Sunday, 12 December 2010

Boring 2010

I'm fragile today. Boring 2010 can't have been Boring. An excellent day and a happy after-pub. I won't bang on about it but will quickly mention @mount_st_nobody and @thesouthpole. Their talks were sublime. And @iamjamesward, thank you - best London thing I've done in London yet.

Some photos can be found on my Flickr account

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

I Thought of You

I thought of you at Piccadilly
and while sitting next to an old man
turning pages of The Secret Life of France
on the Jubilee

(opposite a man
who read Lenin's biography)

I thought of you as I left
the station
and with each footfall to my door

And I cursed you
for making me write
a poem

I hate desperate poems

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Her Van and Mine

I've taken the most precious of my books with me to London. One is my friend Emily Mackie's And This is True. I picked it up this evening and opened it again.
And I read the bit that describes the van that Nevis and his father lived in. In detail. And I thought of my own van. The third-hand van my dysfunctional family and I drove around in when my parents were still together.
A white Mitsubishi. The interior beige. Different shades of beige. The front had three seats covered in broken and cracked pleather, all a pale beige. The oil was underneath the driver's seat. The radio had dials. We always had it set to Atlantic Long-Wave 252 to listen to the same limited playlist over and over - the most memorable song Sunshine After The Rain. The back had two MDF benches which faced each other. There was enough space for three people on each bench. There were three dark-beige dirty cushions on each. If you lifted them there was a thumb-sized hole you could lift the top of the bench with, to access the storage space beneath.
In the boot was a large rectangle of the same MDF the benches were made of. It had two further bits of MDF which meant you could make the rectangle into a table, elevated in between the benches, or lie it flat to create a double bed.
The windows in the front wound down by means of a rotating beige handle. The back windows had thumb holes in, as the benches did, so you could slide them open.
The van broke down all the time and cost loads to run - but it was lying on the cushions in the back looking up at the double-lights permeating the black night above the motorway in the summer, with the breeze on my face as the others slept, which forms my earliest memory of a journey and is the reason I keep moving. I loved it.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

"But I hate Busy Trains..."

A boy holds his mother's hand on the platform at King's Cross. He's about five and his big, dark, beautiful eyes are filled with sadness as the train approaches. It's quite full.
"But I hate busy trains," he says, bottom lip quivering.
"It's okay," his mother says as the doors open and people file off.
There are seats and they sit down. He's still not pleased and gazes up at the map. His mother strokes his chestnut hair, which falls just above his eyebrows and takes his hand. She reassures him that it's not far to Camden Town, from where they will change.
He doesn't want to change but after some persuasion, he says, "okay."
His eyes move to the advert next to the map, "Mum, look, it says 'donate yourself', why does it say that?"
And just as she's about to explain he says, "I know what donate yourself means, it means give yourself to somebody else."
And then we're at Camden Town. They walk away. He doesn't look sad anymore.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

The Pope's Visit

Groups of pilgrims stand in Victoria Station. African nuns wear yellow 'Papal visit 2010' bags. They look so happy. Two priests walk past me. A gold cross shines light into my eye from the breast of one, a reminder to me of the wealth of the Catholic church before I cite its symbolic meaning.

Underground, a father is explaining to his young children that it's busy because the Pope is in London today.
'But daddy,' one proclaims, 'the Pope's old.'

I smile as I board the tube to travel away from the epicentre.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Defining PC Games and Media of Old.

I've always been interested in the paranormal. God, ghosts, lake monsters, yetis, time portals, telekinesis and everything else 'unexplained' fascinated me from the minute I was aware of them as concepts (if a toddler can grasp the concept of God, which I suppose is not necessarily plausible).

This evening I was talking to @oye_billy on Twitter and I brought up a PC game I loved as a kid. I had to look it up. It was based on Sam & Max, comic book characters created by Steve Purcell in the late 80s (I'm an 80s kid). The game was called Sam & Max Hit the Road and I loved it because they went across America solving mysteries in weird places. Like at the giant ball of yarn.

Another game I played, again on the PC, was 'WeiRd.' In this game you went through various levels solving puzzles and reading about things like the woman with asthma, which for some reason caused her breasts to glow blue. The game was a place of different dimensions that were fantastically designed, from holes that descended miles underground with stories to unearth as you went down, to labs and misty mazes. It was magnificent.

I even enjoyed the Goosebumps PC game, One Day At Horrorland which was neither cool nor magnificent.

On TV, The X-Files was a seven-year-old revelation. From the first episode I found my mother watching in our living room (Mulder running a tooth through a supermarket check-out and alien code screwing the system) to the the hole in the smoking man's windpipe near the end.

And with a backdrop of Fortean Times Magazine from the age of eleven, all these things were absorbed with a lot of love. Yet somehow I still don't think I've turned out as a geek. Not really.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

No One's Infallible

So... Yesterday I bet everything (I'm not sure entirely what I bet) that I'd be okay commuting to London and using the tube on the day the staff went on strike.

To be fair, I was acting under the advice of older, wiser people than myself.

The train from Bristol to Paddington was fine, emptier than usual but on time.

@Biltawulf had tweeted me, 'go for it. It's fun!' which gave, I think, a slightly false sense of hope. But he'd somehow managed to get into work earlier than he had in years so it was coming from a good place.
I arrived. I walked past this queue on my way to the tube.
And then I was told there was no tube from Paddington. The tube trains may have been running but if they weren't running from where I was it was no use.
I asked for help. A friendly Transport-helper-person (I've no official name to hand) told me to get the 205 bus from outside. Lovely, I thought as I bounded to the bus stop full of hope.
I was greeted by this at the bus stop:
So the upshot was, over an hour and only two simultaneously-arriving-and-quickly-filled 205 buses later, I turned around and went back into Paddington. I was too late to meet the person I was meant to.

