opened last November - fairly quietly, I think. I don't recall much press notice at the time.

This is possibly because the poor old V&A was the innocent victim of a grotesquely philistine ad campaign back in the benighted 80s – “An ace café with quite a nice museum attached”. Thatcherite values gazumped the Victorian ones that inspired the museum’s foundation, and suddenly it had to raise money – fast. Cafes and shops were the way forward. The museum is still trying to live this down.

But the truth is the café then was actually dire - a greasily pine-clad, unclean health-hazard situated beneath ground level. The corridor leading to it was dubbed ‘broccoli court’ by V&A staff in honour of the overwhelming smell of boiled brassica that thickly fogged the air.

The new café is a brilliant success. It has moved back to the three original Victorian café rooms – one of which was the first public commission of William Morris & Co. The whole cafe complex now forms the climax to a splendid axis through the centre of the museum: from entrance hall to shop to courtyard garden to café.

The Victorian café rooms are magnificently over the top but at the same time oddly and charmingly practical – Gamble designed his grandiose neo-baroque hall with ‘wipe clean’ tiles ceiling to floor.

For the refurb, the V&A has spread the café into the three galleries between the Victorian rooms and the courtyard – these have been renamed the garden rooms. The centre one serves the food; the two flanking rooms are cleanly minimalist (so restful after the Victorians): all slick lines, white stools and dove-grey banquettes. Gorgeous. The V&A commissioned McInnes Usher McKnight Architects for this project.

The coffee and pastries are excellent too (handled by Benugo), so for me the whole thing has definitely become a place to go in its own right, as well as being a stylish adjunct to a museum visit.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bah! Humbug!

I am turning into a recluse – really must get out more. This weekend was a complete washout, in more ways than one.

Saturday turned into a duvet day – I barely made it out bed. I snuggled up with a book and copious mugs of tea. Usually, duvet days invlove packets of Sainsbury’s Belgian chocolate chip and hazelnut cookies but mercifully for my diet not this time.

The duvet day stretched into Sunday.

Basically, the most exciting bit of my weekend was washing my woolly jumpers and bleaching the bathroom. Actually, bleaching was exciting – who knew how effective bleach could be? Only one mold spot left standing and that is slowly being worn down by liberal applications every few hours.

It’s not as if I lacked options – I was invited out to dinner on Saturday (but passed) and even more excitingly was offered tickets to the Arcade Fire gig at Alexandra Palace on the Sunday.

Now Arcade Fire is my favourite band of the moment and I actually tried to get tickets earlier in the summer – all sold out. So I should have been really excited and grateful that the universe had opened its bounty to me. But not. Sorry, Universe.

So, instead of having an exciting write-up on the Arcade Fire gig, I am blogging about bleaching the bathroom.

Sad, sad and sad.

Diet: week 12th November

2 x full-fat latte
2 x packet crisps
4 x chocolate bars
1 x apple Danish

Obviously, can do better! But was good on cutting wheaty carbs out of lunches and dinners; also watched potato intake.

Friday, November 16, 2007


I was amused to see cardigans have become so fashionable again - they were a wardrobe staple of mine years ago.

Anyway, I felt I had to pay my respects fashion-wise before it was too late. Obviously, any old cardi was not suitable: I didn't want to end up looking like grandad. So I decided to head up to COS ("Collection of Style"). Apparently it is supposed to be a m ore sedate, upmarket H&M with classic stylish pieces.

The shop is in Liberty's old Regent's Street premises. Very stylish, with welcoming and helpful (but not overly assertive) staff. Got my cardi - quie gorgeous, very fine black silk/wool mix with a light grey edging. I bought it without trying it on. £39.

A bad idea for a fat boy.

Also, the contrast edging does no favours whatsoever for the fatter boy belly profile :-/

Considered taking it back, but I think I'll try to get by wearing it unbuttoned.

diet week 5th Nov

1 x pack crisps

1 x choc bar

2 x full-fat sugared lattes

Not bad. Was good with carb control - no pasta, hardly any potatoes etc

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Food of the Gods

One of the best things about my midlife crisis is finding new things to try that hadn’t really crossed the radar before.

This cheese is just remarkable. Apparently, it is the second most stinkiest cheese in France and was allegedly Napoleon’s favourite.

I’m getting a picture of ‘ol Boney being a bit of a sniffer – famously, he wrote Josephine to stop washing as he made hi way slowly back to Paris from Austerlitz on horseback (or something) – definitely a boy who liked his women stinky and his cheese stinkier.

WARNING: You are banned from eating this cheese on public transport in France.

But if you can get past the smell sheer heaven awaits. It’s like Camembert on steroids – everything about it is Bigger: the texture is smoother, claggier, more mouth coating; the taste is huge: powerful, rounded, complex – even the deeply wrinkled, soft and dusky orange rind has a melting ‘eat-me-now’ quality.

And remember I am eating a supermarket cheese – this gorgeousness is available in Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference range. Fantastically well done, Sainsbury’s.

I was attempting to spread the cheese on a granary roll (sublime marriage of textures) unsuccessfully – the cheese is so oozy it ended up all over my fingers. I didn’t wash my hands so I could enjoy the stinkiness some more (definitely no intimate moments with A. N. Other at chez Hedgie last night). In France, they eat it with spoons. Who knows how Napoleon ate it. He may have spread it across Josephine.

Epoisses was invented by Cistercian monks in the 16th Century. Whatever evil the Catholic Church has committed over the centuries, this one is definitely on the side of the angels. On the other hand, no purely saintly organization could have come up with something so good.

More Epoisses lusciousness here and here.

Go on. You haven’t lived until you try it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

weekend news roundup - Jean Charles de Menezes and Sir Ian Blair

I remember the news the police had shot a terrorist coming in one morning at work. Everyone was so pleased but my stomach lurched. In fact, my comment at the water-cooler was it would be great if the person shot did in fact turn out to be a terrorist.

It was horrible to be proved right, and even more awful to realise how dubious I am about police competence.

The shooting of Jean-Charles de Menezes was a complete tragedy. The pressures the police were under were huge, and actually I could sympathise with their position were it not for the appalling way they have handled the aftermath –video footage going ‘missing’; Jean Charles’s character being besmirched; resisting a proper investigation; and now Sir Ian Blair absolutely ruling out considering his position as leader of the Met.

Andrew Rawnsley in last Sunday’s Observer made the most eloquent case for Sir Ian’s dismissal:

“We too often talk about this or that trifling controversy being morally outrageous. The editor of Blue Peter lost his job because of a bit of malarkey over the name of the programme’s cat.”

So I do think it would be appropriate for Sir Ian and his political bosses to have a rethink on this issue.

Monday, November 05, 2007

just say no

My name is Hedgiecc and I am a carboholic. When I find myself baking cakes to celebrate National Pudding Day – and then eating them all myself – problems are looming. I have never been so large.

The fightback begins here – no more chocs, no more crisps and no full-fat caramel lattes (on saving money grounds as well). Also all carbs will be viewed with suspicion.

Last week I had two packs crisps, 3 coffees, and no chocolates. Good! I also avoided sandwiches for lunch – instead having soup at around 11 and then fruit in the afternoon.

Excellent progress: hopefully the tummy will start receding visibly soon.

Apologies on getting all Bridget Jones, but this calls for desperate measures.


The weekend started with a bang at the Clapham Common bonfire night fireworks display. According to Time Out, this is one of the biggest displays in south London, with some 100,000 visitors. The fireworks were provided by Festival Fireworks, winners of the Italian Pyrotechnical Association World Championships. 

And very good they were too. There were a fair sprinkling of unusual ones, and after half-an-hour it climaxed spectularly, if slightly out of synch with the music (Starwars theme).

Usually one can see Wandsworth Common’s fireworks from Clapham, but this year Wandsworth Council decided to cut back on fireworks. Let us hope Labour Lambeth keeps up the tradition, even now they don’t have to demonstrate heavier fire power than the Tories.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Juicy Royal sex scandal

When will the Royal Family learn it's not still 1936? They simply can't expect to hide the relevant information from us plebs loyal subjects in the UK when the whole rest of the world knows. Especially when the allegations are this juicy: Royal/Gay sex/blackmail/secrecy etc etc etc.

Also, surely some civil law issues here? - How can thay have a trial completely in secret??? - is it going to be 'off with their heads' next?

