Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Fever, Fall and Miss Bettawear

It's a baby.

Feeling vile at work all day. Managed to fall off my typists chair trying to rescue a biscuit on the floor. Romy rather concerned since I also toppled off a stool in the shoe shop the other day, all, I may say, without the benefit of alcohol. My sneezy, runny cold has turned into a sore throat and fever. Got home at 6.45pm to find Malvolio loudly complaining about the lack of food and still, huge piles of washing abound. Romy's new computer arrived which is fantastic.

Further contact from the telly people wanting a piccie of me. Might send the Miss Whiplash one I sent last time. Apparently I have to stay at a hotel with the other contestants so will need someone to feed and drug Malvolio so may ask my upstairs neighbour. IF I decide to go.

Have been looking at three seater sofas in the IKEA online catalogue. There is quite a nice bedsofa one, which is old fashioned with a loose cover in a dull browny beige, which looks as though it could be very comfortable to sit or sleep on. I don't think Julian and Dorothy will approve, but I bet it's comfortable. Not much luck with tables and chairs except the slightly strange squarish one with corner chairs from IKEA which look a bit modern. There is also a round one from IKEA which seats four, and which you can put an extension thingy in to seat six. This might be the kind of thing, but will have a look in Marks and John Lewis anyway.

I see I will have to make a visit to Essex in January to snap Miss Bettawear in her latest incarnation as ????????????? All will no doubt be revealed - and, Miss Bettawear, do learn to spell, you lazy minx.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Nasty Cold, Washing and Room Redesign

Started non-stop sneezing and runny nose last night. This morning I feel tired and crabby and have what seems to be a summer cold. Hardly recognised my flat, as my upstairs neighbour has painted the front door in a rather smart dark blue.

I shall carry on doing more washing - seems this could last all week.

Julian has told me that they cannot catsit again unless I get rid of my sofa, table and chairs, and replace these with a three seater sofa that Julian can sleep on because Dorothy snores, and the bed in my bedroom is too soft. The table and chairs are too large, and I must have the room redecorated. Then Julian tells me that the TV needs to go downstairs (not a bad idea, since it is taking up space, and is only used for watching DVDs and videos). I may ask them to let me have one of their two enormous sofas, since they are far too big for their flat. I have seen a good table which is square, but can expand a bit, in Marks & Spencer. Not sure if they will still have it since it was in a sale, but will go and look when I am recovered.

On with the washing.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Oh Dear, More Telly Maybe

Hang gliding at Devil's Dyke.
Was rushing around Hastings the other day when a call came, supposedly from someone who had obtained my name from the cookery programme and wanted me to go on a new series of Hell's Kitchen, this time with Marco Pierre White, filming for four days towards the end of August, just after I get back from the next seniors trip. Agreed, as I was in a hurry. Maybe it will come to nothing.

Julian thinks I will be the meat in the sandwich and should not go on it. Romy thinks it would be fun, and Madeleine thinks they would not bother to chose me as the victim, but some young smartarse. I think I will have to consider this carefully before finally agreeing to become a complete prat (again, possibly) on national TV. At least without a telly I won't see the thing.

Dorothy and Julian invited me to Dragon Castle, but I was too tired, and think I have a cold coming on, so just popped into the local thai for a snack and will crash out soon.

South Coast Adventures

This is in the garden at Charleston farmhouse.Just returned home. It was a whirlwind week, starting with washout weather on Monday. All settled happily in the hotel and the guest house.

Minor problems throughout were getting people on and off the coach which took ages each time - one helper inside and one helper outside in case of falls, requests about baths and showers at the beginning of the holiday, problems with rollators and stairs.

The hotel were very decent and helpful, and apparently willingly changed their own nice salad leaves for iceberg lettuce on request!

We had a very successful day out in Brighton, stopping at Devil's Dyke for refreshments and viewing of hang gliding on the way. At Brighton the coach parked fairly close to the Lanes, the Pavilion, the Pier, and most importantly Harry Ramsdens for fish and chips. On the way back, there was a rather blustery chilly stop, again for refreshments, at Beachy Head. Another day out was to Rye Market and Hastings. There was a theatre trip to a variety show one evening, which proved very successful indeed.