But it was alright... at least I wasn't a doctor or other important integral cog in London's Big Ben... or something.

Monday, 6 September 2010

The Tube Strike Won't Affect My Train Travel

Monday morning and typing ‘tube’ into Google brings up ‘tube strike’ as the second most searched for tube related thing after ‘map.’ BBC news is tops in the results with advice to, ‘take an alternative way of getting home’

TfL have allowed ‘Around a hundred extra buses, escorted bike rides, marshalled taxi ranks, and capacity for 10,000 more journeys on the river.’

On Twitter people seem more annoyed about the Guardian’s ‘obvious’ headline, ‘Tube strike to cause mass disruption across London.’ Some are excited about having an excuse to cycle and @therealmilesyuk is: ‘Secretly a bit looking forward to London anarchy caused by tube strike.’

Royal Maritime and Transport (RMT) and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), (maintenance and engineering staff) go on strike at 5pm today, and other RMT and TSSA Tube staff, ‘including station staff and some drivers’, begin at 9pm. They’re facing 800 job cuts because of Oyster card success – In a similar vein to supermarket staff who’ve been replaced by self-service check-outs and cinemas where you only need your bank card to pick up tickets.
I’m particularly interested in the words ‘some drivers.’ The strike is predominantly maintenance and engineering staff, so I’m thinking ‘most drivers’ will still be driving my tube trains.

In fact I’m willing to bet on it. I currently commute from Bristol to London. I get into Paddington then take the tube to work. At the end of the day, I take the tube back to Paddington. Miss the last train and I’m in a bit of a predicament.
I can’t ride a bike back (I can ride a bike…I just don’t have one). I haven’t worked out what buses to use. Oh, and it’s my brother’s birthday so I want to get his present to him. The BBC may think me an ‘irresponsible traveller.’ Let’s see if they’re right tomorrow.

Saturday, 28 August 2010


He said I could call anytime
I was starting to fall for him
he can not reciprocate
it would get messy
I'd get hurt
I ran

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Thank You.

It's been a tough year. In our last week at Bath Spa we were given a PowerPoint presentation on how many companies were shedding staff because of the recession. Pages of text crammed together. The text just company name after company name.
They told us the stigma attached to signing on no longer existed. Encouraged us to do it. Or leave the country.
I moved home. I volunteered for Oxjam for three months, which I'd recommend to anyone for meeting lovely people and getting experience while raising money for a good cause. I went to Copenhagen for the Climate Summit. I wrote 20,000 words or so of my novel. I put months of effort into applying for an internship I didn't get. I volunteered again for a community based project.
And then I started to get scared. To grow increasingly morose. My family were beginning to believe I'd become a loser. Many of my school friends were in the same boat. We sat in pubs in the rain (it may not have been raining but it adds effect) with furrowed brows, scraping the barrel for mutual support.
Then I applied for a dream job. Combining everything I love. Travel, writing, social media, video and photography. I went to an interview and gave everything I had.

And I got the job.

So I'd like to say thank you.

Thank you to my friends and family for helping me to keep my chin up. Thank you to the many kind people on twitter who have given me support over this year. To Ed. To the two train bloggers Jools and David. Thank you to my tutor Joe, travel writer extraordinaire. Thank you to my friends at Waterstone's past and present. To my old housemates. To my mother, with her boundless love and patience, in spite of being one of the most impatient people I know. To my sisters and brother, not least for helping me make videos. My father. To Kate, whose sofa has been a constant comfort and who has allowed me to become a secondary housemate. To my school friends (Lara, Roxy, Ju, thanks for the cameos). To my grandad, who commented on my application even though he doesn't know what social media is. Who told me I was the best.

To those of you who joined my Facebook groups: Hannah, Tom H, Holly T, Holly W, Leslie, Steve, Ellie, Carly, Katie M, Loralei, Jenny, Gina, Kyam, Laura J, Diego, Sam W, Ruby, Katie P, Tanja, Kimberley, Adam, Amy, Emily G, Emily M, Ella C, Cherry, Annie M, Fran, Becky, Steph, Maria, Mel, Jessi, Rachel B, Shaun, Ed, Greg, Antonia, Nathan, Kwojo, Alice C, Richard, Jalon, Lucy, Olivia, Katherine, Dave, Thea C, Henry, Charlene, Lara, Justin, Tom A, Lu (my wonderful mother), Ben, Ella P, Nieves, Elena, Thom, Daniel, Fikir, Roxanne, Jools, Sian, Kate, Natassia, Lee, Owen, Joe, Fred, James, Annie McG.

To everyone.

Thank you.

Don't Give Up.

I'm thinking about the representation of women in the media, again. There are several reasons. Firstly everyone who still has a television will probably have seen the Sure ad. It features Alexandra Burke, the winner of X-factor a couple of years ago. At the beginning of the advert I think she looks quite beautiful. Then they fire make-up all over her face and stick her on a stage and she looks far less beautiful. And I guess as their target audience I'm supposed to aspire to the latter Burke.
I went to a bar in Bath last night and saw swathes of women walking around in strapless dresses which only just skimmed the underneath of their buttocks. Nearly all of them were wearing impossibly high heels. I wondered at what point women collectively decided they needed to look like this. Would men cease to want to sleep with them if they wore something slightly more flattering? Of course not.
I think a sketch on That Mitchell and Webb Look - Women Sort Yourselves Out

highlights these issues pointedly.
And it's the way women talk about each other as well. In Mean Girls there's a brilliant scene where Tina Fey says to an audience of high school girls: 'you all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it OK for guys to call you sluts and whores.'
How many times have you heard Camilla Parker Bowles referred to as a horse? And what does Charles get? Big ears... If someone told me I had a big nose I'd say 'Yes?' because I do have a quite a prominent nose. But call me equine-features and you're insulting me as a person.
How many unattractive male actors and comedians can you name? And female?
Feminism has achieved a lot - but it's painful to hear people still taking the man-hating whinging woman perspective as its face. Feminism in the original sense is about striving for equality while celebrating differences. I'm still waiting for all women to be celebrated by all women and men for who they are, not what they look like.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

When All Your Peers Start Wearing Suits.

