Thursday, 31 May 2012

4am thoughts

4am thoughts
Peculiar things
Dancing in sleep's dew
As early bird sings

Poetic moments
Of the night
Twisted, distorting
In the growing light

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Mission impossible: Squirrel edition

It was a lovely morning in Contrary Towers.

Really lovely. One of those days when I stand on the balcony looking at Canary Wharf as it sulks in the morning mist and yet, I feel nothing but warmth. As I tweeted earlier...

I love it here, truly, truly, love it.

And I do. I'd also been industrious, as the kettle was boiling to make tea for both me and the capricious one, I was cleaning the hob with one hand, whilst eating breakfast (and tweeting) with the other, true multi-tasking. I had to clean the hob, it's the kitchen fairy's day off.


Tea delivered and hob shining I went to dream on the balcony for a while and enjoy the holiday feel that has still not gone away. Astonishing. Also astonishing was the wildlife. They really were out in force this morning...

First we had the duck family, they have a large raft of ducklings, maybe as many as ten, but tricky to tell from high in our lair. Especially as I'm getting increasingly fuzzy sight. Which is good because otherwise I'd realise how old I'm looking.

Next up a swan. But not on its own. The swan had an escort of ducks, one either side, one behind, and one ahead clearing the canal of any troublesome coots. Think police outriders and you won't be far wrong. It was that or they were part of duck security and escorting the swan off the river, they can be troublesome.

And we can't even eat them!

Even Percy the Parsley plant was looking particularly chirpy. Well. As chirpy as a plant can look.

As the swan evaded the security detail my flatmate stumbled sleepily in to the sun. She'd seen tell of cuteness on my timeline so wanted to come and see. They were still at it.

Magpies scrapping in trees. Coots being harassed by the swan. Gulls flying by in the bitter hope of passing bread missiles. The world, generally, was as it should be...

...Until that is, a squirrel was spotted bounding by the railings of Limehouse Cut. "Oooh", we oohed. "Squirrel", we pointlessly pointed out.

Cue the music to Mission Impossible...

In a single bound Eating Nuts scampered over the wall, landing gently on the two path, quickly he checked for approaching cyclists, joggers or swans before rushing to the edge of the canal wall and looking at the surface below.

Without the need for ropes he shot down the wall without a moments hesitation straight in to the murky water below and certain doom...

We both squeaked.

Really. Hand to mouth actual squeaking, my flatmate grabbed my arm as, let's face it, we both thought we knew what was going to happen next. This was not a good way to start the day. Drowned squirrel is, well, not cute.

Eating Nuts swam for a little bit... Oh. Before turning around and scampering back up the canal wall. Eh? We were stunned. He'd gone for a little swim. I'd been talking with my flatmate's mother the other evening and we'd talked about going for a dip in the canal to cool off. Which would be dangerous, she rightly pointed out, owing to the risk of Weil's disease, which, of course, comes from rats widdling in water.

But squirrels?

Eating Nuts then decided to show us how hard he was, he ran in to the middle of the road and scampered along defying any of the local ne'er do wells to run him down. As squirrels go he was out of control. We eventually lost sight of him as he slipped in to a bush and took a well earned rest.

Which brings us to the serious point.

We were trying to work out what on earth made out brave hero do something like this. Sure, he could have been going for a little early morning swim, but that feels unlikely. He may even have thought the surface looked solid enough to walk over to Silver Wharf, after all the canal cleaning boat hadn't been along yet. But in the end we decided he was probably just thirsty and desperate.

A tempting large body of water and a thirsty squirrel.

If it had been a dog or cat or psychopathic chicken killer (though I believe in town they are referred to as cute lovely foxy woxy) it would have been last thing they did as, let's face it, the Limehouse Cut has very steep sides and a good drop to the water. With no escape. Unless, like our hero, Eating Nuts, and rats, you can scale vertical, concrete, walls from a watery floating start.

So, maybe, what we need is the mammal equivalent of toad tunnels, a means for them to get down to the water to drink without the risk of possible death. As I write I've suddenly remembered something I saw a few weeks back, a cat, obviously dead, floating slowly, and rather sadly, down the canal. At the time I'd pondered about it having been hit by a car and dumped. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder whether, actually, it had simply been both thirsty and unlucky.

And as for the squirrel? I'm glad we both saw it as neither would have believed the other if we hadn't!

Drifting thoughts


A touch
A scent
Whispered sound

A dream

As reality
What is seen

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The write stuff

It's not often that I read something that, in turn, makes me want to write. But I did today. The catalyst in this case being an article by the BBC regarding fountain pens and their apparent increase in use.

Those who know me well know I have a life long passion for using fountain pens, and contrary to the implication in the article, in my case it's definitely not an affectation. They are with me all the time. Not as a backup, or for show, but as my primary and, more often than not, sole writing implement. If I carry anything else it will be... A pencil.

Oh yes. All hail the Luddite!

My current day-to-day pen, an 18k nibbed Sonnet
But there's the paradox. I'm most definitely not a Luddite, almost by definition of what I do I embrace the bleeding edge of technology and then help push it a little further.

When it comes to making jotted notes, or expressing thoughts. Or even simply making a shopping list, it's the fountain pen I reach for.

As I work you will often see post-it notes attached around the bezels of my multiple monitors. Each of which has been written, by hand, with a fountain pen. A delicious mash of old and new technologies working hand in hand for the good of the new. Or something.

It really is as simple as I like writing with these pens. I love the softness, the option to add depth to my letter formation, the perfect weight distribution and... Not having to put pressure on the paper. I know I could get the latter with a more modern pen, but no, not for me.

And there are other benefits. The obvious one is they often look attractive. And they, or at least their use, will often trigger unexpected conversations in the strangest of places. Not to mention the perverse camaraderie amongst other aficionados. But for me the strangest benefit is the one I found by chance...

Many years ago I had to attend a business and technology meeting between the company I was then CTO of, a major broadcaster and a major technology company. We were definitely the minnows. Surprised they didn't just ask us to make the tea. Anyway. Like the dumb brunette I am, I managed to turn up with a dead pooter. A slight issue involving a bottle of Lucozade... I wasn't going to draw attention to myself and apologise for the fact that I'd not brought a laptop, so kept silent as I simply drew out my small leather filofax and a gorgeous lacquer Parker Sonnet...

