Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Tube nightmare

Very shocking event at Warren Street tube at lunchtime. I was heading down the escalator as an elderly indian-looking couple got onto the up escalator. The husband was immediately in trouble - like he'd never been on an escalator before. Thinking back I reckon he was trying to hang on to the metai, stationary bit rather than the moving handrail. He kept stumbling and eventually fell over, followed by his wife.

By this stage i was at the bottom, so I dashed up to help. I was shocked to see this octogenarian lady sprawled on the steps with her feet uphill, as it were, flailing about in great distress. I managed to support her as another man came down the escalator to help the husband. I shouted for someone to hit the button, which thankfully they did, then we managed to manhandle the lady onto her feet. At that point other people (relatives??) came to whisk them away. I was really shocked by the look of dispair on the lady's face. It was oddly as though she wanted the horror of the situation to be acnowledged more than she wanted to be helped. She even showed me her hand which was smeared with a bit of blood whilst I was heaving her up to sitting. Very unsettling.

... and then a bit silly as I slowly made my way back down the stationary up escalator, only to speed up markedly as I realised they could switch the power back on any second...


A lady on the King's Road talking on her mobile: "yes, then you get off at the stop after, by the Town Hall ... Chelsea Town Hall. WHERE WE GOT MARRIED...

Monday, 26 November 2007

Collected Sayings

It's probably futile to record your child's endearing or (unintentionally) humorous utterances, because, like a recounted dream, they are almost guaranteed to underwhelm, or in extreme cases nauseate, your audience. I know this because D is forever "regaling" me with genuis sayings of his two kids, and if he can't achieve a better than 50/50 hit-rate armed as he is with natural storytelling ability and a right pair of nutters for offspring, then there's little hope for the rest of us.

But then what the hell is the point of a blog if not to indulge yourself? B made me grin in the bath tonight by insisting on shampooing his own hair then looking at his hands and saying "look at the state of ME" (resounding silence from the stalls. I know. But he's only three, and and and it was really funny yeah?). Mum's favourite was when they were playing doctors and he decided he needed to take of her shoes for an examination, then exclaiming with a sort of dissaproving wince and shake of the head "those feet..."

Less funny, but quite striking, was our conversation on the swings where B and I fell to discussing his friends at nursery and what they do when they're annoyed. He pulled an expression of downward curved mouth - "this is what Isabella does when someone has made her cross" - then a furious frown - "this is what Archie does when someone makes him cross". What, I asked him, do you do when someone makes you cross? "Catch them in my web". Course you do.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

And Another Two

1) D's got his dad to help out with the plumbing and wiring on their loft conversion. The old man's very good at DIY and all that, and is retired, living with his second wife, having divorced D's mum after having been together since school. D's always been able to laugh at his dad's divorced-man "lifechanges" such as swapping serious classical music for Celine Dion and - still can't quite believe this - holding his knife like a pen after 50-odd years.

But I don't think he was expecting to walk into the loft and find his dad working away on all fours revealing the top of an electric-blue satin thong. He of course retreated silently without comment. What else can you do? It took me about ten minutes to find a way to phrase my question, but I eventually established that D felt it was his dad's own underwear, as opposed to an item he'd chosen to borrow from the missus.

2) D's also been hiring, lately. He has this opposite neighbour who's a bit of a bad lad, hangs out at rough pubs with blokes called things like Brian the Lion (lots of blond hair, y'see). D asked him if he knew any decent plasterers and he said "yeah, I do, guy called Dave The ... Plasterer". Dave The Plasterer gets the job, despite D's wife commenting that he had an awful lot of tattoos. After he's done a day's work, she comments on it again, suggesting that Dave The Plasterer might even be said to sport
"prison ink" on his arms. D, slightly alarmed, takes it up with his neighbour who's actually delighted that they've given him the job because the poor bloke doesn't get so much work these days since being inside... At this point the penny drops and D, suddenly recalling prior stories from the local villains' pub asks "This Dave The Plasterer that's been in my house with my wife and kids while I'm at work ... he's not by any chance the same bloke as Dave The Murderer, is he?" Oh dear.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Two Stories