You're looking on your homepage (because you have the time)
Another classmate wears a suit and tie and smiles
Another update tells you how much another kid loves their job
And you sit there and think, I don't want to pretend.
I don't want to wear polyester.
I hate polyester.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Trainspotter Wanted

I'm applying for a seriously cool job and have made this video as part of the process.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

An Invitation

I am applying for a job. It relates to social media and trains. I have created a Facebook group here where you can share train related photographs, drawings, or ideas which I can then use in an application video I am in the process of putting together. If you need help with a project you may be working on in return (as long as it doesn't involve medical experimentation) I might be able to help you out.

Thursday, 1 July 2010


There are some boys (they must still be boys) who drive around Bristol with boxes of eggs. Not because they're delivering eggs to the egg-less. These eggs are for throwing at innocent passers-by.
I was hit a couple of years ago by the Arches on Gloucester Rd. It felt like someone had punched me really hard in the side (although I've never actually been punched in the side so this is mere conjecture).
Last night I went out to meet some friends. We were standing outside the Golden Lion when there was a noise from behind us. I felt two spots of moisture on my feet, the guy next to me asked what had happened. There was nothing there. Then I spotted part of an eggshell.
"It was an egg, look," I pointed.
"Where is it?" he asked.
We couldn't see the rest of the egg. I looked myself over, he looked himself over. There was nothing on us. Then someone sitting at the table pointed to the guy's pint glass. The rest of the egg was suspended in his cider. Benedict style.
We were stunned. Although I hate the pricks who throw eggs, I couldn't help but be impressed.
Then, as I was walking past the RSPCA shop later, alone, I nearly jumped out of my skin as an egg obviously intended to hit me smashed against the glass of the shop window. With that my momentary respect faded.

Monday, 28 June 2010

My Sister and Cocktails.

When my sister comes home from London she tells me to bleach my moustache.

Then she insists we go shopping. This involves her telling me everything I choose is horrendous while she tries on sunglasses and says: Do I look like John Lennon?

Thankfully, she has a lovely friend called Ella who came along with us on the most recent outing (last week).
After an HOUR AND A HALF in H&M the pair were distracted by Arm & Hammer giving away free toothpaste. They were not even ashamed to try it out (even though Ella looks a bit ashamed in this photograph).
When we had been out for far too long I decided going for a cocktail was an alright thing to do, as it was the evening. My friend put together what I believe is a variation on an 'eggy-weggy,' while I laughed at names like 'Knob' on some expensive bottles.
Some bartenders don't have a taste for this kind of humour. But I know my friend was laughing inside. I walked home afterwards via another bar then went on twitter after I'd had too many gins. I courted celebrities, one of whom kindly laughed at my sister's joke concerning high-sixing people from the Forest of Dean.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Ode to a Pie (and a Thali).

I've been eating Pieminister pies for a few years now, in fact I even did a three month stint working on their stall at the fake beach in Bristol a couple of summers ago. I still have the T-shirt. I've just returned from their shop on Stokes Croft full of Chicken of Aragon. And the best bit is the ethics. It's all free range.

Another favourite is my nearest Thali Cafe in Montpelier. They've just opened a new one in Clifton and I think it'll be the first restaurant at the top of Hensman's hill to actually be successful. On my menu this weekend past was a note explaining that the chicken was free range and the fish sourced responsibly. Both places make fantastic food at incredibly reasonable prices (the pie mash and 'groovy' I just had was £5.50). At a point in time where we can't really afford to ignore the damage farming is doing to the environment, it gives me hope to see that change is possible. If they can do it, I don't see why everyone else can't. Let's take greater steps toward re-localising the food production and farming responsibly...

Have a look at the Thali Cafe's more eloquent explanation here.

Friday, 23 April 2010


To celebrate my 100th blog post I thought I'd write another. (That's a lie I'm on to about day 100 of procrastination...did you know that procrastination comes from the Latin...see). Listening to men talking about going into therapy on Radio 4 probably isn't helping. I'm still in my PJs. It's 11.30am. I don't have a job. I seem unable to force myself to get one, instead choosing to lie in bed two hours after I've woken, lucid dreaming about things getting in the way of my voting on May 6th and realising I've missed the boat. Along with all those other boats. I'll dream about arguing with my friends who are calling me slovenly. I scream at them that it isn't just me. It never is. The sun is shining. I am inside. Why am I inside. Why can't I be... Oh David Sedaris is on. I would like to meet him. I want to be like him.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Wake Up Henry.

It's Monday, the Bank Holiday is almost over. But just think, it'll only be a four-day working week, for those of you who work. For those that don't, this is what happens when you stay in bed for the best part of the day:

Have a good week everyone.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

A Day In The Life Of The Near-Unemployed.

I arrive at the place I volunteer to find the toilets have leaked. The rooms are filled with the smell of sewage and the building is evacuated. Outside, it's raining in the spit-in-your-face way rain does when it can't be arsed to do it properly. The wind blows my umbrella inside out enough times for me to fold it away. The sky's gray.
By the time I reach the Odeon I am considering jacking it all in and stuffing my face with KFC. Against all my ethical principles, probably.
Bravely, I march up the street and opt for a similarly gross option - a cheese & onion pasty from Greggs and an Easter cornflake cake.
I stop in front of Stanfords on Corn Street and gaze longingly at the sonic travel toothbrush then drop crumbs from the cornflake cake down my front. No one has seen, I brush myself down and head to the central library to look up some origami techniques.
In the toilet someone has written on the cubicle door:

'In answer to the question scratched in a desk in the reference section of the library: Can you write something about nothing? Yes.

