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After 3 weeks of hard graft, 3 nights cleaning until 3am, countless swear words, and a bone-deep weariness which has slowly turned into a cautious sense of glee, the kitchen is finally done.

Behold!

the shiny new kitchen

Click for moreCollapse )

It looks smaller now that we've put the table back in, but at least now there will be enough space for second child to have her own chair rather than sit in my lap. Also being in the kitchen no longer fills me with palpable rage, anxiety and despair, so all is good on that front.

The builders have been in all week, repairing the flood damage they caused. This has had its share of good things - the hallway has been painted a lovely shade of brown and looks so beautiful that I want to live there - but it has also brought its share of alarming events. Namely, when I went to open the airing cupboard and came face to face with a tattood Polish dude with a paintbrush who had been crouching there. If I didn't have a heart attack then, I never will.

In an attempt to break our routine of staying up until the wee hours cleaning and polishing and lifting heavy things, Z and I went out last night. We had a Groupon to Proud Cabaret, and it was very very good indeed. The aerial acts were jaw-droppingly astonishing, and I scored a facefull of glitter and a lick from Banbury Cross both of which gave me a frisson of delight.

Other time well-spent has included a visit to The Grasshopper Inn for some R&R that included lying in the utterly sumptuous soft-yet-firm bed and watching bonkers 80s music videos (Bonnie Tyler! Celine Dion!) and walking around the beaches of Folkestone, which led Z and me to develop a (likely not hilarious to anybody but us) Little Britain style routine that mainly of trilling" Are you a British subject? I am a British subject. Look at me, doing British things, in a British way."

We gave up on Folkestone Triennial after the first few pieces, on account of negotiating all the walking, staircases and sullen youth that seemed to be involved in travelling from one place to the other.

But I found a heart on the beach

heart on the beach

and the moody sky and rocks and waves were their own kind of poetry.

beach at dusk

The full set of pictures is here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rainsinger/sets/72157627622497162/

carnival: the aftermath

Notting Hill Carnival after nightfall is the nearest I hope to get to the Apocalypse (Zombie or regular).

The whole event had slipped my mind but came barrelling back into my consciousness when en route to see my newborn niece I got stranded on Harrow Road. Two buses, umpteen swearwords and thirty minutes later I had progressed to being stranded on the wrong side of the Paddington flyover - negotiating my way through drunken crowds, menacing looking gangs of young men, streetfights, puddles of urine and vomit, badly lit underground passages and feral estates - my face set in its best 'do not fuck with me' expression by way of deterrent to conversation, assault and disaster.

Although not an uplifting time, it was pretty hilarious when a drunken man I was attempting to pass bellowed at me: "Where do you think you're going, you sober c**t?"

Remember, remember

Unsuccesful tweet from last night: Standing on top of Primrose Hill, watching lit up City skyline and distant fireworks.

I am historically a hater of October, while the crisp clarity of November seems just like one long invitation to alternate long walks with extensive curlings-up in bed with tea.

I find myself hoping there will be snow again this year. To replay childhood scenes of the Old Country - wherein I go to bed to sharp air and icicles of stars, and wake to a different world.

*******

One of my first memories of London is of November and bonfire night on Muswell Hill. I was there with my cousin and uncle. It was cold, and I had no idea what was happening or what we were supposed to be doing. I remember a crowd of people and the fire though, and how I thought they had lit this bonfire because it was so cold and being equal measures shocked and pleased that you could vandalise public parks like that.

My other memory is of my cousin saying how it took him ages to learn to stop being bothered by the sound of squeeling black cab brakes. The moment he said it I heard them too, and for days afterwards they seemed inescapable. The air was filled with them. A long screech like a cross between a cat's miaow and nails on a chalkboard.

I remember it took me ages to stop hearing it after that.
So. No Go, yesterday. All flights were cancelled and my hatred of RyanAir has grown exponentially since then. As has my lack of understanding about why the snow is such a problem. The runways were fairly clear. To say nothing of the fact that planes take off and land all the time in Canada, Serbia and Russia to name but a few - countries that routinely get feet of snow in wintertime. Are those magical planes? Are those magical runways?