Romy had a call from another hotel where our guests had left a key, but this problem was solved as they turned out to have another key and the hotel agreed to send the keys back. Medical problems included dizzy spells, a fall necessitating a hospital visit for x-ray ( poor Romy did not get back until 3.45am) and on the last night, a couple of people feeling unwell and having early nights. The weather had been fine during the day for nearly all of the week, but had not stopped pouring most nights. It was a very successful week, but I for one, was extremely glad to be back.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

New Departures and Old Things

My old Le Creuset pots.

Off to Eastbourne today. My case is too small so stuffed another bag full. Now I have to take a carrier bag as well with some papers for our seniors to read and sign. The taxi has been ordered for 12.30. It was pouring with rain, dark and cold when I got up at 5.45am. Now the sun is out and it is getting warmer, fortunately.

Had a long conversation with Nibby, who is so happy in Kangaroo Valley. She has a new neighbour who has also bought a tiny old bungalow like hers, but has decorated it in a very smart minimalist style. So Nibby was nervous about inviting her to her 'maximalist' pad, absolutely so full of things. She says she need not have worried,as her new friend immediately curled up on the sofa, thought her place was wonderful, and has gone around telling everyone how super it is.

We were chatting about how much we liked to have old stuff around us which was full of memories. Sal says the Rockingham dishes and the ironstone which mother left her makes her feel very comfortable, and the lovely Chinese silk embroideries on the wall. I agreed that it was good to have things from the past and that my very modern kitchen looked much more cheerful with mothers Le Creuset casseroles from the fifties. It was good to indulge oneself with some new old things too. I said what pleasure it was for me to use my silver teapot, and to buy a few silly things I had always wanted as a child, such as my cuckoo clock, which still makes me feel happy every time I hear it.

I told Nibby that I had seen our nephew Edward, and that my newly discovered half brother Mykel had emailed again. It seems that Cherie is moving house, and that Roberto and Lauren have sold their place in Wales and are packing up to go and live in Brittany now. He will let me have the new addresses when it has all happened. I told Nibby about Facebook which she may be interested in to be touch with old school friends and would find it handy. I told her about Madeleine's newly discovered cousins from South Africa too.

I hope our week will be OK, and am already looking forward to my return!

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Spicy Bar Shu

I seem to be a bit obsessed with snapping the kitchen sink.

Bar Shu excessively spicy, but my neighbour tells me that they have just imported the new season's peppers from Szechuan, and these are always much hotter than the old ones. As we were due to go in to the restaurant, at least half a dozen extremely drunk Chinese guys came out, and had to be helped out by their more sober companions. I wonder if the spicier peppers add to the effects of alcohol.

Anyway, Julian came over today to wave the hoover all over the house, which made me feel I had somewhat wasted my time previously, since only now does it seem sufficiently clean. A whole lot of cheese from Borough Market also arrived and I was urged to eat this. Of course I had to open some wine to go with it, so a half bottle was quite useful - had some quite pleasant ordinary Cotes du Rhone, which made me fall asleep for an hour or two. Dorothy had been working all day.

I took a few more snaps around the house and in the garden, and am now trying to get some washing dry in the machine before finishing the packing.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Seeing My Nephew Edward

Finally set off to meet Edward for lunch. Nightmare journey when torrential rain poured down, and practically had to swim, but we managed to eventually meet up in Jermyn Street and had some lunch at Rowleys, followed by a short shopping stroll. Edward is due to fly back tonight but has more people to see first. He has been to war graves of the first and second world wars to see where New Zealand victims were buried, so basically all over Europe, which is quite a tour in a short space of time.

Off tonight to Bar Shu with Dorothy and Julian. I still have masses to do - cleaning, packing etc.in preparation for Eastbourne so will try to get an early night.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Cute Cats and Exhaustion

These people bought a lovely grape vine at Barnes Fair on Saturday. I wish I had seen these for sale.