Nothing is a state of mind. It is the alpha and omega of despair. It is the element of emptiness. It is the irony that holds the universe...'

Someone has written 'what a load of rubbish' next to it.

Downstairs, I sit down in the children's section by the window. An eighteen metre drill is boring a hole into the earth - it's amazing. If my friend Ruby and I had had one of those when we were little, perhaps we would have understood the impossibility of digging a hole in my back garden to get to Australia.

Friday, 19 March 2010

The Great Travel Literature Debate.

Today, one of my fellow STA travel intern applicants @paddy_doyle wrote a blog entry asking the question, is travel literature inspiring? His assertion was that it might be better to 'jump before you look.' My answer then is, why not do both?

I studied Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. In the final year I had the opportunity to take the module I had waited two years for, Travel Writing. My tutor was travel writer Joe Roberts, who I have an enormous amount of respect for. He, for want of a better word, 'nurtured' my writing skill and helped it become what it is today. For that I am grateful.

The module involved both reading travel literature and writing it. I went on a trip to Tipi Valley with my friend Katie Monks and wrote it up when we returned.

I read books about travellers, such as Chatwin, 'discovering' countries, writers like Yiyun Li and Jan Morris bringing their homelands to life and writers like Hemingway drinking their way through fictionalised versions of their experiences, in places seemingly more exotic than England (often only as far as France or Spain).

I poured over Gerald Durrell's childhood in Crete and swam alongside the fisherman in Hemingway's sea.

My bookshelf is almost entirely crammed with travel literature.

So then, the only way to find out if travel literature is inspiring, is to read it. If you only read two travel related books (one of these is a very thin volume, I promise), read The Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin, in which he discovered that the Aboriginal Australians could sing every feature on the landscape of Australia, like a map made of song - and Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises, a novel by Ernest Hemingway about Bull fighting and bad love in Spain as experienced by a very lovable alcoholic.

I don't think that travel writers and novelists do the travelling for you. Rather, they compliment what you already know, if you've seen it. And if you haven't been to the places they describe, they bring life to them, usually romanticising them almost imploring you to go there.

How many of us wanted to go to Kefalonia after reading Captain Corelli's Mandolin? I know I did.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

The Day I Met My Hero

Jonathan Safran Foer

I read Jonathan Safran Foer's thoughts on fish farming last week. I had heard about his new book a couple of months back and was impressed by the idea of it, to say the least. At the bottom of the piece in the G2 supplement, were details of a book group event in London. Jonathan would be attending and discussing his book, Everything is Illuminated, my favourite book by a living author (to put it morbidly), with its Chris Ofili-esque cover.
My heart sank. My boots were heavy. Everything happens in London, I thought. Every Thing.
And then yesterday, I was sitting in the staffroom at Bath Waterstone's, where I work, talking to my friend Tom Abbot about it.
'But Jonathan Safran Foer is in the Bath Lit Fest line up,' he said.
'WHAT?!' I replied.
'Yeah,' he fumbled around under the Saturday papers and pulled out the programme.
'Here,' he pointed.
'Sunday 28th February, 2pm,' I read aloud, 'that's tomorrow!'

And so, today I caught the one o'clock train from Redland to Temple Meads to Bath Spa. I phoned the box office and asked for directions, then headed to the (thankfully) well-kept toilets on the platform to apply my make-up (I was not about to meet my hero with a bare face).

I walked out of the station, up the road and turned down Henry Street and across the cobbles to the Masonic Hall, where I almost walked into Jonathan, who I was not expecting to be milling around. I don't know what I was expecting, that he be flown in last minute in his own private jet? Not often on a writer's wages.
I stood in front of him, pointed at him and said to the woman selling tickets in the entrance 'look, he's a real person.'
I don't think even I would be able to respond to someone pointing at me and talking about me as if I was some sort of post-illusory Pinocchio, so I wasn't surprised when he didn't respond, instead ascending the stairs to the 'writers only' room.

I could have said anything, I could have held out my hand and introduced myself. I could have told him how much I admired his work. As we have read, I did neither of these things.

My friend Holly Thacker has been photographing events at the festival as a Bath Literature Festival Photographer. I was extremely relieved when she turned up. I had been biding my time before the talk recommending his books, displayed on a table by the entrance, to people who hadn't read him before (I had been asked to by the bookseller who hadn't read them).

I bought a copy of Jonathan's new book, Eating Animals, and went inside with Holly.
We sat on the left hand side near the front. I was nervous. I was excited.

Holly and I talked a bit about weirdos. A man at a festival event had told Holly he was part of the New World Order. Now we were sitting in the Masonic Hall and she had been asked whether she would be infringing copyright by taking photographs.
'What, copyright on his face?' I asked.
'No on the hall. It's the Masonic Hall. Could be some kind of secret. As if a 'secret society' would call the building the Masonic Hall,' she said.
'You'd better watch out, they might abduct you and try to pull your face off, claiming you to be a reptilian lizard, shouting 'show your scales!'' I said.
We mused over the symbol of the all seeing eye and of the keys.
'I like the crest with the handbags and the pens best,' Holly said.
(There really was one).

Everybody started clapping, and Jonathan walked through the centre of the room to one of the throne like chairs.

For almost an hour I sat and enjoyed his intelligent and funny answers to the questions he was asked about his book. I liked his analogy between monogamy and vegetarianism (spending your life not having everything you want all the time but enjoying it nevertheless).
He was everything I had hoped he would be.

