Thursday, 23 December 2010

May your days be merry and bright

M made it back to English soil yesterday, and I was there at Heathrow to meet him. It was all very Love Actually with hundreds of other families and friends there greeting loved ones off flights arriving from Lahore, Istanbul, Copenhagen. Thank you for all your well wishes! I am glad things are finally moving again and people are hopefully getting to where they need to be for the Christmas period. We had a night in London together and are both now safely at our respective homes for Christmas, before a London New Years. I am going to sign off for the next few days to enjoy time with family, but sure I won't be away too long...

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas.

x x x

Monday, 20 December 2010

Empty Skies

So M didn't make it back from Japan today. Not that there were many people who managed to get into or out of the country to be honest, but it is still sad, frustrating, even if he is one among hundreds. He's booked on a flight on Wednesday, but as flying schedules are all still provisional at best I'm not yet counting my chickens...just remaining tentatively hopeful.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Oh the weather outside is frightful...

...but the fire is so delightful, and since we've no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

(but not too much, M still needs to get home Monday)

A busy week, late shifts at work, dark when I arrived, dark when I left. An interview on Thursday that had been hanging over me, uncertainty as to how well I did, relief it was out of the way. Office party in the evening, leaving work as the snow began to fall, bumping into Anna on the last tube home, emerging from the station together into the cold, dark air, feeling festive. A Friday night Christmas party, a red dress, a taxi ride home through the increasingly snowy streets of London. And this morning C and I woke to the whiteness outside, and more snow falling. A short venture to the shops for provisions, the muffled crunch of snow being compressed under my feet. Cars slipping backwards down the hill, passers-by mucking in to push vehicles upwards, place bits of old carpet under tyres. Back home by four for hot chocolate, a film, present wrapping, the light all but gone, fairy lights glowing. We're meant to be going to a Ceilidh tonight, not sure we'll make it. Christmas feels so close I can almost touch it, M's return even closer.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Photos from Japan

He sends me postcards and emails, packages with gold and silver masking tape and Bambi rubber stamps, unusually flavoured Kit Kats - banana, and a cheese one that causes me to gag and run to the bathroom to the amusement of my flatmates. And last week he sent me photos, taken on a camera recently purchased in Tokyo. Suddenly his life there has colour, blue skies, the orange of maple leaves above, pine needles underfoot. Sunlight breaking through the forest canopy, unintelligible signs.

All photos by M.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


And so we are into December, almost a week in. Last week there was snow, lots of it, walks to the station in snow boots, two scarves. Friday night was frosty, bitter cold. I almost went out, but the three of us, my flatmates and I, convinced ourselves, each other, that staying in was far more practical. Mulled wine and a movie instead, and a brief walk around the block in the darkness, slip-sliding on the snowy pavements, for some fresh air, inhaling deeply, every breath almost painful from the cold, but exhilarating.

Saturday morning I wake and temperatures have risen, marginally, but enough to melt the snow and leave the pavements grimy. I feel slightly despondent, with the grey, with the drizzle, sit in bed and watch the final episode of Season 3 Gossip Girl, wish I was in New York.

And then we go Christmas tree shopping. Half an hour umm-ing and aah-ing at different specimens, until we all agree on one, small but jaunty, bring it home, place it on some upturned wine crates, decorate it with lights and ribbon and golden bells. C makes dinner, lentil curry, and more mulled wine, other C sticks on the Christmas music and tackles the decoration of the wreath, and as the light slips away all is well again. I venture out to Hammersmith later that night for wine and corn chips, playing cards and drinking games, boys in woollen Christmas jumpers, The Ashes on the television. Miss the last train home, brave two night buses alone at 3am, silently promise myself twenty minutes into a freezing half hour wait for the second that next time I can have a taxi home.

Sunday was the Underground Christmas Market hosted by Ms Marmite Lover, and we have the most wonderfully festive time. Demonstrations and tastings, stall upon stall of goodies (though I confess I bought more for myself than others), gingerbread hot chocolate in the garden, fresh bread from the Aga. Lynne was there with her Papermash stall where I bought a couple of stocking fillers, and was sorely tempted by more Japanese masking tape (check out the Christmas ones), but had to stop myself because M is already on a masking tape buying mission. A bunch of mistletoe on the way home, clementines in the fruit bowl, a mug of tea, internet Christmas shopping whilst I watch Footloose.

Monday brings more frost, blueberries in my porridge, a late shift at work. But we are into December, and I am happy.