Mavis was very cute tonight and enjoyed being brushed. She is eating all her food too. I have made a desultory attempt at waving a hoover about and tidying up a bit, but my heart is not in it. Any attempt to really put my back into it ends up causing long periods of breathlessness, so better to take it easy. Finally my nephew left a telephone message. It seems he is going to Somerset until Thursday so may hook up on Thursday or Friday evening.

Got back exhausted at 10.20 after two evening meetings on the same night. Fed Malvolio and Mavis and went straight to bed.

Woke up at 5am feeling very restless. Had a bath and put some washing in the machine. Masses of birds performing their dawn chorus outside. Silent spring not quite here yet, then. I shall do the minutes this morning and finalise the seniors' holiday arrangements for Sunday, and this evening maybe think about packing some clothes for the week. Still more cleaning to do though.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Mas Basura

With no operating TV I am reduced to looking at pictures of old TVs. Here's one I decorated earlier with fur fabric.

Boris Johnson is standing as Mayor. Well that takes the biscuit. The blond buffoon apparently can't resist a challenge. Don't know where he lives but the Cotswolds comes to mind. He is not the first Cotswold man to pretend he is an idiot, rather too successfully, and when it comes to gaffes, he can easily outdo the Duke of Edinburgh.

Listening to a name on the radio and thought 'who the hell is Paul Merkin' before realising it was of course Paul Merton. Getting rather decrepit and the hearing is definitely a bit off.

My brother having warned me several months ago and rang when I was out on Sunday to tell me to expect my nephew imminently, absolutely no sign of the youth so far. Kids, eh?

Just realised I should have snapped the Hoorays at the Red Lion and published the snap here. Show and shame, say I.

Am feeding my neighbour's cat, Mavis. Stroked her and masses of fur came off so she must be moulting. This evening gave her a good brushing with Malvolio's brush. Several handfuls of fur later, she looked considerably slimmer.

Just realised that you can invite friends on to Facebook by getting it to go through your email addresses, so invited masses of people on, but so far only one acceptance from someone I have never knowingly heard of. Must have ticked her by mistake. I can only think she was an Ebay seller. I am really not v. good with technology.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Barnes Fair 2007

10pm. Just back from Barnes Fair.

Set off at 9.30 this morning to meet Madeleine and her nephew and niece at Barnes Fair. Whizzed through the fair quickly and met an old friend Pete who had a bottle stall. Helped with this until it was time to meet the others. We drank a Pimms then wandered around some more until Dorothy and Julian turned up. We ate and drank some wine and chatted before seeing some more of the fair. Fortunately the weather improved sufficiently to give us a lovely day for it. The fair had lots of clothes stalls and more than I ever remember for very small children and toddlers, which were present in huge numbers, but very little for older children. There was a merry-go-round however, and train rides, and various bands playing during the day. I bought an amazing Indian parasol in brilliant fuchsia and red.

After Madeleine took her nephew and niece back, she rejoined us for a very good dinner at the Red Lion.This used to be a dodgy dive but had improved a lot, apart from some fairly awful hooray Henrys and Henriettas playing the usual loud, moronic drinking games, but Madeleine called the manageress to shut them up, after which they behaved themselves. We had gigantic fish cakes and grilled chicken on salad and a large jug of Pimms. Dorothy and Julian had several parties to attend later and I have rushed to feed poor Malvolio, who has been sadly neglected.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Cleaning Silver - and Choucroute Garnie

Cleaning silver is a bit of a nightmare. Bought some new stuff which you just put in the washing up bowl and pour boiling water on the silver and leave for five minutes. Not brilliant, so cleaned some more things in silver dip which was a bit better, but still not perfect so may have to actually polish a few things. Silver dip works brilliantly for plate, though, and some silver, so my enormous plate candlesticks look fantastic.

Rang Julian to offer some sauerkraut for dinner but they didn't fancy sauerkraut tonight.

I always make it by frying some onions in goose fat and with some bacon bits or lumps of pancetta then add a large amount of sauerkraut with water, chicken stock, peppercorns, bay leaf, garlic and a large slug of gin, or some juniper berries - the gin is more instant.

