Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Soviet Short Stories

Soviet Short Stories: Parallel Text Soviet Short Stories: Parallel Text by Peter Reddaway

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I bought this back in the mists of time when I thought I would be learning more Russian than "my brother is an engineer". It has the Russian down one side of the page and the English translation down the other side, and is designed to make it easy for the student so the translation is pretty literal rather than literary.
I avoided reading this for a while (15 odd years) as I thought all the stories would be about tractors and collective farms. But actually I enjoyed them, as examples of writing from a particular culture and time, and I found the notes useful. My favourite was Making Snowmen, where a teacher supervises her class making, well, snowmen, and is led to muse on their futures after a sullen child proves to be an artistic genius in the making.
"It is true they are no good at making snowmen, but there is some other thing which they can do splendidly and inspiredly, something as yet unknown to me or to themselves. At the moment they have in their hands snow, plasticine, coloured pencils, building bricks, wooden pieces of construction kits - so little! The time will come when they have at their disposal all materials and all the elements, the open spaces of the earth and of all creation, all words, all sounds. And who knows what it is given to them to create!"

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A 1930s Christmas

Extreme gift buying stress (don't try to buy anyone a special holiday for a special birthday without involving them in the buying of it is my conclusion, in case for some reason their nearest and dearest are unaware that the date you have chosen together is the one date of the entire year that they apparently cannot possibly leave the country, leading BA to demand an extra monkey on top of what you have already paid for the privilege of changing flight and hotel times ) has led me to return to a more festive age. Well, more festive for some.

The Perfect Christmas, published in 1932, is my heritage Christmas Bible. Here are some things I should be doing over Christmas, according to its hallowed pages:

  • Persuade my guests to eat nothing but fruit and salad on Boxing Day, ostensibly for the sake of their digestion but actually because its the servants day off and I have no idea where the kitchen is let alone how to turn the oven on
  • Put a package together for some "come down in the world" at the workhouse, containing things I'd like to have in their situation - razor and shaving soap for example (?) and a pack of cards. Clearly those who have been poor all their lives deserve nothing.
  • Be absolutely sure I have enough soda water
  • Send out the Christmas Pudding in good time to sons and nephews in regiments abroad
  • Entertain my house guests with jolly wheezes like the Underground Game (rival couples set off in opposite directions on the Tube - kind of assumes you live in London) and the Woolworth's Game (supply guests with a sixpence each and challenge them to buy the best bargain, bargains to be chortled over after tea)
  • Invite my poor country cousin up for Christmas but be sure to pay for her train journey and give her a black lace evening frock (or the money for a permanent wave) so I can be seen out with her in public. She will also require a gas fire and a hot water bottle in her room, apparently these country cousins feel the cold.
I must be off to buy some more soda water.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Swine flu immunity

I have just been vaccinated against swine flu. Ha, take that, swine flu! A wait of half an hour to see the nurse, which is pretty standard fare at our GPs. Bet the one time I am late though they are running on time.

The injection didn't hurt at all and I so far have none of the swelling arm/ immobile arm/ painful arm others have reported, touch wood. Have to say, our medical services in Hackney are not doing much to promote the jab - I had to ask the midwife what I should do to get it and she sounded a bit surprised I wanted it at all - "oh, they'll be really pleased to see you" she said, implying there's not that great a take-up. Well, maybe if you, you know, actually contacted pregnant women and told them it was available and how to get it, you might get a better take-up? Just a thought.

The last midwife I asked, before the vaccine was available, was actively discouraging: "ooh, it's so difficult to know what to do isn't it, with these new vaccines" she said, helpfully.

Of course I still feel a bit weird in case there's something the matter with the vaccine that noone knows about and I have put my baby at risk. The whole thalidomide thing is never far from the mind when a new vaccine or treatment comes along for pregnant women. But I had to make a choice and this is the choce I made. Bit scary.

Edited to add: Obviously the wood I touched wasn't sufficiently woody, as six hours after the injection my arm started to stiffen and ache. It's still a bit achy, but not so bad, 24 hours later.

Monday, 7 December 2009

I discovered Discover

Why didn't I know about Discover in Stratford before?It's brilliant! We went there on Saturday with HackneyChild and two of his chums (and their parents of course, I'm not capable of looking after three two year olds even with the help of Hackney_Bloke).

It wasn't a great start when HackneyChild wept bitter tears at being forced to get off the train at Stratford instead of continuing for half an hour or so to Essex which is what usually happens, although he enjoyed the many diggers going about their business on the Olympic site. And we were a bit dubious about being directed around a corner that looked like somewhere the drug dealers of Baltimore might ply their trade. But no, Discover is the best thing that you can do for £4.50 (or something, the payment system is weird) on a rainy Saturday.

