31 October, 2007


back from Siegfried. I can't take these fat broads pretending to be sexy warrior maidens. It's such a sexy situation, filled with potential for burning passion and it is impossible to really get into it with a roly-poly dumpling thudding all over the stage. I just take in the set, get the general gist of the action, then read the surtitles, listen to the music and imagine the action taking place with Milla Jovovich and Viggo Mortensen on stage instead.

Got into a conversation with the woman sitting next to me who lives in Marylebone while her husband lives in Surrey. She is one of these retirees who has no intention of going gently into that good night.

2 little boys were killed last week trying to cross the M56 on their scooters. The father of one of them was quoted, criticising the authorities for not maintaining the protective barriers on the motorways adequately to prevent this kind of accident. He was silent on the subject of why he had allowed two 6-year olds to play outside unsupervised for so long that they had time to wander off, cross the motorway by a footbridge (with their scooters), get lost, and then try to make their own way back across the motorway.

27 October, 2007

Things to Do

Handwash cashmere jumper

Get Mo's teacher to fill in ADHD questionnaire

Sign Larry up for riding lessons

Buy tennis racquet so I can knock about with Mo on the common

Apply for UK permanent residence when I get back from NY

Remind LSS to get driving licence

Check if home insurance quote covers flooding

Call up estate agents re questions for insurance on windowlocks, smoke alarms, burglar alarms etc

Check with HR re travel insurance for business travel

Remind HR for the 4th month in a row that I have not received my car allowance

A Shropshire Sojourn

Back from Shropshire, which was cold. Stayed in a place called Hannigan's Farm, which we got out of Alasdair Sawday's UK Bed and Breakfasts, and it was very good - about the same as we paid for the horrible soulsucking place in Brecon, but about a hundred times nicer. They lent us an OS map of Wenlock Edge, as the copy that I had carefully purchased at Stanford's the day before had been just as carefully left at home. Had a copy of A Shropshire Lad considerately placed on the bedside table, so it was just as well I never got round to buying that. Had 5 dogs including a 3 month old black spaniel puppy that Larry fell in love with and wants one exactly like that. Except that I see from the papers that owning pets is an indicator for breast cancer, so I've kind of gone off the idea of having a dog. Came away with a jar of their homemade honey.

Saw LSS's relativos and ate lamb curry, kedgeree, prawn and pumpkin curry, spinach curry, dhal, and also a jam sponge that their neighbour had kindly baked when she heard we were coming. Came back with a huge tupperware full of kedgeree.

Walked on Wenlock Edge. Started our walk at the NT YHA nearby (Westerhope Hall) which was run by a young man with a face like a weasel. As instructed by the signs in the carpark we went in and asked whether it was alright to park in the carpark even though we were not staying at the hostel. Yeh, he says, as if it were the stupidest question in the world. Do we have to pay you a pound, we say. Nuh, he says, as if this was also the stupidest question in the world. Why then are there signs in your carpark saying that the carpark is for YHA guests only, we wanted to say. And that the charge is one pound, you miserable rat-faced little dungheap whose competence only rises to sporadically manning the reception at a YHA hostel in the middle of nowhere? How about if we ripped the weedy moustache off your upperlip and superglued it to your forehead? Would that be a stupid question too?

But of course we did nothing of the kind but gave him a pitying middle-aged smile and went on our merry way. Entertained the children with tales of the Werewolves of Wenlock Edge. They were not amused.

Also went to Ironbridge, which is absolutely stunning. It is a World Heritage Site which I was a bit surprised at, although it is very pretty. I mean, yes, yes, world's first iron bridge, etc, but as bridges go, I've seen a lot more spectacular ones. Had very tasty sausage roll at a pie shop there though.

Our satnav is slavishly devoted to main roads, the bigger the better. She will detour miles out of our way at the mere sniff of a motorway, which gets her all excited, silly woman. On the other hand, she is remarkably patient and you can never detect a hint of irritation as we fail to take the right exit off a roundabout for the millionth time, not even the millisecond's pause that (if I were the satnav) would be an indication of the homicidal thoughts that were revolving unspoken in my brain.

22 October, 2007

Children's Fashions

Went to Siegfried at ROH on Sunday. Unfortunately I didn't actually have a ticket for Siegfried on Sunday. What I had was a ticket for Siegfried for Wed next. How foolish I felt! Especially as I'd had to leave a superlative feast at the house of My Tenuous Connection to Showbiz Relative in Banstead early to make the show that I didn't have a ticket for.

There were many many youthful cousins at this Malaysian binge. I tried to remember how I felt when I was 19. I certainly did not feel as confident and self-possessed as they appeared to be. I don't feel that confident and self-possessed now. Och, it's all a sham!

The gannets ate up all my refrigerator cake. I did not get a look in. We were given some leftover tapioca cake to take home instead. Tapioca splot vs dark chocolate, butter and golden syrup melted over digestives and cherries - is this a fair exchange, I ask?

