Of Friends, Visitors, Christmas and Time Passing

At first I thought they were leaves, but a nano second later realised I was looking at some rather fab fungi. Janh may be able to identify them, as she did the ones I snapped in Greece last year. I’m hoping so anyway.

Fungi, not leaves

Fungi, not leaves

I took that picture this morning, in the rain. Some people think it rains all the time here in London. It doesn’t. And usually when it does it’s like today, drizzly rather than lashing.

I am just back from a very enjoyable evening with Octavia, one of our frequent Sunday evening meals. The Grey Ninja was as beautiful as ever, and Octavia’s hall is newly painted a gorgeous pale olive green.

Last night I met up with Sophie Scott and her chap. We ate in a local Italian restaurant, and then repaired to the ice cream parlour for pudding. It’s been open for about eighteen months and I had never set foot in it. In summer, with the doors open, the smell of sugar caramelises the air on the pavement outside. The decor, black and Brighton rock pink, repulses me. But my hazelnut and pistachio ice cream was to die for. I may have to hold silver coins and crucifixes when I go by in future. Then we came back to the flat. Sophie was confident of a welcome from MasterB which he duly supplied before demanding Outside Time.

Lovely Neighbour Aeftheld dropped in on Friday night on a visit to London. She was worried MasterB might have forgotten her. She met me outside as I arrived home from work. When I unlocked the door, Himself came out, and all but ignoring me, let her know she was not only remembered, but that he was delighted to see her. Ahh.

She has her own cat now, a youngster of less than twelve months called Pippin. Although she wanted a MasterB calendar for next year, I reckon there will be Pippin calendars by 2017. Much to my delight, Aeftheld departed with varous toys MasterB has outgrown, cook books I have culled from my shelves, a rolling pin that was Mother’s that I hardly ever use, and that most essential of kitchen items, an egg coddler.

I was so pleased she wanted them, and that these things woud be going to a home where they would be used and appreciated.

Octavia had already received her first Christmas card. I haven’t written one, but I shall admit to enjoying the sight of the Christmas trees around London. It’s hard to believe that another year is almost at an end. I can remember back so many decades now. Am I really so old already?


Had it not been for the news from a Mali, I’d have said it has been a pretty good day. Domestic, but good. Even before I was out of my pyjamas, MasterB and I were glued – metaphorically of course; I would never be that cruel to my cat and masochism holds no attractions for me – to the bedroom window.

Here’s why:

And all at the same time in the same tree. I know a lot of people don’t like crows, but I do. The way they swagger; their loud communal living; their curiosity. I prefer black crows to magpies, whose glossy plumage makes them look like self-satisfied bankers, not a look that appeals to me greatly, but never mind that.

A couple of weeks ago, I thought I saw a flash of green feathers above the garden, but this morning was my first proof that parakeets have colonised this patch of south east London.

It was the squirrel that caught my attention first of all, mainly because although I see squirrels fairly frequently, by which I mean every day, in the garden, and they give MasterB a very good work out, this is the first time I have seen one in the tree on the same level of my window.

MasterB chattered, and I grabbed my camera.

Watching the news about Mali, I was struck by what a beautiful country it seems. I know the news item wasn’t supposed to be a travelogue, and reservations for holidays in Mali are likely to fall, which seems a pity and a success for the terrorists. Apparently ticket sales for music events in Paris have droppped by eighty per cent.

My love affair with the dishwasher continues. My storage jars are slowly taking their turns and reappearing in the cupboards all shiny and lovely.

But the big moment today was rediscovering the sitting room floor from under all the boxes and crap that was in my old kitchen. I dusted polished and vacuumed. By the end the room was clean and I was filthy. I got so carried away I even washed the sofa covers which dried in the stiff breeze outside and were back in place by teatime. There’s still all the other crap, but that’s another story.

Oh and I have a very cool Joseph Joseph sink protector, soon to be joined by an equally cool Joseph Joseph Flume drainer mat. These are helping me to come to terms with the fact that modern sinks are too woossy to be used au naturel, though I still find it very odd.

