Wednesday, January 26, 2005

I just filled in a questionnaire to take part in a focus group about feminism. This is my idea of a good time: what’s not to like about focus groups? You sit in a room with a bunch of fairly like-minded people, eating sarnies, drinking wine, and chatting. Then, after two hours, you leave, collecting an envelope filled with money on your way out. My sister hooked me up with focus groups about five years ago, when we were both students and sharing a flat in Whitechapel. As participants in a focus group aren’t supposed to know each other, we’d show up five minutes apart and try not to crack each other up during proceedings. However, I blew things for both of us. The jig was up when, signing for my envelope of cash (my mind was probably elsewhere, dizzy with the thought of all the frivolities I would spend my easy money on – groceries, gas bill, travelcard), I put down my real name instead of the agreed pseudonym of I. Malkmus (shut up). We were both given as good a telling-off as two grown women can be given, and after that there were no more focus groups for either of us. We had been struck off the focus group register. UNTIL NOW!

An American publisher sent me a few books last Monday. I’d assume these would reach me via the usual channels, but now I am beginning to think they strapped them to a donkey, turned it towards California and gave it a slap on the ass. No books yet, and I want something to read!

Monday, January 17, 2005

Rules for selling your home

Paint everything beige. Walls, furniture, pictures, pets.
Get rid of anything you like which could be considered vaguely kitsch, quirky, or cool. If your mother would hate it, pack it away.
Clean everything. Then clean it again, just to be sure.
Make your home look like no one lives there.

I am hating this, and we’ve barely started. Think I am the only person in my block who over the past two years has managed to lose money on their property. OK, so my kitchen is possibly as old as I am, and the bathroom could do with freshening*, but if the maxim ‘location, location, location’ is true, then I should be living in a goldmine. I can see Big Ben from my front door, and hear it chiming when I’m lying in bed. I am within walking distance of two underground and two mainline stations (Kennington, Lambeth North, Vauxhall and Waterloo), and a ten-minute stroll from the Thames. Plus, I like my flat, and I think it looks cute, but estate agents seem to think otherwise.

I definitely need to develop a really thick skin when it comes to this property lark.

What’s schadenfreude in English?

I read the reviews for this book with some glee, as they were mostly stinkers. The blog was (is? Haven’t looked at it in a year) OK, but I never thought there was enough in there to make a decent book. And seeing as the company I work for turned down a blogger’s book I proposed two years ago, which was subsequently bought by HarperCollins (yes, I am still harping on about that; no I’ll never let it lie), I am keen to see what sort of reception the bandwagon-jumpers receive. Bitter, moi?

*ripping out and replacing

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

This morning I was late for work. This happens about twice a week, usually because I hear my alarm, pretend it’s my mobile phone ringing, and sleep through it. Same happened today, but in addition I got lost. How long have I lived in this city? A total of 28 years. But today I got on a bendy bus (or a ‘free bus’ as they’re known to everyone, including the goons at City Hall who bought them), thinking it would take me across Waterloo Bridge and drop me off outside my building. I gasped audibly as instead it veered across two lanes of traffic and ducked into the Strand Underpass, emerging a minute later by Holborn station. Crap. Well, at least it was a lovely sunny morning.

I’m reading Do Not Pass Go at the moment. It’s a history of London masquerading as a history of Monopoly, and it’s bloody fantastic. There are lots of bizarre facts in there, few more bizarre than the information that a London wine bar, El Vino, refused to serve women until legally forced to do so in 1982. (And until more recently, they couldn’t be wearing trousers.) I really can’t get my head around that. Would any establishment get away with refusing to serve black people, or Asians, for so long? They’d be shut down, and rightly so. I have always viewed all-male institutions with suspicion: what reason can men have for wanting to ‘get away’ from half the population? Doesn’t it just smack of misogyny? I think the men who want to have a private, all-male enclave to retreat to are the same guys who kick up a stink when a report shows that women now make up 3% of company directors, claiming this proves women are now ‘running the world’. Get a grip, lads. We all have to rub along together. When women have all-female places to meet, it’s usually for a good reason: after attending the Capitalwoman conference earlier this year, where a lone nutter disrupted a talk, I think there should be more.

Today is one of those rare, lovely London days when the sky is cornflower blue and the sun is shining. So at lunchtime I went for a long walk around the Inns of Court. Took a left off the Strand down Bell Court, and suddenly I was in an Elizabethan/Georgian (I really need to research different periods in architecture…) maze of streets, and squares with odd names like Old Square, New Buildings etc… I was dazzled. The area looks like someone has picked up Cambridge University and dropped it behind one of London’s busiest streets. There was even a chapel, empty but for a peevish keeper, who looked pained when I spoke to him. If you’re in central London and fancy a trip back in time, I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Back at work after the long and computer-free Christmas break, and it’s so busy I’m about to pass out. Barely have time to email anyone, and haven’t even had a chance to glance at eBay!

A heart-warming tale

Yesterday I locked myself out of my flat. My keys were lying just inside the front door, on a cabinet. I realized this the moment the door slammed shut. My spare keys were in a drawer in my bedroom. I went to work, not wanting to be late on the first day back. When I got home it was dark and drizzly and I didn’t rate my chances of getting in without the help of a very expensive locksmith. I faffed about with a bit of string and a wire coathanger (it’s better if you don’t know the embarrassing details) before asking my neighbours for help. They came to my aid and spent half an hour balancing on chairs and fiddling with the coat hanger, and managed to hook the keys from the cabinet on to the hanger, and veeerrry slooowly drag them through the tiny open top window… I was so grateful I nearly cried. Going to buy them a nice thank-you gift. It’s not often strangers go out of their way to be helpful to you in this city, so I was really touched.