Spent this afternoon ploughing Oxford Street looking for winter clothes for the children. The only nice things I could find for Larry were in European and American outlets (Gap, Benetton etc). All the British department stores (even good old JLP) think that once a girl reaches the age of 10 she is ripe to be marketed to for designer fare in a style that I can only describe as Young Slapper. Absolutely appalling. Saw lots of nice things for me though (in the grown-up ladies' shops, not the Young Slapper department, no mutton dressed up as lamb for me thank you) - but no time to try anything on.

I see from Marie Claire that the oldest national average age for people to lose their virginity is 23 (that was beautifully expressed, wasn't it?) - and which country is the proud possessor of that noble record? Yes! It's Malaysia! If only not having sex were an Olympic sport. Then we would have a gold medal to add to our badminton bronze.

20 October, 2007


Just got back from Die Walkure. I've seen more opera in the past week than I have in the past 8 years before this! Placido Domingo was Siegmund, Susan Bullock as Brunnhilde. I'm really enjoying it, but I must say that as a Ring novice I would actually like to see a straight Ring, with all the pomp and circumstance, before I see the ironic commentary on it.

On half-term hols now - hooray!

And asked my boss if I could shift my office hours to 8am-4pm, and then work from home after that so I can spend more time with the kids, and he said yes. Hooray hooray! So I'm going to start doing that from after the half-term hols.

Today was Home Clothes day at the girls' school, but only Curly went in her home clothes, as LSS didn't realise that it applied to the whole school, not just Curly's class. Understandably, since Larry hadn't mentioned anything about it. So Larry turned up in her school uniform - and was the only person in her class who did. LSS called me up in a lather and we agonised over whether she would be scarred for life by this. Then we recalled that if such a thing had ever happened to either of us when we were at school (and we could both recall far more embarrassing things happening), our parents would not have given a tiny little rat's ass - thus ensuring that we both grew up to be the robustly insensitive and unneurotic people we are today. So no more was said. And Larry came home apparently untraumatised.

16 October, 2007

Tube Travails

Delays on the Northern Line today due to signal problems at Kennington. Trudged up to the mainline station. What with the coldness, greyness and prevalence of Polish spoken all around me, there was a definite feel of our-infrastructure-is-crumbling-here-behind-the-Iron-curtain-Jerzy.

Reading Jakob Walter: Diary of a Napoleonic Footsoldier. Felt a bit like a Napoleonic footsoldier myself, again thanks to all the Polish. The expansion of the EU has brought a welcome touch of Slavic fantasy to my daily commute.

Delays on the Central Line due to a person under a train in the evening. No-one batted an eyelid as the announcement came over the tannoy, not even to complain. Said a little RIP to myself. It seems sad that someone should die so horribly and no-one can even be bothered to react.

Was on my way to have a drink with the Moaning Accountant (is there any other kind?) at Fifteen in Clerkenwell. Felt very trendy. Remember when LSS used to work around Old Street and the best thing you could get to eat around there was a bacon sandwich from the hole-in-the-wall in Old Street station. Now it's all goat's cheese risotto (too salty) and ragu of Snowdonian lamb (too unctuous), but what can you expect from food cooked by people with no life skills.

Unlike me what am so super-educated and an all round polished city sophisticate.

I know no more about Wagner than I did this morning. Except that the only Wagner that the HMV in Canary Square sells is a small CD of his greatest hits. Huh.


I tried to get tickets for the Ring Cycle today, any one of the parts, the papers have been raving so about the production. Totally sold out. Called the box office for returns and a very nice well-spoken man called Andrew kindly went through all the available returns for me for the remaining 8 dates. The very cheapest one available was for GBP170. Try something about GBP150 south of that, I wanted to say.

Anyway, I looked on the website tonight in a hopeless sort of way and hooray! there was one ticket available for Das Rheingold on Wednesday at only(!) GBP42. My journey into Wagner starts here. I have 36 hours to educate myself on Wagner.

There are standing only tickets for the Gotterdammerung at GBP8. Can I take 4.5 hours of standing up? Think I'll see how Das Rheingold goes first.

13 October, 2007

Sushi Sickness

LSS returns from the cornershop tonight, whither he has repaired to purchase a tin of peas (gack! horror!) and confirms (prefaced by the careful proviso that he is no woman but) the new fellow behind the counter there is indeed one goodlooking guy. I should think all up and down our road, women are showing a new-found enthusiasm for popping down to the cornershop: "Oh, don't bother going out, dear. I'll go and get your beer for you. Why am I putting on lipstick? Oh, I just thought I would."

La Bayadere was lovely - a real old-fashioned nineteenth century ballet with all the fixings and a corps de ballet all in white tutus, floating about like flowers in a red velvet box. Unfortunately the sushi that we had beforehand made Larry feel bilious and gave me a splitting headache (I can't eat sushi anymore it seems, very sad). Still, enjoyed it very much. And as a bonus there was a lovely piece of man-flesh on the tube, in his running gear, sitting directly opposite us, whom I amused myself by staring at so obviously that he didn't know where to put himself.

