26 February, 2009

It's All Good

Finished Arendt, have moved on to Borges, Selected Non-Fictions, which is so difficult my lips move when I read it and I have to go one word at a time - it's like being four again!

I went to a free workshop on Sunday with the girl who won last year's Waterstones Children's Book of the Year award, Sally Nicholls, who was sickeningly young but also really nice. It was at the Whole Foods Market in the old Barkers building on High St Ken. In pre-credit crunch days, I would have thought it was an amazing cornucopia of New World plenty. Now, it seems a little passe and fiddling while Rome burns. She was very encouraging about the bit of my book that she read, and helpfully put me onto (1) an online writers' group which I have checked out, which seems pretty good, and (2) a literary consultancy called Cornerstones, which also seem pretty good. So, as Ari Gold says, in Entourage, it's all good, and anyway it helps to take my mind off all the shenanigans at work.

The other thing that I've got into, in the spirit of getting things for free, is home exchange - like that thing that Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet do in that towering monument to cinematic imbecility, Holiday. We signed up with HomeLink and have been drooling over other people's fabulous homes all over the world. More practically, we've managed to find a very nice place in Cumbria to home-swap with for the Easter hols. I love free stuff! I'm never paying for holiday accommodation again!

22 February, 2009

Summer's Last Will and Testament

The children have struck back and insisted that, if they're having to learn poems, then I have to learn poems as well, so here is the one for Saturday 21st Feb:

Adieu, farewell, earth's bliss,
This world uncertain is,
Fond are life's lustful joys,
Death proves them all but toys,
None from his darts can fly,
I am sick, I must die,
Lord, have mercy on us.

Rich men, trust not in wealth,
Gold cannot buy you health,
Physic himself must face,
All things to end are made,
The plague full swift goes by,
I am sick, I must die,
Lord, have mercy on us.

Beauty is but a flower
Which wrinkles will devour,
Brightness falls from the air,
Queens have died young and fair,
Dust hath closed Helen's eye,
I am sick, I must die,
Lord, have mercy on us.

Strength stoops unto the grave,
Worms feed on Hector brave,
Swords may not fight with fate,
Earth still holds ope her gate,
Come, come, the bells do cry,
I am sick, I must die,
Lord, have mercy on us.

Wit with his wantonness
Tasteth death's bitterness,
Hell's executioner
Has no ears for the hear
What vain art can reply,
I am sick, I must die,
Lord, have mercy on us.

Haste, therefore, each degree
To welcome destiny;
Heaven is our heritage,
Earth but a player's stage,
Mount we unto the sky,
I am sick, I must die,
Lord, have mercy on us.

Thomas Nashe

That's a humdinger. Spent most of yesterday in the garden, muttering: "The yungle is fornicating" to myself, so not much else to report.

19 February, 2009

Management styles

We're considering the applicability of Dad's Army, for use in management training courses. My own management style is a combination of Wilson's "Do you really think that's wise, sir?" (to my bosses) and Captain Mainwaring's "Stupid boy!" (to my staff).

That's the difference between the Americans and the British, by the way. The Americans think all human wisdom is contained in The Godfather. The British think it is contained in Dad's Army.

16 February, 2009

Gardening Leave

Got a couple of days' leave for the kids' half-term. Oh my God, I did some gardening for the first time ever and it was such fun! I spent most of it clearing the garden walls of creepers, which in the shrubby corner down by the huge tree, was a bit like being Klaus Kinski in Fitzcarraldo, hacking my way through the impenetrable jungle, using only a penknife. At one point I was completely immobilised by the creepers, like the heroine in one of those Saturday afternoon potboilers. I was expecting the beds to be rockhard, but in fact obviously the last lot had taken some care with them. However, the pocket handkerchief sized lawn, which we are planning to turn into fruit and veg beds, I fully expect to require the hiring of a rotary cultivator and generous helpings of horse manure.

Here's a little tribute to gardens:

The Garden
by Andrew Marvell

How vainly men themselves amaze
To win the palm, the oak, or bays ;
And their uncessant labors see
Crowned from some single herb or tree,
Whose short and narrow-verg├Ęd shade
Does prudently their toils upbraid ;
While all the flowers and trees do close
To weave the garlands of repose.

Fair Quiet, have I found thee here,
And Innocence, thy sister dear!
Mistaken long, I sought you then
In busy companies of men :
Your sacred plants, if here below,
Only among the plants will grow ;
Society is all but rude,
To this delicious solitude.

No white nor red was ever seen
So amorous as this lovely green ;
Fond lovers, cruel as their flame,
Cut in these trees their mistress' name.
Little, alas, they know or heed,
How far these beauties hers exceed!
Fair trees! wheresoe'er your barks I wound
No name shall but your own be found.

When we have run our passion's heat,
Love hither makes his best retreat :
The gods who mortal beauty chase,
Still in a tree did end their race.
Apollo hunted Daphne so,
Only that she might laurel grow,
And Pan did after Syrinx speed,
Not as a nymph, but for a reed.