Matei behaved amazingly well for a child whose day consisted of spending a few hours sitting in a car, then sitting at the airport, then sitting in a car again. After I had run out of bitterness, fury and swear words I spent yesterday afternoon pretending I was in Slovenia and Z and I celebrated a modest Orthodox Christmas Eve with sushi. Today I have been healing from my sulk and sourcing my consolation prize of 'Weekend in the Cotswolds' despite Z's misgivings about country roads and snow and the possibility of spending our time instead in Stranded Frozen Carswold.

Recently the musical beds of my household have reached epic proportions. For his daytime nap Matei creates a nest of stuffed animals on Z's and mine bed while at least one cat sleeps in his. At night, he goes to sleep in his own bed and stays there until about 3am, at which point it apparently becomes intolerable and he then goes looking for Z and me, while once more at least one cat happily snuggles in the space he vacated. I have recently taken to sleeping on the sofa for Ease Of Nighttime Studying and also as a break from having a toddler head lovingly jammed into the back of my neck, but M has grown wise to my tricks and has started looking in the living room for me. God knows what the whole arrangement will look like when Another One gets here.

greyscapes

Yesterday I was loitering in a cafe after work, sating myself with library books and cake - looking at the roofs and trees. Thinking how much I've grown to love this city with its red brick and grey slate and ebullient greenery.



I sipped my tea and watched the mass of swift-moving grey clouds swirl and sweep across the sky, and thought that while I'd normally be muttering something along the lines of 'you call this july' and 'motherfucker', today I caught myself thinking about how pretty it looked.

I think I am being assimilated.
Hahaha. Good lord. Only in Britain.

20.00 Darts Players' Wives
Sporting documentary. A look at the women behind those giants of men - professional darts players. Self-proclaimed Tarts for Darts follow their larger than life heroes like Phil Taylor (The Power), and Andy Fordham (The Viking) around the world to see them perform on the oche.
Dear England,

You know I am devoted to you and your many quirks. I find them charming! However, on behalf of every delayed journey I had yesterday I realise that the snow was unseasonal but really, get with the program already. Learn to deal. It was only an inch of snow if that.

For goodness sake' Serbia, SERBIA!, manages to year after year cope with all the ice, hail, and deep snow of winter and have public transport that still manages to run frequnetly and regularly, without getting into a tizzy. Therefore I am failed to be conviced that a grown up, developed nation like you England, cannot improve your record and make a plan to prevent transport mayhem breaking loose every single time a leaf or a snowflake(or too much rain; or too much sunshine) falls on the tracks.

I know all this transportational uncertainty was very soothing for the national morale back when the 7th of July bombings happened, because I like most other people commuting that day did not realise until much later that Acts of Terror had occured thinking it was just another regular day of delayed buses and tubes. However, with all due respect England, I do not think you need to keep being quite so protective of us and that we could proabably handle public transport that operates in all weather conditions.

I'd appreciate it if you would give your consideration to the matter.

Ways in which I fail at Britishness

There are many aspects of Britishness and Englishness and Life On The Isle which I love and embrace with all my heart. But the British sea is not one of them.*

Both Z and I spent a hefty part of our formative years on the Adriatic and Meditteranean coastline, which is why both of us view the British beach experience much as we view the British climate - at best as an ironic amusement and at worst a dire affliction.

For starters, in most places the beach is actively awful. It's often blustery, the sea looks about as brown and inviting as the Thames and even in places where the colour of the water is magnificent (e.g. Cornwall) the temperature is off-putting. I have never voluntarily dipped toe into the English waters without the support of a thermal wetsuit and even in July I have found it too bracing for comfort.

We went to Clacton On Sea last weekend so Z could experience a flying lesson that I'd got him as a birthday gift (as a tangent, I'm the worst spectating wife ever; while entrusted with the task of filming The Event I managed to get some shots of the plane, and the back of Z's head while he and the pilot are walking towards it and then completely missed both the takeoff and landing because I was attempting to prevent the child from putting a stray grape into his mouth for the former and reading a magazine during the latter) and while we were there we thought we might as well check out the beach.



It was overcast and blustery and a mixture of amusing and baffling to Z and I. For starters we were dressed in more warm layers than any other people there (jeans, and jackets while hordes of children gamboled on the sand in non-thermal swimming costumes). We also seemed the least enthusiastic. I saw people cheerfully pushing strollers against the wind, I saw a middle-aged couple having a full-on swanky lunch with champagne on a table and deck chairs sheltered behind a wind-screen, I saw people sitting in front of those strange tiny bungalows, holding on to their wildly flapping newspapers and exuding the air of people who seemed to be very-much enjoying themselves without the use of any sarcasm.

