30 November, 2007

New York New York

so I walked all the way up Fifth Avenue from the office to the park. I had no idea so many of the things that you see in the movies are on Fifth Avenue, like the Public Library (Ghostbusters) and that iceskating rink and the Sherry Netherland building and FAO Schwarz (Big). I detoured slightly to see what the huge gothic building covered in scaffolding was, set back from the road, with a fountain all covered in lights in front of it, was - it was the Plaza! Ooh, I just love the Plaza!

The whole place had a strangely old-fashioned feel to it. Like if you went into the restaurants (not the swish restaurants, just the bog-standard ones), they had that kind of old-fashioned fifties decor that you see in fifties movies. Contrary to what the lady cabdriver says to Frank Sinatra in On the Town, apparently New York doesn't change all the time. It got to the 1950s and stopped there, at the apogee, if that's the word I'm looking for, of the American empire. Now it's beginning the long slow decline so familiar to anyone who lived in the British empire in the 20th century.

I was puzzled to find that the New York Times is a very thin newspaper with mystifying frontpage stories - the one on Tuesday was about how Muslim girlguides in the US found they got less stick if they wore their girlguide sash over their traditional garb. This is a front page story? A bit of a slow news day, was it, lads? In the middle of the biggest credit crisis since - they were saying in the office - the Great Depression? It is also written in a strange simple lingo, as if the reporters felt the need to explain the bleeding obvious to their readership. In many respects, although the stories were a little more current, it didn't seem to differ very much from the slim English-language newspapers for expats that I have come across in places like Taipei and Karachi. Very odd. I was beginning to wonder if this was some kind of special slimmed-down version of the NY Times that they publish just for distribution in hotels.

Had dinner with the Greek and Canadian in a red-checked tablecloth joint and swapped tales of olde Hong Kong. I had a Philly cheesesteak - mainly to find out what it was. I still don't know, except that it involved soft meat, soft bread and soft cheese.

Also went to Buffalo. It was very wide open. There was ice in the puddles. The path across the plaza in front of the office had railings along it to stop people being blown off it. Had lunch in another red-checked tablecloth joint. Had nacho chili cheese and fries. It involved soft nachos, soft chips, soft meat and soft cheese. Americans do not seem to like their food to fight back at all.

Watched The Counterfeiters on the plane - there was absolutely bloody nothing else on. It wasn't bad, not too harrowing, and the heroic Communist refusenik printer was played by the very lovely August Diehl.

Very glad to be home.

27 November, 2007


Do you prefer two separate faucets - one for hot and one for cold, or just one mixer tap-and-faucet arrangement?

Think carefully before you answer - much depends on it...


People in NY are much shoutier than they are in London. Not at me personally, just in general, out on the sidewalk. Or pavement, as we say in quaint old London town.

I had a genuine NY cabbie who did not know where my hotel was on the way in from the airport. Also forget to get a receipt from him which means I will probably have to wear the cost of the cab myself - bother, bother, bother.

Hotel is very near the office but no-one likes to stay there as, in the words of one chap, "it is too trendy". And he was a frontline bloke, not a humble backroom boffin like myself.

Walked up to Saks after work, hit the pre-sale sales and got this coat for 40% off. Now I can look all shiny and new.

25 November, 2007

Eastern Promises

went for a drink with an old friend who has just got engaged to a 25-year old Muscovite bank clerk whom he met on the internet 1 year ago. Gulp. They had spent some time together in St Petersburg, Sri Lanka, London and latterly in Kiev. He has met her family and she has met his. They text and phone daily. Gosh I hope it works out.

The drink was at the Guardian Royal Exchange and the atmosphere lovely and Christmassy. He is trying to find a venue for the wedding - somewhere glamorous, costing less than £10k, that can cater Indian vegetarian for 400 people, anyone? - so I said he could do worse than try and get that space. It would be fabulous - all that glass and space and lights and pillars with the grim grey winter-blue City outside. Not for less than £10k though.