...The meeting went well. In fact, if anything, better than well. When I spoke, people listened intently. As I closed the cap on my pen they would return to their laptops to add notes.


I was the, apparently, the Luddite in the room, but wasn't having to fight to get my point across. How could that be? In the pub later I mentioned this to a colleague and his theory was simple. I looked serious, no distractions, and carried the authority of talking entirely from memory. Plus, they could check what I was saying and find it right. It was an interesting revelation. Less was, quite literally, more.


Whatever the psychological mumbo-jumbo might be, which he did witter on about ad nauseum, I did find it interesting and from that day on felt much less self-concious about being the only one in a room using an old fashioned pen and making notes on paper.

And they really are lovely to write with.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Desperately seeking... Nothing

It's that time of year.

A time when I reflect on what I've achieved. Or. In my case. How much I've screwed things up still further since my last time round the sun. The big difference is when I had this conversation with myself last year I was in a cold room in Barnes. This year, I did it looking down on Limehouse Cut and watching the ripples go by. This year was nicer.

So, there I was, this morning, sitting on the Hell and Calamity line, as it should really be known, listening to Edith Piaf, and I got to ponder on the lyrics from La Vie en Rose. Her signature piece.

About half way through she has a short, spoken, monologue which is, roughly, thus:
I thought that love was just a word
They sang about in songs I heard
It took your kisses to reveal
That I was wrong and love is real
Yep. That.

Sadly, I discovered the reality of this, ooh, way to late. And there's the problem. I'm having difficulty moving on.  I admit it. I know it will happen eventually. I know that the reality is that hope long since faded to nothing. But I also know I can't even vaguely get interested in another person until I can, to use the phrase once more, move on.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not being maudlin. I'm being realistic. Taking a long hard look at myself, and it's not a pretty sight I can tell you, and realising that, actually, it's time to accept that maybe I need to aim for neutrality and nothingness before I can even hope to feel affection and, dare I say it, the L word.

The reality is though that it's unlikely to happen again. Why? Well, simply because I'm just not interested any more. And not being interested means I'm not going to look and I'm pretty certain that not looking will lead directly to not finding. Could be wrong. A good chance I'm not.

It's not negative though. I'm recognising this early. Accepting even. And working on what I can do to fill the void. Not that I've got any answers yet, but working on it has to be a good thing.


Wednesday, 16 May 2012


Held at a platform
Train alarm
Breaking the moment
Twisting the calm
Pushing the silence
That screams in the head
Wishing for peace
Wishing for bed 
This moment of silence
How soon it is gone
Back to the tunnels
Clickety song
Pulling us closer
To the toils of the day
Holding the demons
Briefly at bay

Monday, 14 May 2012

Donec obviam iterum

It's quite ridiculous. The thoughts in my head won't stop spinning and it's really becoming a problem now.

I honestly feel I need to go back in to the shadows and bury myself in work. It's not that I particularly want to, but I also don't want to end in a destructive spiral that causes further damage to those I love. I choose work because it's the one thing I can disappear in. And it's the only thing I can do until I find a way to stop being so stupid.

A period of metaphorical radio silence is needed. A further hiatus.

But I reserve the right to change my mind when I find myself in a calmer place.

So as the title says.

Until we meet again.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Ars confundum

I really don't like Notting Hill. I'm sure lots of people love it, but after the joys of Bloomsbury, Covent Garden and Fitzrovia I am positively culture deprived. Which makes a nice change from me being generally depraved. But I needed to find at least some art, something new. And interesting. And that would challenge me.

Something to make me think.

More importantly, something within about 20 minutes of my client's dungeon so that I could get there, ponder and get back without upsetting them. On my flatmate's sagely advice I checked Time Out London to see what was near. And on today. Oh, and free. Obvs.

Three things came back, well, four, but two of those were for the same venue, so I picked the furthest one and headed in the general direction of the underground for a quick scoot round to Edgeware Road station.

My destination: The Showroom on Penfold Street.

Which looked closed, if the truth be told. But no! I had to ring a little bell and somebody (eventually) emerged and let me in to the gloom of a darkened studio. This was no white cube gallery.

From the title, The Artist Talks (2012), I couldn't completely, or at all, work out what it was about. I had a vague notion, but nothing too well formed...

...Which, as it turned out was probably right. The description of the work by Sarah Pierce was pretty stark
Installation (stage, felt curtains, boxes, props, spot lights, photographs, gel filters)
And that did pretty much sum it up. Visually. Reading through the blurb I discovered...

Pierce repositions the convention of the artist's talk as an open system with the potential to disturb or re-invent past artworks and received ideas.

Eh? But before you think I am about to launch in to a diatribe on this new rendition of the Emperor's new clothes I should say this. I found it, actually, quite soothing. As I said to my flatmate later, I'd gone in off the scale angry after a RBT (row by text) with my nearly-ex, but by the time I left I was feeling quite serene.

As much as visually it consisted of a small plywood stage with some hanging felt curtains to give the space form, it felt almost womb like. Maybe it was the warmth, maybe the warm glow from the gel covered lights. I don't know. It certainly had a delicious stillness that was exaggerated by the felt curtains as they blocked views and absorbed any latent sounds.

The centre piece was no less simple. A screen on to which was projected a looped video showing artists talking about their works, the transpiration, the issues and so on. What was really fascinating was how the camera kept getting slightly bored and would wander off to look at some other aspect, such as the artist having a scratch, or focus on the paisley print of their short. It was slightly surreal. But also, honest.

Devoid of overt polish and yet giving a keen impression of listening to an artist giving a talk to an audience and being subtly aware of their every move and nuance. It was quite an engaging experience.

As I read the blurb I found that there was to be a final event in June. During this there would be a choreographed artist talk, a group performance, using fragments and gestures from past artworks. Oh, that doesn't make much sense. But I can sort of see where they are going. Quite whether I will actually make it along on the 2nd of June is another matter. I may end up being quite disappointed and find it really was the Emperor's new clothes.

