Friday, 28 November 2008

Monday 24 November 2008

I should have known that a relaxing weekend can only lead to complications. I had two missed calls on my phone from yesterday from an unknown mobile number, and so texted to ask who this may be.
As it turned out it was a man called Steve. I have a friend in Syria who, it appears, had asked Steve – who had been in Syria to visit his fiancee – to deliver some gifts to me.
So, I arranged that I would meet Steve tomorrow in Perivale.
Less complicated was the fact that some books arrived for me, and an engineer I work with, who had helped Anthony Gormley (he did the Angel of The North you know) during his recent installation of life size human figures in and around the Thames, gave me a signed copy of Gormley’s book.
I tottered home with a bag full of books and some fish and chips from Marks & Spencer.

Sunday 23 November 2008

As is my normal wont of a Sunday I had a leisurely morning involving several cups of coffee and a cigarette to accompany each one, before venturing out into the grey day to get supplies, leaving the Ugly One happily tucked up on the sofa watching Columbo. I am very curious as to why, given that Columbo was running for so long, that they continually repeat the episode where Billy Connolly plays a murderous film composer who wantonly slaughters his talented young protegee. There seems no rhyme or reason to it.
It was bitter out. I suspect that humans must have hibernated at some point, or are evolving toward a species which may do so. This weather makes me want to sleep.
I went as far as Shepherds Bush where I had to go to various shops just to get chicken, coffee, rice, cigarettes and eggs.
Later I returned to find that Columbo had dealt with Billy Connolly and had moved on to Patrick McGoohan. (I am sure he was a murderer twice in Columbo but I cannot be certain).
Later I cooked Chicken Fried Rice, which was luvverly.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Saturday 22 November 2008

It is very good to have your home to yourself for a few hours. I sent the Ugly One out shopping and had a very productive day painting and catching up with many things I should have caught up with weeks ago.
By about four o’clock the vodka from last night caught up with me and I had to have a lie down, a coffee, and a couple of episodes of Days of Our Lives.
When the Ugly One returned we had dinner and watched ‘The X-Factor’. Rachel was evicted this week, which was a shame but did not surprise me since I get the impression that the judges feel she is uncontrollable. Sadly, young Noggin the Ginger has been voted through to next week, and even more disturbing was the appearance of ‘Same Difference’, the ghastly and somewhat incestuous brother and sister duo from last year. They’re actually releasing records. I knew the British public was a little dim, but I wasn’t aware things were this bad. Please don’t buy these records, I beg you. You are contributing to the slow death of genuine music.

Friday 21 November 2008

I went to a leaving party at Revolution in Clapham, a rather expensive but enjoyable venue, where I consumed many vodkas. I don’t remember much, apart from telling the doorman as I was leaving that ‘Alexandra from the X-factor’s in there, you know. She’s gyrating about on a man from the Council library section. You’d better phone The Sun’.
It wasn’t Alexandra, of course, just someone who looked very similar.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Thursday 20 November 2008

The grimness of November is depressing me already. I do not mind the cold if the sky is bright, but this relentless greyness is getting right on my vestibules.
Some time ago I related the story of the woman who stole my cigarette when I gave it to her to light her own. She ran off laughing into the Hammersmith evening.
On my way home tonight I was outside Hammersmith Tube listening to Deep Purple’s ‘Machine Head’ album.
During a lull in the rock, I heard a voice behind me say ‘Excuse me!’ and turned round to discover the very woman who had stolen my cigarette.
‘Have you got a spare cigarette, please?’ she asked.
‘No!’ I snapped, and gave her my basilisk glare of death.
‘That’s a bit rude.’ she said.
‘You may not remember,’ I said, shouting a little as Deep Purple had revved up again, ‘and looking at you, I don’t suppose you do, but last time I met you, you stole my cigarette and ran off with it. So no, I’m not going to give you a cigarette. You can Piss Off!’
I can recommend Deep Purple as a backdrop to a rousing bit of invective. It works a treat.
‘You’re just rude, you.’ she said, as if my speech had not registered at all. ‘All I asked for was some smokes..’
She then turned her attention to another man, smoking nearby.
‘Have you got any fags?’ she demanded.
‘No!’ he said.
At this, she lost all sense of composure and began to harangue me, although fortunately Deep Purple had got their wind back properly by now and she was drowned out by falsetto vocals and a keyboard solo.
‘Can you hear me?!!!!’ she screeched, clenching her fists.
‘Not well,’ I said. ‘You’ll have to screech up!’ at which the other smoking man laughed.
‘I don’t care!’ she said, ‘I don’t like either of you!’ and stormed off into the Hammersmith night.
I felt quietly avenged and would like to thank Deep Purple publicly for their supportive role.

