Street of Ghosts

After a month of not posting here, I was planning to write about a wonderful day Celia and I spent in Margate last weekend. The prospect of five years of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, the abandonment of safety nets for vulnerable refugees, the exclusion of Parliament from the final Brexit arrangements, all these combined with the worst cold and cough I have had in years meant I was, and to an extent remain, low in spirits.

But the wonderful day will have to wait.

Today we are a neighbourhood in shock and mourning. An elderly, frail neighbour died in a house fire this morning. Two weeks ago, her neighbour who lived in the property across the road died in her sleep. I can’t say I knew either woman well. The one who died today I would nod hello to, she sometimes nodded back. I had noted her decline over the last few years and knew friends of mine who live next door were supporting her. The manner of her death is the stuff of nightmares. Continue reading

Love London

The new layout at the airport confused me. I could see the shuttle bus I needed to take to the railway station, but not how to get to it. So I wasted several minutes going in the wrong direction and the bus I had seen departed. Fortunately another arrived almost immediately. It was nearly empty, as was the train to London. Until we reached St Pancras. I looked up from my book and saw a sea of faces on the platform. Not all those people boarded the train, but as travelled through Farringdon and City Thameslink stations the train filled up. I got off at Blackfriars and made it to the bus stop just in time to see my bus pull away. Joggers dodged the pedestrians; commuters talked earnestly into mobile phones; the Thames flowed sweetly under the bridge. It was a beautiful evening.
After being the countryside I was struck, as I always am when I return home from less populated areas, by the hustle; the sheer number of people; the energy. I couldn’t decide whether I was pleased to be there or not, though I was increasingly impatient to see MasterB.
He was more interested in going into the garden. Within seconds I realised his pleasure at seeing me was more that I could let him out of the flat and into the big wide world than in an emotional reunion. Ah well, he made up for it later, and this evening. Continue reading

Quite the Party Animal

New Year’s Eve, and all is quiet chez Isobel and Cat. The party goers are either in a different neighbourhood, or haven’t got started yet. I’m not sorry to miss them. It’s been a few years now since I have seen the New Year in. Friends have given up inviting me to join them watching fireworks. I used to like small supper parties that ended shortly after we drained the obligatory glasses of champagne as Big Ben tolled the end of the old year. But even that palled. Maybe one of these years I shall be seized with a longing to be in the midst of a crowd of revellers singing Auld Langs Syne, but not tonight. It’s questionable whether I shall still be awake at midnight, let alone revelling. No, I’m perfectly happy sitting here with the boy, writing a post, and with the promise of the new Kate Atkinson novel to read later.

I was out working today and tonight made a mean bowl of fresh tomato soup, then settled down to catch up with episode one of Les Misérables as adapted by Andrew Davies, the man who put Darcy into a pond and turned Colin Firth into an unlikely sex symbol. Tonight I got a view of Dominic West’s buttocks. Others will have enjoyed that view last night, but I was watching on catch up. I’d read a review in the Guardian online over breakfast. You can read it too if you like, just click here for the link.

The opening shot featured no buttocks at all, but instead Adeel Akthar cheerfully robbing the dead bodies on the battlefield the day after Waterloo.I felt a vicarious thrill of fame, Akthar’s parents-in-law are in our book group. One of the bodies wasn’t dead, he introduced himself as Colonel Pontmercy before once more losing consciousness, and although I have never read Les Mis, seen the film or the musical, I’m willing to bet a fairly hefty sum that the two will meet up again.
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Neighbours and Outsiders

It is often said that London is a series of villages. I’m not sure I buy that, but I would say it’s a series of neighbourhoods. Most people are very aware of and loyal to their neighbourhood. When I came to live in London people would talk about their manor. It’s not a term I’ve heard for a while, so I suspect that those a generation behind me would find it as quaint as I did expressions from the 1950s.

Celia, Octavia and I all live in the same neighbourhood. I couldn’t tell you exactly where our patch begins and ends, but two or three years ago Celia and I were walking in an adjoining neighbourhood when we spotted a notice for a book group. It was behind glass and the worse for wear from condensation. We peered at it, trying to decipher date, location and book. As we did so, a woman approached with a wide, friendly smile. Do join us, she said. We don’t live here, we answered, wary of trespassing on alien territory. We live up the road; we belong to a different tribe. Alright, we didn’t say the last bit, at least I don’t think we did, but I certainly thought it, despite knowing people from this other tribe. That doesn’t matter, said the woman, smile enhanced by a halo of blond curls. You’d be very welcome. Continue reading

Domestic Drama

If my toe continues to change colour I may photograph it. For a horrible couple of hours this morning I thought it was broken. Yesterday afternoon I tripped on a paving stone and stubbed my toe. It was painful, but the pain seemed to subside. When I went to bed I saw it had turned purple. A night’s sleep, and it hurt going up and down the stairs. The whole toe is rather red and the purple patch means I shan’t be carrying out my plan to get my toenails painted after all, but the pain is minimal and I have no problem walking.