24 November, 2007

Blade Runner

went to Brixton Ritzy last night with a motley crew of film nerds to see the final absolutely the last never again stop tinkering Ridley for the love of God director's cut of Blade Runner. The opening credits came up with that long plunging Vangelis note over them and took me straight back 25 years to watching it on a crappy pirate video in my mum's house in PJ for the very first time. It was a thundery afternoon. I watched it all the way through captivated, rewound the tape (ah, those were the days when you had to rewind the tape!) and watched it all over again. God, I love that movie. Only sad thing was I remember when I first watched it thinking how world-weary Harrison Ford looked, just like the noirish seamus he is supposed to be playing. Now I think how fresh-faced and young he looks. And I - I look and feel like a female JF Sebastian. Sad.

Went back to someone's for fishpie and film talk afterwards. Learnt to my great excitement that we live on the same road as Rupert Penry Jones, the Spooks heartthrob. I am going to stake out his house and drool.

It was a lovely cold clear night. Full moon and stars.

Curly had a couple of little friends around for her birthday tea today. One was very sweet, chatty and up for anything. The other didn't say a word, other than to advise us that she didn't like her orange juice and lemonade, didn't like her mushy peas, and didn't like the cream on the birthday cake. Dear, dear. Never mind. Funny how people are so different even at such a young age.

We have a provisional completion date on our house - 7th January. I'm excited!

Apart from making the cake, I've had a very lazy day. I'm marshalling my energies as I have to go to New York next week and worse than that - aaargh! - Buffalo.

18 November, 2007

Curly's Birthday

Had rack of lamb for dinner yesterday. Says Curly, pointing to the little paper crown:

Curly: Look, mummy, your lamb has a hat on!
Me: [singing] My lamb has got a hat on. Hip hip hip hooray. My lamb has got a hat on and is coming out to play.
Curly: Coming out to die and be eaten, you mean, mummy.

She has a dark side.

It was Curly's birthday on Friday. We were quite disorganised. LSS had got it together enough to buy her a Polly Pocket horsey set, which was hastily wrapped by him on Friday morning, rather in the manner that a parcel might be wrapped by someone who had no hands. She was supposed to be going with two little friends to Bekonscot next weekend for her birthday treat. Only Little Sister calls up on Saturday to advise that Bekonscot is closed for the winter. Luckily all Curly wants is to have lunch with her pals at the Nightingale, then come home, "play with some puzzles" and then have cake, jelly, ice-cream and daddy's homemade pizza for tea. Took the kids to Momix yesterday at Sadlers Wells for a treat ("Why? I don't want to go into town! It's boring!" - but they liked it eventually and came out all enthused). Made trial cake today to ensure I understood our oven temperatures. Turned out ok.

Hauled my weary ass out onto the Common so Mo could do the fieldwork for his geography project, which consisted of asking a selection of bewildered Common-goers how often they visited the Common and what they did there. Everyone was very nice and accommodating - especially since it takes Mo at least five minutes to get out his little spiel. A surprising number of chaps with babies/kids (alright, I was picking the interviewees), who claimed to visit the Common daily. The very last chap we interviewed turned out to be an army vicar, on leave home from Iraq. So that was pretty interesting. Afterwards we lunched at (advertising alert) the agonisingly twee-ly named Munchkin Lane (Time Out Family-friendly Cafe of the Year) - it is indeed extremely family-friendly and well-thought-out. We both had chicken soup and hot buttered brown toast. I had English Breakfast tea. Mo had hot chocolate with mini marshmallows and we left very content and with every intention of returning soon.

Church this a.m. Dragged two kids along (Larry was at a go-karting birthday party in Streatham). Turned out that Sunday School is cancelled for rest of year while the whole lunatic body prepares for the Nativity Play. Huh. Apparently God doesn't want these kids to have a spiritual education. Signed up to help at the Xmas Fair, seduced by the organiser's provocative use of the terms "bric-a-brac" and "tombola" - words never heard outside the context of church/school fundraising activities.

Nice young fellow from number 155 turned up at the door with a birthday card for Curly which had been delivered to the wrong house.

14 November, 2007


It's hot water bottles at dawn down in the Mith Nissen hut. There's something immensely comforting about a pile of hot water bottles waiting beside the kettle to be filled. Makes you feel all's right with the world.

Plus I got my new plaid flannel dressing gown today from Toast.

Our first real winter since 1999. Lovely!