The floor was opened up to questions. I had rehearsed mine over and over in my head so I would not cock it up. I raised my arm. Everybody else's questions were a blur around me as my heart thudded away in my chest and my palms sweated over My New Book.

I was the last question asker.

I took the microphone.

'Is it on? Hello? Oh yes, Hi.' Oh my God pleasedon'tfuckthisuppleasedon'tfuckthisuppleasedon'tfuckthisup, I said in my head and then, miraculously,
'would you suggest (could would imply he wanted to) a way we can begin implementing the re-localisation of the food production?'

'I'm glad you asked that...' he began.

Oh thankyouJesus, I said in my head.

I had temporarily redeemed myself. He said, if we wanted to, each one of us could cut just one meat based meal a week, or even just those burgers we eat when we don't need to, but eat just because they're there. And if we each did that, the effect on the factory farms would be felt immediately. Eventually we might in that way be able to make the move back to the way things were. 40% of damage to the environment results from our obsession with meat. Imagine what we could achieve with a slight menu re-shuffle! This man can do no wrong.

When the talk was over, a woman came over to me and asked if she could take my email down. She asked if I'd heard of guerrilla gardening. I told her I'd been introduced to the concept last year and found it very exciting. She was part of a movement in Bath, the members of which have a lot of war-time dig for victory spirit. It's very sweet. I wrote down my email address in her mini-green-moleskine and told her about my quince jam. She was impressed.

I joined the queue to have my book signed by Jonathan.
I reached the front.
'Hi how are you?' He asked in a monotone voice.
'I'm fine.'
'What's your name?'
'P-H-I-E,' I finished, 'I wanted to bring my copy of Everything is Illuminated, my favourite book of all time, for you to sign, but my sister wouldn't bring it to the station,' I said.
'Why was she in the place where the book was?' he asked.
'She was at home.'
'Where had you been before the station?'
'Er, at my other home, I'm living at home at the moment and my parents have split so there are two houses.'
Oh my God why am I wasting my ten seconds of talking-to-my-hero-time telling him I live with my parents?! I thought. I could be telling him how I loved the way he manipulated the language in Everything is Illuminated so that the Ukrainian way of speaking English came through, or Oskar Schell's 'Heavy Boots' in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Or how I had translated the numbers the grandfather in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close had dialled into the payphone on my own battered blue mobile so I'd know what he was trying to say to his lost love.
But I didn't instead I 8653 69 4376 22688 69 3825464 7273687!

'Another time,' he said.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Does No One Clean These Windows?

I'm treating myself to a crepe with maple syrup. I don't realise that I've spilled a lot of the syrup down my front as I queue for the train, which only has two carriages today because somebody projectile vomited all over the third carriage so it had to be removed - or at least that's what I think I overhear the conductor say. We pack onto the train. A kid of about ten standing with his father and little sister is voicing his concerns about the lack of space. His mother- staying on the platform says, 'if you start to panic, just cover your eyes (she covers her eyes) and count to ten, okay?' Her eyes have the suggestion of tears in them. The boy nods, the doors close and father and children wave their mother goodbye.
'Does no one clean these windows?' asks the boy, who is almost forced to be pressed against them by space deficiency.
His father pretends not to hear, mutters something about the little girl's toilet request in thick cockney. The boy points to a plan of the train stuck to the passenger wall and the letters WC on it as if his father is the most stupid man in the world.
'Alright, alright, everyone will be getting off soon,' the father says.
'Dad, what does obstruct mean?' the boy says.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Mother Meera Gives Darshan in Bristol

I wake up to the obscene sound of Grieg's electronically remastered-for-mobile-technology Hall of the Mountain King, commonly referred to as 'the theme tune to that Alton Towers advert a few years back.' It is the automatic alarm sound. It is truly horrendous. I haven't been able to sleep much, not because I am due to see Mother Meera today, but because I was planning YouTube stunts in my head.

After breakfast and a cup of tea, I collect my things and trudge through the streets of Bristol, lamenting the existence of 'morning people' and remembering why I never go out before 9am.
At St. Georges, usually used for concerts, a side door is open for the trickle of people arriving to see Her (with a capital 'H') to enter through.

The first thing we are ushered past is a merchandise table. This surprises me and at first I think perhaps Darshan isn't free after all. I'm compelled to buy something and even though I want a wristwatch with Mother Meera's face on it (£25), I opt for a passport sized photograph of Her (50p) and some sandalwood incense emblazoned with Her face and the inscription 'always remember the divine.'(£2) I may possibly be allergic to it. But I can't be allergic to God, surely?

After I have made my purchases, I find a corner of the foyer to sit down in. I want a little space. When I look up, my mother's friend is standing in front of me. Paradoxically, I am glad to have the company. We walk up to the room Mother Meera is due to arrive in at 10am.
The first thing I notice is that a lot of people are wearing purple. This is apparently by random choice. secondly, there is a woman dressed all in white near the front with a large bird's feather in her hair.

We are told that when Mother arrives, we will be led out one row at a time to kneel in queue formation down the centre of the room before ascending to the stage, where She will sit, awaiting our turn for Darshan, 'the bestowal of Love, Light and Grace.'

She arrives, a small woman with a red dot between Her eyebrows, wearing an orange sari, the scarf around Her shoulders.
We sit for around an hour and a half in silence before it is our turn.
I find that it actually hurts me to kneel in the centre of the room. I hope it will not hurt when I am kneeling in front of Her. As I ascend the stage, my heart starts beating faster. Not out of excitement but because I get stage fright, it's like graduation day all over again. I am three then two then one away from Her.