Such drama.

More drama over the fruit flies in the compost. There aren’t a huge number and they disperse pretty quickly, but they have become the new pawn in the continuing exertion of control by one of my neighbours who thinks the compost bin should be removed. If anyone reading this has any hot tips on products that discourage the fruit flies, do let me know. The only ones I have seen promise mass extermination. No wonder that I am thinking of braving the rain tomorrow and taking MasterB up to das Boot until Thursday. Wednesday’s forecast is for for a dry day, with rain returning on Thursday. I have work on Friday and over the weekend, so I can’t stay longer.
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The Happy Housesitter

B&J, the people who are to look after MasterB when I am in Australia in November are in Australia now, so in a rather neat quid pro quo, MasterB and I are doing a bit of housesitting.  We’re not staying there, just keeping an eye on the place, spending some time there, watching the supersize television, and in MasterB’s case, exploring the house in detail. I don’t know quite where he has been as I haven’t followed him, but he has meowed at me through the banisters as though reproaching me for not bringing any toys, and has disappeared into the upper reaches of the house for stretches of time.

Quite at home

Quite at home

I think I could take quite happily to a larger home. I mistook the store cupboard door for the bathroom door at the weekend. That doesn’t mean a great deal though, because strangers to my flat quite often try to leave via the airing cupboard. On the other hand a smaller home is easier to heat. The temperatures are due to drop overnight, and my little flat does feel cosily warm tonight. I don’t know what I am doing wrong with the heating chez B&J but the sitting room radiators stay resolutely cold. Continue reading

The Third Day of Christmas

Back to work this morning and I was amazed at how many people were about. Some neighbours are coming round shortly for drinks and nibbles, so the party season has not entirely given way to shopping in this locale. Let it last. The build up is long enough. The shops were heaving on Christmas Eve when I popped round to the largest of our local supermarkets to recycle some old batteries. I can only think the compulsion to head up to the West End and the Sales is born of habit rather than need.

I’ve had a rest from shops and the internet. It’s been really nice. I was offered a place at the dinner table on Christmas Day by some well meaning neighbours. I smilingly refused. I’d have been countimg the minutes. We’ve been in and out of each other’s houses, and I am uncomfortably aware that the cheese I am serving tonight falls a long way short of the cheddar I was given on Christmas Day morning when we sat in front of a log fire sipping bubbly. It’s a different set of neighbours tonight, so I am hoping they are less fastidious. The Prosecco should please at least.

The jigsaw is coming along. MasterB seems a bit confused by it, but he’s only walked across it, not lain down in the middle, so my tactic of fussing him hugely every time he comes near it seems to be staving off any Love Rival behaviour.



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Introducing Loopy and Nino

Can you see her? She is so well camouflaged that although I



knew she was there, I had to view the photo in full screen to find her.
She’s called Loopy, and I met her this evening while enjoying a beer in her owners’ gorgeous garden. It was a long day on my feet, and I had popped into the shop for some beers, halloumi and olives. I forgot the olives but met one of my neighbours who invited me round to meet the cats. I accepted gladly, and went home to change out of my work gear, and let my toes wriggle free after a day in shoes. MasterB went out, came in, ate, went out again. Today has been warm and sunny. Odd, because it is both Wimbledon and Glastonbury, usually a sure fire combination to bring howling winds and torrential rain.
I went to visit my neighbours. Their flat is to die for. Every inch cleanly planned, and although they have lots of CDs, tapes, even vinyl, somehow it seems spacious and stylish. A far cry from my own cluttered home.
They warned me that although Loopy is friendly, Nino is more nervous. Sure enough, Loopy immediately came to investigate me, sniffing my hand and allowing me to rub her head. Nino retreated to the back of the garden and looked at a book.
Otherwise Engaged

Otherwise Engaged

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A River of Stones, Day Twenty-Two: Trespassing

I was just going out after lunch when I met a neighbour. She can be quite loud, and Not Cat loves her. After we had discussed various issues affecting life in the block – people putting plastic bags in the recycling and chicken bones in the compost – she told me that the ginger ninja had visited another neighbour’s ground floor flat, gaining entry via an open window.
He wasn’t actually seen, but he left a trail of muddy paw prints across the newly changed bed linen.
What am I going to do with him?
Here he is wreaking havoc at home earlier today.

The Ginger Ninja