I chuck in some meat and/or some sausages such as kabanos or similar, frankfurters will do - any meat really - pork, chicken, ham, lamb, even beef if nothing else available - and slowly simmer for a fair old time, though it can be served quite quickly if the meat is already cooked.

I prefer a longish (1hr) slow simmer, then serve with mash or new or old potatoes and beer or lager to drink.

Well, I think it is good but our coach driver on Wednesday had it for the first time in Paris and said it was really harsh and the most revolting thing he had eaten. It is true that the French tend to eat it in a salty state, but the Germans cook it for a long time, sometimes rinsing it to get rid of most of the salt first, and adding white wine and chicken stock, which does civilise it a bit. But I suspect the coach driver will never like it having had such a bad first impression. I quite like the French version, but then I tasted it at a younger age.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Neat New Office - Tidy Again

Complete overhaul of office with new cupboards cabinets etc installed. Romy and I went out later and bought some new files and bits and pieces. Complete order will take a week or two to restore, but the place looks like a modern working office rather than a total tip. All we need, coming in a few weeks, is a new laptop for Romy.

Despite misgivings, Julian and Dorothy seem to have had a good weekend in Paris.

My nephew is apparently due to contact me at any moment re a brief meet before he goes to France, then back to New Zealand.

Went to a Slug and Lettuce previously avoided mainly because of the name, and discovered the food is fine, and they do starter or main sizes of a lot of things, so had a starter size of warm salmon salad with asparagus, followed by cheese with warm bread and grapes.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Successful River Trip

Got up at the crack of dawn and rushed off grabbing my list of 'day on the river' attendants, running at 73 in two coaches. Despite the dull weather, all turned up and we set off.

The pier was hard to find at Kingston and the boat not yet arrived when we got there, but it eventually appeared. Fortunately there was plenty of space and my nightmare premonitions not realised.

We pootled up and down the Thames, past Hampton Court and back to Kingston again, picking up a fish and chip lunch on the way. Romy and I had not realised that service was not an element with this - they just put down on the riverbank masses of servings of fish and chips, with bread and butter, sauces, paper cups and tea and coffee thermoses. We turned into rather efficient waitresses for the next half hour or so, aided and abetted by some of our charges, until everyone had received enough to eat and drink, after which we resumed snapping and staring at the river.

The sun came out eventually, brightening the day, and we spent a most enjoyable day, which was appreciated by all.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Menus and Nightmares

I was helping Dorian by proofreading his menus and selecting a legible typeface. We discussed all this and decided it might be productive to laminate some A3 menus he had already designed and place these on a few tables as an experiment. That way, the tables would look already 'laid' to some extent and customers could start choosing their food as soon as they came in.

I fully intended to have a look at the beginning of the Tour de France, or at least go to Southwark Park and have a look at the Bermondsey Beat, picnic in the park, but even the prospect of Chas'n Dave could not convince me to stray so far from home today.

Had a nightmare last night about a proposed boat trip. For some reason there were thousands of people and a tiny boat, and I had used all my own plates to lay on lunch before the trip. Somehow, after the lunch, chaos took over while people were pushing each other out of the way to get onto the boat first, and I was left behind washing huge piles of dishes in a kitchen on the bank. I do hope this is not a premonition.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Athens - Wrong Time -Wrong Place

Was talking to someone who lived in Athens. It reminded me of when we were coming back to England from Saudi Arabia many years ago. We had flown to Beirut, then got a boat which ended up in Crete, had a holiday in Crete then got another boat to Athens. We were due to sail to Sicily, but stopped off to visit Athens.

All was well for a few days, we ate in tavernas and looked around, ending up with a son et lumiere on the Acropolis.

Next day we were wandering about and suddenly saw quite a few soldiers with guns and lorries. In no time at all there were guns going off and loud bangs which turned out to be tear gas bombs. Discretion being the better part of valour, we hotfooted it back to the hotel, where we stayed, tearful and exhausted, in our room. It is amazing how vile tear gas is, your eyes absolutely pour, and you feel totally exhausted and have to lie down for hours.

The next day things were relatively normal, but we were not unhappy to be taking our leave. I think this was the night of the military coup.