As all of us slavering gossipoholics know, thank goodness for Google. And Wikipedia.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Serpentine Pavilion

My lack of a camera inhibited me from going to see the Serpentine’s 2007 Pavilion: I really like photographing the structures. This is one that is better in real life than in photos – strangely, photographs don’t really show how it fits together or works spatially. The Serpentine’s description is pretty good:

“The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2007 is designed by the internationally acclaimed artist Olafur Eliasson and the award-winning Norwegian architect Kjetil Thorsen, of the architectural practice Snøhetta. This timberclad structure resembles a spinning top and brings a dramatic vertical dimension to the traditional single-level pavilion. A wide spiralling ramp makes two complete turns, allowing visitors to ascend from the Gallery lawn to the highest point for views across Kensington Gardens as well as a bird’s eye view of the chamber below.”

While very modern, the building seems to foster a ritualistic approach: the spiral is quite processional, and affords great views over Hyde Park as one slowly progresses to the top. Near the bottom, the walkway dramatically opens out into the internal space, which while large feels cosy and cave-like, with amphitheatre-style seating curving around an oval space and a large uneven conical dome opening up overhead with an oculus at the top lighting a balcony precipitously jutting out over the space. This balcomy is definitely calculated to bring out your inner shaman. The pavilion's colouring is uniformly a dark bronzy brown which adds to a sense of mystery.

Even though the building shows you where the processonal spiral terminates as you ascend, when you get there it is still a surprise – the disjuncture between walking gently up in open space in natural light and suddenly entering a dark, enclosed, high space artifically lit is quite pronounced. The balcony suddenly feels quite vulnerable and dangerous. One has an amazing view of the crowds seated in the amphitheatre. Some balcony visitors couldn’t resist giving fascist salutes – it is that type of space.

I worried this wasn’t going to be as spectacular as Olafur Eliasson’s last gig at Tate Modern; that it wouldn’t stand up to Rem Koolhaas’s astonishing 2006 Pavilion - but was completly swept away. Much recommended.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ping Pong

Ping Pong opened the last year I was with my old company, and we had our departmental Christmas dinner at the original branch opposite the London Palladium. It was packed solid, and I remember it was difficult to get a booking. I had the day off due to moving into my new home that day and met my shortly to be ex-colleagues for what was a very fun evening, with delicious, madly affordable food served in a gorgeous setting. My boss managed to give me no sign I was to be unfairly dismissed right after Christmas.

My fondness for Ping Pong survived this incident and I went back with my now ex-colleagues (minus the boss) for a catch-up about 6 months later, after the legal wrangling was completed. Again, it was fun.

And in the last few months, I have been back twice, with very different crowds – once with my houseguests in the summer, after a performance of “The Sound of Music” at the Palladium, and last week with my brother and the niece and nephew after our Royal Society lecture.

Both visits were great. I think my older guests enjoyed themselves – the Jasmine tea is always a show-stopper – and they are the type of older visitors who appreciate an experience of ‘trendy’ London. The dim sum were duly demolished while friendly banter was exchanged with a couple down from the North at our communal table.

Professional critics have sniffily compared Ping Pong to Hakkasan and Yauatcha. I have yet to go to Hakkasan but I’ve been to Yauatcha and I think the Ping Pong dim sum stand up very well, considering Ping Pong is aiming at a completely different market: mostly the post work crowd; with the dim sum hoovering up excess alcohol consumption.

The trip to the new branch at the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank was a wonderful half-term family treat. We arrived just after 8pm, me thinking innocently that there would be a lull as punters left for performances at the Hall. Ha ha ha. The place was hopping, with a queue snaking out the door. We were told we had a half-hour wait but would shortly be moved into a bar area. I asked if the kids could have a snack while they waited, and my brother started complaining we couldn’t wait 30 minutes with the children ‘at this hour’. I mentioned there was an EAT around the corner – but my nephew bridled at this (EAT is clearly their default pit stop in Cambridge). Also, he had spotted the Chinese script on the ceiling and wanted more.

We were asked to hang on for 5 minutes and a table was magicked up for us. I was really impressed they even bothered, considering they had flocks of people to spare. Service was brilliant and slick, and the dim sum arrived smartly. Stand-outs were the Har Gau and the squid in satay sauce. The Jasmine tea blew the children away – my little nephew thought it was an alien pod hatching.

The dim sum are keenly priced for such a glam atmosphere – the most expensive item is £3.99: each menu item comes with 3 portions, allowing easy sharing. My nephew had a series of lemonades with fruit ‘shooters’ – these were as phenomenally beautiful as the jasmine tea. My brother and I stuck to G&Ts – quite fabulously delicious. These were Tanqueray but on a completely different plane to others I have had recently. 3 G&Ts = half the bill for 4 (12 courses) : £67 including service.

up your street

According to various free-sheets and celebrity magazines, Keira Knightley is planning to move to Clapham to avoid the paparazzi.

The London Paper claims she is buying a £3.5M house in a street that already boasts Johnny Vaughan and Mark Owen of Take That fame as residents. Who knew? I thought Vivienne Westwood was our only genuine celebrity.

Another claim is she is moving into her boyfriend’s Clapham bedsit.

Alas, if the delightful Ms Knightley was planning to come here to avoid the press, she’s unlikely to do so now that they have already rumbled her. A pity, as I would have enjoyed bumping into her in the aisles at Sainsbury’s.

National Chocolate Day

chocolate malteser cake, originally uploaded by hedgiecc.

Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Malteser Cake (from her last book, Feast, made by me in honour of the clocks going back (and, apparently, yesterday was National Chocolate Day and October is National Pudding Month).

Funniest clocks going back story is the cock up at Gatwick Airport. Hilarious, except i suppose for all those poor passengers.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

half-term with the brainiacs

My bother's idea of a half-term break treat for the children is pretty jaw-dropping stuff: he took them to an evening lecture at The Royal Society. Professor Ottoline Leyser was addressing the question of 'Thinking Like a Vegetable'.

Ottoline is the 2007 recipient of the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Prize. My brother said her work on X-ray diffraction images formed the framework for Watson and Crick's hypothesis on the double helical structure of DNA (Watson and Crick won the Nobel Prize: she didn't), that she was controversial, and that Watson (he of recent racist-comment notoriety) had apparently bad-mouthed her.

This riled me up considerably. "That bastard", I thought. "Stealing credit and denigrating women as well as making racist comments." It inspired me to come along too just to show support.

Well, I thought Ottoline looked surpringly young to have worked with Watson and Crick. My brother explained this was because Ottoline didn't, his comments were about Rosalind Franklin. She didn't get the Nobel, but at least they named a prize after her. Oh, I see.

Anyway, how can you not love a city which offers, amongst all its exhaustingly multifarious entertainment options, a free public lecture on Vegetable Thinking by a top scientist?

Ottoline's lecture brilliantly explained the basic concepts of plant hormonal systems in a very clear, memorable and entertaining way.

One of her basic points is that in studying plants it is desirable to attempt to achieve a plant-centric viewpoint rather than our more natural animal-centricity, as this creates the correct mental atmosphere for the right questions to emerge.

For example, a picture of a bee visiting a flower can more correctly be viewed as a flower manipulating a bee to help it have sex with another flower somewhere else. All the energy in the transaction is supplied by the flower - it supplies all the bee's energy needs as well as reproducing itself.

The hormonal systems of plants which regulate growth and growth options and patterns became quite complex quite quickly, which temporarily lost me and the children, but then Ottoline brought it back on track with a ringing condemnation of our modern cult of the 'natural'.

Nothing we grow is natural - all of it has been artificially developed over thousands of years.

She took the example of a can of organic sweetcorn. "This a can of sweetcorn babies. The sweetcorn does not want you to eat its babies".

Compared with 'real' sweetcorn, our cultivated sweetcorn is a massively engorged freak. 'Real' sweetcorn is tiny, brown, and bristling with unappetising fibres - it evolved this way to avoid being eaten. South American farmers used the technology they had to develop the sweetcorn we have today over many years - by implication, GM is just a souped-up version of what we as a species have always done to the plants we cultivate. The plants scientists want to genetically modify are artificial to begin with.

So I think Ottoline is a GM-supporter. I wanted to ask her if she felt there was absolutely no value in the Organic movement's philosophy, but the chairlady stopped taking questions from the hippies at the back of the room after a magnificently hairy French hippy asked about plant consciousness. Ottoline took the question in her stride, however.

My brother wanted to ask how the hormonal systems evolved, but he looks even more like a hippy than me so stood no chance.