Wednesday 19 November 2008

My lens arrived. Hoorah!
On the same day the BNP membership list mysteriously disappeared and ended up on the internet, although I am sure that the two events are not connected in any way.
The members include serving army officers, a Chelsea Pensioner, a Church of England vicar, a pagan and a witch, although, if one thinks about this rationally one could be a pagan Chelsea Pensioner witch, so maybe the BNP membership is not as diverse as one might have thought.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Reg Varney, who was famous for his role as Butler in ‘On The Buses’ has died at the age of 92. Although ‘On The Buses’ has long vanished from our screens (with the exception of rare appearances on satellite channels) the series is probably best remembered for the catch-phrase uttered by Inspector Blakey (Stephen Lewis); ‘I ‘ate you, Butler!’.
Although a very basic format in which Reg (then in his mid-fifties) played a thirty-ish bus-driver who never seemed to succeed with the ladies, the series was extraordinarily popular.
Varney’s career was far more than ‘OTB’ however, as his performances ranged over sitcoms, films and stage performance.
Sadly, I had imagined Varney to be long dead, when he had been retired and painting landscapes on the coast. Lately he had been living in a home in Budleigh Salterton.
Varney also secured his place in history by making the world's first withdrawal from an electronic automated teller machine, at a branch of Barclays Bank in Enfield, North London in 1967, which is good to remember, as it might come up in a pub quiz one day.
Instead of sending me my new camera lens, the company I had ordered it from sent me a pair of binoculars.
I sent them a vexed e-mail.

Monday 17 November 2008

The Tunisian Taxi driver, it seems, is not a man to be put off easily. As I was dressing for work he rang to tell me he was outside. I’m not the sort of person who likes to disappoint people so I let the poor man in and dealt with his needs before setting off for work.
My new camera bag arrived today. Hoorah!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Sunday 16 November 2008

It was one of those days when I couldn’t be arsed to go out. Traditionally, Sundays for me were days of despair, back in the long ago when nowhere was open and the highlight of the day was the horror of a traditional Sunday roast. To this day I am not that fond of roast potatoes, as not only do I simply not like them, they carry with them the memory of wasted days of ennui and Songs of Praise.
We live in a more enlightened age now, and here in the city most places are open and the ridiculous spectre of the Sunday licensing hours has long been banished.
However, there will always be a remnant of that dread, which is why I always try to keep myself busy on Sundays to ensure that even the tiniest threat of boredom can never raise its head.
Also, I had the good sense to marry a man who can cook properly, which means that my phobia of the Sunday roast has abated slightly, apart from the roast potatoes which I tend to compare to Mariah Carey since I am constantly baffled by their initial and enduring popularity.
I did a little more painting, but with the darkness creeping in at about three o’clock these days it’s not something I can carry through to the hours of good telly.
I toyed with my new Photoshop for a while, and discovered how to deal with RAW images, after which I resorted to roaming the world on my laptop.
While the Ugly One was out at the shops I got a call from an occasional visitor of mine, a Tunisian Taxi driver whom I met many years ago when he used to ferry me home from Bromptons in Earls Court, and who occasionally took me up the Kensington Passage as an attempt at a scenic route.
He asked me if he could turn up at 8.30 Monday morning for some pre-work rumpy-pumpy, which is a nice enough offer, but not something I wanted to consider on a Sunday afternoon, so I put him off.

Saturday 15 November 2008

After a quiet day shopping for chicken for a Thai green curry and painting a picture of my husband asleep on the sofa, our friend Robert arrived and talked his way through the X-Factor.
Later we watched the new version of ‘The Hulk’, sadly without Eric Bana this time, who had been replaced by a somewhat less hunky Edward Horton, and Arwen Eveningnews from the Lord of The Rings. Tim Roth played a soldier who was injected with some modified Hulk juice and turned into a Hulky lizard beast. Being English, he was therefore evil under the rules of Hollywood blockbusters, and it was up to the Hulk to defeat his ghastly Englishness and save the day.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Friday 14 November 2008

