31 December, 2007


I am in bed with a cold. The rest of them have hard-heartedly gone out for a walk on the common, as if to rub in their state of rude good health.

I am keeping myself entertained by watching the birds' stealth attacks on our bedroom window birdfeeder. They do not stay more than the 2 seconds it takes them to grab a seed and get the hell out of there. What are they afraid of? It is not as if anything has ever happened to any of them when they visited the birdfeeder. Talk about Live and Don't Learn.

I also have the Times Killer Sudoku Book 3, Nigel Williams' Fortysomething, a bumper box of Waitrose tissues, a cup of hot tea, half a packet of rich tea biscuits, half a packet of Panadol and the security fob that gets me into my work e-mail, in case I am overcome by attack of conscience and feel the need to check it.

We went up to Oxford on Saturday to show the kids round our old college and inspire in them a great desire to study hard and eventually go there:

Larry: Which would you rather I went to, Oxford or Cambridge?
Me: Oxford, because I went there. But you will have to work very hard as it is very difficult to get in.
Larry: How did you get in then?

Huh. I recommended that she study some low-demand subject like Theology. Or Zoology, like my friend the Blonde from Kenya, who wrote to the Zoology tutor at Keble asking for information, and came away with a conditional offer, without even having to sit the exam. Or Lit Hum, which is actually interesting. Or Mandarin, which is interesting, immensely useful, and she is actually good at. On no account should she do English, as her father and I did, as it is insanely competitive and entirely useless. Why did you do it then, she said. I had to inform her that, in many respects, her parents are not the sharpest pencils in the box.

Unfortunately the old college was shut, as there was only one porter on the gate and he was not allowed to let anyone in "in case you injure yourselves". Clearly the college has an equally limited view of the mental acuity of its alumni.

Went to the Trout for lunch. Devastated to find that all its character has been ripped out and been replaced by a soulless generic gastropub design. Inspector Morse wouldn't have stood for it! We will not be going back. Why do things always have to change for the worse?

Went for a walk on Port Meadow afterwards. There was a brisk wind blowing. Curly said: Why is there so much poo? There is poo here, poo there, poo everywhere!

27 December, 2007


Doing the ironing, while listening to my Christmas Wagner CD. I'm not entirely sure what is going on, but, by the sound of the music, someone is definitely creeping up on someone - dwarfs on Rhinemaidens, giants on gods, gods on dwarfs... who knows?

New Year New Name

I've renamed this blog in honour of this.

26 December, 2007

Happy Boxing Day Everyone!

We are back from Suffolk, covered in a thin film of goose fat.

We did our shopping at the modestly-named Tesco Extra in Ipswich, which sounds as though it is a newsagents sort of a Tesco. but is in fact gigantic. It is a Megatron, an Optimus Prime of a Tesco. It is not so much a Tesco Extra as a Tesco F**k Me.

We walked round the ghostly Sutton Hoo burial mounds on Christmas Eve, with frost crisping underfoot and fog creeping up from the River Deben. Meant to go to the Christmas morning service in Woodbridge, but as luck would have it, Curly woke in the night with a dreadful earache, and wept so piteously that LSS had to take her to Ipswich Hospital on Xmas morning, while I made the Xmas lunch, which amazingly turned out lovely. So no religion for us this Christmas. Listened to the carols from Kings College instead.

Passed a warning sign on the A12 on the way home today: !!! Pedestrians crossing !!!

The A12 at that point is 4 lanes of traffic steaming along at super-70mph speeds. I would have thought what they really need is a sign saying !!! Pedestrians: if you plan to cross here, make your wills now !!!

Or an underpass. But I daresay cost is a consideration. What the council should do is string a couple of stout ropes across the A12, suspended from a pair of trees (or they could put a couple of posts), one above the other (the ropes, not the trees), plus a little pulley attachment for your shopping. That way pedestrians could get from one side of the A12 to the other no less dangerously, plus it would be more fun AND they wouldn't have to wait for a gap in the traffic, so it is also more efficient. I'm surprised the council haven't thought of this already. Maybe I will write them a letter suggesting it.

