Monday, June 30, 2003

Do you know that it’s still possible to get a vodka and tonic in London for £1.40? I kid you not: this place (scroll past the vampires…), where the Kray twins used to ‘socialise’, serves them to swing-dancing Bogart clones and homesick Poles.

And if that link didn’t work I am giving up. I did everything right! Didn’t I? I did the href bollocks and the > jazz and everything… If it didn't work it's the spaces or lack of spaces that are tripping me up. Stupid spaces.

Back to the weekend. Much of it was spent comatose, as every time I lay down or even perched in a vaguely comfy chair I passed out for about two hours. Hence large chunks of the last 48 hours are a blur, and the enduring memory of the past two days is of repeatedly waking up achy, discombobulated and crabby. Also, as I am convinced that I have every hard-to-diagnose disease going, I decided that I had ME and would have to take the next five years as sick leave, and spend them in bed, reading, eating ice cream and watching telly.*

In between the extended nap that was my weekend, I managed to:

Go to a swing-dance party where everyone was a professional dancer, so me, The Boy and our friends just sat around drinking and feeling sad ’cos we can’t dance worth a damn.

Sunbathe in the gardens of the Imp while eating ice cream and trying not to fall asleep.

Wash the bathroom and kitchen floors with my new mop, and them wash the bath, and then the toilet, and then soak the shower head in vinegar to descale it, and then for the love of God somebody make me stop before I tidy away all evidence of life in my flat.

Read more tips from the “How to do everything in the world for a pittance” book (remember the soaking your feet in urine tip?).Choice morsels were: ‘Blankets make good curtains!’ (Yeah, if you live in a junkie squat); ‘Tired of your old jacket? Hang it in the garage and tip a tin of paint over it! This will give it a new lease of life!’ (Swear to God.); and, my fave, ‘If you are taking your children for a day out, dress them in matching outfits, so that if you lose one (my italics), you will easily be able to describe them to the police.’ Now, I don’t have the time or the webspace to point out everything that is wrong with that tip…

Went to a barbecue with ladies who did this . Falafel was eaten, plans were made, and Eton mess, the most sexalicious pudding ever, was devoured.

* Am not mocking those afflicted with ME. It must be a bitch to sell to your friends, family and employer, who think you’re just a lazy-ass skiver. Seriously though, supposedly “symptom-free” long-term illnesses are, like tongue as a foodstuff and London house-prices, God’s idea of a sick joke.

Friday, June 27, 2003

And another thing. Before I leave work for the weekend (brief summary of this working day: coffee. Internet. Blog. Reading books at my desk (hey, I work in a publishing company. It could be work related!). Eating chips and salsa at desk while checking Hotmail. Lunch, when I bought two metres of black ribbon and some picture hooks. Checking of cover proofs and creating prelim pages for a reprint. Scrounging the office for chocolate (result: Lindt white chocolate with apricot, and some coffee/praline chocs. Should swallow pride and beg more often!). Reading more books (did you know that a good cure for fungal infections is to soak your feet in a bucket of urine? This only works if the infection is on your foot. Hahahaha). Going to card store with colleague so she could buy a birthday card. Booking flight for boss to go to Canada for SF convention.) Gosh, will you look at the time! Til Monday.
The walk from my place to work

This is still a source of amazement and some glee for me: I can walk to work from my new flat. Anyone who lives in London will be suitably wowed by this: in a city so sprawling and vast, which can take two hours to cross by public transport, living within walking distance of Leicester Square usually means one of two things: that you’re very rich, or you live in a slum. Well, I am now poorer than I’ve been in years, and rather than a slum, my flat is on an estate that’s like an urban, mid-sixties Barbary Lane.

Leave house (lock door and giant, burglar-friendly, easy-access window), turn right.
This takes me to Kennington Road, a wide, leafy route running between the river and South London. Pass streets with names like Walnut Tree Walk, and the world’s loveliest mansion block, redbrick with sash windows, wrought iron balconies and curved turrets. I sometimes see people (always girls, girls who look like they lead the life I want for myself: they’re well dressed in a Doris Day, ballet-pumps-and-swingy-skirts way, and they never have bad hair) going in and out of the building.

There’s a parade of shops here, none of them particularly noteworthy, apart from the typographically interesting Flipper Fish Bar. The typeface the owners used for the sign is such that it appears to be called Fupper Fish Bar, and every time I pass it with The Boy I nag him about taking me for a Fupper fish supper. I never get tired of this, but I think he may push me into traffic the next time I mention it.

Pass the Imperial War Museum, set in Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park. Pretty pretty pretty. The Imp, as no one ever calls it, has a high white dome, cannons parked outside the front steps, and looks like a scaled-down White House. It has some great exhibitions, like the 1940s house, and is free.