My mother was suitably pleased with the card, I am glad to say.
Everyone seems rather too excited about the fact that it’s Prince Charles’ birthday today. No doubt some of our more cerebrally-challenged citizens will have sent him cards, flowers and/or gifts. I am curious as to whether these are the same people who send cards and gifts to soap characters, or write to Sherlock Holmes, hoping that he’ll help them with some mystery or other. I suspect so. Devout Royalists, much like devout religious people, do not have a strong grasp on reality, and rely on some fictional idea of a model family as the head of our society.
I rang my mother to wish her a happy birthday. She met Prince Charles not so long ago when he visited her home town. She was on her way home from the shops and pushed through the crowd (as members of my family are wont to do) to find out what was going on.
‘Have you been shopping?’ asked Prince Charles, appearing in front of her like some ghastly apparition.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘to Marks and Spencers.’
Apparently, this was the entire gist of the conversation which, upon examination, seems somewhat surreal.
Reality, when one examines it in detail, is a very strange fish indeed.

Thursday 13 November 2008

I had one of those morning when I suddenly realised that my mother’s birthday is tomorrow, so I had to make a detour from work to the card shop. My mum likes those cards with extra pages glued in with a suitably heartfelt verse on each page, and, optionally, a watercolour of a nice cottage on the front. I managed to tick all these boxes and took the card to the till.
‘Five pounds ninety-five please!’
‘How much?’
‘Five pounds ninety five!’
It’s an outrage. I know we are in an economic downturn, but inflation with respect to mothers’ birthday cards has spiralled out of control.

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Rather controversially maybe, I am known (mostly by the people I know) for saying that teaching children religious concepts at an early age is tantamount to child abuse.
I stand by this, as any rational examination of the situation will show that religious teaching is merely a form of indoctrination of children which has been passed from parent to child over a staggering amount of time.
My view is that children should be shielded from any form of religious belief until the age of fourteen or fifteen, after which they can be taught the basics of whatever faith they are born into, and then choose whether to believe it or not.
Of course, many religious parents would strenuously object to this as they are well aware – albeit in denial – that a child who has grown to a point where s/he can make rational decisions would not be likely to suddenly start believing in an undetectable invisible entity.
This is one of the reasons that I am in two minds about Martin Shaw’s new supernatural drama ‘Apparitions’ in which Shaw plays a Catholic Priest whom factions of the church would like to see as the next Chief Exorcist.
In the first episode Shaw is approached by a young girl who is convinced that her father is possessed, mainly because he posts video-blogs much like this one, and reads the works of Richard Dawkins, such as ‘The God Delusion’ (an excellent and refreshing book which I highly recommend). Shaw begins to realise that the girl is right, and sets about exorcising her father. There is the obligatory gay character – in this case a priest who was cured of leprosy by Mother Therese herself – and is fighting his urges so that he can become a priest. I was quite surprised to discover that the Catholic Church does not allow gay men to be ordained.
I always thought it was more or less a qualification for the job, and as priests are supposed to be celibate surely it would prevent much of ‘that sort of thing’ going on, as Father Ted might have said.
As a drama it was very good, and has set the scene for the Church’s battle against the Devil, who is gearing up for a war.
What worries me is that many people will see this as a work based in reality, rather than a work of sheer fiction. One expects there to be an announcement at the end of the episode along the lines of ‘If you, or your family, are suffering due to the effects of demonic possession, there is a helpline which has been set up specifically to deal with the pain and trauma of these issues. Please ring us at Demonbegone on 0845 blah blah blah blah blah blah.
So, just to clarify:

1. There are no such things as demons.

2. Demons do not exist.

3. All scientifically examined cases of possession have been shown to be frauds or simple cases of mental illness.

4. There is no devil.

5. Martin Shaw cannot exorcise anyone, so please do not write to him, requesting him to do so.

6. Gay men should have more sense than to want to become priests anyway.

OK. Now you’ve taken all that on board, enjoy the show.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Tuesday 11 November 2008

There is a new series of Horizon on BBC2 in which ten people are placed together in a big house while they are studied by a panel in another room. It does sound somewhat familiar, but is a long way from Big Brother since five of the ten people have been diagnosed as having a history of mental illness, and it is up to the panel of three psychiatrists to try and spot which ones are, or were, bonkers.
This interested me because recently I have been reading some of the writings of CJ Jung, a contemporary of Freud, who had his own unique ideas about psychoses and mental illness.
Although this TV programme seems superficially to be a rather tacky and exploitative idea, there is a serious purpose here, since this is a variation of an experiment carried out in the seventies to determine how sound psychiatrist’s diagnoses were when determining the level of sanity in individuals.
In this first show, the experts correctly spotted one man as being a sufferer of OCD, but incorrectly assessed another member of the team as having had no mental health problems in the past.
In a wierd moment of synchronicity I was sent an e-mail today which pointed out that the statistics on sanity state that one out of every four persons is suffering from some sort of mental illness. Think of your three best friends -- if they're okay, then it's you.