The Royal Society's intellectual generosity did not spill over to offering us a glass of wine (invited reception only), so we spilled out into the crisp autumn evening in search of dinner. I think the children were moderately amused. It was a visit to London, after all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

ban bags now

Everyone in London can register their opinions on the control of plastic bags. I prefer banning them outright, but I think the councils see another opportunity to make money and so want to introduce a levy. Banning them will make more of a real impact on the environment. Currently London gets through 1.6 billion plastic bags a year (not counting ones tourists use, apparently. Don't know how they got to that conclusion.)

Make your voice heard here - closes Friday.

news roundup

South Africa wins the Rugby World Cup - hooray, I suppose. My neighbour told me I was the only South Africa he knew who wasn't excited. I replied rugby was the reason I left.

If anything, I was disappointed England didn't win. Does that make me English??? My father, his father, and so on back to who knows when, was born on this island. I made the mistake of being born in Africa and despite living here for 20 years clearly will never be English. My nephew, on the other hand, also born elsewhere (Portugal) and only one-quarter English by blood, is quintessentially English because he learnt to speak here.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Still on the food theme – I saw the new Disney animation film Ratatouille this week, and it was really fun. Much recommended. Far more adult and complex than their previous releases (obviously they are focussing on the kidult market), the visuals are wonderful. There is a bravura display of digital skills in the sequence where the rats get washed down a drain; my favourite bit however was a chase along the banks of the Seine – Paris was realised so beautifully.

The basic plot is standard issue “follow your dream” but the developments are always imaginatively surprising, A really refreshing experience, and blissfully calorie-free.

just desserts

I am slim and trim and never put on weight. Until now. And in fact, even now my ferociously skinny and very kind colleague tells me I’m not fat – however, I have a definite incipient doughnut. Yikes!

I keep telling myself when I start cycling to work this will melt away. When. And, to be truthful, if. But I *must*.

While I build up the willpower to cycle, I am attempting to control calorie intake. This is challenging as our sandwich van man’s wife makes the most superb carrot cake imaginable and they serve it in vast wedges. I have succumbed to it two days running.

Picking up a few things (mostly salad) from Sainsbury’s for dinner later on, an intense urge to buy a pack of extra chunk chocolate biscuits almost carried me away. I held painfully to my goals however and departed triumphantly with my cucumber, lettuce, etc.

Only to find on the doormat when I got home bars of Galaxy chocolate – a marketing genius has come up with the idea of posting free chocolate through SW4 letterboxes to promote Galaxy’s new shape!

Now that’s the kind of junk mail I like! :-)

This was clearly a reward from the universe for my virtue in Sainsbury’s, and gratefully I scoffed the lot.

Oh well.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

news roundup: a bad week in politics

The Observer last Sunday: ‘Blairites plotting as Brown lead evaporates’


Luckily, the exit of Menzies Campbell as leader of the Lib Dems must have eased the pressure a bit on our poor beleaguered Prime Minister.

under the weather

If I were Michael Fish, I would reconcile myself to the fact that my name, unlike the names of lesser weathermen, would live forever – admittedly not in the most glorious context imaginable, but hey. No-one can seriously blame Mr Fish for the hurricane of ’87; he was just the face on tv reporting the information he had been given. But unfortunately, he did make that comment:

"Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way... well, if you're watching, don't worry, there isn't!".

His claims now that the remark was made about a potential hurricane in Florida, that he wasn’t on duty *that* day, that the whole of Britain and the news media have gravely misremembered the actual situation, are just so embarrassing, pathetic, and demeaning.

Monday, October 08, 2007

More edifying News Roundup

I love animal stories in the news; animals always get into the most amazingly inventive situations. Two great ones this last week:

Daisy the miniature dachshund unearthed a fossilized woolly mammoth bone up to two million years old on the beach at Dunwich, near Southwold, Suffolk. The Dialy Mail has the full story and a fantastic pic of Daisy salivating over her juicy find.

Over at Maunsel House, Somerset, Sir Benjamin Slade’s peacock ravished a peacock-blue Lexus, causing £4,000 of damage in the process (The Telegraph reports). There is speculation the peacock involved is gay, because peahens are brown, not blue. However, it is also possible the peacock was just attempting to defend his territory from a (much larger) rival.

Testosterone-drenched birdbrains can react oddly: our canary Gregory Peck was set off by any electrical device being turned on – washing machine, kettle, etc. Canaries can be ear-splittingly loud for their size; sometimes we had to cover his cage in self-defence.

News roundup

After being such a clever tease all summer long Gordon Brown is now looking utterly foolish. He has cleverly contrived to lose the election that never was. He has helped the Tories revive and unite behind their leader – who just a couple of weeks ago was on the skids.

The Tories had a good conference, and the shadow cabinet members all made excellent speeches, with genuinely electorate pleasing policies being announced. David Cameron’s speech was good stuff, although I felt not the genius level wizardry the press were claiming.

So the Tories definitely deserved their bounce, but I do think Brown’s insane visit to Basra accelerated it wildly. A new New Labour Prime Minister who has promised new ways of doing things and vowing to do away with spin cannot afford to be seen spinning, of all issues, the Iraq war – the very war we were spun into so conspicuously by his predecessor. Tony may have gone, but New Labour doesn’t get a get-out-of-jail-free card with his departure. It is still their utterly misjudged war, and it is nauseating watching the Prime Minister using our soldiers sent to risk their lives as a backdrop for his blatant electioneering. What a twit.

For a career politician, to spin may be essential; to be seen spinning is bad; but to be caught spinning incompetently is catastrophic. Perhaps Gordon could ring Tony for lessons.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Why do so many London pigeons have injured feet? Are our anti-pigeon defences too harsh and cruel to the poor beasties?

Pigeons are certainly clever enough to recognise the possibility of a free lunch. Sitting waiting for a train at High Street Kensington, I was quickly marked out by two hobbled-feet scavengers. I realised that they must have clocked I was carrying an M&S carrier bag containing sandwiches for my lunch.

Saw another pigeon cripple immediately afterwards at Vauxhall station. Obviously, London living must be dangerous. But why are they so careless of their feet?

Friday, September 28, 2007


A sumptuously mounted exhibition at Tate Britain; will probably be mobbed by fans of chocolate boxy Victorian art. After a short period of artistic rebellion in the Pre-Rahaelite movement Millais became the archetypal artistic sellout, licensing his work Bubbles for use in the Pear’s Soap adverts.
Actually I quite like Bubbles, and don’t really blame the man for making a few quid in the Art Business, especially after his unpleasant early experiences with his critical patron Ruskin, a relentless back-seat driver and moralist who went a bit gaga in the end.

I don’t really rate Millais’ stuff at all, apart from Ophelia, Marianna and one or two other pieces. He was skilled in handling paint, capturing textures and facial expression but a bit hopeless at large-scale compositions, which are usually weird and awkward. The portraits are by far his best work.

Millais scandalously eloped with Mrs John Ruskin, whose marriage to the Victorian Sage was unconsummated allegedly due to Mr Ruskin’s distaste of feminine public hair. Instead of booking herself in for a brazilian Mrs Ruskin eloped with the far more personable Millais. Her second marriage was far more successful, and the pair had vast quantities of children, most of whom were roped in for modelling by their doting papa. Queen Victoria never forgave Millais the scandal, and despite painting every Victorian worthy and C-list celeb he never painted her. The monarchy’s loss. Maybe this explains our present monarch’s mania for being painted by Lucien Freud, et all.

Tate Britain
26 September 2007 – 13 January 2008

Movie roundup

Was seduced into seeing The Walker with Woody Harrelson by the superlative reviews. I’d agree Woody was excellent in his role as the gay black sheep of an aristocratic Southern family, and the supporting cast were pretty good too. However, this was supposed to be a thriller and instead was fairly soporific and plotless. It sees itself as some sort of updated Liaisons Dangereuses set in Washington and takes itself far too seriously.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was far more enjoyable. I loved the design – especially the room with the faily tree wallpaper in Sirius Black’s house. Very creepy and atmospheric.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


I researched the Balham tube WWII bomb blast, and found this. Definitely not as beautiful as Atonement’s take on the incident. The movie pursues a ‘beautiful’ agenda – the sequences with Keira Knightley’s emerald green evening dress push wardrobe excellence to new levels – a welcome and for this novel appropriate emphasis on artifice in historical drama adaptations. It fails only in so far as the novel itself is frankly unfilmable.

