Blog Archives

Summer shoes

Monday, 31 July 2006

new shoesI got these today, since I’m off to two festivals within zones 1 & 2 (the free fruitstock in Regent’s Park and the rather less free Get Loaded in the Park in Clapham). Years of working outdoors makes me nervous about wearing flimsy shoes at festivals, but converse all-stars get all sweaty. So these cheap things are a compromise. Which rub my heels, but that can be fixed with tape.

London is way too sweaty at the moment, hence the need for new footwear. We were at a party at Cubana in Lower Marsh on Saturday night, very rapidly decamping to the street outside. At almost 1am, the humidity was still hugging us close, pricking at the skin and making you dream of cool rain. No such luck.

I’ve also discovered something rather smart. There are many ways to get from Devon to London. The megabus and megatrain are the cheapest but longest and least flexible. The 21 quid apex on the Waterloo train is good if you can get it, and Waterloo is rather handy if working in Westminster/Lambeth. But right now I’m going for the Paddington line – more expensive but barely over 2 hours and I’m going to Norf London anyway. And I just discovered that not only are two superadvancethingy singles cheaper than one saver return, but that you can – if lucky – get two first class singles for less than a standard saver return. More space, less children, getting into Paddington at the front of the train…

A Commute Too Far

Thursday, 1 June 2006

Me: Er, I’m not going to be in at 9.
Boss: OK, why not?
Me: I’m not so much in St Thomas as…erm…Kentish Town?

I had a great day yesterday. True, I was up at about 5am in order to get the 6.40am train up to Waterloo but I then made it to both my appointments on time. Right out to Greenwich, then over to the City. I’d arranged to meet some friends for a couple of post-work beers in the Southwark Tavern at about 6pm which meant a quick walk over the Millennium bridge and past the Globe. Got there and had beer. Due to knowing I had a long journey, I sunk several pints quickly with the plan that this would enable me to sleep on the train and thus regain the lost hours from the morning. This was all good.

Was it too much to ask London Transport to behave all day? I left the pub with 20 minutes to do a 7 minute journey in. A journey I could have walked in 18 minutes. I then spent 10 minutes stuck at Southwark station (adding those minutes to the 4 minute Tube journey) and raced onto the Waterloo concourse 4 minutes after the last train of the night. A very helpful ticket advisor got me an excess fare ticket I could use this morning for tuppence ha’penny and I returned to the pub in order to blag a bed for the night. Not from the pub itself but from the friends. Obviously.

Naturally I wake an hour before the alarm because I always do when not at home (whereas in my own pit I can sleep through the alarm for an hour). I eventually make my desk at 2pm, looking sheepish and smelling of other people’s shampoo. I should, by all rights, be tired right now but no. I’m wide-eyed and restless.

Home Again, Home Again, Clickety-Click

Saturday, 6 May 2006

I am back from my exciting life. I was working in Santa Cruz de la Tenerife:
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Well, I was staying in Santa Cruz. I also worked in La Laguna and Valle de Guerra. All of which is as far removed from the stereotypical British tourist idea of Tenerife as is possible to get. I had a fabulous lunch in a local bar (i.e. one off the touristy drags of Santa Cruz) and liked one dish so much that I actually wrote down the recipe and brought back a key ingredient to give to Ladylark. Clearly her teaching of cooking has worked at some level.

Once my work was done, I hightailed it on a ferry to another of the islands. I was last here two years ago and did notice a few subtle changes in Playa Santiago, the key one being the increase in English being spoken, and seeing some actual English holidaymakers (elderly couples staying up at the posh hotel on the cliffs rather than roughing it in the fishing village). But the place hasn’t changed much. I hiked over a couple of ravines, and lounged in various bars including my favourite in Santiago.
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I didn’t write as much of the Now Contractually Signed But Could Still Be Jinxed story as I planned to and I’m partially sure it was because the environment was totally wrong to write the kind of atmosphere needed. I did come back with a tan, a recipe, a broken-in pair of walking boots and a relaxed attitude.

Which was just as well, since I cleared customs at 6pm on Sunday, raced into town (changing and doing make-up on the train), checked in and then raced over to the London Stone in time for the start of Club Sabbath. Lawrence opened well, but vanished in a puff of nerves and, despite not actually having anything to do with organising the night, I got dragged into the running of things. Lawrence has since remarked that it is not because I have ‘I know Lawrence’s brain’ tattoed on my forehead but more like ‘I am practical’: either way it was a rather intense crash back into England. At one point I was stood in the drizzle in a deserted City street wearing a little vest top, getting hasty instructions down a mobile and thinking “this morning I was on a Spanish island off the coast of Africa”. Gah. However, the club went well overall, and people are planning to do it again in, provisionally, July.

The cafe has not opened yet, but is nearly ready, which will be great.

52 ways to save the planet: No. 7: Woman in A Suitcase

Sunday, 2 April 2006

(click here to download Ron Grainer’s fabulous theme to Man in a Suitcase – try to overlook it was also the theme to TFI Friday)

So, yes, I’ve been living out of a suitcase a lot. An awful lot. Enough that I booked a week off work so that I won’t even have to leave the house, let alone the city. Combined with work commitments and Easter, it means I’m spending a total of nine days at my desk in April (at one point it was down to six days, but I wrangled them back).