It achieved my main objective, the exhibition made me think. Maybe even if it was to think about what on earth it was meant to represent. It wasn't in the least bit the easiest thing to follow or interpret and, needless to say, I didn't see the whole thing, just the stage setting, if you like. Sometimes there really is nothing quite like the insane, simple, delicate and sublime:

The art of confusion.

Silent post

It seems a little mad to be writing a post that I will never, well, post, but write it I must. Things to express, things to consider. Thoughts that maybe will make more sense if I have them staring back at me. The impossible, imponderable paradoxes that are part of the conundrum keeping me awake at night.

And that was the preamble that I wrote to my silent post.

It did make sense, sadly, and did bring tears. But fortunately nobody around to see. I shall keep those words private and see whether they still make sense in the months and years to come.

Silent Post: Inside

It seems a little mad to be writing a post that I will never, well, post, but write it I must. Things to express, things to consider. Thoughts that maybe will make more sense if I have them staring back at me. The impossible, imponderable paradoxes that are part of the conundrum keeping me awake at night.

I think, no, believe, that it's pretty likely now that I know when the last time will be that I feel real intimacy. It's already happened. The more I think about it, the more I realise this is true.

It's now 18months since I was last intimate in any way with my actual, still there, spouse. Since then I can count on two fingers the number of times there has even been so much as a hug, and one of those was in the counsellor's room. I can't see the feeling coming back and, I believe, it's reciprocated. There is nothing. Quite literally the only thing that binds us together is the children, but then surely that's as it should be. And, I guess fortunately, I'm in the position where there isn't somebody else trying to persuade me to move on.

So that's a good thing.

Except, it isn't. I'm also, still, utterly in love with that someone. And, as impossible and, I'm beginning to realise that is, I know it's unlikely to go away. Great. This means, quite simply, that I'm utterly uninterested in anyone else. True, there is one dalliance, but that's more to keep my sanity than anything else, and, as much as the dalliance is professing strong feelings, they are simply not reciprocated. Which is quite bad. Like a lot, yes, but I don't get that yawning chasm of infinity opening up as I look in to their eyes.

But even if the unrequited and impossible one wasn't there, then what? I see nothing. The only way I could find anyone that would remain interested in me in my birth sex would be to finally smother me and continue as a lie. I can't do that, not any more, it simply builds resentment. And in my brain gender? Well, that's even worse, treated as a kink at best and simply unlikely to build something where I could possibly have the same feelings back.

And that's what I want. I've finally worked it out, or should I say admitted it. Somebody to love me as I love them. Something warm and deep, that stirs the soul as a glance is exchanged. But, it's doomed to be one way, or not at all.

Which I find incredibly sad. But I think it's also time to tell myself that I should get used to the idea that I've seen the last time and can reflect on it with some warmth rather than simply living with the far worse alternative.

Bitter hope.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Recipe: Vomlette a la Victoria

If there's one thing we like in Contrary Towers, it's food. Hot. And fast. The latter is mostly because my flatmate is invariably starving and can barely make it from door to dining table without a Marmite sandwich. And we do like food hot. As in spicy. And Hot as in hot. Obvs. Where was I. Oh yes...

So, unexpectedly, I'm here looking down on Limehouse Cut when I thought I would be on the 19:15 out of Kings Cross en route to a place where they don't accept the Oyster card. Barbarians. Which lead me to the tricky problem of what to eat... As it was going to be just me (bezzie bizzy and flatmate on the razz) it would be silly to do a full pan of something...

A well stocked fridge should have leftovers. And fizz.
...So I consulted the fridge. Aha, perfect! Nestling amongst the caviar, champagne, welsh cheese and raspberry jam was... leftovers and eggs!

Which meant... Vomlette.

Vomlette being so called because it's a bit like an omelette, but, well, I'll leave you to work out what the vom bit means.

The ingredients... Please note the lack of measures, this is largely because we have no means of measuring, and even if we did have a means we probably wouldn't use it. Just to be contrary.

  • 3 eggs. No, make that 2 because that's all there was.
  • Milk (sniffs, yay!)
  • Pepper (thank goodness I got some more pepper corns)
  • Chestnut mushrooms, preferably the last four in the pack from Lidl and looking very tired (oh, look, four left and looking very tired)
  • Olive oil, err, no idea how much, but, well, you know...
  • Leftover chicken and chorizo rice pot.
  • Chopped pork and ham luncheon meat or similar
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Cheese!

I appreciate that your local Waitrose may not stock the essential leftover chicken and chorizo rice pot. If you find this to be the case then please do write to the manager and complain.

Making it is simple.

First heat the oil. Next: remember that you had decided to add mushrooms and slice them really quickly. Fry until, well, you think they might be done. At all times keep texting to ensure that the mushrooms don't think you're watching them and hence won't cook (see law of boiling pots).

Now add a decent amount of leftover chicken and chorizo rice pot, Make sure you remember to remove the bones from the chicken when it's really too late and there's a risk of burning your fingers. Stir around for a bit whilst texting. Check twitter. Send email. Be offended by rude tweets from people you thought to be friends that are doubting your virtue on a Friday night. Decide that it needs some dirty pork so add some chopped pork and ham that you keep for emergency purposes (or lunch, as I like to call it), add and poke the lot with a spoon for a little longer.

Break eggs in to a bowl, at this point you should have noticed that you only have two eggs, slop in some milk, grind some pepper and beat until your phone indicates another tweet has arrived. Answer.

Where was I? Oh, I remember. Pour the egg and what have you in to the pan and mix it all up. Switch the grill on to warm and wander out on to the balcony to watch a canal boat wander by. When you think there is a chance it may be ready, turn off the heat and stick the pan under the grill to cook the top.

Grate cheese. Eat some of the cheese. Grate some more cheese.

Go and look at the swans.

Check after a few minutes, when it looks, oooh, about right, sprinkle with cheese and then sprinkle with cayenne pepper. Put back under the grill.

Go back to look at the swans and see that the Canada Goose is trying it on. Check pan.

Oh, it worked, the swans have left. Check pan.

When the cheese is bubbling like mad and you are feeling really hungry it's probably done. Remove from the oven. Pour on a plate and...