[Edit 23/10/09] Wow! This is a pretty sensational find. Londonist has been researching Pathe's archives and has come across this originally unbroadcast material showing a bus in a huge crater in Balham High Street. I suspect this is the incident which flooded the tube tunnels at Balham Station and inspired Ian McEwan.

London Transport museum also has a photo of the bomb crater with the bus.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Nigella returns

I did manage to get back to Nigella's new Nigella Express at the weekend - cooking for the houseguests on Saturday after our visit to the BM.

I did the scallops with chorizo, chickpeas with cumin and sherry, and the nectarine and blueberry galette for pudding. The scallops and the galette were both absolutely sensational and definitely ones to do again and again.

I bought beautiful scallops from the excellent Moxons on Clapham Southside. I got dismissive and surly service at Moens, usually so good, but the lady at Sainsbury's Clapham High Street's deli counter was a sweetheart. The recipe could not be easier, and is really so scrumptious - I knew it would be good but it surpassed expectations. Likewise the galette; I'm going to make it again this weekend.

Terracotta Warriors

Such is the hoopla I was surprised to find out the terracotta warriors have visited London before, in 1980, when they were exhibited at Selfridges.

The troop at the British Museum look quite magnificent, and are accompanied by horses, court officials, musicians and acrobats, so collectively there are far more than some critics have implied. One can get quite close to them and examine their individual characteristics, which is good, and the museum has restricted the flow of people in, which is even better. There wasn’t the scrummage usual at these exhibition – even timed ticket ones. The exhibition is helpfully informative, although tactfully omits mention of Qin Shi Huang’s book-burning and scholar massacring activities. Ironically, the exhibition is housed in the British Museum’s celebrated historic Reading Room. How Qin Shi Huang would have laughed.

The First Emperor: China's Terracotta Army
13 September 2007 - 6 April 2008
British Museum

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Bacchae

I studied this play at university – twice, I think, once in Trauma and Film 1 and once in Classical Life and Thought 2 . I’ve never seen it on stage until last night, at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith.

I booked partly because I’ve always wanted to see a production, and partly because Alan Cumming was playing Dionysus. I hardly read anything about it before going, and as it happened was feeling distinctly under par yesterday so was dreading a worthy Greek revival: however this production was electrifying, and deliciously far from ‘worthy’. Almost 2 hours without interval but one hardly notices: this is a great fresh translation by David Greig and a wonderful production by John Tiffany for the National Theatre of Scotland.

Cumming is superb in the role of the rejected god come back to wreak revenge on his mother’s earthly family. Seductive, camp, and comic, but quite excessive in his cruel revenge. But I suppose all Greek gods were dangerous – mythology is full of their violent acts visited randomly on friend and foe alike. As the god Cumming makes a series of fabulous, jaw-dropping entrances throughout – lowered by his ankles to the stage at the start (mooning the audience); though a blast of wall-to-wall fire in the middle (I was in row M and felt the heat); and, finally, – disembodied voice amplified – behind a massive bank of blinding lights at the end. His scenes with the uptight Pentheus are very witty and loaded with horrific irony, which Cumming takes to the max.

Cumming’s foil Tony Curran makes Pentheus’s journey from repressed macho moralist to cringingly awful drag artiste compelling.

Paola Dionisiotti as his mother Agave and Ewan Hooper as grandfather Cadmus are excellent too. They really evoke the horror and poignancy of the tragedy. I was rather dreading Pentheus’s head coming on stage at this point and this one is a pretty close portrait of Tony Curran. The denouement is all the more grisly for Agave and Cadmus being absolutely smothered in blood and gore.

The chorus of Bacchae are played by black women in magnificent red feathered dresses and big disco diva hair. Their words are sung, in mostly Gospel/R&B stylee and they are pretty fabulous – I really looked forward to their next turn. It could easily have been a disastrous choice to use Black actresses in this way; given the theme of the play it could have been interpreted as racist. However, they almost emphasize this possibility – one chorus member mimics a hip-hop artist at one point; another gives the reported words of Agave a broad West Indian accent. The final effect is of flirting with taboos; going too far – which is where Dionysus lives.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

poison mushrooms

My mother’s horrific childhood led her to equate food with love; no-one she loved could ever eat enough. The only reason I didn’t balloon in weight as a child was because in self-defense I became a very fussy eater: every mealtime was a battlefield. Consequently if I found something – anything – I liked it would be mine immediately and always and until I reacted against it (as eventually I always did).

Once at some Polish community event I tasted pickled mushrooms and really really liked them. I was encouraged to eat way too many and was afterwards violently ill. Projectile pickled mushrooms everywhere. Just the thought of pickled mushrooms makes me shudder even today.

Which brings me to Nigella Lawson’s new book, Nigella Express. I tried her raw mushroom linguine last night (by coincidence she also did it on her tv show). It’s a very nice dish, and as fast as promised. I tucked in heartily at first until I started feeling a bit odd about it – very slowly the thought emerged that this was reminding me of something . . . . yaaargh! The dreaded pickled mushrooms!

It’s curious the connection between mind and stomach. My body remembered the mushroom issue before I consciously did, but once my mind made the connection my stomach immediately went into upheaval mode.

Sorry Nigella; not the best review for the book. Hope to cook more this weekend. Meanwhile, it’s baked potato for dinner tonight.

Friday, September 14, 2007

calling earth . . . calling earth . . . .

bzzzst . . . . fizz . . . . . *crackle* . . . .

transmissions resume . . .

Sorry. Been busy.

Friday, July 20, 2007

live blogging from Kingston

Back from lunch now. Got as far as the first major puddle before giving up on trying to reach Kingston. Couldn't bear the idea of a service station sandwich for lunch, so settled in at Cafe Rouge for a nice poulet facie avec saute potatoes and spring greens, washed down by mineral water and cappucino.

Meanwhile, back in Clapham, our ridiculous 18th-century drains managed to keep the flood at bay. My neighbour Septimus cleared a few leaves out of the back one and it was fine after that but the front is very slow despite all efforts to clear it and the water level rose to the top of the front door step. Yikes!!!! - get contents insurance fast!!!! - a couple more inches and my little nest would be inundated.

Hoping the rain will keep off for a while - I'm sourcing portable water pumps, sandbags, etc even as I blog.

live blogging from Kingston

Rain much eased, but still falling. Water level has fallen on the London Road. Our basement is full of yucky oily brown water. Most cars seem to have been evacuated.

More importantly - what a day to come to work in old leaky shoes and have to go to buy lunch!!!

live blogging from Kingston

- rain easing off a bit.

- Emergency services' sirens iall around!

live blogging from Kingston

An apocalypse of water! The deluge is here!

- and the fire alarm has just gone off. Everyone is ignoring it.

- a pallet has just floated down London Road and into our carpark. Stuck going down to the Underground car park.

- people are photographing the Niagra down the steps into the underground carpark.

- our colleague L has just taken off her shoes and gone downstairs to rescue her car - before the carpark is completely underwater!!!

here I am

Yeah yeah I know. Sorry. Work & stuff, plus no home computer. Still - I WILL be better!


1) Teeth all fixed. Nice dentist, nasty hygenist. Really vicious.

2) New mortgage in the process of being fixed. Hooray!

3) New 'phone and new contract package from Orange. Very nice new 'phone. Very very nice. Yum Yum.

4) New window being made - will take three weeks. Blah, and blah to Norwich Union too.

5) New paint samples on walls.

6) New bike all serviced. Very very scared to take it out on the road, let alone cycle to work. But I must.

7) New lamps from Habitat, New bedlinen from John Lewis, New caffetiere, towels, lampshade, clothes

8) Extrememly expensive and insane impulse purchase from Oliver Sweeney (sale, but still) - drippingly gorgeous New Shoes. They're so lovely I licked them.

9) Oh God. Diary of a shopaholic, or what??!

10) New furniture delivery from Habitat tomorrow!! Yay!

Monday, July 02, 2007

No Smoking

Smoking has become illegal in all public spaces in England (hooray!) I have just learned that the concept of ‘public areas’ extends to company cars, and that the government requires all company vehicles to be issued with ‘no smoking’ stickers. Ha ha ha.

One of my colleagues smokes like a mucky chimney and arrived at work this morning saying he had broken the law 4 times already.

At present, I am more exposed to cigarette smoke than I have been for a very long while. Our office is in a quite small unit in a ‘mews’ complex, with french doors opening onto a balcony corridor. Guess where the smokers think they can light up.

My desk is right next to the french doors, and another of my colleagues is a fresh-air fiend. So the doors are mostly open, and the smoke mostly blows in back on to me.