Monday 10 November 2008

I had big plans for today, most of which involved finishing a painting commission this morning, and then heading out into the world to spend money or stalk Polish builders.
Unfortunately, the rain was such that had I headed out I would have pounded into the pavement by the force of the downpour.

Sunday 9 November 2008

‘Days of Our Lives’ which has, of late, stuck to the mainstream storylines, has suddenly once more veered off into weirder territory.
Stefano Dimera is allegedly dead, since his ashes have been posted back to his mansion, packed neatly into a pound-shop holographic urn. His long-lost son, Tony, has arrived back with him, having somehow avoided his much publicised death some years ago. There was an explanation for this, but to be honest it was very very complicated and didn’t make a lot of sense. Suffice to say, Tony has been in a convenient soap-coma and is now back with us, albeit with a new tendency to go into catatonic states.
Everyone was getting nervous about the imminent arrival of the Gemini meteors, which were scheduled to provide a cheap firework display over Salem. John Black’s eyebrows in particular got very twitchy over the meteors, and threatened to leave his face altogether and do a rumba on top of his mullet. He is also now in possession of a mysterious blue key which he stole from the Dimera mansion.
As it turned out, the meteors were larger than expected and one at least contained two naked humanoid aliens who must have evolved on a planet with identical conditions to the white areas of North America.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Saturday 8 November 2008

My Saturday mornings are generally spent in quiet contemplation with a cigarette, a large mug of coffee, and a couple of episodes of ‘Days of Our Lives’. This morning, however, I was engrossed in a dream wherein my entire flat was four feet deep in water. However, we were endeavouring to carry out life as normal and ignoring the (rather clear) water which was lapping around our mid-regions.
The X-Factor is going in an odd direction in many ways. For reasons unfathomable to those of us with any real musical taste, the producers (or perhaps just Simon Cowell) decided that this week would be Mariah Carey week.
Mariah insisted on opening the show with her new single which she screeched in her usual ‘why use one note when thirty-seven will do perfectly well’ style of singing.
Had she been an unknown, there is no doubt that she would not even have reached boot camp.
The contestants were suitably awe-struck, and were forced to sing individually in front of Ms Carey while she stood, face fixed in a permanent botoxpression of mild and pleasant surprise.
My opinion of Cowell, which has never been very high, sank even lower when he announced, in all seriousness, that we were very lucky to have Mariah with us, as she is ‘the biggest voice in the world.’
Even on the X-Factor, which is a show famous for flinging unjustified superlatives around like Mariah Carey’s marbles, this was going way, way beyond a joke.
To add insult to injury, Laura, who was my favourite for at least the final three, and could out-perform Mariah Carey with her tongue tied behind her back, was thrown out of the show.
The announcement at the outset should have been ‘The show’s theme this week is madness, which is why we’ve invited Mariah Carey to perform.’

Friday 7 November 2008

I had a day off today, thinking that I might have a quiet weekend, catching up with the random ‘things’ I should have done long before now.
I ended up doing a bit of painting and trying to work out how to use my new Photoshop. My last Photoshop is so old it’s written in Aramaic. Now Photoshop have brought out a CS range which is both stunning to use and a little scary, since it features lots of options that are currently beyond my ability to comprehend.
However, I will persevere and will eventually conquer the histograms, paths and adjustment layers just in time for a whole new range of Photoshop to emerge and baffle me further.
Tonight I cooked Thai Chicken Fried Rice, which came out lovely, and will be put on my list of things to cook on a regular basis.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Thursday 6 November 2008

Two weeks ago (or so) I saw an article in the Daily Mirror in which Simon Cowell ‘lashed out’ as they say, something along the lines of ‘Cowell Lashes Out At Kay Spoof’. This referred of course, to Peter Kay’s brilliant and masterly Sunday night spoof ‘Britain’s Got The Pop Factor And Possibly A New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly On Ice’ which presented the final of a Cowell-esque show, complete with the judges’ corny comments, the inevitable sob stories and the opening of the golden envelope to reveal the winner.
I’m not spoiling anything by telling you that Geraldine (a Northern Ireland transsexual, played consummately by Peter Kay) was the winner, having earlier worked with one of her mentors, Sir Paul McCartney, by singing the theme from ‘Home and Away’.
Gerladine’s winning song was released as a single and went into the charts ahead of Simon Cowell’s protege from last year, Leon, who came back to the X-factor still crap and still dancing like a horse. They’ve had a year to teach him how to move about, but the boy still can’t move his legs properly, or stop a pig in an alleyway.
‘It was completely stupid and a waste of time!’ snapped Cowell icily and allegedly. This was not only due to the ‘Pop Factor’ programme itself, but to the fact that Kay has teamed up again with Gary Barlow (who co-wrote the winning song) to produce a charity single for Christmas in aid of the NSPCC.
Isn’t it curious then that two weeks ago, X-Factor suddenly decided to produce an X-Factor charity single, featuring all the finalists, even the ones who’d already been kicked out for being rubbish?