Tizi Ouzou in the Sixties

Tizi Ouzou was where we moved next after Algiers. My husband got a job as an interpreter and translator for the FAO agricultural programme. I occasionally gave him a bit of a hand. Basically you had to translate from English to French to give instructions on how to grow stuff which was supposed to help keep the soil from eroding. Also from French to English for the American agricultural specialists. At the time Tizi Ouzou was a largeish village in the Atlas Mountains. It is now a huge town.

Ben Bella was in power at the time, but there were so-called counter-revolutionaries in the mountains, and the Algerian villagers who worked for the programme would be regularly picked off by snipers overnight. Shopping in the village could be a little unnerving, as army trucks regularly trundled through, full of soldiers facing us with fixed bayonets, looking very nervous. They were black guys from the desert, conscripted because presumably the mountain guys would not shoot each other.

One night was quite dramatic as there was more shooting than usual from the hills, so we got up and looked out of our window (with lights off naturally), at the military camp and prison below us. People dashed about shooting a bit and it became rather scary, but fortunately did not develop into a very major incident and all was quiet again by the next morning. Things became much worse later, and Ben Bella didn't last in power very long after this.

Clove, Bead and Ribbon Oranges

These are fun to make. When I made some clove oranges last Christmas, I studded one or two rather sparsely, and left some oranges to go hard without studding them.

These work very well if you pin coloured ribbon around the oranges however you like, or not if you prefer, then stud the hard oranges with beads threaded on pins. If the holes in your beads are too large, you can first thread tiny beads or sequins on to the pins before threading on the larger beads. Sometimes rows of tiny beads can be effective, too. This is fun to do and can be a bit kitsch, but less so if you use plain matching beads in one colour. I have made quite a good plain white one from pearl beads. I have a bowlful of these in my boudoir, and the smell of spice and orange is quite pleasant as I walk past.

Googling and Algiers

The internet is indeed wonderful. Having time on my hands, I was vaguely Googling various places for property to buy. Looked at Trinidad, but the websites are a bit pathetic and the properties none too cheap. Then Algiers, where if it was politically stable, would be my choice for a happy retirement.

Amazing how much property has been built in Algiers over the last thirty years despite civil unrest and war. There are several large hotels in the area, including one just outside town where we used to drive to a remote and empty beach called Sidi Ferruch - now a huge hotel complex. If I am not mistaken in my interpretation of property prices, there seem to be large villas for sale dotted around the capital for under £4,000. However my maths may be incorrect. Or again, the low prices may be due to the civil unrest and low local salaries.

When I lived there in the early sixties after the war with the French, and Ben Bella was in power, civil servants, including an Irish architect friend of ours, were sometimes only paid once or twice a year, meanwhile living on credit from landlords, facilities companies and local shops. I wonder if it is still like that? My husband graduated from Oxford and went there to teach English. I worked in various embassies.

It really is a beautiful city. We lived in Golfe, which was in the hills on the left looking inland from the sea. We looked out every night over the bay, lit up all around. There were several village-like suburbs, with old low-rise white Arab style houses, the roofs in certain seasons covered in stork's nests.

The seaside part of town was full of old colonial buildings and ornate gardens, these rather grand areas and squares next to the small bustling streets, with one larger, wider, smart shopping street. The most exciting part was the casbah, which wound from the lower part steeply up to the top with great views, tiny cobbled streets with donkeys transporting goods, and mysterious buildings with huge wooden doors.

At one point we lived in a marvellous apartment further into town, but still with magnificent views and a large terrace. This was owned by an architect, a pied-noir who returned to France. The apartment consisted of one huge room with a tiny kitchen and bathroom off, tiny windows in the huge walls, a fourposter bed against one wall, all leading off to the white terrace. There were two or three supporting pillars in the flat. The floor, walls, ceiling and pillars were all covered with absolutely fantastic tiles. When old buildings had been demolished, this guy collected all the ancient tiles and put them inside his flat. It was like the Arabian Nights. Photography never seemed so important in those days or I would have some snaps.