Now I'm sure it's not the sort of recipe you might expect to come from Le Cordon Bleu, but that's only because it's such a closely guarded secret.

So whatever you do, don't tell a soul.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012


The emptiness inside 
The stench as feelings died 
A broken soul cried

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Words appear. Then shrink

I know this is almost certainly a bad sign, but words of poetry are appearing in my head again, this is usually a pretty good indication that maybe things aren't as they should be. I'm not shocked by this.

Anyway, earlier today I said to a friend:

It's like watching a sandcastle take on the sea. Eroding, inevitably. Until nothing but memories remain.
I'll not go in to what the metaphor says about how there are times I feel I will be washed away leaving nothing but memories of the lovely times. But what I did like was that what I wrote felt poetic, so I wrote...

Facing the sea
Firmly it stands
A folly, a castle
Of perfect formed sand
Waves lap slowly
Eroding each grain
Inevitable. Nothing
But memories, remain
But that was too long to tweet so I got my file out...

Faces the sea
Firm it stands
A folly, a castle
Of perfect formed sand
Waves lap slow
Erode each grain
Inevitable. Naught
But memories remain

Better, and exactly 140 characters!

A dark place

A darkened heart
A bitter place
Resentment burns
No warmth retraced
A torrent tears
Pained words galore
Scouring calm
From a lonely shore
A shadow falls
On cold, harsh, sand
Wiping memories
Of affection's hands
A tear falls
On a careworn face
As hope recedes
With little trace

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Cinderella is a dirty stop-out

DLR ride of shame
Friday morning. And I wasn't in Contrary Towers. In fact I was doing the walk of shame. Well. The DLR ride of shame. I didn't feel at all self-concious walking through St Katherine's Dock in a scarlet evening dress when everyone else was in something more sober.

What can I say... Champagne.

Anyway, I was working from home that day so it wasn't the end of the world. And my lovely flatmate had the kettle on. What a star. We did have a vague plan to wander over to Stratford in search of stuff for the ball.

Which will be why we sat, drinking tea and doing anything but. We really aren't very good at this getting going lark. Some time later, after a full debrief of both our yesterday movements, and a change of dress for me, we wandered off to Langdon Park DLR and the brief trip to zone 3 and retail hell. I was utterly unimpressed with my first view of the place. On the rare occasion I've been on a Liverpool Street train I've passed through and feigned interest in what was going on. But seeing the place up close did nothing for me. Horrible.

So, the plan. Something sparkly to stick on our faces, shoes for my flatmate as she was struggling to decide and some suitable costume jewellery. Which would have been easy. Except we are rubbish at shopping. I was glad I went with her, I would never have even found the way in, the place confused me. Our first port of call was to be the accessory shops. But we couldn't find them. So we wandered aimlessly looking at other things.

Eventually we came across some of those little printed mall guides! Hurrah. Except, err, we couldn't quite work out what floor we were on. And. And. And. Look, we're just not good at this stuff and we're not usually allowed out without adults. It took a while, but we did find the accessory shops, but first we lusted over the most amazing patterned courts that were utterly impractical and had eccentric screaming all over, but I digress. Trouble was... Other than the shoes, no inspiration. It was, frankly, all so insipid. The problem was we were trying to find something that would go with the theme, other than some long laced lace fingerless gloves and a set of black flowers for my flatmate. But... We had issues with our good taste, we couldn't switch it off.

This was tricky, really tricky.

So we followed rule #1 in the Contrary Towers handbook.

If in doubt, drink champagne...

There is little empirical evidence to show whether rule is actually good advice and leads to solving problems. But it made us feel better. And giggly. And meant that we could suspend good taste and complete our goal.

And we ate a rather yummy salmon open sandwich.

And then had another glass of champagne to make sure the first didn't feel lonely. Then we planned our next move. It was beautiful in its simplicity... We'd go to John Lewis and look at shoes. It took us a while to find the shoe section, they weren't keen on us tracking it down! And then, within moments of arriving the jam-meister (as in very jammy) found the most gorgeous patents courts. Which were reduced. In her size.

Can you hear me clenching my teeth?

We wandered a little more and... OM actual G. The most gorgeous pair of suede courts, with a buckle strap (sort of like a Mary Jane) which would be good for dancing and decent strength heels that would survive the floor at the Old Vic Tunnels. Oh yes. And I saw them first.

This was going to get nasty. Because my flatmate loved them too.

Eventually we found an assistant and asked for two pairs to check in six and seven. In the meantime my flatmate was trying other shoes, except she had thick tights on, so she ended up walking around with on leg off and being held in her hand. We might have giggled. Eventually, the assistant returned from the depths of the storeroom. And... Perfect. For both of us. Comfortable, good fit, the right side of elegant, would work with so many things, very flattering and... matched the evening. Hurrah!

She, quite sensibly, went for both pairs. The first shoes she found were quite beautiful and made her feet look really dainty. Divine. And this also meant we had solved one problem. Shoes for my flatmate. And a problem we didn't have, shoes for me. So we gave the boxes to the assistant to take to the cash desk and we went off to look at tights because sensible wouldn't do. We looked for ages, fortunately John Lewis do carry a good range including some of the more interesting brands. I really couldn't decide, but then I knew I did have an unopened packet of Wolford Twenties that would be perfectly okay. My flatmate though found these fab faux suspender tights which were lovely. We were definitely going to head towards the mildly outrageous.

We still had a problem, sparklys. And still tights. I've just realised, I'd not mentioned these earlier. Westfield has a Wolford's shop. And we saw these amazing tights that my flatmate adored, I could see her point, but no couldn't see them working with my dress. Anyway, we popped in to the Wolford's shop a second time to go and get a pair...

Until she saw the price.

Now I know that we can be a teensy bit profligate at times, but £120 for a pair of tights? Err. Yes. Exactly. Back to the cheap accessory shops then. All we really needed were, by now some earrings and face sparklys. Having looked earlier I knew I liked the little mushrooms and my flatmate liked the flowers, easy, until we saw it was 3 for 2... Pfft. Eventually a suitable pair of hoops were found and on we went to sparklys. Essentially nail ornaments that we'd apply to our faces. We found some, we paid and we were out of there.