1) My colleague P told me of an utterly cringeful moment she had with the security guard in our building. She had arrived at work very early and was unable to get onto our floor using her swipe card. She ended up having to go back down to get the security guard - a quiet bloke who looks like he might be West African. He was fiddling around with the door and she filled the silence with some random chater. Unfortunately she came out with "gosh, I don't know why It's not working. Perhaps I've done something wrong and now God doesn't want to let me in". To her mortification the security guard responded "Ah, nobody speaks of God any more! What church do you go to, Sister?". She stuttered something about being new to London and not really having a regular church (she's not religious at all). But he persisted and she ended up having to admit that she was just speaking flippantly. Ouch.

2) Mum was on a train waiting to depart from Liverpool Street. A world-weary Northern voice comes over the PA - it's the driver, and he's making a rather defeated-sounding announcement. "Ladies and Gentlemen, I regret to inform you that our departure will be delayed by a few minutes". Then, almost immediately after, he comes on again: "Ladies and Gentlemen I've just heard that in fact we're allowed to go. Amazing. First time in twenty four years I've got away on time from Liverpool Street. I feel so proud ... [pause] ... I've got a tear coming." Genius.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Those 25ps add up, you know

A long weekend in Venice with S, to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. Absolute joy. All I'd ever been told about Venice was: touristy, expensive, smells in summer. What I hadn't been told was that it's utterly unlike anywhere else on Earth. It genuinely feels other-worldly. It's not just the canals, it's the buildings. Every single one has decayed to a point of decorative gothicness. Even the boring buildings are atmospheric. Even the nondescript canals are magical. Tiny little details like the stencilled street (alley?) names give it so much texture and character. Bloody loved it.

Some highlights:

A ginger gelatto made with real ginger. Actually hot, like some Fat Duck cullinary experiment (like I'd know).

A side dish of radiccio cooked and sprinkled with oil. We were having lunch on arrival at a neighbourhood bar. Excellent place - our eating companions were builders and boatmen. We felt vey vey authentic.

Frari church with its altar painting by Titian. And another Titian too, which was apparently revolutionary because it dared to place the Virgin Mary off-centre, and made the baby Jesus (or baby Cheeses according to a young relative of mine) alive and playful, tugging at his mother's shawl.

Fabulous Peggy Guggenheim Collection in a beautiful Pallazzo on the Grand Canal. Great Picasso, great Bacon, some very interesting sculptures, scores of gawky British art students manically sketching...

The Biennalle exhibition, featuring Tracy Emin's British pavillion. I have a lot of time for her and was really interested in the neon writings/sketchings. Jenny Holtzer (?) also fascinating - an instalation made of cencored reports of deaths in custody at US military bases in Iraq.

Didn't even mind that we lost the sodding rugby...

Monday, 15 October 2007


L's parents invited us to their beaudiful Camden Town abode to celebrate Joe's naming day on Sunday. He's eight months old, and broadly speaking we all know his name, but I guess the point is to welcome him into the world in a formal way. Suits me fine, actually, to take this sort of thing out of the church's evile graspe and ... do it with canapes. Yay!

To my enormous pride, they asked me to be godfather to Joe (cue interminable semantic jokes and musings about godlessparents, fairy godparents secular christenings etc yawn). Essentially neither parent is religious, neither am I, neither is the godmother. A made a very heartfelt speach about how it was just as important to them despite not being in anyway religious.

I don't really know if I struck the right note or not in my speech - I talked about how I wanted to be a godparent like my own godmother and to take Joe seriously as a person, and to listen to him (when he can talk, of course) rather than necessarily dispense loads of advice and moral guidance. Oh, and a few silly jokes about my Moral Compass building up to giving him a Wisden Almanack, arf arf.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Kings of Lyon

So we went to visit the Noz in Lyon, did Dom and I. We've both been so hectic that we hardly discussed it before we set off for the airport, let alone constructed an itinerary. It hadn't crossed my mind that the Rugby World Cup semi finals were on, and neither of us knew whether our newly-French chum would be into it or not.