I can't begin to list all the things that make it great, although HackneyChild keeps asking me to do so (he is under the impression Discover is actually the house of one of his friends - he's going to be really disappointed when we go to her house for real). It's hard to describe, but the laid-back atmosphere combined with the real imagination and creativity that has gone into designing the place makes it amazing. There are lights that you can jump on that make noises, a pirate ship with little caves and treasure, books everywhere, craft activities that you can take up and leave of your own accord, things to climb, things to post, buttons to press...

Also, you can bring your own food (well, you kind of have to) and it is brilliantly located on the line from us to Essex so any Essex-dwelling friends and relatives could meet us there for a great day out (hint). My only downsides are it's a bit pricy once you have paid for a whole family (you can get a year pass for £40 or something, which I guess would pay for itself after five visits with child and parent), and the presence of the shop just as you go in does tend to make children think they can play with all the toys in there, since they can play with everything else. But they didn't seem to mind HackneyChild appropriating handfuls of cars and fish which we put back later.

It would be a great place to go with a baby and a toddler as you could plonk yourself down with baby and toddler isn't going to come to much harm hurtling round the pirate ship. The only thing stopping me from doing that when HackneyBaby arrives is coming back I'd have to somehow get over the bridge between platforms at Hackney Central with pram, or take a long bus ride.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Filming at Town Hall

According to Hackney_Bloke "they" are filming another period drama at Hackney Town Hall. I wonder what it could be.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

I Heard The Owl Call My Name

I Heard the Owl Call My Name: I Heard the Owl Call My Name: by Margaret Craven

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I thought this was a gentle, evocative book which I enjoyed for its descriptions of the Canadian Indian (there may be a better word but I don't know it) culture.

At first I thought the book lacking in dramatic conflict - the main character the young vicar is so nice, and seems to be accepted pretty readily by the village even though the book suggests tension over whether he will be or not. But the drama actually comes from the conflict betwen young and old in the village and the village culture and the outside world. The key message comes when the vicar goes to see the salmon returning upstream to spawn, and one of the girls cries at their death, but the vicar says that they have fulfilled the purpose of their lives so their death is not sad.

So, a lovely easily read book which I may read again; I just feel there could have been a bit more conflict in the main character rather than making him all good and other characters who are clearly set up to be his foils, like the teacher and the anthropologist, all bad. Maybe the character of Mark could have had some of those traits internalised in himself. But then maybe the book would not have been so gentle.

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Thursday, 26 November 2009

Dinner with the ministers

Tonight I am sharing a dining table with Ed Balls, Dawn Primarolo and our managing director. It is the managing director who is causing me most concern.

In other news, the lift is still broken.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Lift palaver

I am pregnant. I work on the sixth floor. The lift has been broken for the last three days. But never fear, we have an antiquated two-door system postroom lift that I can use.

But wait, what's this? The lift doesn't work when someone leaves the door open on another floor you say? You'd think then that anyone using it would be careful to shut the door properly.

What they definitely wouldn't do is leave it open ON PURPOSE for their own convenience so that they could do something or other and the lift would be there waiting for them when they came back. And then, when I phoned my colleague to get her to see where the lift was stuck and Lift Woman had to come down again to get me, to come back up to the sixth floor with me and tell me not to shut the door becasue she wanted to do it again!

Rant over.

PS Don't ask me why Lift Woman had to come down in the lift to get me then go back up again. I guess she just wanted to make sure the lift was never out of her sight.

Monday, 16 November 2009

A Bit of Earth

A Bit of Earth A Bit of Earth by Rebecca Smith

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
When a book is called A Bit of Earth and the main character has the surname Misselthwaite (spelling?) it is obviously trying to link itself to The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (the hall is called Misselthwaite and there is a chapter called A Bit of Earth, as that is what Mary asks her uncle for). So I was expecting a book about the healing power of nature, which isn't really what this is about. There is less about the garden than I thought there would be.

But although there are obvious similarities with Secret Garden (a man whose wife dies (not in a garden) neglects his son) I preferred the grand strokes of the children's book to the quietness of this book. It was OK. I just wasn't that enthralled. I didn't like Guy, I thought his treatment of his son was worse than the book seemed to suggest (perhaps because I have a little boy).

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Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Jamie's Italian

We went to Jamie's Italian in Canary Wharf for lunch at the weekend. We were the ones hanging about outside at 11.45am waiting for it to open so we could keep HackneyChild's energy levels up. It is fun and child-friendly, with crayons and an impromtu (how do you even spell that?) display of men on a cherry picker reparing some lights downstairs, which impressed HackneyChild, although I don't think the restaurant arranged it for us.