Now it’s decision-making time. Do I take a left straight away, going up Lambeth Road, under the Bridge of Pigeon Death, past Lambeth Palace and to the river? Or go further, past Perdoni’s diner/caff, the only eating establishment I have ever seen with pull-down seats in all the booths.* If I carry on down Kennington Road, I’ll get to Westminster Bridge Road, and the choking greyness of the roads to Waterloo station. The river walk takes me past the Dali exhibit, the London Eye, and the aquarium. In the morning it’s quiet, only employees and a few enthusiastic tourists, but walking back at 6pm you can hardly move.

If I take one of the new suspension bridges at Waterloo (what the hell are they called?) I come out at Charing Cross. These bridges give the best views – of parliament, St Paul’s, and the spooky white deco-ish building on the north bank. And then I am at work in about ten minutes after, sweating like a bastard.

*Really want to eat here, even though it would mean breaking my rule of never eating anywhere that can’t spell the menu right. If a place claims to serve potatoe gratin, how can you be sure of what you’ll get?

Thursday, June 26, 2003

I could have just taken him to Daquise

Monday night I made a Polish dinner. It was a fucking disaster. Tried to be a good little housewife and made herring with sour cream and salad, and potato pancakes. Shoulda been easy, but I almost burnt down the entire block. Got the herring in Tesco and it had skin on it, which I don't like to eat, and it was roll mops not regular Polish herring. I chopped onion to add to it, and some apple on the side, and creme fraiche instead of nasty old sour cream. Steve liked it but I could not eat it. And I was starving! For the potato pancakes I used one onion and two spuds (later my mum told me she uses like a quarter of an onion!) and had to grate the onion. Cue much weeping by me and Steve, as we took it in turns to grate a fucking onion. Cue me looking like Ray Charles as I stumbled about the house in sunglasses. Anyway, short story is I heated the oil too much and had to wear elbow-length oven gloves while I cooked as I was getting spat with hot oil, the pancakes were raw in the middle and burned on the outside, etc. etc. Got inordinately upset and had a fit, lying on my bed sobbing. I was just thinking that I can't make pancakes and my mum is the only person who can make them and when she dies I will be all alone... It just really hit me at that moment! We salvaged some of the pancakes and then had a massive sticky toffee pudding for dessert, which made up for the farce that was my attempt at my national cuisine...

Here is a good recipe, the one my mum uses. She’s been cooking these for about fifty years.

2 large potatoes
¼ medium onion
1 egg
Heaped tablespoon of flour
Salt and pepper to taste

Grate the first two ingredients. Add the egg, flour, s&p and mix it all up. Have about half a centimetre of oil heated up in a frying pan, and cook over a medium heat (here’s where I slipped up… ok, and the onion bullshit) for a couple of minutes on both sides. Drain on paper towels and eat.

Four different troughs of rank-looking salad, age and owner unknown


My lonely bagel (cheddar, spinach and watercress, on a cinnamon raisin bagel. Yes, I know you’re making a face, but try it), shoved to the back by one of the aggressive salads

Small cup of single cream. Eugh.

Yoghurts breeding yoghurts breeding yet more yoghurts

Half-drunk smoothies. It’s not like they’re even that fucking big. Is there really any point in leaving two inches in the bottle?

“There’s a lot been said about dot gain”

Blah. Back at work after a two day course/corporate schmooze at a printers’ in Somerset. They seemed to be touting for business, as they showed us the newest CTP (computer to plate) technology and got us drunk, and I felt a little bit guilty eating the free dinner and sleeping in the lovely country inn when in fact I don’t buy print at all for my company, and being in editorial it’s not something I have any input on… But what the hey, it was free and there was food. I was smart and kept my mouth shut.

Somerset was beautiful, though. I got the train to Bath, a hilly, greystone town with parkland, a river, teashops and enough Olde English charm to keep me happy for the half hour I had there. I did notice something disturbing, though. I haven’t been in a car for a long time (I live in London! No one drives!), and I haven’t been in a car in the countryside for even longer, but there seemed to be a hell of a lot of roadkill. Every mile or so, some poor rabbit, bird or fox who didn’t follow the green cross code (did that work?!) would be splattered across the median strip.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Well clearly that didn't work. Arse...
Now that I've started this thing I cannot stop... will be posting every two hours until they cut me off. Work is bugging the hell out of me today, mainly little things, like being asked to do menial shit, and wanting to say "I AM 27 YEARS OLD AND YOU ARE ASKING ME TO GET YOU SOME ENVELOPES?! HAVE YOU NO SHAME?" Plus I am all fidgety and very aware of my clothing... this is cos I am wearing super-low jeans and am convinced that the world can see my ass every time I get up to walk around. Ok, the following entry is over a year old, and, like almost everything I write started life as an email to Therese. And it also contains my very first attempt at a link...