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Wednesday 5 November 2008

For those of you unaware, Westfield, which has been built more or less in my back yard, is a vast shopping complex, purportedly the biggest in Europe, and was opened on Thursday by Boris Johnson (who grinned at me from the opposite seat on the tube) and Leona Lewis, who presumably didn’t come on the bus.
Westfield, as a building and a concept, is pretty impressive, although personally I feel there is rather too much of an emphasis on clothes, bags, bling, shoes and various accessories. There is one bookshop, Foyles, which is great, a branch of Jessops (Hoorah!), a disappointingly small HMV and a Waitrose.
Yesterday I bought some handmade soap from ‘Lush’ and some posh chicken and coconut samosas from Waitrose.
I am sure they could have fitted in an art shop and something that deals in kitchenware. I for one can live without additional branches of New Look and Paperchase.
‘What’s that you’ve bought?’ said the Ugly One, frowning at my multi-coloured selection of carrier bags.
‘Handmade soap, a book, and some samosas.’ I said.
‘How much was the soap?’
I told him.
‘They saw you coming!’ he snorted, although I later found him sniffing appreciatively at my citrus peel soap when he thought I wasn’t looking.
The effects of the Boris Johnson celebrity omen have not yet made themselves apparent. This worries me.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Tuesday 4 November 2008

It seems incumbent upon me to bring my readers up to date with the events of the last three months, although very little has happened in the majority of it. The Ugly One and I went to Asturias for a wedding and had a very relaxing time, despite the fact that most negotiations in restaurants were carried out by the long held tradition of pointing at the menu and saying ‘para dos’ while simultaneously holding up two fingers.
Until last Thursday life was rather calm and idyllic. I’ve been painting portraits of people I know, staying up late watching ‘Boston Legal’ and focusing my binoculars on the shirtless crane-operator high above Westfield, sitting alone in his cabin in his cut-off denim shorts.
Westfield, as most people cannot fail to know, is the new mega-mall situated on the site of the White City Olympic Village.
It opened last Thursday, with something of a splash, and a celebrity omen.
Some years back, the UO and I lived in a bedsit near Shepherds Bush Roundabout where we had to share a toilet with two large South Africans and a Kiwi couple.
Directly upstairs was a grumpy gentleman who looked a little like Mr Filch from Harry Potter. Mr Filch complained that our TV was too loud. We duly turned it down in the interests of good neighbourliness. Mr Filch complained again, and we invited him in to demonstrate the volume, which was as low as we could go without having to employ ear-trumpets.
Mr Filch was not placated and, the next morning, decided to place his radio face down on his floor (i.e. our ceiling) and blast us with Radio 2 at five o’clock in the morning. The UO was not amused by this and threatened to put Mr Filch’s radio in a place where Terry Wogan might be somewhat more muffled. Mr Filch moved out shortly afterwards.
Thursday morning, I settled down with my coffee to watch the morning news on which a reporter was interviewing Shepherds Bush residents to get their views on the opening of Westfield.
Without any warning, the face of Mr Filch appeared, spread across my screen like an evil wrinkled logo.
‘We don’t want it here!’ said Mr Filch. ‘They should have put it outside the city somewhere where it won’t bother nobody.’
It’s nice to know that the years have mellowed him.
Still in shock from this vision of the past I stumbled onto the train and sat down, only to find myself looking straight into the gormless face of Boris Johnson, on his way to the Westfield opening ceremony. Boris gave me one of those bland political smiles. I pretended not to know who he was and returned to reading ‘The Kraken Wakes’.
I can’t see that an encounter with Boris, celebrity omen though it was, could portend anything but doom.

Monday 11 August 2008

old david bowie
stalked me from the tube entrance
to the present day

Isaac Hayes is dead. That’s rather a shame, especially as he wasted a lot of his time recently with that ridiculous scientology nonsense.
Nonetheless, he will be missed.