The gimmick of putting the children's menu in a 3D viewfinder is cute but stupid, there are just pictures of the food with no description or price.

I didn't realise until we got there that of course HackneyChild's name chimes with the restaurant name. Every time I called to him I felt like either a mad Jamie Oliver freak fan who had named their child after him or a mad mum who insists on dining at restaurants named after their child.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Vicky park fireworks/ Tower Hamlets hates the Welsh shock

We went to the Victoria Park fireworks with HackneyChild. I probably wouldn't have done off my own bat as he's only two and I well remember whinging constantly through a Rugby Club firework display when I was four about how I couldn't see, there were too many people and it was much better when we had fireworks in the garden. But I was happy to go when friends invited us, as I love the fireworks myself.

Didn't see loads of them as HackneyChild freaked out at first and required moving out of the crowd and cossetting while they were going on. However he now claims on a daily basis that he "liked the fireworks" so that's good. I liked how there were hearts, and stars inside circles. And that it was free. But the organisers could probably do with not having a massive funfair blocking the exit, requiring a huge crowd to filter though carousels and things before they can get out.

I was also entertained when asked to fill in a questionnaire on the way out. It seems Tower Hamlets ( I suspect it's them not Hackney) are keen to make sure their fireworks are attracting a diverse audience both in ethnicity and sexuality, judging by the questions. Bless. I can just imagine them going "Our fireworks aren't attracting enough gay people! How can we make our fireworks more gay-friendly?!" Also, there were boxes to tick for English, Scottish ("We are not attracting enough Scots! How can we make our fireworks more Scottish?!") and Irish (does this include Northern Ireland?) but not Welsh, which seems a bit unfair.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Things I really hate in journalism, part 1 of 3,679

When "writers" start a sentence with said. Said chief executive Roy Rogers: "blah blah blah"
Why do people do this? Why? No-one talks like that in real life. Where do they get it from?
That is all.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Bye bye Spurstowe, hello Wiltons

It's all go in our part of Hackney. The Spurstowe Arms appears to be closed, although I don't know why, it always seemed rammed as far as I could tell. Shame, we liked having a trendy local, and I have fond memories of the time I slipped the leash of baby rearing in the early days when it seemed like I was a prisoner in my own home and nipped over the road for an illict glass of wine and a book for an hour. (HackneyBloke seems to have formed some memory that I didn't drink at all when I was breastfeeding, but I think he's thinking of some ideal mum that isn't me).

But one door closes, another opens, and we now seem to have a trendy coffee shop three or four doors down rejoicing in the name of Wiltons. And - and! - a local radio station, London Fields Radio, broadcasting "from the window of a independent coffee shop behind Hackney Empire" (quite a long way behind). I think it might be a bit too trendy for me and Small Boy, but we shall see. Maybe they would like me to do a show on the exciting developments in facilities for the under-fives in the area. I know all the hot spots.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Top 10 fictional couples

I didn't have a book with me on the bus today so I had to compile this list instead. Who have I missed out? Tell me!

1. Beatrice and Benedick - Much Ado About Nothing. They hate each other! But they love each other really!

2. Mulder and Scully - The X-Files. Aw, they are so touchy feely. And yet not Doing It. Until they are. Or are they? I don't know, I gave up when David Duchovny stropped off.

3. Holmes and Watson. You can't tell me they are not a couple. Well, you can and you'd have some evidence on your side, like Watson's (two?) marriages. But they are, you know. IN MY HEAD.

4. .Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester - Jane Eyre. The model for many a future Mills and Boon.

5. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy - Pride & Prejudice. Yes, obvious, but I like Elizabeth, so shut up.

6. Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler - Gone With the Wind. Oh Scarlett, can't you see Rhett loves you, not that drippy Ashley? Luckily all's well that ends well, if you believe Scarlett and wait until Rhett is practically ninety or something.

7. Spike and Buffy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He loved her so much he got a soul! Unlike Angel who had to have one forced on him, and still can't keep hold of it for more than about five seconds. Also, much better chemistry.

8. Katherine and Vincent, Beauty and the Beast. He comes from a secret world far below the city streets! She, er, something about her world, a world apart from his. They cannot be together (because he looks like a lion?) but they will never, ever be apart!

9. Jo March and Laurie Lawrence, Little Women. I don't know what Louisa Alcott was thinking pairing Laurie with Amy in the end. It just results in a union of unbearable smugness - and Bess.

10. Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. I can't believe I forgot them. I love Harriet. And they are proof that you can still be an interesting couple once married, although admittedly only just so.