Excellently, he was completely into it. We left Ms Noz and Noz junior (gorgeous little boy) at home and we headed off to The Smoking Dog in Lyon Centre Ville. Oddly despite being a "pub" and fairly British in feel, it also felt like a local creation - it was far more eccentric and individual than most British pubs.

I had absolutely no expectations of the match whatsoever, so was absolutely staggered to see Andrew Sheridan and his marvellous colleagues knocking lumps out of the Australians. Bit of a hair issue here - clearly that 'orrible tight-head prop of theirs has the worst hair of the tournament - a mullet so classic it would only meet its match in Hoxton, but our lot are a bit at sea too, I think. Most of the pack seem to be modeling their style on extras in Full Metal Jacket, and I ain't keen.

Half way through the match Noz's excellent friends Benoit and Raphael turned up. They were just brilliant people - funny, friendly, and generally top. Lots of banter and piss-taking, lots of beer too.

Having won. WON! We ambled back to pretend to be sober for a bit and then headed out again for a cracking dinner, followed by the second half of the France match in the bar downstairs. Needless to say the locals were ... ahem ... coq a hoop about it and one of 'em even bought a bottle of champagne and gave us all a glass. Marvellous.

Then, to my astonishment, we went to an nightclub. It's been years. It was fantastic. Tiny, packed little place where all you could buy was lager, in a big jug, with a stack of plastic glasses. Of course the critical thing is to share it out as fast as you can so you can ditch the jug. You're therefore incentivised to keep your chums well topped up.

When we weren't out getting minced and watching sport we hit the food market. Dom's been doing a lot of European travel for work so it had crossed my mind that he might have upgraded his usual "talk loudly in English" policy. I soon found out as Noz and I consulted discretely about the correct way to ask for a particular brie in front of the cheese stall. Dom barged through and, pointing clearly, annunciated "Hello I'll take that piece of brie please" as we stared at him, mildly aghast. The cheese man replied "yes", leading his colleague to comment "huh - bilingual".

We did get some damn fine cheese though, particulary this stuff called Cervelle des Canuts, which was local not just to Lyon but to the hill they lived on. It used to be occupied by silk workers who made this fabulous blend of cottage cheese, herbs, garlic (LOT of garlic) and white wine. Kind of a soft cheese rocket fuel.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Knocked Up

Bloody marvellous film, and a perfect counter-example for anyone who claims Hollywood only mass-produces rubish. Yes there are plenty of silly, smutty lines which you could cite as evidence of immaturity (e.g. our hero in a club having bottled chatting up our heroine, justifying himself to his friend: "Ah, I'll just jack it off later") ... but even these are sharp and delivered fast, almost thrown away, which I find quite classy.

My favourite line wasn't actually a funny one. It was the brother-in-law of our heroine, father of two: "I wish I loved anything in life as much as my kids love bubbles." There were loads of acute observations on parenthood and ... er ... beards, and it was fantastic.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Weekend O'Cricket

En route to drop him at Mum's house, I took B to The Oval for the last day of first class cricket this season for Surrey. I love that he's become familiar with the place and finds it entertaining, from the horses playing cricket (totesport posters) to "the picture of all the mans who come to watch the cricket in the old days" (huge oil painting in the pavilion).

In fairness he's never exactly glued to the on-field action, but we tend to get a good few overs of conversation about what we can see, who's the bowler, who's the umpire etc before the inevitable "can we have some lunch?"

It was a moment of contentment while it lasted, though, sitting in the sunshine in, at B's request, the "B" block of seats (spelling out "Brit Oval") in the OCS, for once not roped off, with the bean sitting on my lap. We watched VVS Laxman stroke a crisp and classy half century (he went on to get a ton) and paid our considerable respects to Mark Ramprakash the day after he made 2,000 runs for the second successive season.

The Mighty 'Rey will need to find a decent seam bowling attack from somewhere if they're going to get anywhere near the championship next year though.