I am tired of living out of a suitcase. In theory, I have no problem with it. I like travelling. I am not bothered being a single female traveller because it means I read a lot of books. (BTW, if there are any men reading who don’t already know this: if you see a lone woman in a hotel restaurant or bar and she’s reading a book then she is signalling that she does not want to be chatted up.) I like not having to deal with inane calls. I am, however, mildly bothered that I can now look out of the window on the Exeter-Waterloo route and say roughly how many minutes we are from the next station without even thinking. I’m also tired of eating catering food, being lured into buying instant coffee on trains and never actually unpacking my overnight bag because I’ll only be packing it again in a day or two. I have two toothbrushes, two hairbrushes, two pots of fishfingers hair putty, two pots of Lush Gorgeous moisturiser, two…well, you get the idea.

But my “really small ways to save the planet” is not about the problem of duplicating the plastic containers my Max Factor Colour Adapt foundation comes in, or what to do with the stubs of Rimmel’s Dark Brown Kohl pencils (lid in the landfill, pencil in the garden recyc). And it’s not about getting the train, although I do due to necessity not eco choice. No, it’s about hotels. I must have stayed in half a dozen hotels in March. From swish boutique hotels in Birmingham, B&Bs in Oxford, crumbling Victorian Neo-Gothic piles in central London and converted hunting lodges in the Midlands. The smallest had about twenty rooms. The largest had a hundred or more. And in every single room, along with the “tea-making facilities” and the soap, is a tv with a remote control. On standby. Never mind the power, think of the cash being burnt every second.

So I’ve started to hunt for the ON/OFF switch, so the damn thing can be switched off. The problem with this is that the hotels themselves need to change policy. Given it would save them money whilst also reducing energy use, you’d think they’d go for it. It would be like the “green policy” over towel use, where there’s a notice about how, in order to reduce the amount of detergent etc used, please put dirty towels in the bath. The real reason is so that they only wash the towels that need it and thus pay less in laundering costs, but it’s something that has a genuine green spin to it. So it can’t be a bad idea to switch the TV off properly and have a note saying “Please switch the TV on/off at the set: this dramatically reduces the amount of non-renewable energy used, and thus the carbon emissions from its generation.” Only, you know, in hotel speak.

Meanwhile, I watched the first episode of It’s Not Easy Being Green on BBC2. The first immediate thing that strikes you is that the house and land cost half a million. And that’s before any work is started. So whilst there are segments when hubby visits urban green living, the overall impression from the programme is that you have to be middle-class to attempt such a life. It’s Tom and Barbara but without the fabulous 70s wallpaper.

Tangenting totally, Paul Cornell just pointed me at this site. Obviously, Common People is the best one since the original was spoken as well but I have a liking for How Soon is Now. Wish they’d use some real mash-up software to mix the voice with the original music instead of a midi version though. Especially on Wish You Here.

London Shelf

Monday, 30 January 2006

Back from a long weekend in London. A couple of hours of work in Shoreditch, then an evening at the Barfly in Camden on the Friday. Saturday I saw more exhibitions than you can shake a stick at before going along to a friend’s birthday party at the Duex Beers in Hatton Wall. I drank way more Leffe than is good for me. The journey back on Sunday involved a train, a bus, another train and another train. The buffet was open on Yeovil Junction station, which was a delight. It’s one of those old-fashioned railway buffets, with a long marble counter you can prop up, and tables to sit at. There was a tall young goth standing behind the counter, like a male nilhilistic version of Manet’s Folie Bergere painting, and then it became apparent that he – and his 12 year old little sister – were helping out their gran. If it wasn’t slightly surreal enough, since such railway buffets seem to belong to a long-forgotten age, they had Johnny and the Bomb on the TV in the corner, so suddenly there was a WW2 song blaring out. You half-expected to see a couple having a Brief Encounter.

The whole weekend has produced two clear ideas for short stories, which is cheering me up no end. I just need to knuckle down to the writing. After doing the taxes. Do you think I can claim the cat attacked it? He’s already sat on the receipts twice.

All that journey time means I wrote up a review of the bands at the Barfly for London Shelf. I’ve been writing the odd review for shiny shelf for a fair old while now, and this is their London-based version about life in the city. So despite not actually living in London, I’ll be writing the odd bit for there as well. You can tell I tried to go all Julie Birchill in that music review, as well as trying to make it London-centric with the descriptions.

Ross Castle, Killarney

Thursday, 20 October 2005

Ross Castle, Killarney
Originally uploaded by Mags.

Just back from a trip to Killarney in Co Kerry.

Getting there from Devon is a bit of an adventure: flight to Dublin, then train down to Killarney. The train was like a British Rail intercity circa 1979 which was great, if tiring. Got a flight back from Kerry airport to Dublin, then a flight back to Exeter. So that’s my global footprint for the year ruined.

Killarney was very beautiful and when I’m done uploading the images, I’ll create a slideshow of the walk around the lake. This shot was taken by Ross Castle, as the weather started to clear.

Flickr set (& slideshow) now up here.

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