[edited to get rid of Lois/ Clark - peter and Harriet are much sexier]

And two that nearly made it but I thought were a bit obscure, also I can't remember the names: Girl and Sorry (?) in The Changeover (they are telepathic!); Girl and Robot in Silver Metal Lover (good to have obstacles in the path of true love, and what better obstacle than one of you being a robot?).

I'm sure there are loads I like better then these, especially Little Women and Superman, but I can't think of them right now.

Friday, 9 October 2009

JK Rowling and Thomas the Tank Engine: a literary partnership

Now, JK Rowling's literary borrowings from various sources are obvious in many ways - the structure of school series like St Clares, with each book having the "lacrosse/ Quidditch game" the "new teachers" and so on; shades of the Worst Witch and Wizard of Earthsea etc. Nothing wrong with that.

But I think I have unearthed a new and previously undiscovered source of Rowling's creativity - Thomas the Tank Engine. Can it be a coincidence that on the back of the Thomas books which list all the other titles in the series, Arthur ( a red train) is next to Molly (a yellow train), reflected in Rowling's choice of Arthur and Molly Weasley as the names of Ron's Mum and Dad?

Not only that but other titles include: Percy (Ron's brother); George (Ron's brother); Freddie (kind of Ron's brother if you lose the ie); and Bill and Ben (Bill is Ron's brother). The only Weasley family members not represented by trains are Ginny and Charlie. What can this mean? I feel a PhD coming on.

PS Don't start telling me that both the Rev Awdry and successors and JK tended to pick traditional British boys names and there's not that many of them - I shall just put my fingers in my ears and hum.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Radio gaga

I was on the radio this morning. BBC West Midlands, for some reason. So all the good people of Birmingham and surrounding area got to hear my thoughts on how young people get a negative press. In fact many probably woke up to them, since I was on just after the 7am news. Sorry about that, if you were one (although why you'd be reading my blog I don't know).

Have to say the host Phil Upton sounded absolutely fascinated by what I had to say (not). "Thanks for that HackneyHackette...now Afghanistan!" Or something.

Thought I might have to hide small boy in a closet but

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

It's me, I'm Cathy, I've come home

I really wanted to like ITV's adaptation of Wuthering Heights, but it was pants. I have no idea what was going on at the end and I have read the book. Unless it was mentioned in the first five minutes which I missed, nothing was said of what happened to Isabella, who presumably died; Heathcliff seemed to be auditioning for the part of Snape in Harry Potter and was not at all sexy (in fact if he had been Snape in Harry Potter, or at least Alan Rickman's version, he would have been sexier); no-one appeared to age at all apart from in a big leap from child to adult (couldn't they at least have greyed Heathcliff's hair?) .

Worst of all I thought there was absolutely zero chemistry between Cathy and Heathcliff. When they said "my love" it sounded like they were saying "cup of tea" or "bus-stop". Despite snogging the faces off each other I just wasn't feeling the spark, and that's what the whole book is about. Without it Cathy is just a spoilt child and Heathcliff is a brute, and that's about what they were.

I want to re-read the book now, though.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Confusing cousins in kidlit

Having just "read" (skipped through) What Katy Did Next, just after "reading" What Katy Did and What Katy Did at School, I can reveal in a nitpicky style that "Cousin Olivia/ Mrs Page" morphs from being Katy's mamma's cousin:

"Mrs. Page was your dear mother's second cousin; and at one time she lived in your grandfather's family, and was like a sister to mamma and Uncle Charles."

to Dr Carr's cousin:

"But we must treat her politely, you know, Lilly; her father is my cousin."

Susan Coolidge, this is carelessness! And what is it with children's authors that they have such problems keeping up with cousins? Enid Blyton has the same issue - George, Anne, Dick and Julian are all called Kirrin, so we must assume that their fathers are brothers. But then Kirrin Cottage, Kirrin Island etc are said to have belonged to Aunt Fanny's family. Was she also called Kirrin before she got married? I don't think Enid was paying attention.

The other thing that annoys me about the Katy books is that Clover's hair starts out straight but by the time she is 18 it has turned wavy. I wouldn't mind, but they make such a big deal about it being straight:

Clover's thick, straight locks required to be pinched hard before they would give even the least twirl, and to her, Saturday night was one of misery... In consequence of these sufferings Clover hated curls, and when she "made up" stories for the younger children, they always commenced: "The hair of the beautiful princess was as straight as a yard-stick, and she never did it up in papers--never!"

Then in WKDN: Her thick, brown hair waved and coiled gracefully about her head.

I should be deported immediately

I have failed the UK Citizenship test with a score of 50 per cent.

I expect the knock on the door tonight.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

No-one wants to see two hot actors making out, apparently - must be why Brokeback Mountain did so badly

I can't help feeling the new Sherlock Holmes film will be dreadful, directed as it is by Guy Ritchie. This makes me sad.