Monday, 29 November 2010

November, Last Days

Bare branches, cold skies. Dark early, twinkling lights on Oxford Street, crowds of shoppers, too many. Winter salads, chicory, apples. A weekend of bitter cold, spent largely indoors, calmer than last. Nights in with flatmates, friends, making crumble, watching films, drinking mulled wine from Moroccan tea glasses. Clementine juice for breakfast, an attempt to counter the early signs of a sore throat. Bust Craftacular on Sunday, a thermos of Earl Grey in the queue. Stamping feet, gloved hands, clouds of breath in the cold sunshine. So many talented individuals inside. Carrot cake and multiple purchases. Harry Potter at the cinema in the afternoon, crying my eyes out with Anna, loving the vast, desolate landscapes, loving the knitwear. A pretty mediocre day at work today, but off for fish and chips in Angel with the girls now. And M is back for Christmas three weeks today...

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Punch Bowls, Postcards

Halfway through the party, when tangerine peel has started to litter surfaces and there are more dirty glasses than clean, but before the crowds have started to thin, I start a conversation with G and H, friends of C's I have just been introduced to. We start talking about 'old things'. They admire the punch bowl that S bought me at auction and which is now sitting in pride of place on the table. It turns out G has a blog, based around old postcard messages, so I take them to my room to see a couple of old postcards I have picked up recently (I also start showing them my dressing table, re-upholstered nursing chair, 1960s party forks, rotary dial telephone and so on -possibly a little too enthusiastically, but they seem to be on the same wavelength...). On Monday G sends me the link to his blog, Postcardese and I spend the tail end of my late shift at work scrolling through the archives.


Old postcard after old postcard that G has collected, and each with a story, or a hint of a story that leaves me longing for answers, for a fleshing out of skeletal narratives. This is partly frustrating, that one can but speculate, yet also, in this age of relentless status updates intrusive media coverage, a small respite, and I am glad that there are some areas where room for the imagination is preserved. This one and this one made me laugh, and this one gave me a lump in my throat, but they are all so very intriguing.

If you have a moment, have a look.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

A Party Just Because

Somewhere between the frantic last minute preparations, shoving flowers into vases and tea lights into jam jars, making popcorn still in my pyjama bottoms ten minutes before people are due to arrive, slicing a layer of skin off my ankle in the shower, blood flowing down the drain like a scene from Psycho, pulling on a black dress found in the bottom of my wardrobe, eventually emerging ready from my room half an hour after the first guests had arrived, somewhere between all that and finally making it to my bed, sleepily, dreamily, in the early hours of Sunday morning, I manage to have a wonderful time. We pull it out the bag, C, C and I, and, even without M there to mix the cocktails and do the post-party washing up, we manage to throw a damn good party. We drink mulled cider, gingerbread Bellinis, and a pear punch which halfway through the night morphs into a rum punch due to lack of vodka. Our lovingly hand made Hokey Pokey collapses in the heat of the packed rooms, we find it, stickily melted, in all sorts of strange places the next day. Pizza is brought triumphantly from the oven at 1am, to great delight. My camera is appropriated at some point during the evening, in the morning there are photos on it I didn't take, I know I didn't take this one. Non of the neighbours complain, no glass is broken.

The clean up takes the best part of Sunday but afterwards the three of us collapse contentedly onto the sofa to watch the first part of William Boyd's Any Human Heart.

Monday morning I wake in the half light, realise the weekend is over, Saturday night just memories, and feel deflated, entirely unenthusiastic about the week ahead.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Flashes of Colour

As well as the sea of grey this last weekend, there was also colour, brief flashes of it. Lara Harwood's wonderful inked figures, seen at an open studios night. We stumbled upon her studio and fell in love with her work, but there were also some other amazing artists on display, and we felt very cultured absorbing it all. Late night tempura afterwards in Finsbury Park, waiting with C, C and C outside on the pavement for a table, liking the lights of the nearby bowling lane. Lunch at St. Pancras station with M's parents who were down for the rugby, vaulting glass roof lifting the spirits. Budgies that told the fortune of passers-by on Southbank, highlighter green, lemon yellow, selecting brightly coloured scraps of paper with their beaks, an antidote to the grey sky, grey river. A fairground at the base of St. Paul's Cathedral, flashing lights, the sugar-sweet smell of candy-floss. Ladyfest on Sunday, J's shoes, Red Riding Hood socks, making me smile.

And I finally did some hand-washing that had been sitting in my laundry basket for an age.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Skylines, Sunflower Seeds

On Saturday I walk from Waterloo, along the Southbank, past the second-hand book stalls near the BFI, past the National Theatre, to the Tate Modern. London is grey and cold, flat-looking. I am hoping to see the Gauguin, to immerse myself in bright colours, lush vegetation, exotic Tahitian women, but it is booked up until the evening so instead I wander through the Turbine Hall to Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds, part of the Unilever Series. One hundred million sunflower seeds stretch out across the vast hall, each one unique, hand crafted from porcelain.

I find it hard to comprehend the enormity of the project, the time, the patience.