Then it is my turn. I bow my head and touch (but don't push as the laminated instructions stated) Her orange covered feet. She touches my shoulders lightly and then gestures my head up so that my eyes meet Her eyes. I don't know what I'm expecting. Rays of light to emanate from them? She looks at me but I see nothing at all in Her eyes. Then she looks to her right and I think 'was that a flash of disappointment in Her eyes' then She looks to the floor signifying the completion of my Darshan.

As I walk away, thinking I felt nothing. I realise that I do feel something. I also realise that it did not hurt me to kneel in front of Her and that my heart no longer beat fast when I did so. I walk past all the chairs and out of the room to go to the toilet. Ideally, I would have preferred to have clicked my fingers and the other people in the room melt away so that I can reflect on my experience, but instead I have to make to with a toilet cubicle, where I decide, still in a state of calm, that what I feel is comparable to the feeling I had in the Notre Dame, the Sacre Coeur, the back room of one of the shops in Glastonbury, a small Stone Circle in Tipi Valley and even the feeling I imagine you get after you have come up on ecstasy. Awe.

When we reach the door to exit the building, a flurry of snow is whizzing past it. Outside, the snow envelopes us. It lasts all the way down Park Street. Then just stops and the sky is as blue as it had been that morning.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Alphabetising Erotica

Saturday morning and I sway on my way to work, having ordered a taxi just to get me to the station in the first place. I manage the niceties well at first, although a little unsteady after my foray into the past (a 'Skins' party). I stray from the till to help a customer. The bell underneath the counter is rung to call me back. I walk-run back. I go full pelt into a customer who I hug by way of apology, making her laugh. I decide I am a shop-floor liability and wonder to the stock room to see what can be done in there. And then I see it, erotica, falling apart at the seams. Spanking Volume 1 on the floor. Blushing at Both Ends damaged at both ends. It is time to alphabetise erotica. This is simultaneously fulfilling and hilarious. My favourite title is The Hot Nurse's Nympho Sister, which features an expertly written blurb that covers up the content superbly. I have a flash-forward to the future and see 70-year-old me realising it wants to write this stuff. I find confirmation in a book titled The Most Beautiful Erotic Lines In Literature. I think Anais Nin, I turn to a random page (which happens to be page 47 if you're interested) and find, "I creamed her anus. She had angel buttocks. I entered her as in religion." ~ Bertrand Blier.

Friday, 5 February 2010

So last night was stationery club. I thought I'd quote my friend Gina on this one:

"I have just returned from stationery club. Initally we sat in the wrong place until 7.11pm. Things were looking dire until a girl approached us after she saw the stationery club emblem stabilo pen placed in front of us. After a few very dangerous moments of thinking that stationery club was going to be the three of us only, Sophie realised that all 20 or so members were sitting upstairs.
Then the real fun sarted. Nobody understood me because I wasn't on twitter. The main man had 5 stabilo related questions for us all to ponder and A WORRYING AMOUNT of twitter people who were unable to attend had sent hilarious emails to be read out like stationery club haikus and fascinating and contentious questions such as 'do you find the stabilo a bit scratchy?"

Sunday, 31 January 2010

COP15 Part Nine

I know it has taken me a really long time to put these up. Christmas happened, it snowed, I had a motivational downturn. But having just this past Tuesday gone to a STA World Traveller Internship launch party, from which I am still buzzing, and Friday come back from a Stop Climate Chaos coalition meeting, it is time that I put the rest of my material from Copenhagen up here for everybody to remember. It is especially important at the moment in light of recent scepticism about climate change being man-made. My mother also thinks I should shut up now. What she doesn't know is that I plan to go to COP16 in Mexico, right, I'm going to go by ship in time for Day of the Dead, which is on my list of 'Ten Things to do Before I Die' (see a few posts ago) then stay for a month and learn Spanish (top of the list) And THEN go to COP16.

Vandana Shiva is amazing. We were tired and freezing cold at the halfway point but it was still a pleasure to hear this magnificent woman.

At this point with the cold and the tiredness, I nearly burst into tears when he announced that there were 100,000 of us. Being part of something so huge and so, so important was humbling. It was also the moment Joanna and I had the revelation that a Bailey's coffee was just about the best thing in the world we could think of, other than the world leaders agreeing.

Helena Christiensen. (From Fashion Model Directory)

Yes it's true, she is a nuevo-supermodel but she's also a photographer and great speaker. We were impressed. I found it quite empowering.

It's unfortunate that the longer we stood in the cold, the greater the desire of many to disappear to find coffee. It was so cold that I had split skin on my hands, so I think they can be forgiven!

Hannah is one of my best friends in the whole wide world. I missed her at the march but managed to arrange to meet up on Sunday 13th December at Klimaforum where I filmed this. Really, I felt a little naive about what Climate Camp were hoping to achieve so I asked questions to this end. Fikir's hat was pretty awesome too.

one last thing...

A recipe from Christiania for the vegetarian stuff they were doling out... I went into the tipi kitchen and asked them for it. Actually it's just a list of ingredients:

chickpeas butternut squash, potato, pumpkin, onion, garlic, leek, soy chunks, tomato puree, ginger, coconut butter, herbs, soy sauce. For cous cous parsley, carrot, sultanas, cous cous.

I might do some culinary experiments in the future.


In order that you might understand my un-chronological blogging, I refer you to Borges' Garden of Forking Paths in the hope it might explain my ability to simultaneously be marching,interviewing Jonathan Neale, looking to the future, enjoying Christmas and making snow angels. It is the best excuse I can offer.

SMC 29th January 2010/ 31st January 2010

Yum Yum

Yum Yum
Originally uploaded by SoMiraculous
I ate it all up like a good girl. Thank you Billy. A fine idea. A fine food.

Omlette on a Muffin

Omlette on a Muffin
Originally uploaded by SoMiraculous
Oh look how pretty it is.