I notice something curious on the Airbag warning sticker pasted on the back of the sunvisor in the Prius. (1) The word for "airbag" in English, Dutch, French, Spanish, German and Italian is "airbag". (2)In the Latin languages, they warn that misuse may result in "serious injury, or even death". Whereas in the Germanic languages, misuse results in "death or serious injury". Why the reversal? Is it because the northerners like to hear the bad news first?

It was quite a dull journey back from Suffolk, as you can tell.

On our way through Bromley saw a Chinese takeaway with an excellent name: Kungfu Kitchen. It's mellifluous, descriptive and also carries a subtle hint of a threat, for anyone foolish enough to think of running away without paying for their chicken chow mein.

21 December, 2007

Malaysian High Commission

Today I pay tribute to the Malaysian High Commission. I went there yesterday to get a new passport and I left there yesterday with a new passport - it took them 3 hours to turn the application around! The waiting room is beautifully heated and there is an actual person on reception to deal with each applicant individually and explain how to work the photocopier. And best of all, there is a cafe where they sell bungkus nasi lemak, mee hoon goreng, fried mee, curry puffs, kuih and sambal, all made daily by the mother of the person who mans the stall. Now that's what I call a High Commission - it is a shining beacon to consular offices everywhere.

Went to Borough Market today, which was delightfully Christmassy. Bought foie gras and truffle pate, cashew nuts (for Larry), almond baklava, Boston chipolata sausages. Lunched off wild boar sausage and rocket sandwiches washed down with tea and hot chocolate.

19 December, 2007

Polar Exploration

Ever since we switched the central heating on (or "on-ned the central heating", as Malaysians would say), LSS and I have been scratching like mad, and Curly has been scratching and wheezing - curse you, dust mites! So yesterday we kept the heating off all day, surviving just on the gas fire in the living room. The flat is absolutely freezing! I was wearing thermals, tights, wool trousers, boots, blouse, new cashmere jumper from Uniqlo (they are doing 100% cashmere for GBP30 a pop! who can afford not to buy?), old cashmere cardigan from Episode and a lime green scarf that somebody left in our flat in HK, and was quite cosy by the gasfire.

The good thing about keeping your flat very cold is that when you leave the house, you don't feel appreciably colder. In fact, you feel slightly warmer because at least outside the house you can wear your coat.

Just finished reading Posy Simmonds' reworking of Far from the Madding Crowd, "Tamara Drewe". I like Posy Simmonds and this one is as well-observed as usual, but I could not understand why she made Tamara so unsympathetic. She's a beautiful shallow lying cheating amoral little slapper who gets everything she wants and doesn't get her come-uppance. Why is anyone going to like this?

18 December, 2007

Tate Up Itself

Went to Tate Modern with Mo to see Doris Salcedo's Shibboleth. The guard told us that the crack symbolised the gulf between the world's rich and its poor. I actually think the Shibboleth sorts people into those who look at art installations and say, "What a piece of self-indulgent money-wasting crap" and people who nod seriously and pontificate about it.

On the 5th floor there is a gallery with a warning notice - the nature of some of the exhibits is quite explicit and some people "may find it challenging". I love that - so if people are offended by it, it's not because they might possibly have a point, or that it might be offensive. It must be because they are limited molluscs, whose hidebound sensibilities are "challenged" by the artist's radicalism. What was wrong with the old formulation, that some people "may be offended"? Doesn't suggest that they are right or wrong to be offended, just that they may be. Whereas to be challenged definitely suggests that you are too stupid, ignorant, limited etc to understand the work.

Anyway, I went bounding in hoping to be challenged by the explicit nature of the work, but I couldn't exactly work out what was supposed to be challenging about it. This is of course because I am a highly-evolved superbeing - not because I didn't have my glasses on.

Went to a fishbar afterwards on Borough High Street and had whitebait for lunch. V nice.

17 December, 2007

Weekend Activities

Hooray I'm on holiday for two weeks although many tedious things at work are still weighing on my mind.