Friday, 6 July 2007

Nothing Much to Report

The workman finally turned up at 2.15. He was limping around, having had an operation on his cruciate ligament, but somehow managed to fix the cupboard properly. Of course, no one had told him to bring paint to repaint the door frame. Julian has offered to do this at some time, so it will have to wait.

Dorothy and Julian off to Paris. I do hope they have a good time. At least the surroundings will be different.

Had an early dinner in the Thai place - prawn Penang, my favourite.

Still feels strange without television, I suppose I will get used to it in time. I am certainly reading a lot and listing to the radio, though not getting as much done in the house as I had hoped.

The Cat Sat on the Mat

This black and white round rug was bought from Habitat.

As soon as it arrived, my wonderful old cat Chub sat in the black spot in the middle. When she sat on the rug at any time, it was always on the spot in the middle, as though she was optically directed there.

It is getting later, 1.42pm, and the workman is still not here. I am becoming a bit stir crazy.

Kitchen Floor

Before I had my new kitchen put in, my old kitchen floor was concrete. Painted bright blue, the paint kept wearing off in patches.

I covered a few of the patches with flowers painted in acrylic, then it occurred to me to paint around the furniture, then quite carried away, I painted the entire floor. Each time a bit wore out I simply repainted with more flowers - usually different from the originals. Of course, this had to stop, and stop it did when my new kitchen was put in.

Decorating Bangles

This is similar to the mirror idea, but much more time consuming.

Using a plain (preferably brass) bangle, I slowly covered it (about an inch at a time, letting it dry overnight)with recycled necklace beads (those above were either coral or real and fake turquoise, but on others I have used broken 9ct gold scraps which looks very effective stuck on gold glitter Tulip fabric paint).

The main thing is to have or acquire a large selection of beads, brooches, buttons, broken earrings - costume or real, in advance.

You need to experiment with which Tulip paint looks best with the colours you are using. You do not need to cover the bangles with Tulip paint first. Just use it fairly generously sticking things on. If things fall off it probably means they are too heavy, but most things will stick if you keep them propped upright until dry.

I have used old necklaces, bits of jewellery, even old necklace clasps and cufflink pieces with effect.

Last (I Promise!) Decorated Mirrors

I had to include this one as it is my favourite mirror.

Made in the same way as the red one (I have made blue, yellow and green art deco style mirrors) this mirror takes things a bit further in that I have made more use of small beads and 'pearls' and used them to make wider, abstract flowing shapes between the CD pieces, as well as larger designs. I have made similar ones using mirrored beads with CDs for my more minimalist friends, though these mirrors can never really be minimalist.

More Decorated Mirrors

Someone gave me a bag of old CDs from some record company. I cut these into rough mosaic shapes and recycled them as mirrors. CDs are thinner and lighter than glass mirror, reasonably unbreakable, and have a multicoloured sheen when moved, kind of AB.

This time I bought some very cheap mirrors from IKEA. I purchased large flat coloured plastic 'stones' and lots of tiny beads from a bead shop. I used plain black Tulip fabric paint to stick the pieces of CD on. The CDs can be cut using strong scissors but this is hard work - sometimes they just crumble - varies from CD to CD. When I had lots of pieces I put them into piles according to size and shape, then started sticking them on. Occasionally I would make large stones into 'flowers', then, if there were wide gaps, put some more Tulip paint in these, then drop teaspoons of beads over, occasionally pressing in. Leave flat to dry, shake the spare beads off, and continue until the mirror is finished. The edges can be painted with black acrylic paint to match. Also the inside edges next to the mirror surface, spare paint can be carefully scraped off the glass.

These have rather an Art Deco look. Another way of recycling!

Decorating Mirrors

This was my first experiment.

I bought a cheap plain mirror and covered the surface in Tulip fabric paint in silver. When dry, bit by bit, letting the mirror dry for a day or so, I stuck odds and ends:antique broken brooches, buttons, plastic beads etc. on it until the whole surface was more or less covered. Again, using a thick blob of Tulip fabric paint.

I was quite surprised that the items remained firmly stuck. This was fun to do and a way of recycling these odds and ends.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Hard Times

A bit pissed off since I have cleared out the kitchen for the last remaining work to be done, and now at 12.05 have been told they are coming tomorrow. No point in putting things back. Might as well spend the rest of the day's leave doing more stuff in the house.