Oink. Oh well, I have my legal rights and it looks like I’m going to have to exercise them. How to make friends and be popular in your new job, lesson 1., coming right up. Watch this space.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

rain, rain, rain

All those annoying know-it-all voices claiming we were on track for the hottest summer ever have gone a bit quiet. I’m just saying.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Dali and Film

I reconnected with my sanity after the break-in at the Tate’s Dali and Film show. My brother was down from Cambridge with a friend, so we all met up on Sunday afternoon. The exhibition, and indeed the Tate, was deliciously and surprisingly empty, which allowed a relaxed viewing experience and an even more relaxed tea-time experience afterwards. Indeed, we got the best table in the upstairs café – right on the windows overlooking the river, the Millennium Bridge, and St Paul’s. St Paul’s was framed by beautifully arranged cranes – lots of building happening in the city right now.

My impeccably Marxist tutors at University left me with a distinct feeling that Surrealism was a Suspect Project, and that Dali was the biggest fraud of all. So I was delighted with the exhibition – a really interesting look at his work in film and its impact on his painting. Personally, I think his collaboration with Hitchcock was the highlight.

I suppose this is what Art History is – once people begin to forget the immediate ideological context and their own position relative to it, their response to the image becomes slightly more open to other influences.

Tea was so restorative. I had a delicious watermelon and ginger smoothy, and a faultlessly executed rhubarb crumble. The Tate is so lucky it has some of the most spectacular spaces in London for its dining rooms – the Rex Whistler room at Tate Britain and this glassed-in room perched over the river and the city. Wow.

Dali and Film
Tate Modern
1 June - 9 September 2007

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Weekend News roundup

The Observer had a strange headline this last Sunday – something about Tony Blair knew the Americans had no occupation plans for Iraq before we went in. I thought everyone knew that already? – the only new bit of this story seems to be that Tony’s old friend Peter Mandelson was now claiming this. Et tu Brute, etc etc etc. I suppose Peter has to prepare for a post-Tony future. But this is probably too little too late to appeal to Gordon Brown.

The big news this weekend was the great flood of Britain. I have to confess to unwitting callousness – I was annoyed on Friday to be caught by a few random raindrops on my way back to the office from lunch. Then I saw on TV news later that night about the utter deluge everywhere else. Oops. On Saturday, The Times said that this was in fact a well-known meteorological phenomenon called the ‘return of the westerlies’ which happens every June and is in fact a mini-monsoon season. I’d never heard of this before! Silly to schedule stuff like Wimbledon, Ascot, etc etc for June when the likelihood of rain is quite high.

I’ve made a new friend – I haven’t yet learned her name. She came up to me on my way home on Friday and on Saturday showed a great deal on interest in the sausages I was grilling for dinner – definitely casing the joint to get through the windows.

I went outside to chat. She was very friendly – I don’t know much about cats but I got definite ‘make love to me now’ vibes. Quite large – maybe pregnant?? – very silky black fur and quite as friendly as a dog. Exquisite little designer collar, bell and heart-shaped ID disc, which she refused to let me read. Really, a Clapham cat shouldn’t be quite so comfortable with strangers, even if they are grilling sausages.

As I tickled her tummy she started sneezing, which made me wonder – are cats allergic to people who are allergic to cats??

Friday, June 15, 2007

crime scene

This is the window the burglar forced to get in. He inserted a tool to unlock the latch, then 'popped' the sash over the (chubb) window locks and pulled it down - leaving very minimal damage to the window and only scuffing the woodwork paint. He then tried to lever the secondary window open, several times, leaving huge gouges in the metal frame before smashing the glass. He was then able to climb in, closing and relocking the outer sash behind himself (he left through a back window).

The police found a few smudgy fingermarks on the outside of the frame, left by someone climbing out. Inside he wore gloves and wiped down behind himself.

He left a few muddy footprints on my cream sofa.

Anyway, so that's the story. I am now in conflict with Everest about replacing the window - despite charging me £72 for a call-out I have no say over when they will come, the date or even the time. And their telephone operators have clearly been trained by watching Catherine Tate videos - it's all "Whatever, I'm not bovered". It's now almost a month, and I haven't even been quoted for the damage!

So now, Norwich Union have written to say they are sending in their own claims people to sort out the damage - after originally telling me to get a quote, and after me paying Everest £72 to quote.

Absolutely the only reason I am still considering using Everest is because they were the installers of the original windows and using a different company to replace a window will affect the guarantee.

Similar issues are happening with Visa and mastercard. The 'secure' postal people they use to deliver cards are utterly frustrating. No British company believes in personal customer service any more. Even getting the police to come out and do a security check is just not happening. I would say my Bank, Barclays, has been the best organization I have dealt with over this so far.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Whole Foods

Whole Foods' new shop in South Kensington has been picking up loads of publicity. I was a huge fan of their shop in the basement of the Time Warner Building in New York, so had to go check this one out.

The range and brilliant quality of the food, and the amazing presentation of it. I just had to have two huge artichokes from a generous pile, and also garlic stuffed olives and fudge from Burnt Sugar, to which I have become instantly addicted.

So it's a great place to expose oneself to major temptation - but bring lots of money!

keyring, part III

Sparkles the Lobster became Sparkles the legless lobster - not surprisingly, he was a bit all bling. One of his legs came off and fell down the floor grill at Tate Modern's Dali and Film exhibition, so I thought that was a bit appropriate. But then his tail came off too. I repaired it but the weld is very weak, so Sparkles has been retired for his own safety.

I have now purchased a boring but ok for now and very sturdy red leather keyring from the British Library, where I was yesterday. Great fun in the reading rooms researching - I adore the place.

Friday, June 08, 2007


My first blogiversary - missed!

Oh well, I had other things on my mind.

Still sorting through all the burglary admin - insurances, police, community crime prevention officers, victim support, security services, window replacement quotes, blah blah blah.

Resurrected my money tin to collect coins towards the new equpment. Luckily, my mum is going to send some money to help out, and my office is giving me a computer on permanent loan. So, I may have a new computer and camera before too long; and I'll just have to save my pennies for a new iPod and speakers.

This morning a man came to quote for a burglar alarm - for me personally and also a communal one for the front doors. Oh yes and cameras front and back.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Disaster Strikes

Woe. My catalogue of catastrophes continues - this Wednesday I returned from work to find I had had a break-in and all my electricals have been stolen - Nikon D70, iPod, Bose sounddock, a broken Canon SLR, and my apple mac. All gone.

Due to the fact I have been unemployed and dealing long-distance with my Father's illness and recent death, I have had no contents insurance. While I have just started a new job, I haven't yet reinsured, so I am totally exposed.

I can't afford to replace the stuff at all.

Presumably, I will continue blogging from work, although there will be no more pics for the forseeable future. To be honest I don't know whether this blog will survive at the moment.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

no news roundup

I had a newspaper-free weekend! So no news snippets this week. I suppose the big news was the absolutely apocalyptically bad weather. A Bank Holiday classic - brilliant sunshine Thursday and Friday; clouds appearing Friday evening; Saturday miserable with intermittent showers all day; Sunday - rainly and cold all day; Monday - ditto; Tuesday - sunny, just in time for the working week! Blah! My theory is that the collective thoughts of the 60 million inhabitants of these islands somehow affects the weather - we fear it so much we actually make it happen.

Headed out this morning at 8.10am and was surprised by the sight of an amorous drake determinedly stalking a duck through long grass. An unsual sight on our side of the common - the duck pond is over on the south side. I don't know whether she was trying to throw him off and just wandered over our way, or else the ducks felt the weather had enlarged their normal habitat considerably. Personally, I missed my normal trek across the Common this morning because I didn't want mud all over my shoes.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

new toy

new toy, originally uploaded by hedgiecc.

A pinhole camera kit, bought at the Tate's "How We Are: Photographing Britain" exhibition. Finished assembling it, now to try it out!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Country Affair

Country Affair, originally uploaded by hedgiecc.

"A Country Affair" Happening this weekend on the Common. Traditional Bank Holiday Weekend weather, I'm afraid - bad and getting worse, right after a gloriously sunny working week. The gods are truly angry at us.

However, I have inside plans for this weekend, so I'm not bothered!

Friday, May 25, 2007

How We Are: Photographing Britain

I haven't forgotten my New Year's resolution. In fact, I went to the private view of the Tate's Hogarth exhibition, but didn't get around to actually blogging about it. Which was a pity, because the show was fascinating - there's so much social observation going on in Hogarth's paintings there wasn't really enough time to look at them all properly. I remember the Tate had to throw us out at closing time.