Bought Larry a new winter coat - she and LSS like it. I think it will not be warm enough.

Went carolsinging on Bellevue Road on Saturday wearing my new Miu Miu coat. The moment I appeared a discerning woman in the choir whom I had never spoken to before said, Oh, that's a lovely coat! giving the sleeve a good stroke. Women are very discerning, I must say. It was very very cold, but the coat kept me nice and warm too. My digits were freezing though.

I now have a selection of Pamela Mann over-the-knee socks in navy, brown, grey and black and wear them at every opportunity, not just when I'm wearing skirts.

Bought a couple of cross-stitch kits from Peter Jones - one for Larry, one for me. So far, have spent most of the time unpicking our mistakes. Poor old Larry prefaced the project by saying in a winning voice, You're not going to shout at me, are you, Mummy? Not shout? How am I supposed to embark on any child-related project without the shouting?

15 December, 2007

Astonishingly Cheap Drink

Had a drink at the Southwark Tavern last night with Welsh Journo. Two lime and sodas I said. That'll be forty pence, said the girl behind the bar. What? I said. Forty pence, she said. It's twenty pence each for the lime cordial. It's the cheapest drink you can get, said Welsh Journo. I was gobsmacked. I'm sure I've been charged two pounds in other pubs for lime and soda. Is this a price unique to the Southwark Tavern? Had I gone back in time to the 1950s (or possibly Tudor times? Borough does have that kind of vibe)? I'm definitely going back to the Southwark Tavern again.

14 December, 2007

Goodwill to Men

I'm depressed - I've been getting a lot of "you are too direct" feedback at work. Are they kidding? I'm the soul of restraint compared to what I really think. If people are being lazy useless sods it's very hard for me to hide that I think so, no matter how polite I try to be. Do I really have to kiss up to people and massage their egos just to get them to do their stupid jobs? I never used to have this problem in Asia.

It's amazing how people go on about the Chinese and their obsession with "saving face". In my experience, no one is more obsessed with saving face than the English. I have never met a people more reluctant to ever face up to the possibility that they might actually be wrong. The coils that I have seen people go into just to give the impression that they haven't screwed up, rather than just go, Oops, sorry, let's fix that, end of story.

People are tossers. Thank God it is Christmas as I clearly need a dose of peace on earth and goodwill to men.

13 December, 2007


I walked out the door in the morning, took two steps, slipped on an icy patch and went crashing down, scraping my left shin and wrenching my left knee, and now I am hobbling round like an old lady. Yes! I’m definitely back in the UK.

Canary Wharf looked quite spectacular this morning from the 22nd floor. The whole of the space from us to the City was filled with mist, from which the buildings rose glittering and white.

There was an odious moustachioed twerp on the train at London Bridge. I had already let one Jubilee line train go because it was so crowded. Managed to squeeze onto the 2nd one, in which the moustachioed twerp was already riding, comfortably propping his puckered little rear-end against the reclining seats. Someone behind me, still on the platform, made the standard call: Can you move down please! And the twerp mutters in an ineffably pleased-with-himself tone: “There’s another train right behind.”

Oh, yes, mate, you’re alright. You’re already on the train. You don’t know how many trains that guy on the platform has already been forced to miss. You don’t know if there’s another train right behind. You’re alright, as you sit there reading your dreary little paper on Structured Finance, oozing self-satisfaction from every pore. So you have to make everyone else’s day just that much more perfect by casting your little turd of bile and dysfunction onto the waters. Cretin. I hope his moustache falls off into his soup and he eats it and it chokes him.

I don’t like moustaches.

11 December, 2007

Very Cold Concert

Went to Mo's Christmas carols tonight - they held it in the back playground, which, with the school huts' windows lit up like stained glass, makes a natural amphitheatre, the bare trees of Wimbledon Common rising up behind the huts and the glittering stars overhead, all very lovely. Unfortunately, I did not notice any of this because I was SO BLOODY COLD. One hour in zero degree temperatures listening to the children torturing us to death carol by carol! At one point I thought Curly, lying in my arms, had actually died of the cold, but in fact she had only spontaneously gone into hibernation, in an automatic primaeval defense mechanism against the cold. This is what I imagine the annual carol concert down at the gulag would be like. God knows where the headmaster went to school himself, for him to think this was a good idea - Stalag Luft 13 perhaps?