Omlette Frying

Omlette Frying
Originally uploaded by SoMiraculous
It is rotund and everything.

Everything in a bowl

Everything in a bowl
Originally uploaded by SoMiraculous

Oh, a Tomato

Oh, a Tomato
Originally uploaded by SoMiraculous
Tomato, tomato.

Why Not?

Why Not?
Originally uploaded by SoMiraculous
That's right, I'm putting Laughing Cow cheese in my omlette. I don't give a damn what you think. I think it's important not to be too snobby about hangover omlettes (although I don't actually have a hangover today, hooray!).

The Sun

The Sun
Originally uploaded by SoMiraculous
and it is a magic egg that shines like the sun on a bright day.

Only one egg

Only one egg
Originally uploaded by SoMiraculous
Oh no! There is only one egg. Oh well that's probably healthier than two.

Massive Garlic

Massive Garlic
Originally uploaded by SoMiraculous
Now I can see how the massive bulb of garlic may frighten some, but just think of the medicinal properties. Crush it in.

Leftover Red Onion

Leftover Red Onion
Originally uploaded by SoMiraculous
and the red onion used to make last night's pizza more interesting.

Leftover Spinach

Leftover Spinach
Originally uploaded by SoMiraculous
Take spinach leftover from last night's salad.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Owl You Heard

This was on a Facebook application that I have but don't always look at today.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

'Forgotten' Note to Housemates

The Evidence

See, there she is at lift off...Thunderbirds are go. (I'll show you what she wrote on the white board in her living room about my imminent arrival to London in a second).

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Pumpkin Café Waitress.

I feel sorry for the woman who works in the Pumpkin Café on platform eleven at Temple Meads. I think she's German or from a country that borders Germany. She's never anything but polite and I'm sure she isn't stupid. She has to wear a maroon polo-shirt and a black baseball cap (I hate that Britain has adopted this ridiculous US tradition).
This morning, I notice a rash around her mouth, either an outbreak of acne or eczema or similar. And I think, the poor woman must be stressed. Here she is, stuck behind a till dealing with all manner of freaks on a daily basis for no money.
I say, 'Could I have a bacon bap please?'
She says, 'I'm just going to wash my hands first, is that okay?'
'Yes of course,' I say.
'Would you like a drink with that madame?'
(the madame grates, I'm not a plump middle aged woman who smells of patchouli and I don't think for a second she would normally use the term).
'No, thank you.'
'Okay...Have a good day!'she says, leaning over the counter to assert her geniuneness.
'You too,' I say (I really hope she does).
It's like a mask. What I want to say is, 'where are you from? What are you doing here? Are you alright?'

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Leaving Dunster


I have work tomorrow, so it is very naughty of me to accept my friend Emily Mackie's request (backed up by girlfriend Amy and her sister Zoe, egged on by @kateosgreatos) to come a-gallivanting to Flamingos. I think part of the reason I agree is because the club is called Flamingos. In fact that has a lot to do with it. I don't know why. We get a taxi to Old Market, exchange some banter with the neon-jacketed doorman outside the club and go on in.
As we enter, the DJ calls out from his box above the dance floor 'talking of sexy bitches, this one goes out to...' and I smile. I haven't been to a gay bar for years (the last time I went, I almost threw up because I inhaled too much foam at the foam party). I've almost forgotten what they're like. There's some moving pictures on the wall that would really screw with your head if you'd taken acid, girls dancing with their tops off, proudly baring their bras, guys dancing with their tops of, proudly bearing their, er, pecks.
In the smoking alley, a transvestite stands at the end, smiling coyly through bright magenta tinted lips. She wears a blonde wig, mini skirt and a white tank top. She has quite a well developed upper body.
Elegantly, she lifts a fag to her lips as a blonde boy straight out asks Kate, 'so are you a lesbian then?' to an applause of laughter.
Inside a girl walks up to Emily, who has a boyish dress sense and a mohican and says 'oh my God, oh my god, my friend thought you were Gok Wan!' More laughter, this time from Emily and her girlfriend.
After some suitably camp 'of the moment' tracks (Lady Gaga etc.) what sounds like most of my old tape 'Hits 95' is played. When 2 Unlimited - No Limit comes on I shout to Emily, 'do you remember when they used to play this on Gladiators, as one of the Gladiators stood on that podium?'
She replies, 'I loved Gladiators, I joined the fan club. Shadow sent me a Christmas card.'
It takes a long time for my sides to stop hurting.
Finally, at 3am, as a tequila and lemonade (even the barman asked if I was serious) headache sets in I decide it's time to leave. Kate and I jump in a taxi and go home. I have one of the Worst Hangovers Ever the next day, but it was worth it.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Veggie Moussaka. (Recommended for students - lots of health and cheap)

Steal Quorn mince from your father's freezer at the end of a day writing (and joining a club devoted to stationery and making a paperclip necklace for it).

Go to Somerfield's, realise they have neither aubergine (eggplant to non-English-types) nor courgettes. They are rubbish. Although I like them more now that they've merged (or been taken over by?) the Cooperative. Even though I lost my Cooperative membership card with my wallet in Copenhagen. Anyway, head to onions, then to veg/salad area. pick up the following:

2x red onions (of which you will use 1 1/2 later)
1x garlic bulb (of which you will use 2 cloves later)
3x carrots (1 of which you will use later as it's pretty long)
bag of white potatoes (er, maybe 5 or 6 you will use later)
2x those long thin peppers (you know the sweet red pointy ones)
a handful of bog standard mushrooms (of which you will use 4 large ones, maybe 6)
bag of spinach (you'll use most of it saving a little for side salad)
quite a few tomatoes (all of them)

waltz over to the bit where the spices are. Buy ground cinnamon and if you don't have any either nutmeg or cumin (in this case nutmeg, realise you never needed cumin anyway)
pick up a tube of tomato puree.
Think hard about what you're missing... Wine! Spend 2.99 on cheap, exceedingly shit red (vino da tavolo, or 'table wine' to you and I will do just fine but make sure you have a decent corkscrew as the cheap corks are a bitch to get out).