I happen to like shopping and was hating the place. Quite how she hadn't summarily executed somebody was beyond me.

On a serious note, I was concerned, the place was getting busy and it was a bit awkward to get around. But this was just 4:15 on a Friday. What the hell was it going to be like during the Olympics? I'll never know as I won't be going. And, honestly, I would need a really good reason to go back there any time soon.

If I do, could somebody please contact my GP and say you believe I may have dementia.

At least it was a short journey home. We got in, collapsed, made tea, had two sips and then decided a nap was a better idea. The alarm was set for an hours time... at 6pm I woke. Went to check my flatmate had also woken, made tea and... We sat and chatted. Of course we did. It's amazing we get anything done. And made cheese on toast.

Eventually we started to get changed. The problem was now that neither of us have a clue about how to do heavy make-up. Which is what we thought we needed. Oh good, the sense-of-good-taste was back. And causing a hindrance. Faces reapplied, dresses on, tights chosen, fingerless gloves tied, sparklys applied. Hair beaten in to submission. Flower tiaras on. We. Were. Ready.

All we had to do was get to Waterloo and the Old Vic Tunnels. Wearing heels, scarlet dresses and living on the edge of a deeply conservative Bangladeshi community.

We'd not really thought this through.

So, flatmate got her gorgeous velvet coat and I dug out my long wool coat. Not ideal, but would cover the scarlet and maybe slightly reduce attention.

Except that my flatmates gorgeous coat didn't button very low, so opened revealing a short dress and suspender tights. Oops. We marched as quickly as we could to the bus stop, jumped on the 277 and headed for Canary Wharf and the Jubilee Line...

...We had hardly anyone staring at us on the bus, might have been the floral tiaras. And walking through Canary Wharf on a Friday evening generated no more than a few hundred double takes. One guy did have the decency to give us an really amazing smile. But we ignored them all. No eye contact and talked as we walked. The Jubilee line was, thankfully, quiet and we trundled round to Waterloo with just a few sideways glances from other tube passengers.

Finally, at Waterloo... We didn't feel odd. People with wings, people in shocking blue. A man in a red frock coat. We were starting to look quite conservative. Yay! The surprising thing was that whilst we were, nominally late, the place was quite quiet. Oh. The upside to this was that we found a nice comfy place to sit, bought a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and proceeded to people watch. We weren't actually allowed the bottle, they kept it behind the bar in an ice cooler and we could get the glasses refilled at any time. Handy.

Early in the evening...
We chatted to a couple. We saw a magician. And a strange puppet thing. We wowed at some of the costumes. Swooned at a beautiful man in a mask and generally people watched whilst chatting. We did have to explain that whilst we were flower fairies, we were so bad our wings had been removed. Not that we cared, we had fizz. We also tried to work out who different groups of people were. After a while we thought we best go and look at some of the entertainment... I know that there was meant to be some immersive theatre going on, but, well, it wasn't really reaching us. It may have been our location by the bar, so off we wandered.

Bad fairy when she was good.
We found a stage area with a compère rattling on about something or other. Excellent. Or not, as the case was. Having heard a genuinely good one the night before I realised how awful this one was. And the acts... Didn't make sense. One was sort of okay (good fairy accidentally eats/drinks something they shouldn't and becomes a naughty fairy, we understood this concept well) and the other was...

...Well, like a project for a school drama class. Done by people who thought they'd do anything and didn't care what it was about. Maybe it was just us. But we weren't impressed.

In fact, we were starting to feeling increasingly unimpressed. This wasn't good. Not even a little bit. And we wanted to dance, enjoy an experience. Live a little.

Not watch mediocrity get a bad name.

In the end we decided to finish our second bottle of VC and head for Leicester Square and then Soho. There must be something more entertaining out there. And with that, we were off. A taxi hailed and Leicester Square bound.

The trouble was, we didn't really have a plan. And after being slightly disheartened by the ball, found the tedium of being hassled to go in to clubs that looked tedious *and* would probably mean us having to queue didn't seem a good idea. We could have gone elsewhere, one place in particular was mentioned, but we would have had to beat the men off with a stick when they saw my flatmate. I was at least safe, the advantage of being the fat and ugly sister. And so, we came to a simple decision. Taxi. Home. Champagne.

The bright lights of the West End were dull to us. It was superficial and pointless. Limp and unimpressive. Superficial and devoid of real attitude. In a word... It sucked.

It's easy to find a black cab when you're both in scarlet dresses.

It was comforting to be heading east. The attraction of watching the lights of Canary Wharf through the rising bubbles of fizz seemed utterly attractive. And, thankfully, the driver kept his mouth shut. All was going swimmingly well until disaster struck as we arrived at Contrary Towers. I got out to pay and my flatmate... Fell. Really quite badly. Before you jump to conclusions, neither of us were drunk. If we had been we would have still been up west dancing on tables and losing a £10 bet that we would cause trouble (which we didn't, so pay up!). She fell very heavily on her knee as she got out. It was horrible.

It wasn't what you could call the best end to an evening. We hadn't been able to dance. My friend was in pain. She'd ruined her new tights and we were actually disappointed with London. But then, as we talked back in Contrary Towers we took the view that, actually, there had been such a good run that it wasn't necessarily a bad thing. As an experience it was valid and we'd know what to watch for and avoid.

Importantly, we did get to have 1am snacks, in the form of the emergency supply of potato croquettes, scrambled egg and mushrooms. She makes epic scrambled egg. It was truly a feast. It wasn't nice to see her dealing with the throbbing pain of a now swelling knee by the time honoured technique of frozen peas with a tea towel. But we did at least resolve that we needed to go dancing soon and not depend on a particular event to come up with the goods.

But there was one other thing that we talked about, a truism, a philosophical rule. Even though, in the end the ball itself had been not what we hoped. And then Soho felt less than lukewarm, we had managed to gain an enormous amount of giggles and entertainment from this night, just spread over the previous days. We'd had some insane giggly moments where we could barely speak for laughing and literally had tears of helpless amusement. So in the great summing up it had actually been a good thing, but the real pleasure wasn't where we expected it...