My evening was ok, but a bit of a let-down...went to the press conference: was very late, as I decided that, rather than getting the tube for 3 stops and walking for 5 minutes, it'd be quicker by far to get a bus in rush-hour I waited 1/2 hour for a bus, got a different bus, changed busses, and arrived at 6.30...after leaving work at 5.35...I was going from Soho to waterloo, for chrissake, a distance I could walk in 15 minutes (but I had heavy bags and teeny pointy shoes on). However, there was no press there, except one woman from a gay/lesbian website. I think it's sad that the a href="" target="_blank">festival has been largely ignored by the mainstream "straight" press, as if it's irrelevant to them: it's not every day (or, in fact, ever) that an all-woman music festival takes place in London. But, we got to have an organiser's meeting, which was cool, and we sorted stuff out, and I’m now really not wanting this festival to end! I’ve met so many great people and made some good friends, and looking back, it's been a great experience...only one week to go! Aargh!
So after the meeting, having obviously not learned my lesson (that lesson being that the 176 bus route is a cruel hoax) I decided to get a bus home. I waited 40 minutes, and the 176 that turned up was so full the driver didn't let anyone on. So I hopped on the next bus heading towards Camberwell, sat in my seat muttering (loudly) "drive, muthafucker!!!" and finally got on the bus somewhere in Peckham. The bus contained: the biggest man I’ve ever seen asleep in a 3-seater bench, with no room to spare; people with severe personal hygiene issues; a woman with a huge trolley blocking the aisle. The journey was hell, but I only missed the first 10 minutes of ER.
So that was MY night...
Well the weekend was pretty tame (no offence Steve and Tim). Friday night I babysat for the Mewlies, and when I got to my sister’s house they were careening around the house, running into furniture, laughing and screeching and generally not behaving like toddlers ready for bed. Saturday was spent in Wimbledon with my mum, eating lunch (soup and potato pancakes. Yes, it was about 28 degrees, but what can I say? We’re Polish!) and going to a faux farmer’s market outside Safeway. The farmers market is a lame excuse to sell loaves of bread with a few nuts in them for £2.50, and vine tomatoes for £3 a pound or some craziness. Bars of soap could be had for £2. Sausages which had been sitting, uncovered, on a table in the blazing sun were going for a fiver. I ask you.
Sunday I was fit for nothing. Woke up at around 11am, and after Steve had made breakfast and coffee I fell asleep again until about 1pm. The day was like soup, and I just wanted it to rain so I could stop fucking sweating for five minutes. Went to Tesco and bought pizza things, as Tim was coming for dinner and to see my flat. Cleaned like a crazy thing (except for the bathroom. Bathtub is self cleaning, right?) and collapsed into an armchair to read for about 10 minutes. Dinner was a success, and after talking to Tim I want a new, high-tech kitchen, which I am convinced will make the value of my property skyrocket.

Friday, June 20, 2003

I was going to introduce myself but the sight of this blank box for me to type in has just caused the writing equivalent of pee shyness. I can't go. I'm trying but nothing comes! So, in the Blue Peter tradition, Here's one I made earlier... These are little pieces which have appeared in my zine, Radium Dial, over the past few years.

Getting drunk on the cheap

I realise that teaching you lot the Secrets of the Cheap Drunk is akin to enrolling my grandmother in an egg-sucking evening class, but humour me. I am the featherweight drinking champion of the world, and am thus highly qualified to talk about how to get legless on £5 or less (and with me it’s usually far, far less).

1: Yep, the ole ‘empty stomach’ play. An oldie but a goodie: skip dinner and get straight down to the best part, and after one glass of house white you’ll be on the corner table in the Two Brewers belting out a karaoke version of ‘My Sharona’.

2: Paracetamol. Or, the champagne of soft drugs, para-codeine. This ‘lil beauty is my friend and yours: available over the counter, cheap as chips, and gives you a nice fuzzy high. Taking any sort of painkiller with alcohol is pretty much a no-no (and, disregarding the essence of Trick 1, do make sure you eat before you try this), because one sniff of booze and there you are, sat on the lap of Dirty Bob, sobbing about how you just want to meet a nice man – not necessarily good looking, or smart, just nice – and settle down…Not recommended by doctors, but have you seen medical professionals having fun? It’s pretty scary and usually involves dressing up and/or body parts stolen from the hospital morgue.

3: Go for pikey drinks: Lambrusco, scrumpy and Mad Dog 20/20 aren’t the exclusive province of thirteen-year-olds, you know. They say kids get all the good stuff, and when it comes to screw-top alcohol and kiwi-flavoured anything, they’re right. Park bench or playground swings optional. Careful who you let tag along while you’re reliving your youth: too much of the fizzy and before you know it Chazz the Spazz, king of the 6th form geeks, is rubbing his acne all over your damn face while his tongue traces ‘erotic’ patterns on your tonsils. Shudder.

This is old stuff, but today has not seen much of interest taking place (is that even a correct phrase in this context?) in the world of science fiction publishing. I got up. I made chocolate chip pancakes for me and the boy, and we walked to work via Lower Marsh, and I bought three giant nectarines. And the day has pretty much flatlined from there...