Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Good things, bad things, and slightly catastrophic things

Good things: Four excellent new CD's on their way to my mailbox (splurge-alert), visit home immiment, Christmas only 9 weeks away. Mars Bar slice goes down a treat at work.
Bad things: The world is most likely going to be in serious meltdown by the time my (future) grandchildren have inherited it. If it isn't already. Is anyone else scared?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Tempers rise on the number 43

Every now and again there is a little touch of drama on the bus journey - usually to do with some drunken yob making trouble, or packs of seriously scary teenage girls throwing things at you, or maybe just a man of "middle-eastern origin" pulling on a full-face balaclava for no apparent reason (I have experienced all of these, BTW).

Last night, I experienced two extremes of behaviour. A well-dressed black man sat directly in front of me, reading the paper, and I looked up as an elderly white guy sat down next to him. He leaned over a little too close as he took his seat, gave him the loveliest, most winning smile, and asked how his night was going. The black guy was a little on the defensive, being a Londoner, but responded and soon they were engaged in a little conversation. The black guy ended up giving him his paper as he got up to leave. A tiny act of kindness, nothing at all really, but still it warmed my heart to see.

Later on, two extremely drunken, well-weathered 40-ish white guys got on the bus and sat down a few rows behind and on the aisle opposite me. The combined stench of stale cigarette smoke and gin made me wince from metres away. They were talking loudly, in voices which were a mixture of drunken slurring and hoarse raspiness. Everyone on the bus studiously ignored them. One of the men took an interest in a young Yugoslavian girl sitting opposite him, and carried on a rambling, one-sided conversation which everyone on the top deck could hear. At some point, the girl dropped her umbrella (probably out of nervousness). This provoked the turning point for the guy, whose conversation, in the manner of nasty drunks everywhere, took a turn for the worse.

I have been in a similar sitation a few times, and each time it makes me sick to the stomach. I sat there, my heart thumping, while he became more and more abusive towards this poor girl, accusing her of stealing his benefits, his council house, then making threats on her life and safety, all in a vicious, slurring growl. There is no situation more horrible than when your heart is telling you you must do something to stand up to these thugs, and your head is saying "don't get involved". You hear of too many incidents in London which turn nasty for the "nice guy" who intervenes, and invariably ends up getting beaten, mugged, stabbed, shot or worse. I was too scared that these guys would follow me off the bus if I said anything to them.

At one point the girl finally got up and went downstairs to leave, head down and hunched over, his evil words hissing behind her all the way down the aisle. I could feel every insult as if it were a sting. With his target gone, the man resumed slurring to his equally noxious mate as if nothing had happened.

As I went downstairs a few stops later, I saw the girl sitting in a new spot on the bottom deck. I stood waiting for the bus to reach my stop, wishing I knew what to say to her, to offer her some comfort or support. She was doing some work, her face set in frozen studiousness. Eventually the bus creaked to a stop and I got off, too torn over the whole incident to speak to her.

My heart didn't stop pounding the whole walk home.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

O Brothers, where art thou?

I consider myself extremely lucky to have my two younger brothers (whom I miss like crazy). Looking back, I do get nostalgic for my non-existent ghost sister; the one who would have gone shoe-shopping with me, taught me about make-up, and shared those female rites of passage (first period, first serious boyfriend, first heartbreak etc). I completely understand where Juliana Hatfield was coming from when she sang wistfully about missing her imaginary sister (who would have taken her to her first all-ages show).

But for the most part, I was happy to grow up tomboy with two younger brothers who cheerfully submitted to the odd dressing-up game and hair-style experiment. It was always great fun having siblings who would come out into the "deep" surf with me; who were always up for waterfights and paddock-exploring adventures; who would join me at a Beastie's gig when my boyfriend copped out; who would later ask me earnest questions about their girlfriends - and who occassionally gave me a brief glimpse inside the mechanics of the male brain.

Watching these two boys grow into men and try to negotiate their way through the adult world has been a privilege. When I hear the girls at work describe the vicious fights, the competitive bitchiness and the jealousy that defined their relationship with various sisters, I breathe a silent sigh of relief that I was blessed with my two easy-going bro's. The best thing is that I will always have these two blokes in my life, God willing. I so look forward to those days in the hazy future when they each find their path in life - getting married, setting up a home, maybe having some kids - so that I can see them become the men I always knew they would be.

Love you guys,
xxx Big Sis.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Does it mean you have been away from home too long when you watch a film that was shot in your home town, just to catch the briefest glimpse of Melbourne town, and you can barely understand the actors with their ultra-ocker accents?