On the other hand, I do like this. And I love this quote from a film critic that Fox News dragged out to put some kind of homophobic angle on it all. "Who is going to want to see Downey Jr. and Law make out? I don't think it would be appealing to women."

How little you know women. Although I could wish Watson was someone other than Jude Law.

Surely now it is just moments before someone dramatises top romance My Dearest Holmes, or even better the fanfic that has the excellent line: "Watson, not only have I been dreaming for years of doing things to you that would shock your conscience, turn your stomach, and outrage your medical sensibilities, I have for the past month been paying a male prostitute to impersonate you while I do them to him."

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Gullbert and Gullian

We have two baby seagulls living on the roof of the house opposite. They peek out every now and then and make a noise like we live by the sea. It's very disconcerting to wake up to the cry of the seagulls when the nearest beach is probably 100 miles away.

Gullbert (or Gullian) is currently going a bit nutsoid flapping his wings and trying to launch himself off the roof, so I shouldn't think they'll be with us much longer.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

People of the Book

People of the Book People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I don't know why people compare this to The Da Vinci Code, I think it's a lot more like The Love of Stones by Tobias Hill, which similarly takes an object and traces its story. I think the main difference from The.. let's just call it Code... is that Code implies that while the past is a mystery, if you have the right clues you can find out what really happened, whereas People of the Book shows that the past cannot be known - the main character can guess at some things but only the reader knows what the clues really signify.

I realy liked the book, although the violence was a bit harrowing. And it was a bit depressing, showing violence caused by religion happenign again and again over the years, right up to the present day. I especially liked the last section with the girl who did the illustrations.

It was a bit of a massive coincidence the way the book came to light again though.

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Perhaps the worst book I have ever read

What Dreams May Come What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson

My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I know writing about heaven/ utopia is much more difficult than writing about hell/ dystopia, but really, this is the most Daily Mail, banal, bathetic version of heaven I have ever come across.

Detailed description of how great the furniture is in the after-life? Come on. Hell was a lot more interesting but by that time the damage was done. Basically when you are in heaven you hang out in a really nice house and go to some lectures. It also really, really irked me in the preface where the author basically says "this is all true apart from the characters". You cannot possibly know that unless you have died already.
And how come the narrator's dog was with him in heaven? Are all animals there or just the ones that are lucky enough to be liked by a human? Where were all the scorpions and spiders?

I can barely describe how cross this book made me. I can't believe it's the same guy who wrote I Am Legend.

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Monday, 20 July 2009

You Have Been Watching

Spent Sunday evening sitting on an uncomfortable chair at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith at the filming of You Have Been Watching.

I now have a weird crush on Charlie Brooker, but definitely not on Frankie Boyle, (the only guest I recognised) who (whom?) I think is funnier edited.

There were a lot of very lame giraffe jokes. I don't know how may will make it to the final cut. I mean rubbish jokes, not jokes about lame giraffes although there may have been some.

I thought I saw Oliver Burkeman, who I remember from Cambridge, next to us in the queue but since I'm pretty sure I have mild face blindness, not great for a journalist, I didn't say hi, in case it was not him but someone vaguely famous who I didn't really know.

Thursday, 9 July 2009


Do you think John Barrowman has a contract with Torchwood that says at least one character must say something like "God, that Captain Jack's good-looking isn't he?" at least once an episode? It must be a brilliant ego boost playing Jack Harkness.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

"In a strange, wild frenzy he has fled the ship's bridge"

Last night lovely school friend came round, which is a nice thing in itself, but she brought with her the gift of Star Trek. Specifically, she has shelled out about £3 on eBay for two episodes (City on the Edge of Forever and Trouble with Tribbles) and a documentary stunningly packaged in an oh so realistic “tricorder”. God I love that show. Having not seen an episode for years, I was ready to cringe through them, but no, although we were chuckling along a lot of the chuckles were meant to be there (a lot weren’t – but I like to think they were friendly chuckles. Yes, Star Trek, we’re laughing at you not with you but you’re just so cute! It’s like laughing at a toddler’s funny antics!).

And its not all laughs, I did find I was still interested in the characters and stories too. Why is Star Trek so loved, mused the Shatner on the documentary, and decided “mythology”, and “characters” which is exactly what I was thinking. Kirk=Ulysses, tricking his away around the galaxy. And ripping his shirt a lot to show his manly chest.