What wondrous life is this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head ;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine ;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach ;
Stumbling on melons as I pass,
Insnared with flowers, I fall on grass.

Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less,
Withdraws into its happiness :
The mind, that ocean where each kind
Does straight its own resemblance find ;
Yet it creates, transcending these,
Far other worlds, and other seas ;
Annihilating all that's made
To a green thought in a green shade.

Here at the fountain's sliding foot,
Or at some fruit-tree's mossy root,
Casting the body's vest aside,
My soul into the boughs does glide :
There like a bird it sits and sings,
Then whets and combs its silver wings ;
And, till prepared for longer flight,
Waves in its plumes the various light.

Such was that happy garden-state,
While man there walked without a mate :
After a place so pure and sweet,
What other help could yet be meet!
But 'twas beyond a mortal's share
To wander solitary there :
Two paradises 'twere in one
To live in Paradise alone.

How well the skillful gard'ner drew
Of flowers and herbs this dial new ;
Where from above the milder sun
Does through a fragrant zodiac run ;
And, as it works, th' industrious bee
Computes its time as well as we.
How could such sweet and wholesome hours
Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers!

13 February, 2009

Not Fire, But Ice

My God - it took me 2 hours to get home from work today. Got down into Canary Wharf station just as they were turfing everyone off a train because there was a signal problem at Bank. Went to look for a bus but there were no buses going in remotely the right direction, so ended up trying the DLR (which normally gets so crowded when the Jubilee Line is down that the platforms are positively dangerous). Platform wasn't too bad, but the train was absolutely chocka - squeezed in - it was "no need to hold on" jam-packed. At Shadwell, they kicked us all off the train due to a problem with a train somewhere up ahead. Lots of people stayed on the platform, lots of people headed off down the Highway to look for a bus. I was one of the latter group. There were signs outside to Wilton's Music Hall - I've never been to Shadwell, but I have heard of the Music Hall so felt slightly less as though I had sailed in my ship into "here be dragons" territory. Found a bus-stop with lots of other DLR refugees in it and seconds later, lo and behold, the 100 to Elephant and Castle. Got a seat too and trundled merrily through the sleeting streets of olde London Town in the direction of Liverpool St station. At Bishopsgate got mired in an immoveable traffic jam, so got off the bus and walked up Bishopsgate towards Bank in a hideous driving sleety rain. I thanked God for my new trilby hat, my good old Esprit umbrella and boots, my scarf that I got from Karachi on a site visit years ago, my Episode coat and M&S impractical lavender woolly gloves. And comforted myself with the thought that however cold, wet and miserable I was, it beat being a Jew in Poland in 1942.

Speaking of which, what do these 4 countries have in common, that they can pat themselves on the back about: Sweden, Denmark, Italy and Bulgaria.

Answer in next post!

06 February, 2009

Old Lady

There was such a sweet old lady at the checkout at Sainsburys, when I went to buy the ingredients for Larry's cake. "I'll be 91 in June!" she said, and indicating her shopping, "Bangers and mash! That's my breakfast," (indicating the Weetabix), "and I have custard every day!" I would have liked to know more about her, like how long she'd been living in Wandsworth and, if so, what it had been like in days of yore, but she scooted off, showing a surprising turn of speed for one so advanced in years.

05 February, 2009

Living Vicariously

Had a visit from the vicar last night, which was weird - it is one of those things that you think only ever happens in books. Talked mainly about Blackadder, the effect of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes on Huguenot immigration into Wandsworth, and his new book on Archbishop Cranmer. We gave him some port, so that we could feel we were really living the cliche.

Was supposed to go a New College networking event in the City tonight, but simply couldn't face it - the thought of all those self-satisfied arrogant bores chuntering on about the credit crisis and how successful they all are - so I came home and ate dhal and rice and mackerel and helped Mo with his linear equations instead. Much more fun.

Day off work tomorrow! It is Larry's birthday party sleepover and I have been drafted in to make a big moist sticky chocolate cake.

02 February, 2009

Big Snow

Ha ha - big snow from Russia fell on London last night - this morning, no buses, no trains, and best of all no Citrix access to work e-mail - what's a girl to do?

01 February, 2009


Larry and I are learning to knit. I learned from an excellent www.cyberseams.com "left-handed knitting" video on youtube. Then I had to teach Larry by reversing left-handed knitting into right-handed knitting. We have discovered a gigantic sewing emporium on Balham High Road, just along from the Halfords and the sewing machine specialist shop. For years and years we lived in Balham and I never realised it was a sewing tackle mecca. I have bought a ball of blue aran wool mix as big as my head to knit a scarf for Larry. Larry is at the delightful stage where she starts off knitting a scarf and it turns into a pennant.

LSS says, It's odd, but my mother is capable of executing the most fantastically complex Arran jumper knitting patterns, even though she is the scattiest most confused person I know.

Me: Well, of course she can.

LSS: Why?

Me: Because, obviously, she's woolly minded.