Can anyone explain why everyone in Australia has morphed into a Steve Irwin-alike since I left?!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Scrumptious new cook book - joy!

This is possibly the most gorgeous-looking cookbook I have ever clapped eyes on, with a lovely, hefty cloth-bound cover and the most beautifully subtle photography throughout. And, bliss upon bliss, I got it for only £7.50, from £25, with a voucher that has been fluttering in and out of my handbag for months. It is "The Kitchen Diaries", by Nigel Slater, a British cook my boyfriend introduced me to - less trendy than Jamie, less girly than Nigella, and nowhere near as fussy as Delia, who seems to assume that we have all freakin' day to prepare our dinners.

I must admit, though, I was disappointed to find recently (in a magazine supplement) that Nigel's own kitchen is an ultra-modern stainless steel monstrosity absolutely devoid of clutter. I was convinced he would conjure up his recipes in an old-fashioned, rustic wooden kitchen, piled high with antique French kitchen implements and hessian sacks full of market apples. The disappointment! Still, this is one beautiful book, which I will try and keep relatively pristine (well, untill the first recipe is attempted, anyhow!).

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Trying to a-ccentuate the positive and e-liminate the negative

Grumpy, grumpy, grumpy. Did I ever wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. I was having weird dreams and woke up in the early hours, sweaty and anxious and irrationally angry, like you are when you haven't had a proper nights sleep in weeks. My alarm went off at 7.20am, like always, but I couldn't find the clock to press snooze (bad habit). Turns out it had fallen down the crack between the bed and the bedside table, but by the time I found it, it had shrieked to full capacity and had finally shut up of its own accord.

My commute goes something like this: you start with a very brisk walk to the end of the street, followed by a very brisk walk past two perfectly good bus stops (when the traffic is bad, the buses are jammed full and don't stop no matter how frantically you wave your arms). Grrr. At the third bus stop, a load of people pile off and you can finally get on. Relax; you are going slightly faster than walking and there is less chance of getting wet. Painfully slow journey ensues. At Highbury & Islington, you have to change buses, for no apparent reason. Get to work about 5 minutes late, join the vast crowd waiting for an elevator. Finally get to your desk 15 minutes late. Race over, for now. Feeling ratty, and it's not even 10 yet.

I know it is all a matter of perspective, and I understand that it is an effort of will to remain focused on the positive; but for a pessimistic soul like me, the weight of some days is all out of proportion with my emotional strength.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lior, j'adore

I went to a gig on Monday night at Dingwall's, a tiny venue on Camden Lock. I am ashamed to report that I only just heard of Lior last week - a massive oversight on my part. A quick listen to a few of his tracks on my colleague's ipod was enough for me to fall instantly in love with his music and to be persuaded to buy a ticket for his show.

It was that nice, intimate kind of gig where there is room to sit on the floor and you are only metres away from the artist. The crowd was mostly (possibly entirely) Australian, which meant that 1. everyone seemed to radiate youth and good health; and 2. there were only a couple of wanker-poseurs smoking, as opposed to the typical British audience which is made up of people who can't fully appreciate a gig unless they are inhaling a box-full of Mayfairs.

But Lior... Lior was divine. I haven't seen a performance given with such feeling since I saw Ben Harper. His beautiful, mystical ballads with a ribbon of Eastern influence running through them (he was born in Israel and moved to Australia at age 10) were such a treat to listen to. It was just him, his various guitars, and a girl on cello for most of the night - but for the encore he came out and performed a cappella the jewish prayer for atonement. It was spell-binding. Despite not understanding a word of Hebrew, the depth of feeling was apparent in Lior's gorgeous voice, pouring out of the speakers and into the heart of every person in the room.

I am currently waiting impatiently for Amazon to dispatch the album to me.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Samuel L. Jackson, eat your heart out

Sometimes, in an attempt to alert my boyfriend to his overuse of swear words, I start using the same level of bad language back to him (to shock him out of his complacency, right?). This backfires on me about 50% of the time, as this conversation about the freshness of the bass he cooked on Saturday demonstrates (Mum and Dad, look away now):

BF (after much ranting about how good the fish is):
This motherf**ker was swimming around last week!
Me: He certainly is a fresh motherf**ker.
BF: He was the shinest motherf**ker at the Sainsbury's counter!
Me: The motherf**ker is good, alright.
BF: Have you ever eaten such a fresh motherf**ker?
Me: He is one tasty motherf**ker.

At this point I become aware that we seem to have strayed into Pulp Fiction territory.
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