It’s been really mild, and I am warm and cosy tonight but everyone says it’s going it be very cold tomorrow, so I am going to put the heating on at last. You might wonder why I don’t wait until morning, but I have storage heaters, and the downside of this otherwise effective form of heating is that you have to be proactive about the weather.

In Praise of Good Telly

Downton Abbey? You can keep it; Eastenders in posh frocks. Coronation Street? Never watched it, though Ena Sharples was a well known name in my primary school playground. Holby City? Phuh.

I am not the greatest television watcher, mostly because I have a very small television that makes it less of a relaxing pastime and more of one where you have to stand up and close to the screen so as to see what is going on. And I write as someone who only has myopia in one eye.

But every now and then I am gripped by a series. Wolf Hall earlier this year hardly counts as it was a transcendental adaptation of two transcendental novels. Anyway, I saw most of it on Celia and Charlie’s proper sized television. For a series, other than things like Paul O’Grady’s For the Love of Dogs to which I am completely addicted, to get my full attention it has to be pretty good. Or the Olympics.

Short silence while I relive the joy of standing a foot (31cm to my metric readers) from the television screen while Mo Farah, Jess Ennis, Hannah Cockroft and David Weir did their stuff while I shouted encouragement to their unhearing ears.

Back in 1996, quite by chance I caught the first episode of This Life. I was gripped. Immediately. I spoke about it to everyone I knew. No, no one else had seen it. Zero interest. So it was with a degree of cynicism some weeks later when This Life had become an unmissable televisual event in the circles in which I swim that I listened to those same people swearing that they had been into the programme from the word Go!

Today, out and about in London, where mid-afternoon I got drenched in the unforecast heavy rain shower, I noted several unmarked police cars flashing those distinctive blue lights, and racing along the streets. I don’t know what they were doing, and tonight’s Channel 4 News didn’t help. Somehow I think it’s probably connected to our understandable nervousness following events in Paris both on Friday and today. Continue reading

Dishing the Dirt

I don’t know what I expected. Certainly, a dishwasher wasn’t my top priority when I began to think about a new kitchen. Maybe the novelty will wear off, but at the moment I am loving it. Super clean glass jars; MasterB’s Catcher cleaner than it has been since I bought it; gleaming saucepan lids; the rotation of plates, mugs, glasses; the full size cafetière that I hardly ever use these days is living in the dishwasher in the hope that the ingrained coffee stains will lessen and it can be passed onto a charity shop.

Celia came round to help and advise me the first time I used the dishwasher. She was completely au fait with the vocabulary which had left me adrift. I had been to the shop and bought the tablets, the freshener and the rinse aid. How to use them was a mystery.
Continue reading

After Paris

From my windows I can see the London Eye lit up in the stripes of the French tricolore, as it was last night.

Tricolore Eye

Tricolore Eye

I am shocked and saddened by what happened in Paris on Friday night. I haven’t listened to the radio today, watched the television or read news updates online, so I hope that there have been no more bloody incidents.

On Friday night watching the news, I listened disbelievingly as a member of the US military said that the death of Mohammed Emwazi would be a blow to ISIS. From all accounts Emwazi was a sad and rather pathetic creature. He lacked self-esteem, was teased at school for having bad breath and all footage of him in his teenage years shows him covering his mouth with his hands or a convenient piece of clothing. In other words, a perfect candidate to be groomed by people who would exploit his neediness. As Jihadi John, the knife wielding horseless man of the apocalypse, he inspired a fearful respect; a seemingly pitiless executioner, he was also a victim. Sadly, ISIS probably has already filled his shoes with some other recruit desperate to be regarded as important. Who mourns Emwazi? His family, one hopes, but probably no one else.

James Foley’s mother, interviewed when the news broke, expressed no joy at his death. Others have voiced concerns at this extra-judicial killing. True it would be have been hard to have arrested him and tried him at the Old Bailey, but this year we have been celebrating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, which is all about the rule of law. We do not have the death penalty in this country, so this deliberate hunting down and killing appears doubly illegal.