In life, it's not the destination but the journey that truly matters.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome

When I got back to Contrary Towers on Sunday night I was more than a bit out of sorts. Mood swings can be terrible and my poor flatmate got to see it in all its hormonally charged glory. It was so bad I had to take myself off to bed very early and cry myself to sleep. Then repeat the joy in the night many times. Pfft.

On Monday morning I felt a little less explosive, but now tired and with sore eyes, not a great combination, or a good start to the week. But I did know I had to get myself back out of this dark hole pronto, the last thing I wanted was to cause an atmosphere at home. On the plus side at least our off days hadn't collided. And she was incredibly patient for me. Yet again I was deeply grateful for such a good friend and flatmate.

In the dungeon of a studio at my current client things weren't really improved by the monastic like working environment. It's very quiet and, being in a basement, no 3G signal, which I might mention a million times more as it means I only get intermittent text messages. But, at 10:24 I got one asking whether I would care for an evening out this week. Oh yes. I would care for one very much, I did need something to break the cycle and something to look forward to this week would be perfect.

As I knew my flatmate would be out on the Thursday with a gentleman friend, I thought that would be the ideal evening, plus, it would give me a couple of days to become human again. That would work!

Astonishingly, as it happened, it did.

The only tricky bit I was asked the inevitable “where would you like to go”? Err. Shrugs. Seriously, I was having trouble deciding anything and could just focus on the code I as writing. Which is probably a good thing as I can't focus on anything else. Tuesday morning brought a suggestion. Would I like to visit a cabaret restaurant?

Oh yes...

I love cabaret, the full on, 1930's style cabaret, with smoky atmospheres, rich textures and colours, Dietrichesque singers and a series of interesting acts. And also an excuse to actually glam up a little without feeling out of place. What's more. I had the dress. And the shoes. In fact I've rarely been so well prepared for being out in a particular type of place! This could not go wrong...

I'll not talk about Wednesday, which was, of course, slightly mad, as I wrote previously, but that had at least cemented the dress choice for the evening. Which is good, right? What I did know was that my diet was so going to be broken, the one I'd not even started yet, a small price to pay. And besides, we still had the ball to get through so needed to keep our energy up.

The day drifted ponderously on. It seemed an age before the chosen hour rolled around and I could scoot out of the client's office at just before 6pm, in fact enough just before 6pm that I managed to catch the Hammersmith and City line train! And when I say managed to catch, I mean only just as it was actually there. The trouble with Ladbroke Grove is that there are no boards to say which train is coming, nor do they announce it, so if you don't see the front of the train you are stuffed.

At least... You used to be.

Google maps now has a fab little feature where if you click on an underground station name you can find out what the next train is and when. So I was pretty sure, when I sat down and checked what the next train at the next station would be, that I was on the right one. Especially important as this train was refusing to reveal its dirty little secret of a destination.

All was well in the world.

And I was... On time. For a while anyway. I don't mind the almost constant being held at red lights because of a train crossing ahead or held here to regulate the service, it's a way of life and daily occurrence on the H&C. And I knew I would be arriving at Mile End at the allotted time and I could scamper towards the bus.

Right up to when we reached Kings Cross.

“We're being held because of a passenger alarm having been activated at Liverpool Street”

Oh, nice trick gods-against-me-going-out, I didn't see that one coming. It might have been the @MehFairy of course. But I knew she would be fine as I'd bribed her with a couple of bottles of Nectini. After a few minutes we were off. I'd already mentally re-routed in case it was a severe delay, but I was still in the comfort zone. All would be well...

...Until we got to Stepney Green.

“We've been told to wait at Stepney Green owing to a passenger incident at Mile End”

You've got to be kidding me. This was so unsporting of the gods to throw yet another spanner in the works. I started to get twitchy. Wait and hope we move on soon or go and gamble on the buses but potentially get stuck in traffic or walk, but take maybe half an hour. And then be really hot. And cross...

We moved. Sigh of relief. The gods obviously felt quite bed about this so when I got to Mile End they'd laid on a mythical 323. Which I felt was only fair as I was now eating in to my calm down time.

As it was, unlike the previous week, things went quite well and I was, in theory, ready in plenty of time, so I tried to make a phone call I had to do before leaving.

“Welcome to BT callminder”

Grr. Waits a few minutes.

“Welcome to BT callmin”

Grr. Waits a few minutes.
“Welcome to BT cal”

Grr. Puts undies on.

“Welcome to BT”

Grr. Waits a few minutes.

“Welcome to”

Grr. Puts dress on sorts out stockings, checks shoes finds coat.


Grr. Waits a few minutes. And then realised my huge gap was now I'll-be-lucky-to-be-at-Tower-Hill-by-9pm, which was quite bad as the table had been booked for nine. I was. Again. Going. To. Be. Late.

Oh marvelous. I grabbed my bag, Oyster, keys and brolly and ran out. As I emerged from the lift I checked the little bus time app on my phone and... Oh, there was a 323 due in 6 minutes at St Pauls Way. Oh yes. The gods really did feel quite bad about earlier.

And it wasn't raining.

I walked in to Mile End and... The District Line train rolled in. Oh yes. Getting better. It looked like I would arrive just before 9, we'd still be late at the restaurant, but only fashionably late. Not rude late. It never does to be rude.

As we rolled around I got a text message from my flatmate, she's seen the picture I'd taken when I was ready to see if she approved. She did. And also said that's what I should wear for the ball. And not the black dress that we'd eventually settled on the evening before. In true Contrary Towers fashion we had again managed to change our minds. She was right though, it did work. Really well.

Our destination was Proud Cabaret on Mark Lane in the City. Deep in the heart of the insurance district. Be still my beating heart. But oh, the restaurant was under Minster Court, as used for the House of de Vil in the 1996 film of 101 Dalmatians. How fab. As we walked in my first thoughts were oooh, decadent. Unfortunately, this turned in to ooh, idiots. Apparently they'd been trying to call my companion to see if we were still coming and, they claimed, had left a message. We were only 2 minutes late, and said this. It turned out somebody had cocked up the booking and they thought it was 8:30. Pfft.