Well, on Tuesday this week I went with Catriona to the How We Are exhibition - the Tate's first show devoted to photography. It's as fascinating as the Hogarth beacuse of the interesting angles the curators have taken and the inherent sociological interest of how life has changed in the 170 odd years since photography was invented.

Either the curators are fans of Sarah Waters' novels, or Sarah Waters uses archive photography for research. Lots of the exhibition looked like illustrations for her books: Victorian cross-dressing music hall artistes ( I thought:"Ooh, that's a hunky sailor!" - who turned out on closer inspection to be a woman in sailor drag); photographs of women inmates of Victorian asylums on the outskirts of London (Fingersmith, anyone?); - and photographs of women firefighters in World War II.

How We Are: Photographing Britain
Tate Britain
22 May - 2 September

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Weekend News roundup

I'm slowly getting back in the swing - but not much caught my interest this weekend.

Why chocolate is 'good for teeth' - from Metro. The Cabury PR team desperately trying to reposition the brand after the salmonella scare of last year. However, they've chosen an uphill battle with this one. The British Dental Association immediately pointed out that the sugar content in chocolate is extremely bad for teeth. Cadbury were also hoping to tie their product in with good circulation and healthy hearts, but the British Heart Foundation swatted that down too, on the same sugary basis. Oh dear. Back the drawing board, Cadbury.

Actually, I spotted over a fellow commuter's shoulder another pro-Cadbury 'article' in Metro this morning. Unfortunately, I missed picking a copy up for myself so I am none the wiser.

The other big story this weekend was the FA Cup Final. I am not a football fan per se - however I do maintain a theoretical interest in order to be able to communicate with The.Lads.At.Work. Also some footballers are hot. I think Arsenal has the best-looking team at the moment; however I am a Chelsea supporter (glamour club; local; Jose Mourinho is such good value) so was pleased Chelsea won.

I have despised Alex Fergusson ever since he was mean to David Beckham, but even so I was pretty sorry for him losing - Manchester United didn't deserve to lose like that.

I love that Jose is a Yorkshire terrier fan. Does not compute.

Monday, May 21, 2007

lobster invasion

My attraction to inappropriate keyrings continues. After my lovely glass keyring from South Africa met an untimely but completely predictable demise, I had to have this super sparkly number from the V&A Surreal Things exhibition shop. Actually bought two lobsters - one a bright red squeezy plastic toy, which I intend taping to my 'phone's receiver in homage to Dali's 'phone.

Surreal Things

Without a doubt, one of the most remarkable retail spaces in London at the moment is the temporary shop at the V&A's Surreal Things exhibition.

I found the exhibition fantastic, but the shop alone is worth a visit. The design team has plundered ideas from the Surrealists and their followers, including Elsa Schiaparelli. The result is incredibly entertaining and seductive - it certainly worked on me - I couldn't resist buying things, dspite my present abject poverty.

As always, the V&A's exhibition was beautifully designed: big on visual impact and playful in a surreal way but clear and concise in its organisation of the information.

The emphasis is on applied arts - stage and interior design, furnishings, textiles and fashion. This aspect of the Surrealist project is not so familiar (at least to me) and I found it fascinating. One of the exhibits is Schiaparelli's notorious monkey coat: absolutely 'ick' - and meant to be - but absolutely gorgeous as a coat. Wow. Of course, since it was made the whole idea of fur has acquired more and more taboos in society, as Pete Burns discovered to his chagrin on Celebrity Big Brother last year. I'm surprised the V&A hasn't attracted more negative publicity because of it. For example, have the police tested it's endangered species status??!

Victoria and Albert Museum
Surreal Things: Surrealism and Design
29 March 2007 - 22 July 2007

Monday, May 14, 2007

Brothers in Arms

My brother has sibling Issues. This I learned. As eldest, it has escaped my attention 'till now but he definitely has issues.

He is the PhD in the family. This is clearly very important. He informed us that if you have an MA in the UK you are considered a failure (I have an MA). Hmmmm. I feel that there are mlllions and millions of people in the UK without tertiary education at all who live quite happy and successful lives.

At a dinner for Ingrid and Peter he interrupted and spoke over Ingrid whenever she tried to say anything. This surprised me as I have always regarded J's social skills as superior to mine. And at the end of dinner he made a great deal of paying for me as I was 'unemployed'. Urgh.

The day of the funeral was relatively good. After all the guests left my mother asked to go shopping - which turned out to be a really good time, with lots of useful clothes shopping (she hadn't bought anything for herself for two years) and us ending up at a nice cafe afterwards. However, J spoiled everything later by starting a silly argument which rapidly became very heated. I was out of the room at the time, and returned to a catastrophoc change of emotional temperature. Stony silence all round. Then he stormed out. Mum and I stayed, her a bit weepy. Half-an-hour later he returned; mum tried building bridges, rebuffed by J, who statrted ramping up the heat some more. In the middle of all this my aunt telephoned. Mum took the call. J continued his stupid tirade, undeterred by the fact mum was now focussing on her sister. I snarled at him to get some proportion: after all, mum had just buried her husband that day.

He screamed at me! ~ but my words had effect as he climbed down rapidly. Both he and mum spent the rest of the weekend over-compensating, which was stressful in itself.

I am told it is usual for there to be family arguments in periods of bereavement. Whatever. I am however really angry with my sister, who decided not to come to the funeral at all due to 'ill health' (although she's well enough to go to work). I'm shocked at anyone missing their parent's funeral.

funeral flowers

funeral flowers, originally uploaded by hedgiecc.

This is a simple marker of a sad event - my Dad passed away in the early hours of 30th April. He was 81 years old and in extremely poor health; a late stage of a blood cancer with no hope of recovery - peacefully passing on with no pain was a blessing. He was a fighter to the end - cheerful and positive; desiring to lessen the trauma for others. He probably would not have lasted so long without my mother's immense strength and will-power simply willing him on - we worried she wasn't accepting the inevitable but when he time came she took the decision to withdraw medical intervention herself.

The funeral service was simple and beautiful - the priest officiating was an old family friend (87 himself) and I found I really needed his professional support through the ceremony. I wasn't expecting the actual mechanics of the funeral to be so upsetting, but unfortunately I had a row with the extremely obtuse undertakers about delivery of the coffin 15 minutes before the due start of the service. 'Six Feet Under' emphaticially they were not.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Buy! Buy! Buy!

St Mary's Clapham is very shy - it's been locked up the last few times I've looked in. But it is open for mass at 7am, so I was up early to light candles for ailing and departed loved ones. Catholicism is at its best when it's most pagan. Feeling all spiritually refreshed, I then tubed it to King's Cross for the Ted Baker sample sale. Trousers and Jeans £20! Shirts £25! Suits £75! Wowee!

Half of London was there already, rifling through the racks to pumping house. Lots of good stuff, and plenty of assistants restocking, so all the good stuff hasn't necessarily gone early. It's good to know your Ted Baker sizes beforehand so you don't have to try things on - more rifling time! The suits were particularly excellent at £75 a pop. I didn't get one because I was specifically looking for a black one which I didn't find (the man in the queue ahead of me bought FIVE). I did come away with three jeans and three shirts. Yippee!

The sale is on at the Camden Centre, one block down from St Panras station, today and tomorrow until 8pm.


The opera is Philip Glass's meditation on the origins of Gandhi's policy of non-violent resistance (which he termed 'satyagraha'), set in South Africa.

Philip Glass's music is famously minimalist - incantatory and hypnotic - and therefore not dramatic in any kind of 'plot' sense. But it suits this tale very well; political activism was recast as ritual and raised to a mythic level. The burning of passes in Act II was very effective and an example of drama building up slowly, glacially, through a combination of the music and the ritualistic action on stage.

The production was gorgeous - all rusty browny golds and blacks, with spots of blue from time to time and white highlights. The stage was carpeted with varnished newsprint and bounded by a semicircle of rusty corrugated iron. From this umpromising format astonishing feats of spectacle were extracted, surprising the audience and deepening the symbolism right to the end. The lighting design was particularly atmospheric. In fact, despite the slow musical tempo the staging was quite acrobatic - we had stilt walkers, huge mythological puppets manned by arrays of cast members, people whizzed off stage on lines, etc etc etc.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


What I learned today:

1) A glass bottle keyring filled with coloured sands in pretty patterns bought at Johannesburg airport is not a practical idea.