12 November, 2007


I had a revelation today as a result of being on that conference. I hadn't realised it, but for many many years I have sub-consciously been acting on the basis that one should always try to be interesting and have a fresh viewpoint on things. But at some point during those 2 days - possibly shortly after I told the Group Finance Director that the motivational speaker had made me want to hand in my resignation and go and do something more meaningful instead - it dawned on me that maybe it is time for me to shut the f--k up. In this organisation at this point in my career, it's not such a good idea to have different views and opinions. I am resolved to blandify and borify myself into the consummate corporate clone.

11 November, 2007

Remembrance Sunday

All my life I've always bought plain white loo paper and plain white kitchen paper. The other day I thought, I'm going to give myself a treat and buy the kitchen paper with the pretty blue willow pattern on it - because it will cheer me up every time I use the kitchen paper. This is what I've come to! Getting solace from patterned kitchen paper. Sod minimalism.

I realised today that ever since I finished the Chateaubriand, I've been bereft. For the 6 months that it took me to read the Memoirs d'Outre Tombe, it was like having a friend, and now my friend has gone away. I'm tempted to go back and just read it all over again. But there are so many things I haven't read even once that I should really hit first. Anyway...

Went to the Remembrance Sunday service today. Church was heaving. I'd dragged the children along, having decided that their spiritual education had gone neglected for long enough. They sang I vow to thee my country, and sounded the Last Post, and it was really quite affecting. If LSS had been there, being the emotional chap he is, he would definitely have teared up.

Brunch with the sister and fiance at Canteen by the Royal Festival Hall today. I had devilled kidneys on toast. Good. Nice place. Cute Germanic waiter.

Watching Conte d'Automne (sp.?). Filled with urge to slap the irritating little chit in it - I'm sure when I was 20 I would have thought she was dead sophisticated. I'm pleased to see the past 20 years have not failed to leave their mark on me.

08 November, 2007


On one of those conferences where they keep you there from 8 in the morning till 10 at the night - yes the last 2 hours are dinner, but that doesn't mean it's not work, when you're eating with a whole bunch of accountants. In fact, it is harder work than the rest of the day.

Still it beats being at the office.

I have nothing to blog about though. It is a bit like being dead only with more spacious accommodation and tastier beverages.

05 November, 2007


Went into town to buy myself a new work cardigan - Benetton, wool, blue, round-necked. Stopped in at Top Shop - my god, what a heaving temple to girldom that place is, with a few bewildered boyfriends shipwrecked in amongst the shoes, jackets, accessories, nailspa, Kate Mosseries etc. It is like being inside a female teenager's head. Also bought Mo a tennis racquet (not from Top Shop) for GBP15, which is 5 pounds cheaper than the one I bought for myself 20 years ago.

Went to the fireworks in Battersea Park. You had to pay and they were 15 minutes late starting, which gave me time to start getting tetchy with the kids and yelling at them for various minor infringements of familial etiquette - but it was all forgotten when the fireworks started. I LOVE fireworks! Curly was so carried away she started dancing around to the music like a wild Bacchante. Huge bonfire, but no guy though. How wussy is that?

Seems like we will not be in the new place this side of Xmas as our sellers are in a chain. Huh. More months of limbo. So Bobs if that offer of Xmas in Aberdeen still stands, we are up for it. Aberdeen - City of Granite.

Hit tennis ball about on the common with Mo this afternoon. After 5 minutes I stepped in a great skid of dogshit. And then he started to wheeze and we all had to go home. Not entirely successful then. Spent the rest of the afternoon ironing and listening to La Boheme on my very old recordplayer.

01 November, 2007

Pret Panhandler

I was having a quiet crayfish and rocket sandwich, five bean soup and cup of tea at the Pret on St Martins Lane during the long interval of Siegfried yesterday when a youthful panhandler came up to me and asked me for the price of a cup of coffee. I was ferreting around in my coat pocket, when a lugubrious voice from behind me said, Don't give him any money.

While I was wondering whether I should or not, a security guard came up and chivvied the young man off.

Now I don't know what the right thing to do was or not.

The lugubrious fellow said that he didn't like "them" coming into the cafe to panhandle. I suppose it is an irritant. On the other hand we are supposed to help our fellow man.

Oh, I don't know any more. All these moral dilemmas.