It is amazing how everyone, from the actors to the director and the guy who does the music seems to think they are on a stage in a theatre rather than on TV though. It’s like they are making a show for people who are sitting about 20m away from the TV so all gestures, music etc has to be emphasised to the factor of 20. All the scenes are blocked like they are in the theatre, and they actually have scenes, and acts. It’s a strange experience when we are used to more naturalistic acting, faster and more fluid cuts, and incidental music that you don’t even notice.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Summer fashion

I know it's a cliche, but the Brits really can't do summer workwear. On the way to work this morning on the Tube I noticed a number of "looks" being "rocked", few of which were both pleasing and appropriate.

The Scruff (boys): plain shorts and crumpled shirt for those making a bit of an effort, shorts and manky T-shirt for those who really don't care

"I haven't invested in a new summer wardrobe/ acknowledged the fact that I have gone up a dress size since last year" (girls): Very tight skirts or straining sleeveless dresses.

"I do not acknowledge changing seasons"/ "I work in an Artic air-conditioned office": No concession made to the fact it is not winter apart from no coat - suited and booted for the lads, black suits and opaque tights for the girls.

"I am going to the beach" - Revealing/ floaty summer dresses (girls), garish shorts and T-shirt (boys)

"I am thrown into a massive quandary by the hot weather and must put together an outfit based on random items from my wardrobe"/ "We have had more than two hot days in a row so all my summer clothes are now in the wash apart from these weird things" - I really can't describe these outfits, they are just strange. Examples include odd fitted black tuxedo style waistcoat with sides cut out that pushes out wearer's cleavage, and ...actually I was so taken aback by that I can't remember the others.

Since you ask, I am sporting a long dress-type top over jeans. Not really workwear at all, so I would add myself to the list of people who can't dress for summer.

It's in the stars

Am I the only person who as well as reading my own horoscsope reads that for the baby I would have if I got pregnant this month, or rather the sperm and egg that it currently may be?

Today's for example, in the Western Mail: "Let people come to you, Taurus. Quite a few potential paramours can be circulating, but don't be too influenced by someone's apparent genorosity. This is a time to keep your options open."

OK, it's just me.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Islands in the road, that is what we are

For several evenings last week a young woman (not always the same one) sat on the traffic island at the corner of Navarino Road and Wilton Way. She had with her a mat and, I think, a book, and sat there for a few hours at a time. What on earth was she doing? Anyone know?

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Tube strikes are no fun

You know, I'm a big fan of unions. And industrial action. "Go unions!" I say, while humming Billy Bragg songs. "Workers unite!"

But even I think the tube drivers are taking the p. And its all very well Boris purportedly laying on extra bike racks, but I'm not cycling from Hackney to Hammersmith. Even if I hadn't given my bike away on freecycle to make room in the hall for a Bugaboo. I got the overland, and at Willesden Junction there was such a scuffle to get on the 8.20 to Clapham that some poor woman lost her shoe down the sizeable gap between the train and the platform. I think she must have got on the train anyway, as I didn't see her retreive it - she must have hopped to work.

In other, completely unrelated news, I was trying to teach small boy about spelling. "What starts with m?" I enthused. "Mmmm...milk! Mmmm...meat! Mmmm...mummy! What else?" He thought. "Mmmm..daddy!"

I think we'll revisit spelling later.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Slow news day in Yorkshire

We get the papers every day in the office and I always agitate for the Western Mail and the Yorkshire Post. No-one can understand this, but I always say I already know what the national news is from Metro - if it's not in Metro, it's not news in my opinion.

Today the Western Mail had a full page on Charlotte Church's great grandmother, taken from the latest census to be released (I assume it's the latest and there is at least a sliver of news there). And the Yorkshire Post had a "news story" about how the next series of Ashes to Ashes would "reveal all". My first thought was: I'm sorry, but how is this news, or indeed related to Yorkshire? My second thought was, ooh.

I'm so sad.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Alternate universe or time travel? big fat spoilers for the Star Trek film

Me and lovely schoolfriend went to see the new Star Trek film at the Leicester Square Empire last night (after a brief and mistaken foray into the casino. "A casino! A cinema! Countless possibilities!" the advert said, but I count two.)

I loved it - the crew were better looking, sexier versions while still retaining the essence of themselves, and hello, Chris Pine, thanks for making me remember why Captain Kirk was always my favourite character, something that got a bit hidden over the years under tubbiness and toupees. And your man from Heroes was brilliant - almost more Spock than Spock without doing an impression of Leonard Nimoy.

Apart from that rather shallow summing up, I was interested in what they did with the whole alternate universe thing (although it was a bit rammed home "So, we're now in an alternate universe? You mean, we're kind of living lives that we wouldn't have lived before? Our lives are going off in a different direction you mean?").