2) Should have booked a cycle service earlier, before the good weather brought all the summer cyclists out of hibernation :-(. The cycle shop can only do me in two weeks time.

3) Focus! In a past time of major life changes, I simply lost everything that wasn't physically bolted to me. It looks like this is happening again. I left my keys on the till at Sainsbury last week, and on the till at M&S today. This time I twigged only when trying to reenter my front door. I had to walk back across the common.

4) Which wasn't bad, as it's a fantastically gorgeous day - London is truly at it's best on a perfect May day. Fresh greenery, tall blue skies, ambient temperatures, fresh breezes, sunbathers, picnickers, kite fliers, dog walkers, young mums with baby buggies, cyclists - the common was awash with neighbourly joy.

5) Global warming alert!! - normally, I start my hayfever medication the second week of May, but this year I started today - and it felt like it was in the nick of time! The botanists are saying all the plants are two weeks early, and my nose agrees!

6) Off to the Opera tonight! ~ Satyagraha at the ENO by Philip Glass.

Tony Blair

I'm not doing a "news roundup" this week but instead am going to quote from The Observer's editorial, an anaysis of Tony Blair's legacy:

"Britain is better off after a decade with Tony Blair in charge of the most successful, progressive government since Attlee. Wealth has been created and been redistributed. That is what Labour governments have always hoped to do. It has happened without a break on global competitiveness. That is what New labour hoped to do: build a vibrant market economy with a generous welfare state; economic freedom and social protection. That is Blairism.

So on Thursday millions of voters will go to the polls intending to bury the Prime Minister. In time they will find many reasons to praise him."

I do tend to agree. That Cameron is aping Tony's style, that Gordon Brown is trying to be more touchy-feely himself, is a tribute to Tony. And this government has succeeded in a way the previous Tory government hopelessly failed.

BUT - Iraq is so huge a miscalculation, so awesome a misjudgement, it simply demolishes all the positives. All Chamberlain is remembered for today is waving a piece of paper and crying "Peace in our time". Iraq with its probably dreadful aftermath is going to be chiefly what Tony is remembered for. It's all the more horrific because the Prime Minister had access to excellent advice that the Americans were heading for a disaster beforehand.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Johannesburg: sunset and storm

Saturday, April 28, 2007

trials and tribulations, cont.d

I'm just back from Johannesburg, South Africa - been on a mission of mercy. My poor father has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma and is already in a fairly advanced stage: he's been in hospital with a severe bout of pneumonia and septicaemia. He was initially expected to pass away over the Easter weekend, but a change of meds pulled him through.

So, I have been resident for the last few weeks in my parents' retirement home - with no internet access and therefore no blogging.

Of course, I was out there last year aound this time, for about three months. He had had a stroke and a fall and broke the C1 vertebra. The hospital he was admitted to - a very zooty northern suburbs one - did not diagnose the stroke or the myeloma. I learn from my reading now that fractures are a primary indicator of myeloma (and advanced age and maleness), as are opportunistic infections of the lungs and renal system (both of which he contracted in a big way immediately upon entering the hospital for 'tests' - he was in their ICU for 8 weeks). So it is not comforting that they missed it, but of course we can't really complain as the condition is incurable anyway.

So. Poor old mum is not accepting the prognosis at all, so that was difficult. But on top of all this she was served with a court summons from last year's doctor alleging non-payment of his bill!! So I had that to sort as well. Luckily a close friend in Johannesburg is an attorney.

The SA medical system has given me a new-found respect for the NHS. SA is completely privatised, so everyone has to have medical insurance. Every medical practice handles their accounts differently, and the practices sometimes claim directly from the medicial insurers and sometimes don't, depending. Neither speaks to the patient, and if you ring the insurers it is typical call-centre hell. Chaos!

Anyway, we gritted teeth and dug deep and discovered Dr M had in fact been overpaid by the medical aid - significantly so. And my mother, confused by the doctor's accounts department badgering, had paid the patient portion three times over. Taken together, the bill was paid literally twice over. And now Dr M is trying for a triple!

One doesn't know whether the good doctor is trying his luck with an elderly and confused patient, or whether his own accounts department is up to something - unfortunately, I gather neither scenario is unheard of. I have compiled all our evidence into a summary of payments and our lawyer is taking to their lawyers.

It's all just beyond belief.

Jo'burg was looking good - had a look at the inner city and felt it was very clean and spruce. The municipality's regeneration project is clearly taking effect. We still had heavy thunderstorms in the afternoons, a typical summer weather pattern for Jozi but very odd for autumn.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Easter weekend news roundup

Riot at Primark - Evening Standard. Exciting times on Oxford Street! I must check out this Primark place of which you speak.

The Queen's loaf is saved - Evening Standard (no link). Apparently, HM The Queen was devastated to hear rumours that Waitrose was about to discontinue her favourite brown loaf - the "Ascot". "Indeed, so upset was she that a member of the Royal household was despatched to Waitrose to ask them to reconsider their decision, and restore the 59p loaf to the shelves."

Happily, the Ascot loaf has not been discontinued but merely repackaged - now it will be known as "thin sliced brown bread".

Waitrose says: "We have been consistently selling our Waitrose thinly sliced brown bread for many years. The bread is the quintessential English loaf, perfect for delicate cucumber sandwiches, or to serve with smoked salmon." Ha! So now we know how to make the perfect Royal cucumber sandwich for tea.

More rather intriguing Royal news/gossip in the Evening Standard:

The very curious world of the royal odd couple (no link, ES 05/04/07 p18). Where did Camilla go to recuperate from her hysterectomy? One of the three Royal palaces she shares with Charles? - or her own private house, away from Charles? The second guess would be correct. The article is interesting in that it reflects on issues arising in the royal marriage, mainly to do with his thoughtlessness. The moral this reader drew from the story: be wary of answered prayers, Camilla. One thing being the bit on the side. Quite another to be the main event.

Gay couples given keys to the Magic Kingdom as Disney relents - The Guardian Now gays can get married at Disneyland!

Chaos on sinking Greek cruise ship - BBC. It is quite unbelievable that a cruise liner can run aground and sink virtually in the Island's harbour. I definitely intend to avoid Louis Cruise Lines. Another of their boats had an engine fire in the English Channel last year, and apparently the company also owns the resort where the two English children died of carbon monoxide poisoning recently. Two French tourists are missing in this latest tragedy.

Finally, some shocking local news: Pregnant woman shot dead at flat. A few weeks ago, a teenager was shot near Clapham North station. This new murder seems to be related to a feud with a neighbour over parking. Just off Northcote Road, this is the epicentre of Nappy Valley, in estate agent speak "between the Commons", one of the most desirable stretches of property in this area. In BBC parlance, definitely "residential".

eggs eggs eggs

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Backlash on Chesil Beach

Our national living literary treasure Ian McEwan has long remained gracefully dignified in the face of various moronic allegations of plagiarism. However, Natasha Walter's Guardian review of his new book On Chesil Beach obviously got to him in a big way.

However, unlike Jeanette Winterson, who famously and magnificently turned up on the doorstep of a disagreeable critic (in the middle of a dinner-party), McEwan has restricted himself to a critic slap-down on The Guardian's letters page:

" . . . she reported that my views about the peace movement stuck in her throat.

. . . I accept that being forgiven by critics is an occupational hazard, but just for the record and Ms Walter's throat, perhaps I could set this matter straight. When she was still at her primary school I was campaigning, writing and speaking against nuclear weapons. I was a member of European Nuclear Disarmament . . . "

His letter builds up to a thrilling climax:

"I sometimes wonder whether these common critical confusions arise unconsciously from a prevailing atmosphere of empowering consumerism - the exaltation of the subjective, the "not in my name" syndrome. It certainly seems odd to me that such simple precepts need pointing up: your not "liking" the characters is not the same as your not liking the book; you don't have to think the central character is nice; the views of the characters don't have to be yours, and are not necessarily those of the author; a novel is not always all about you."

Take that, Natasha! Oops! Oh, the shame.


Some exciting milestones: firstly, this is my 100th post! Hooray me! ~ and secondly, The Guardian reminds us this week marks the 10th anniversary of the birth of the blog. Now, a blog is born every second. Go, blogs!

Entertainingly, The Guardian's article quotes Andrew Keen, "a former dot-com entrepeneur" and the author of the forthcoming book Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture. The title truly says it all. Mr Keen seems to think that most of web 2.0 is "digital narcissism": "It's seductive in the sense that it convinces people to think they have more to say and are more interesting than they really are," he said. "The real issue is whether it adds any more to our culture. Most of it is just so transient and ephemeral."