Insist that you DO NOT need a plastic bag at the checkout and hastily stuff veg into rucksack lamenting bag of potatoes. carry pre-bagged stuff that won't fit in hands.

Triumphantly gallop (or gambol) home over slushy ground.

Get one fuck-off (large) pan, one medium and one small.

Whack oil in monster pan. Dice onion, crush garlic, chuck in when oil is hot (turn on hob first obs) dice peppers while singing along loudly to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack for the first time in years. Wonder when music cuts out, whether neighbours have burrowed into your internet and pulled a connection somewhere to shut you up.
chuck in peppers and mince. desperately try to ease cork from cheap red. In a panic throw in one of those chicken stock pots from that sell out chef. Realise this is no longer a veggie moussaka anymore but tell veggies to just substitute with veggie stock pot if they're listening.
Ask sister to help get cork out, yell that mince is going to dry out any minute. Have tug-of-war with bottle and corkscrew like the Giant Turnip tale. Give up, take out corkscrew, pull out cork with bare teeth. Consider how long it's been since last dentist visit. Remember that you owe money and that's why you've not been back.

Pour half the bottle (that's right, half) into the pan. Stir. Put more pepper than salt in (use common sense here, a pinch if you're too stupid).

chop tomatoes and mushrooms roughly. Chuck in. get pinch of nutmeg and pinch cinnamon. Chuck in. Stir. Squeeze about 1/4 tube tomato puree in. Rinse spinach. Chuck in. Wait for spinach to 'deflate.'

Cover pan and simmer while you finely slice the potatoes and put in medium pan with boiling water and a little pinch of salt.

Get what's left in the butter dish (a knob, ha ha ha) and put in small pan. Add flour to make a ghee. Slowly add milk. Realise you didn't have enough ghee, add cream. Realise it's still too thin. Add flour several times over. Add 2 eggs. Get handheld whisk. Advise everyone the country over to purchase electric whisk. Wonder why the top always ends up as plain cheese sauce rather than the fluffy deep top it's supposed to. Probably you need to use just the egg white. After ages get sister to whisk and thicken while you strain the cooked potatoes.. Transfer mince-y bit to ceramic-dish-for-ovens. Grandpa calls. Just as brother is talking to him, say 'FUCK!' really loudly in the background as you realise you have the wrong dish. Cover mouth and raise eyebrows and hope Grandpa didn't hear. He's old, he probably didn't. Transfer into Mega-ceramic-dish-for-ovens, take slices of potato and carefully create potato blanket over mince-y bit. 'Yey,' sister announces to suggest bechamel type sauce is thick enough now. Grab pan, swish sauce over potato, grab cheese sister kindly grated and whack on top. Shove whole thing in oven for about twenty minutes, glad mother is late home from writing-classy-thing.
Serve to family. Observe wondrous silence of everyone enjoying meal (other than brother's 'no points for presentation' and 'more potato than I had in mind' (he doesn't like potatoes))

Title dish: Mussange, Messaka or Shepherd's Mussange (mother thinks a cross between moussaka, Shepherd's pie and lasagna).


P.S sorry about lack of pictures, left SD card at makeshift office.


Sunday, 10 January 2010

COP15 Part Eight

At the end of the Flood, we pass the tree installation that was outside Trafalgar Square (see Chloe Lambert's article on it: )
Some people lie down on the ground. I am reminded of Radiohead's video for 'Just' but say nothing.

Here's Ozzie. He has brought the Bath Rugby flag 'because it's blue.'

COP15 Part Seven

The inflatable globe is caged and then released and then caged again. When the cage structure comes undone at the wheel, Joanna insists on stopping to help fix it. She's already stopped once to paint people's faces.

I think these guys are very sweet, silently raising their message written on the tops of umbrellas.

I suppose these guys are sweet too.

I'm not sure if they're Jain's. Have a look at the Jain beliefs concerning our universe, and more specifically their beliefs about where we are now. I may post my Jain essay on here at some point.

COP15 Part Six

When we've finally assembled ourselves at the door to the Klimaforum, someone from FOE tells us we are to walk around the corner to pick up our blue poncho's. I do not laugh. At all.

Joanna asks if someone can paint her face for her. I step up. Then realise everyone will know my fingers aren't as slender as I'd like, for the rest of the day. Then figure it's in aid of saving our planet and think, what the hell. She asks me to write 'act with love.'

Friday, 8 January 2010

Snow Hangover

After walking all the way from Stokes Croft to Bower Ashton in a few hours, rolling around in the snow several times on the way and stopping only for thali and chai at the new Thali Café at the top of Hensman's hill, I wake up the day after with glands looking as frog's skin blown out to attract a mate. Bunged up doesn't begin to cover it. One whole day I sit on the sofa. It's great. Then, this morning I wake up expecting to feel better actually feeling worse. I'll have to go and get that Lemsip. I don't usually do drugs. So I put on my hardcore boots, my hand knitted scarf and my in-aid-of-Tibetan-children's-villages hat and walk over the soft white blanket to Somerfield's. The queue ahead is long. The queue is unaware of it's humour. Everyone has a rosy tinge to their nose. The guy in front of me has a packet of paracetamol in his basket as well as two bottles of wine. The sound of the decrepit snake is one of baskets shuffling along the floor protesting the stall in their recovery without words. It's just a little cold people, we're all going to survive.