It still feels very strange without TV, especially in the evenings. I do seem to have much more time though, and spent a couple of hours in the pub with friends last night. I am going to bed really early, and reading much more.

I am currently reading essays from Elia randomly, as I need stronger concentration for anything else. I do like the archaic language of Charles Lamb, and his affectionate descriptions, particularly of the old timers in the South Sea House. Probably for younger readers the whole thing would be too much hard work, too sentimental and would be seen as pointless in the modern world, where people like Alan Sugar seem to be heroes.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

One day I was wandering about and found this kitsch funfair in Leicester Square.

Dental Insult

Just spent a mauvais hour and a half having root canal work, after which the dentist said she found three roots but there may be a fourth! This is the second session dealing with the same tooth - the first being last week. Feeling very unwell and exhausted so have decided to take the afternoon off. I am owed a lot of annual leave which I never seem to get the chance to take, so am glad to have an afternoon, albeit convalescent, to myself. This tooth has now cost me £315 - £90 for a white filling and £225 for a root filling.

'Sorry, Torquil - you're NOT getting my nice new flag - so sod off.'

Monday, 2 July 2007

Dorothy's Birthday at Arbutus

Another Birthday Girl

Dorothy's birthday. We had another excellent dinner at Arbutus. It was heavily booked, even on a Monday and we had the choice of 6 or 8.15pm. We chose 8.15pm but in fact I would go early in future as the place was absolutely full of people, as I do rather like a quiet restaurant.

We had Cornish crab, which was excellent, some razor clam and other seafood fish cakes, and mistakenly Dorothy had ordered Porchetta which was apparently very fatty and rather disgusting, so it was sent back and replaced with the fish cakes.

Mains were Bavette of beef, basically huge pieces of tender beef served with green cabbage and pommes dauphinoise, and I had the special, an excellent cottage pie. Julian could not manage any pudding, but I had chocolate 'soup' with ice cream, and Dorothy had an excellent cherry clafoutis. We drank champagne since it was a birthday and finished with coffee.

Julian and Dorothy have invited several friends tomorrow night to a rather less expensive venue to celebrate their birthdays, then Julian's birthday will be spent in Paris, so basically there will be a week of celebrations.

This is Stephen a few years ago playing in the Ramblas supporting a flamenco dancer. Stephen also performed in concerts and taught drumming to children in Barcelona.

Just been in touch with a friend, Stephen, above. This photo was taken a couple of years ago when Stephen always wore a cap. Stephen lodged in my flat in Barcelona for a year. At that time he was a street musician, Dorothy and Julian had found him drawing a huge crowd by drumming on street furniture, leaping about etc.

He comes from Belgium and had been spotted by Belgian TV as a teenager. They did a documentary about taking him to play with the famous drummers of Senegal. He is an incredibly musical guy, and through his street music had learned several languages. Eventually he went to flamenco rhythm classes and learned many types of music. He now plays with a 'gypsy' band called Gadjo all over the place. Their website is www.gadjomusica.com. He is coming back to England this summer and playing at several venues with gadjo.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Little Nibby

Nibby as a small child is on the left, with me and our mother. We had spent the day out playing on Box Hill. This picture was taken shortly before we went to Trinidad.

Nibby is Being Maltreated at Work

Spoke to Nibby today. She is very upset. It seems that her boss, who owns masses of properties to holiday let, and is currently buying even more, is giving her a hard time. He complained about her standard of cleaning the flats, which he lets for $2000 oz dollars per weekend.

I suggested that he was having the menopause or a hissy fit, and advised her to find something else asap and just leave if she is not happy with him any more. I said she was too old to take any crap at work.She felt he had her over a barrel as there weren't many jobs. But he was only paying her the same as all the other cleaners despite expecting her to manage all his cleaners and properties. I know that if she was living in a proper town rather than in the middle of nowhere she would be a full time artist and well able to support herself by selling her work. Although she sells her paintings, she says that she will not make enough money from it. Nibby is a very talented cook, and I feel that she should either do dinner parties, or in fact start her own cleaning employment agency and employ all the local cleaners. It would give her current employer something to think about. It would be great if she could get a flash new computer and digital camera and upload all her paintings etc onto a good website and try and sell stuff that way internationally.