Hmmm. That's Life, Andrew. Methinks the description "former dot-com entrepeneur" is indicative - sour grapes, guy! The quality argument is completely fallacious, and has been made of every advance in communication technology since Plato dissed the invention of writing. I do like the "digital narcissism" quote though - I may borrow that for my profile!

The other pundit The Guardian quotes, Dan Gilmour (author of We The Media) is far more blog-friendly. I tend to agree with him:

"Blogging and other kinds of conversational media are the early tools of a truly read-write web," said Dan Gillmor, author of citizen journalism bible We The Media. "They've helped turn media consumers into creators, and creators into collaborators - a shift whose impact we're just beginning to feel, much less understand."

Friday, April 06, 2007

coffee break with shaggy blog stories

Yay! It has arrived. Taken a pic to mark it's delivery, and also as part of the Shaggy Blog Stories flickr group marketing campaign. Clicky on piccy to take you to flickr, then click on the Shaggy Blog Stories link to see the rest of the pool.

Alternatively, just buy yourself a copy! To date, just over £2,000 has been raised for Comic Relief.

Those Fox's Creations Luxury Milk Chocolate Shortcake biscuits are my absolute favourites currently. Honestly, Sainsbury's can't restock quickly enough.

They have the ideal choclate:biscuit ratio, which is much more chocolate than biscuit. Yum!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Quote London

"London has survived Britain's century-long decline to carve out a role for itself as a semi-independent city-state. But will the price of becoming the global city prove too high for those who actually live here?" - A City of Capital, an essay in Prospect (via Daily Dish)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

weekend news roundup

Miracle Nun: 'I wrote John Paul II's name and I was cured' - The Guardian A nun from Aix-en-Provence is cured of Parkinson's by writing the name of pope John Paul II. This may possibly put JPII on the fast-track to sainthood.

Can I get fired for blogging? - The Guardian. Well, yes. But Catherine Sanderson (Petite Anglaise) has won almost £30K + costs from her ex-employers accountants Dixon Wilson from a Parisian tribunal last week. Yay for her! I really don't know why employers are so touchy about blogging. My policy is not to discuss work at all, and certainly not even to blog from work or in official work time.

Blair: I'll be treading the boards again - The Observer Apparently, Tony has acccepted an offer from Kevin Spacey to act in a production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible at The Old Vic later this year. Tony will play the role of the Reverend John Hale.

This is exciting news. America has had a President who used to be an actor, and we here in the UK are about to have an actor who used to be the Prime Minister! Well done Kevin Spacey! - it's bound to be an amazing success, even if only for the novelty value. But apparently acting was Tony's first love, and his sketch with Catherine Tate for last month's Comic Relief television appeal was actually quite good, so the potential is there. I certainly plan to go.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thursday picture: darkness at noon

City Hall from the Tower of London

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

statistical analysis - daleks and duchesses

Well, analysis shows that if you don't want to be taken for a food blogger stop blogging about food! By far the largest number of hits I'm getting on Google searches are from people looking for "Marks and Spencer Dalek cake".

Sorry, people, I haven't actually written about this cake - I mentioned purchasing and eating a M&S Dalek Easter Egg a couple of weeks back - but the idea of a Dalek cake sounds so great. And the very large number of people looking for one at M&S seems to suggest it might be real.

So I kept a look-out for it at the Clapham Junction branch yesterday but couldn't find it. Maybe they only have them at the larger branches. If they don't have one what an opportunity! M&S product development people take note! The two dalek-themed Easter Eggs were at Clapham Junction, although on floor-level shelving - slightly disrespectful to the glory that is Dr Who, I thought.

The £4.99 egg is all about the packaging - the vaguely dalek-shaped box contains a standard chocolate egg. However, the killer detail on the box is the speaking chip which cries "Exterminate! Exterminate!" on demand.

It is this feature which has to date saved my empty dalek box from the recycle bin.

I still pine for an actual chocolate dalek. However, the production costs of creating a mold for one might scare off licensees, and I understand the BBC doesn't hold the full copyright to the daleks anyway, so any deal would be a three-cornered discussion. Oops.

In other analysis news, my blatant and brazen strategy of naming every random celebrity going is bearing fruit. Out of the celebrities I've name-checked recently - eg Madonna, Terry Wogan, Fern Cotton, Jonathan Ross, etc etc etc - can you guess the one who tops the Clapham Ominbus charts?

Well, in a breakthrough for the British Aristocracy I can exclusively reveal our top celebrity is none other than Her Grace the dowager Duchess of Devonshire. There you go. Who said the British class system was dead, or even off-line?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Save Battersea Power Station

It's sheer hell to be so cynical yet so correct.

"Battersea Power Station’s future remains in doubt as the fantastic hulk of the art-deco building itself remains in sorry dereliction.
Yesterday, the Guardian reported that the new owners of the £400m prime 36+ acre riverside site, Treasury Holdings, had scrapped development plans approved by Wandsworth Council in November last year and speculated whether London might be about to lose the four iconic chimneys altogether to yet another bland, luxury, residential development if the Power Station is allowed to further deteriorate beyond the realms of renovation." (Londonist)

Wandsworth Council and previous owners, Parkview, refused to even consider an alternative report by a team of three companies of concrete experts brought together by the World Monuments Fund & Twentieth Century Society, who have revealed that the chimneys can be repaired for half the cost of demolition and rebuilding.

The independent report also revealed there is no sign of structural distress in the chimneys. When Parkview bought the site thirteen years ago, they promised to restore it, but instead sat on it and did nothing, merely hanging onto it as property speculators. They pushed through planning permission to demolish the chimneys, full of promises to restore the building, but instead immediately flogged it for a £240m profit, since the value of the site had increased hugely as a result of planning permission to demolish the chimneys. Profit not renovation was evidently their aim.

UK voters can sign the government petition here.

The Guardian article can be read here.

Monday, March 26, 2007

weekend news roundup

Cricket coach was poisoned and strangled, police believe
*Bob Woolmer knew hotel-room killer
*He was ready to expose corruption
*Fixing enquiry into Ireland game
- The Daily Telegraph

Poison again - well, at least this time it's unlikely to be polonium. But now a possible crime from the past is emerging:

Family to test Houdini’s body for poison “Descendants of Harry Houdini announced plans to exhume his remains following claims he was poisoned.” - The Daily Telegraph

Houdini died suddenly in 1926 – an international conspiracy of spiritualists is suspected. Houdini mocked the spiritualists. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a keen spiritualist, wrote that Houdini would “get his just desserts very exactly meted out”.

Gay British men pay fertility clinic £33,000 for designer babies - Sunday Times. The Fertitilty Institutes, the clinic in Los Angeles runs the programme. A Gay baby boom!

the tell-tail clue to decoding dog behaviour – it’s how they wag ‘em - Dogs wag their tails to the right when they see something fmiliar, such as their owner, and to the left when confronted with something they want to run away from, it was revealed yesterday. The bias is subtle, requiring video analysis to spot.” - The Daily Telegraph

Will Italy’s laws to cut bad driving get lost in the traffic?
5,000 died, 330,000 injured on Italian roads last year. - The Daily Telegraph

I wonder how the figures compare to the UK's? As a pedestrian, I would like to praise Italian drivers - they are amazingly polite and chivalrous towards idiotic tourist pedestrians. Totally unlike the French or British. A British pedestrian's life is very miserable. Just yesterday I got hooted at by an irate driver while I was crossing the street in front of my own home - miles away from his speeding car.

Lowry's dark imagination comes to light - The Observer. Disturbing and sexually deviant drawings have remained hidden since the iconic British painter's death in 1976.
Hmmm. LS Lowry left his entire estate to a teenage girl fan. I'm actually not a fan of his stuff.

Tate buys women's art for sex equality - The Sunday Times. The Tate does not possess a single Georgia O'Keefe or Frida Kahlo.

"Silicon Valley's dot-com era may be givig way to the watt-com era. Out of the ashes of the Internet bust, many technology veterans have regrouped and found a new mission in alternative energy: developing wind power, solar panels, ethanol plants and hydrogen-powered cars." - The New York Times

Fyffes warns of dearer bananas “Britain’s favourite food – the humble banana – is set to increase in price after Fyffes, one of the world’s largest importers, said it would pass on soaring costs of production to consumers.” - The Daily Telegraph