10 December, 2007

Heaven in a Quad

Walked up to Clarm Carm on Sunday to see the Golden Compass at the Clum Picture Hum. Were hoping to have hot pork sandwiches from the deli on the Common but sadly it was shut - just our luck to pick the one shop on the row that sees fit to observe the sabbath - then subsequently failed to have pizza (sister's fiance cannot take cheese), gourmet burgers (couldn't find the place), Aussie fusion food and smoked meats (full), and ended up having a roast at the Belle Vue. Larry declared herself full of pork pie, apples and Branston pickle and didn't order anything, then spent the rest of the meal eating the mushroom linguine and roast lamb from right off our plates.

Golden Compass was more tolerable than I had expected. Had a little snooze at the beginning but woke up shortly after Lyra leaves Jordan College. Nicole Kidman looks golden and slinky and the little girl has a face you want to keep on looking at.

Choral soc tonight was a whip through carols which I am going to have to slave away at through the week, to get the alto part right in time for carol singing on Saturday afternoon. This time I need a red dress. This whole choir is just an excuse for me to extend my wardrobe.

I had to go to Staple Inn today in Holborn. In an effort to be a more useful member of society, I'm signing up to be a trustee for the nascent Wandsworth Homestart organisation, and the London Homestart offices are in Staple Inn. It was lovely - you walk through an archway on High Holborn and are in this blissful quiet quadrangle with the staircases all wood-panelled, with lovely old-fashioned brown radiators emitting warmth and well-being on every landing. It was just like being back at college. Mmm. How I wish I worked in offices like those instead of horrible soulless wankerish Canary Wharf.

08 December, 2007

Works Outing

It was the team Xmas dinner on Thursday - aargh! Actually it wasn't that bad. The organiser in his wisdom had booked a white pimp mobile to take us from the office to central London - 3 women and 20 men, so that can't be bad. I adopted my usual policy of getting drunk as quickly as possible to make the whole thing bearable. Unfortunately nowadays getting drunk means the next morning I display the symptoms of acute alcoholic poisoning. I spent about 4 hours throwing up and dragged myself into the office 2 hours late because I had to conduct an interview. However, several hot chocolates, teas, apple juices and bottles of Evian later, I was fully restored.

Choral soc performance tonight - Cherubini Requiem plus some Mozart piece carefully chosen because it requires exactly the same instruments as the requiem does. We were all supposed to bring along mincepies and I was going to crack out my homemade mincemeat, but my pastry cutters have vanished and a fruitless search through the flat and in fact all of Balham High Road yielded no cutters, even for ready money, so the singers are jolly well going to have to make do with M&S' finest instead.

Also had to go into town to buy a long black skirt and a black top for the performance. It is cold and wet outside. I do not feel like traipsing around Tooting in swirly black crepe in this weather.

Children are watching the Transformers movie on the telly, letting their few remaining brain cells atrophy and die in self-loathing at being subjected to this derivative codswallop.

01 December, 2007

Turn of the Screw

Was supposed to go out for a drink with a friend last night, but she blew me off, pleading "tiredness". On a Friday night? I don't think so. Anyway, since I'd already cleared the night out with LSS, I thought I might as well go to Turn of the Screw at the ENO, which I'd be wanting to do next week, as it closes on 8 December. It was a Marinsky Theatre production and was indeed very Russian, everything in shades of grey and black, impressions of cold light, decaying splendour, everything declining and falling all over the place. Quite liked the music, but somehow the whole thing didn't engage, I felt as though I could feel it more if I were just listening to the music, instead of watching these people throwing themselves about on the stage. Possibly while reading the book at the same time. That would be a lovely thing to do on a quiet Sunday evening, with a nice glass of something at my elbow. Perhaps when the kids have grown up and left home I could actually do it.