Clearly it was something that had to be done, as otherwise there's no dramatic tension - we know they all survive, even relatively minor characters like Captain Pike, we know earth is safe, we know Vulcan won't blow up...oh, hang on. At that point, I thought the writers were going to go down the "time travel/ reset" route, as in that episode of Dr Who where everone is enslaved by the Master for a year and then, er, isn't, or when Superman rescued Lois Lane by pushing the earth backwards (which led my Dad to ponder "but how can he breathe in space?". Well, Dad, how can he fly?)

But as the film progressed the emotional investment we had in the characters as they were began to outweigh the emotional investment we had in "returning" to the proper Star Trek universe, and a "reset" would have been emotionally unsatisfying as we'd have lost the characters we had come to know. So they stuck with it. And now they can redo the whole five year mission if they want to, cos it could all be different.

Some bullet points:
  • Not sure about the Spock/ Uhura thing although it was quite sweet and funny, and I suppose his Dad had basically given him permission.
  • The all-new, all-lovin' Spock kind of doesn't really have the interesting internal struggle between emotion and logic anymore which might make things difficult in potential sequels, but then I suppose he has the angst of having his planet blown up and his mum killed.
  • Dr McCoy was like Alan Alda with a massive hangover, but I still liked him.
  • As lovely schoolfriend said, the Romulans are the worst marooners in the universe - who maroons someone on a planet where a StarFleet base is 14 km away? And if old!Spock could see Vulcan blowing up from where he was, wouldn't that do very bad things to the planet he was on?
  • It was so obvious Jim would appear at the end in his gold shirt but very satisfying anyway.
  • What on earth was MumofJim doing on a starship in the first place?
  • I seem to remember Jim's mum is called Winona - and Winona Ryder was playing Spock's mum. Ha.
Well, that was long.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Helicopter frenzy

I was just gazing out of the office window and saw 15 or so helicopters in close formation flying in a circle a few miles away. The office conclusion is there's some kind of naval celebration happening. I wouldn't want to be up in a plane right now though and suddenly see 15 helicopters scrambling around me.

They look really cool.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Swine flu

I don't understand why we are supposed to be so scared. I haven't read anything that says swine flu is any worse than any other kind of flu in terms of virulence and deadliness. Some people have died who had it, but they may well have died because they had other illnesses as well.

Of course these words may come back to bite me when Survivors comes true and we are all dead or getting hanged as looters.

Monday, 27 April 2009

The coolest postcode in London

Is E8 , apparently, my very own hood. Oh yes, "wander around at 11pm and the feeling is not dissimilar to being in the lower east side of Manhattan at its mid-90s peak." Not sure what Manhattan was like in its mid-90s peak; although I was there briefly at that time I spent much of the time trying to get a/ a car and b/ plane tickets to San Francisco.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

I have just received this email:

Dear Hackney Hackette (well, obviously it addressed me by my actual name)

Where will you be in four weeks?

Well, I'm not sure, but I'm guessing Hackney. Maybe at work, or down at the Mus of Ch or London Fields, or the City Farm perhaps...why?

We suggest joining your peers and other digital printing industry leaders who will be exploring new business opportunities, technology developments and emerging profitable applications at IMI’s 12th Toner & Toner Chemicals Conference on May 4-6, 2009 and 2nd Digital Printing Presses – The Next Era Conference on May 6-8, 2009 at the Crowne Plaza San Marcos Resort in Chandler (Phoenix), Arizona.

Whoa, slow down a minute matey. If you'd said "your peers and other distracted working mums" I might have flown with you, but I'm not sure I can count any "digital printing industry leaders" among my peers.

In these difficult times, are you taking advantage of new and developing opportunities as the world goes digital and toner-based systems compete with other technologies for market share?

No, no I'm not. I feel bad about it, but what can I do?

Please forward this email to interested colleagues and contacts and inform your associates of these unique and exciting programs.

I will do better than that. I will include it in my blog.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Words words words

Do you ever find out that you have been saying a word wrong all your life? When I was at school (primary I think although it may have been secondary) we used to call the Portakabin-style classrooms "demantables". I have always, in my head, called them demantables, although never spoken it aloud since school I don't think. I never had any idea why we called them that or what the word meant.

Today I needed to use the word in print, Googled it to check the spelling, and found that we had actually been mangling the word "demountable" in our Essex accent. Are there any other words I have been saying wrong for 30-odd years I wonder?

My personal favourite is my lovely friend's belief that there were two words - misled, pronouced mis-led, which she only ever heard, and misled, pronounced myselled (kind of), which she only ever saw written down. "My lord, you have myselled me!" Much like I thought there were two different states, pronounced Ah Kansas and Arkensaw.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

How exciting. I am on Google Street View! Go me!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Books that changed my life

I can’t say that many books have actually affected me in obvious ways, although everything you read adds to who you are in some way. That’s why it’s slightly worrying I still buy Heat every Tuesday. But these books did.