I think it also plays into the terrorists’ hands. Our morals are shown to be elastic. ISIS, like fundamentalists of other religions, operates in a black and white world. Its members believe they, and only they, are right; they have read and understood the Qu’ran. To the end of hastening the end of the world and killing all who are not true believers, the slaughter of people out to enjoy an evening in Paris at a football match, a restaurant or a rock concert, is all part of a just cause.

It’s not just ISIS, or even fundamentalists, who use religious texts to justify violence or bigotry. How many times have you heard Leviticus cited by those who oppose gay rights? And how often have women been told that the Bible makes clear they are subordinate to men? In the Old Testament women are even denied souls. Mother had a very annoying habit of ending family arguments with a biblical quotation. Continue reading

Some of Those Little Things

There is still a shocking amount of kitchen stuff in the sitting room; mostly cleaning materials, some of which I inherited from Mother; some almost ancient history; things forgotten and duplicated down the years.

Not a care in the world

Not a care in the world

How come I have so much black shoe polish? Do I even have any black shoes these days? Well yes, one pair, worn rarely and polished once a year if they are lucky.

Not quite the stuff I can put on e-bay.

My measuring jug collection is pretty impressive too. And if anyone needs some toaster bags, I’m your woman.

But anyway, now for some pictures. Continue reading

It’s the Little Things

It’s all over bar the snagging. And I am very pleased with it.

It seems a long way from that first discussion with the planner. I didn’t have clear ideas of what I wanted then. It took a while for things to come together; the combination of colours in the doors, the walls and the floor.

Aesthetically it’s pleasing. I love some of the details; the new powerpoints with their USB options; the shiny knobs on the doors and drawers; the hidden LED lights under the cupboards.

I like the buttery creaminess of the wall tiles; the seascapes I see in the floor tiles. I have loved watching MasterB exploring at the end of each day; dancing over setting tiles where I was not allowed to tread; climbing through half assembled units. He lives here too; this is our home, and it is nice to see him taking an interest. Continue reading


At the start of the week, MasterB being a day boy with the nice neighbours and therefore not stressed by the fitter and his team, my main concern was to do with meals; I can boil a kettle, at a push I could make toast, but that's about it. The kettle bit is important as I want my coffee first thing.


However, three days in, proper meals are low on my list, though thanks to Celia's generosity, they are achievable in her kitchen. It's dust that is driving me mad. I feel dirty all the time. I can feel it in a layer over my skin. It's in my hair. It's in the air. I have been fairly assiduously vacuuming the shared landing space, but not my own home. That changed tonight. Henry Hoover came out of the cupboard and went to work. Continue reading


I had lunch around five o’clock, courtesy of Celia who has furnished me with keys to her flat and given me the run of the kitchen.

The fitters arrived twenty heartstopping minutes late; traffic. I asked Danny to text me if they are delayed again. My nerves won’t take this. Mother was an inveterate worrier, a champion worrier, a worrier of awe-inspiring breadth and depth. Had there been an Olympic sport in worrying she would have brought home gold time and time again. I don’t think I’m in her league, at least I sincerely hope I am not, but something of her dedicating worrying seems to have rubbed off, and comes to light at times like these.

So once the fitters, Danny and his brother Nico, had arrived, I turned my worrying energy in the direction of the floor tiles; would they arrive early enough for Danny and Nico to lay them today? had the driver got Danny’s number if I was out?

Then when those two worries were allayed, I went onto tomorrow’s delivery. Then I had to put that worry aside when Danny pointed out, a trifle sourly I thought, that there was only one bag of tile adhesive. I had ordered two. A phone call to the suppliers (Tile Giant in case you’re interested) resulted in them admitting the fault but saying they couldn’t get another bag to us before tomorrow.

I am so glad I decided to take these days off and loiter while the work is being done. I made a mercy dash to the branch on the Old Kent Road – yes that’s the cheapest property on the London version of Monopoly and in my ‘hood’ as chaps and chapesses say these days – and brought home the goods. Thank goodness I am not living in the west coast of Scotland. On the other hand, if I were, I should probably be living in a larger property where I could have stored everything and so had the tiles, adhesive and grout delivered some days in advance of the project. Continue reading