But we are different people. People who don't understand why anyone is brave enough to venture into the English water for fun, let alone send their children in. People who don't get the appeal of owning one of those tiny box bungalows on the beach which allow you to cook a meal, and pull a couple of chairs out and attempt to read newspapers while sand flies in your face and the wind attempts to wrest them from your hands. We also fundamentally don't understand the appeal of fish and chips, especially when combined with vineagar - but that's because the fish I've grown up with was grilled and served with olive oil on a bed of similarly gently grilled vegetables, so stuff that's been battered about with flour and then deep-fried both tastes bland to me and makes my arteries stiffen in preparation for the clogging they are about to receive.

And yet, there are people who genuinely seem to enjoy all this. People who would given the choice prefer to holiday in Britain instead of France, or Sicily, or Dalmatia.

Are you one of the people who enjoys the British coastline or its beaches? Finds fish and chips deligtful to their tastebuds? If so, please tell me what entices you so. Help me understand what I'm missing.

*Peculiarly British pursuits that I find irrationally charming: snooker and bird-watching

** Other things I hate: camping, hiking and the dreary non-summer we are having for the second year in a row.

A few more pictures of Clacton - I think they'd be better in black and whiteCollapse )

the passion of the christians

A while ago in Kilburn, Z and I came upon a scene which thrilled me a great deal. There was a crowd of people on Kilburn High Street, gathered in a semi-circle around a woman with a megaphone and a stumbling man whom I at first took to be a hunchback. Somewhere beyond the people, someone was beating out a rhythm on the drums.

“And Satan comes and binds you! With addictions! And lies! And illusions! And sins! And deceit!” the lady emoted through the megaphone while the man continued hunchbacked-stumbling within the semi-circle. The gathered crowd crowed appreciatively. The drums began to speed up and gather to a crescendo as the megaphone lady shouted: “But Jesus can come and set you free! Cast off his chains, Jesus! Free him from sin! Free him from Devil-Lie!” at which point the hunchbacked man straightened and threw his arms to the sky in the gesture of a man shrugging off bindings. The crowd clapped.

“Jesus he good guy! Jesus he lamb! Jesus he lion! Jesus he save you!” the megaphone lady announced, and I turned to Z with the sort of shine in my eyes that says ‘did you just see that? And why didn’t we get it on camera?’ while he shook his head and half-moaned: “I can’t believe I’ve just witnessed this? Can we please move back to Barnet?” and I was all “Are you kidding me? Because this is the exact reason why I love living in Kilburn.”

Next instalment – scanned pages of the leaflets Jehovah’s Witnesses have delivered unto me on how to have a fulfilling marital life. Also a tip: apparently the way to discourage Testimoniaries of Jehovah from lingering on your doorstep is to greet them clad in only a towel that covers you to mid-thigh while your husband loiters in the background in his boxer shorts. (You may consider these nuggets of streetwise wisdom my little gift to you, oh glorious internets).
A few days ago I turned 26 and Z drove us to Cornwall to spend the weekend in a rented house with a lively bunch of people from Ooop Norff and a dog. The house we stayed in was as beautiful - a multi-storey detached building built on the very cliff face, with a long balcony looking out onto the harbour.

Port Isaac felt almost like an isolated pocket of time, with its narrow streets and weird location beyond the reaches of any mobile phone network. It was all very restful, and people threw me a lovely birthday party with candles and everyone laughed and I tunelessly but gaily sang the refrains of folk songs that the more musically adept played on the guitars. It was lovely, and relaxing, and it felt like the day stretched into forever.

The sea was freezing cold, and generally a bit rubbish but the ice cream was excellent and there were many splendid features of the Port Isaac experience. We were:

1. Entertained by the car parking on the beach that comes with tide timetables and warning signs.





2. Enticed and titillated by the Porno Mermaid.


3. Impressed by the lovely views.


4. Outraged by the prices of meals, and coffees and miscellaneous tourist tat.

5. Frightened by the teeny tiny teeny uphill streets through which cars could be guided with the ease of camels transiting eyes of needles.


And now I'm back in London, quietly expiring on my day off while the neighbours upstairs seem to be having sex while power drilling.

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