With this sorted we were guided down in to the restaurant proper. The multitude of antique mirrors along with the almost velvet walls helped set the seen of decadence. I had felt a bit silly at first in a scarlet dress with heels, especially as it means I was taller than my companion, but suddenly it all seemed right. I had even decided to bring my pearls out of retirement...

The restaurant itself was very much in the style of a 1930's nightclub in Berlin. Dark, moody, low lights and lots of smoke... This being 2012 the smoke was courtesy of a smoke machine, but it was so worthwhile, the atmosphere it generated was dreamy. Oppulent. Decadent. Devastating. We must have been one of the last couples to arrive. Which meant we managed to make a bit of an entrance. Especially as I was about the only woman that wasn't in black. Oh yes Victoria, smart move, heels and a scarlet dress. Subtle...

...but more subtle than the waiting staff, who were also in black, and, at least the girls, were all legs and corsets. That's alright then. Being a set menu, ordering was quick. I've no idea whether they do a la carte, I suppose I should check. Pity I couldn't read the menu though, candle light and nearly 45 year old eyes is not a good combination, so I had to borrow my companions specs and found, to my astonishment, that our prescriptions must be similar.

I'll not talk too much about the food. It was okay, acceptable, but that was all, nothing too exciting and I guess showed the downside of set menus. But the reality was we were there for the entertainment. And this was something else...

As our food arrived the compère for the evening appeared, one Dolores Delight. Fabulous name, a pretty polished act, a bit of audience engagement and a gorgeous voice. Oh, and quite an impressive sight! As we were sitting right by the stage runway it meant we got the full impact of her amazing legs as she stalked by in full voice. Truly a sight to behold. I didn't at all feel like a heffalump beside her. It was nearly as bad as being at home!

As she built the audience participation, she did the classic panto thing of seeing which side of the audience could make the most noise. The team "leader" for our side of the room was picked from a table near the stage, she asked him what he did for a living...

"I'm a surveyor"

Cue laughs and her saying "enough of that then, to the other team", cue even more laughs! The man picked on for the other team was a bit of a card though...

"I'm a pimp"

Uproar. Dolores was momentarily flawed, before moving on to, "well yes, with five lovely ladies and... A ginger bloke". "What do you do ginger bloke"

"I'm in HR"

The room erupted. Classic, stuff. Though it did occur to me that a pimp might actually have a need for HR...


The other acts included burlesque performances by Sophia St. Villier and Betsy Rose with variety being provided by Jonathan Finch. I don't think there was a lady in the room who could take their eyes of his body...

Seriously amazing.

Actually, they all were. So everybody was happy. The entertainment was split in to two halves, with the acts doing a couple of sets each. All too quickly the evening drew to a close, sometime near 11pm and as the compère disappeared the stage became a dance floor that was, inevitably invaded by a hen party. There was a moment of entertainment when a woman, not from the party, decided to do her own micro burlesque, not going all the way, but certainly it was a good opening. Many would have missed it, but as we were sitting by the stage, we, fortunately, didn't.

 By the time we decided to leave, the place had considerably emptied. All in all I'd say the place was great and have added it to the list of places to go for a girls night out with my flatmate et al, but not for the food, which was, well, just okay. But I said that already.

It was lovely being back in the fresh air and whilst we'd had the smoky atmosphere I was grateful that I didn't stink of smoke! The night still felt reasonably young, and with it being nearly the end of the week I agreed that champagne back at my companions place sounded a fabulous idea, so we hailed a cab and slumped, gratefully, into the seats. I must admit I would have been more than happy to have walked back by the Tower of London and through St Katherine's Dock, but could see the sense in not pushing my luck with new shoes.

After all, why ruin the end of what had been a perfect evening?

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Dry bread and gruel

The saga continues...

After the long and, ultimately, indecisive decisions earlier I trotted off down Portobello Road to get the floral tiaras. If nothing else we would have two parts of the not-really-a-costume-but-what-do-you-expect-from-us. Astonishingly, I actually managed to do this without mishap, this in itself being a minor miracle and, happily, wandered back to the dungeon at my client's office. When I say at, I mean their office is actually something of a dungeon. Well it's underground. And I can't get a 3G signal, so that's *obviously* the 21st century equivalent of torture. The rack I should think is a good analogy, especially as I stretch to send a text to my flatmate.

Thank goodness for MSN is all I can say. Crikey, I thought I would never say that.

I digress. On the way back to said dungeon I had a picture message... Ooh. Pretty. My flatmate had wandered in to a store, found the perfect dress, in her size, with a fabulous colour. And it was less than £20. I can go off some people. This inevitably lead to the discussion of shoes, which could have eaten away at the whole afternoon, but we're dedicated professionals and wouldn't be distracted by such frippery. Honest. Well maybe a little bit.

Time moved on. A lot.

I was just finishing the pasta bake when she announced she was close, which was good as it meant we could eat and compare notes. Or just eat. After dinner, as sure as night follows day, there was the inevitable trying on session. After a few minutes of clearing stuff away I was getting a little concerned so went upstairs to see what she was up to, and found her, by the mirror, just trying shoes... the film "Who framed Roger Rabbit", Jessica Rabbit said something like "I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way", well, I now know who the model was. This should be entertaining. We hummed and harred for a bit, and in the end I gave in and started trying things to. I had to some time. But really, straight after pasta was not the best of times. First was the red. Well, more of an orangey red it turned out when compared to the more of a burgundy red of her dress. And showed much less. Much less to the point where:

Her: "You're not showing enough boob"
Me: "That's good, surely"
Her: "But you always show lots"
Me: "No I don't" *pouts* "I didn't last week"
Her: *Raised eyebrow*

So I changed in to something that I knew would fit. And was lovely. And, at a push, could be fairy ish. Oh, and showed chest.

Her: Too nice
Me: Pfft.

Now this isn't good, as I'm trying to loose weight I've been, on purpose, not buying clothes, so my range is limited... And then I remembered, a dress I'd not worn in ages, but, at a push I could squeeze in to. Yay! Err, except that I was trying this on next to the Jessica Rabbit model. This was not going to go well.

And it didn't.