1. Thank you, school library, for bringing me into contact with Children of the Dust aged 11 and thus initiating decades of nuclear nightmares and waking paranoia. Thanks to this book, which I could never read again but used to sidle up to every so often and peek inside, I had to have the radio or TV on whenever I was alone in the house in case a nuclear war had broken out, I had a fun topic for anxiety dreams for the rest of my life where I was trapped with loved ones in a radiation ravaged front room watching everyone die, and I firmly believed for many years that every plane that went overhead could be the one that was about to unleash its payload of nuclear hell on the UK. Having slightly more understanding of the general political situation of the time may have helped, but then again, it may not have done.

2. The Making of Star Trek. I must have quite liked Star Trek already otherwise why would I have picked up this dog-eared American paperback at a Clacton fete? But the book itself was the catalyst for a growing obsession which give me a lot of fun during my teenage years, until the X-Files came along. The black and white photos also made me believe that William Shatner was fanciable, an idea which persisted strangely against all other evidence.

3. What Mothers Do Especially when it looks like nothing. Thank you so much (this is a real thank you not like my sarky thank you in point 1) to ATypicalEssexGirl for buying me this as it arrived through the post like an angel of light at a time when the “mum instruction books” I had invested in before the birth of my little boy were causing me to weep stormily and feel hopelessly inadequate. This book made me cry in a happier way as I recognised at last that I was the mum the author was talking about, and that I was doing the right thing after all, and the boy wasn’t some kind of freak baby who wasn’t doing what he was supposed to be doing. The NHS should prescribe this book to all new mums as they leave hospital.

Thursday, 19 March 2009


It amuses me that two other bloggers have "Britney Spears (what?)" listed in their favourite music.

That is all.

Doctor Who goes mad in Kirrin

I tell you who would make a brilliant companion for the Doctor on his time travels (not really, obviously, as it would involve some pretty intense universe merging, but in the world of my mind). George from the Famous Five. She's already used to being regularly kidnapped, her dad's a mad scientist anyway so that won't come as a shock and I am sure she could battle aliens with the same panache she brought to combatting crime in Dorset. The downside is she'd probably want to bring Timmy the dog along, but there is precedent for a canine in the Tardis.

Why can't this happen? Someone write it immediately.

She could be the new Susan! But with less screaming. And more wanting to be a boy.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Thank you Hackney/Tower Hamlets village

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Or something like that. I was thinking that the village that is kindly helping HackneyHack and myself raise our small child is:

Obviously the nursery that looks after the boy three days a week and his lovely key worker

Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood.
It's free (suggested donation)! It has a great cafe with loads of buggy room, sensory area, sandpit, Lego, doll's house, loads of room for toddlers to bomb about madly and did I mention the cafe? And it's open every day of the week!

Hackney City Farm. Animals! An even better cafe! Also free (until you feel too guilty).

Lovely Stefanie at Piccolo, Hackney Forge. Not free, but worth every pound.

The excellent man who runs the baby gym at the Collingwood Centre (free!). Can't hold a tune to save his life but very welcoming. And the stay and play ladies.

Ann Tayler Centre's (free! apart from suggested donation for fruit) stay and play.

The Victoria Park One o'Clock Club ladies - don't use it often but nice to know it's there (and free!)

The Victoria Park pavilion and the Wild Cherry cafe, no-one cares if you breast feed.

Emily and the other physiotherapist whose name I have forgotten at the Royal London postnatal pilates course (which takes place in the amputees gym, cheerily).

And all within walking distance! Not to mention the parks. I shall miss all this if we ever move out of Hackney. Won't miss the health visitors and GPs, mind.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Squirrels, Sherlock and the apocalypse

H'mm, well, I haven't written for ages as I have been tied up in creating my official work blog. But there are some things you just can't post there. Like this, for example.

A good friend of mine once confessed that as she took her daily walk through the park to the tube, the main thing on her mind was what would happen if squirrels ganged up and turned feral, and how people would have to wear anti squirrel wire mesh helmets and squirrel proof clothing. In honour of that here are the top three places my mind goes to in similar situations.

1. If Sherlock Holmes was brought forward in time to the 21st century, would he still be a brilliant detective or would he despair because all of the things he had spent so much time learning, such as the particular type of mud in Battersea, were pretty much irrelevant?

2. If I was to go back in time to the Elizabethan era armed with a goodly supply of some modern delicacy such as Lemsip or chocolate, would I be feted or burned as a witch? (Usually I think the latter).

3. Come the apocalypse what's the best way of getting out of London and where should I head? This is now complicated by having to pick small child up from nursery on the way.

Well, I'm glad I got that out of my system.