Also bought myself a metronome from a shop on Denmark Street. Came home and ate mountains of cottage pie and aforementioned tinned peas.

LSS is totally incommunicado but from the sounds trickling through from the sittingroom, it sounds as though England are through to the finals of the World Cup. Hooray!

US Consulate

Spent most of yesterday at the US consulate getting my visa for NY. The security around the place has rendered all the staff humourless, brusque and officious, even the ones you have to deal with on the phone to pay your visa fee, who from their accents are sitting about 400 miles north of the consulate. This is in marked contrast to the staff at Heathrow who have to deal with similar levels of security threat and far greater volumes of people, but succeed in retaining normal levels of humanity.

They have dug up the road in front of the embassy and the whole place is surrounded with barricading, so you have to walk round and round the embassy to even approach the first queue. This is the queue to have your appointment letter checked and to be told which security queue to join. You then join your security queue and wait for up to an hour. Outside. Luckily it was not cold or rainy. When your queue eventually moves, you join the queue to actually go through security. After that - no electrical equipment at all is allowed, not even your ipod, or those fobs that they use to generate security codes - you walk round the building again and join the queue to get a number. You then finally enter the building and sit in a waiting room, waiting for your number to be called. When called, you get fingerprinted, hand in your application and wait for your visa interview. After the visa interview, you join the queue to book the courier for your passport to be delivered back to you. You then exit the building, walk round it again and join the queue to pick your stuff up from security.

I spent 3.25 hours at the US consulate. 10 minutes of that time was spent at security, being fingerprinted, being interviewed, booking couriers etc. The whole of the rest of the time was spent queueing. Luckily, on the way to the consulate I had happened to buy the Time Out guide to Eating in London, so I spent most of the time going through it working out which restaurants in Balham and in Central London I shall be eating in over the next few weeks.

After that massive queueing exercise, I treated myself to a little detour on the way back to work. Work is a sponsor of the Royal Academy, so there are free corporate tickets to the Zoo Art Fair. So I fell by Vigo Street to pick up the tickets. This involved a walk down New and Old Bond Streets, which I had actually never walked down before. My gosh, it was posh, everyone walking down it had the sheen of wealth, and were all tanned and gleaming with Euro-affluence. All made me very aware that my shoes haven't been polished since the day I bought them. Anyway, it was fun to be out of the office and my element, during working hours.

Bought an Evening Standard and read it at Square Pie while I ate a mince and onion pie, mash and mushy peas for my lunch at 4pm. The Standard claims that London is now the greatest city on earth. And who am I to disagree? I love being back in London.

09 October, 2007

Welcome to the EU

The little Indian man behind the counter at the cornershop has replaced himself with a tall young dark-haired bit of totty with lovely blue eyes and a delicious Mittel European accent. Excellent marketing move.


Weekend before last I went with Curly to the reopening of St Martin in the Fields. It had been closed for restoration for about a year. The vicar quoted the passage from Orwell, about how St Martins had been turned into a museum for propaganda in his horrible version of the world in 1984, and got quite emotional, I suppose thinking about how his beloved church was still a church. The restoration had been in the planning for 10 years, so I guess it's not surprising he was so emotionally invested. The service lasted 2 1/2 hours! and Curly was so good the woman sitting next to us leaned over at the end of the service to congratulate her on her good behaviour - not something that often happens. Afterwards we went to the cafe at the Nat Gal and shared a chicken pie. A good day.

Took kids out on the common with their bikes on Saturday. They were the only bike-riding kids on the common not wearing bike helmets. I ask you! When I were a lass, we used to ride ont' tarmac bareheaded and be grateful if we landed in t'ditch when we fell off.

05 October, 2007

Mexico Catch-up

Back from Mexico. BA business class is crap compared to Virgin. And Richard Branson is not paying me to say that. Ate fried cactus and corn fungus ravioli. Watched Knocked-Up on the plane, as well as that thing about that Scot who broke some world cycling record, starring Jonny Lee Miller (yum. Wonder if he ever wakes up and thinks, my God, I was married to Angelina Jolie? Am I alone in finding the Scots accent sexy? Does this explain why I think Gordon Brown is a better prime minister than Tony Blair?), and something about Chinese refugees planting an allotment somewhere Oop North. Tried to watch Brokeback Mountain but kept falling asleep. The whole thing is just like Ang Lee's big gay fantasy that a couple of hunky straight cowboys will turn out to be secretly up for guy-on-guy rumpy-pumpy. Watched Harry Potter on the way back, which blended seamlessly into all the films before. Also tried to watch that Edith Piaf biopic, but fell asleep.

Woke up the other day and realised I was probably more than halfway through the journey of My Life. In honour of this, I decided, like Gerard Depardieu in Green Card, to EAT LIFE. So I'm going to see that Terracotta Army exhibish at the British Museum tomorrow with Mo. Ha! Take that, all you drug-taking, sex-with-strangers-having, volcano-climbing, fun-lovin' youngsters!