Me: Too tight
Her: Mmm.

This was getting humiliating. But it got worse... She asked the size, 14 if you must know, and I duly handed it over for the inevitable try on... Oh great. I mean strike me down with lightning *please*. Stunning, again.

It was at this point I started my Christmas card list. I careful wrote my flatmate's name at the top. And then crossed it out. Several times. In green.

Back in reality I dived in to my wardrobe and pulled out... Something in black. Which showed cleavage. And I knew worked as I'd worn it recently. And. Well. It did work. Besides, I was actually planning on wearing the red dress tomorrow night at the Cabaret place.

Now it was during this that my flatmate realised that maybe I wasn't the only one that had, maybe, put on a pound or two extra... So she reached in to her wardrobe and pulled out what can only be described as a lethal weapon in the frock stakes. Not safe to be seen in public. And on it went...

...or didn't, initially. The zip was being tricky so we ended with my holding the back together to see whether it felt right (it did, hate her so much) and looked right (ditto, ditto). But the giggles set in. She looked, for all the world, like a ventriloquists dummy and we couldn't quite stop laughing at the thought of persuading people we were actually an act. Not that she managed to say gottle of geer. But she would have been good at answering back.

Finally though, once we got some sense of normality (and I went through another black dress and a sequinned plan D) she tried on one and... It. Didn't. Fit. That side zip wasn't going anywhere any time soon. So it wasn't just me. Thank goodness for that.

The thing is, this was a hollow relief. There is no doubt she looks utterly stunning and I look like her fat, frumpy mate by comparison. The one you take with you so you look better. But we did at least have an awful lot of giggles. Which is definitely a good thing. And beats the tears that there would have been if we'd waited until Friday evening. Just before we left.

But it does mean that, long term, things around here may need to change. So it will be a diet. Of dry bread and gruel.

But with no gruel...

Impossible decisions

It's an interesting week in Contrary Towers... We are going to a ball! Specifically we're going to The Goblin King's Masquerade Ball which looks and sounds an absolute hoot. The only trouble is what to go as... Or first thoughts were as fallen angels, or naughty fairies, both of which are beyond the village of apt and into the wide open fields of that's so us.

Which will be why there are wings of various types laying around our sanctum.

Oh and a ball gown I'd had made for me when I was in my early twenties. And size 12. That's not going to work then. I'd actually brought it back to Contrary Towers with the idea of pulling it apart and using the fabric as a base for something else. The trouble is I'm suffering a bit with tiredness and lack of energy, so it wasn't going to happen either. Pfft.

Okay plan C(minor), using something else as a base and then dressing it up and adding the wings. That could work. Cue yet more things hanging around, at least in my boudoir to see what works (too sparkly, too slutty, too dull etc., etc.). I had at least come to some sort of a plan that didn't involve my shelling out a small fortune on a new corset (too fat, pfft), besides I had run out of time to have one made.

Meanwhile my flatmate is having a similar problem. She does at least have a corset that fits and, after much running and generally getting fit, a shape to die for and probably cause a multitude of accidents if seen out. But there the problem was still what else to wear that would be slightly mischievous but without attracting the srong sort of attention.

It was getting tricky. And time is running out.

Which is why yesterday lunchtime we marched out in to our respective areas and sought inspiration! First stop for me was One of a Kind on Portobello Road, which is, frankly, brilliant. I did get lots of ideas, but with the dresses starting in the £200-300 area it wasn't really a good prospect, more like just ideas. After that I wandered in to place after place, finding odd bits of ideas, just none that would be ideal for what we wanted. Eventually I did find something that vaguely fitted the idea for a base dress. Hurrah! And £15, perfect for stitching things on and not caring what happened to it. Plus, already quite lacy. Bonus.

So on I meandered. I would say marched, but I really was in getting-distracted-by-everything mode, it was fabulous. Some way along the road I came across a trader that specialised in hosiery of all sorts of interesting types, patterns, colours, textures. The range looked perfect. So another quick photograph so that we could have a look later (which we didn't) and then on I went. By now though I'd wandered in to the antique section of Portobello Road, and I knew I'd have to push past this and get nearer to Notting Hill Gate tube before things got interesting again! But that doesn't mean there wasn't anything to have a nosey at, I did find one fabulous display that really caught my eye...

Fortunately I am made of stern stuff and managed to avoid buying any shiny things. Good. Yes?

As I made my way back, intending to drop in to the haberdashers further down, I walked past and then did an about turn as something caught my eye... Perfect! Floral tiaras, the sort of things that an imp, fairy or fallen angel would *obviously* want to have adorning their heads. All we had to do was pick a suitable colour and away we go!

I didn't stop to choose though., time was up and I needed to return and look vaguely industrious.

As a plan it couldn't possibly fail...

...Until my flatmate sent a text saying she'd decided she wanted to wear red. Now that could work. I also had red. This was followed by various links via messenger to different dresses from the oooh-lovely to the oooh-matron. All very distracting. Not as distracting as the DMs I was receiving on Twitter by this point, but distracting enough. If nothing else the musing kept my mind occupied as I tried to make something approaching a decision. Not that this would happen. Obvs.

Later that evening after my flatmate returned (and eaten the leftover-risotto-stuffed-mushrooms and hot tomato sauce, she's never good to talk with when ravenous) we considered options. Not that we got very far. We ended talking about men instead. But we did focus on the problem in hand for a while. And then we slept...

...this morning the conversation continued, cups of tea in hand, sitting on the flatmate's bed we once more considered options. This was starting to get serious (tonight, she's out, tomorrow, we're both out) and all we had were a number of possibles, which, being Contrary Towers, we would immediately change our minds about. Oh dear.

What was clear was that Friday, when the plan is we'll go shopping during the morning, will be executed with a military like precision that would make the SAS look a bit sloppy. That is if they roll out of bed whenever, drink tea, stumble in to the shower, put a face on whilst bleary eyed and then slope off to Stratford like a pair of petulant teenagers looking for school shoes. That's military. Yes?

Anyway. We do have ideas and we do have the bits in place, just not actually managed to decide on what the final look should be. Just that there should be one.

It will all come together perfectly on the night.