New Bathroom Upstairs, Noise Complaints and TV

Just paid my upstairs neighbour £80 towards the new porch light and paint. He says it is working well late at night and the sensor is perfect.

His new bathroom is done on exactly the same pattern as ours . I must say the slate tiles I gave him for the floor look wonderful. He has asked me to feed his cat in a week or two for three days while he is away at a conference.

He tells me that since my new ceiling has been put up it is very noisy upstairs, and is finding out what the building regs are on how much insulation I should have had put in and how many layers of plasterboard! He says there should have been a layer of insulation and two layers of plasterboard. I have no idea what they put in and said I would find out. I just can't face having the ceiling done again as it was very messy and expensive. He says he had the maximum amount of insulation put in when he had his floorboards done. I pointed out that whatever had been put in it would still be more noisy upstairs as they had removed several inches of plaster and concrete when removing the old ceiling.

We had a conversation about the TV .He was willing to let workmen come through his attic to gain access to the roof if this was necessary but felt that I could get perfectly good reception with an inside aerial. I said I was trying to do without the TV in which case noise would not be a problem for him. I am wondering if I should have cable TV in my basement bedroom if I ever go back to watching it. Perhaps I am too old to lose 21 hours a week watching TV.

Sagrada Familia, Procession

A religious procession through the Sagrada Familia Park.

Kingston University Art Foundation

I was doing my Art Foundation course at Kingston University when I snapped these two shy fellow students. I liked the colourful outfits.

Anti War Protest

At ten every night, as a protest against the war, everyone would assemble in the streets or on their balconies and protest by banging wooden spoons on saucepans or frying pans. These are waiters from a local cafe near Sagrada Familia, but the antiwar feeling was strong, and thousands of people would make the same protest all over Barcelona.

Apparently this form of protest originally started somewhere in South America.

Le Roi de Provence

This elderly gentleman had a grown up family who owned and worked in a cafe on the corner of Provenza and the Placa Sagrada Familia. His wife did all the cooking.

In his youth he had worked in the vineyards in the South of France. He was Catalan and his wife was Spanish. He was retired, but not in good health and sat outside the cafe all day and evening. He had two breakfasts - one was coffee and pastries, the other was usually fish or ham and wine, lunch, and dinner in the evening with drinks in between.

All the neighbours would stop for a chat, or sit down and have a drink with him. My inadequate Spanish forced me to speak French with him, but his accent was very heavy and hard to understand. He loved just to sit there and watch the world go by: 'Look - that's a man!' he would say, delightedly, as a very obvious transvestite walked by.

He was a mine of useful information about the area and thoroughly enjoyed his life, despite very painful gout and obvious mobility problems. I used to call him 'Le Roi de Provence' after the street outside. Sadly, he died a year or two ago, and I shan't see his familiar cheery face again.

Feria d'Abril again

A horse from the Feria d'Abril.

Feria d'Abril, Barcelona

This is the Feria d'Abril in Barcelona. Not an enormous affair, but still you can see flamenco dancers and singers, and a horse or two. It is fabulous fun, but more typical of Andalucia than Barcelona, but to us Brits, the essence of what we like about Spain.

Palm Sunday, Barcelona

I saw these two little girls with their palm on palm Sunday in Barcelona. I could view the crowds around Sagrada Familia, where the service was held in several languages. The crowds were enormous and huge numbers of gigantic palms waving in the air.

Pubs, Drugs and Spanish Brothels

First no smoking day in the pub. Only one person lit up as he walked out. Signs all over the place. I had a couple of vodka shots courtesy of Dorian, to go with the salmon slices I had provided. Then I went on to have a delicious duck and rice dish for lunch.

Above is my friend from Barcelona, Juan. He and his wife, an ex-hooker, run a little bar. They are very enthusiastic about jamon of all kinds, and bullfighting. They work quite long hours, interspersed by Juan and his pals disappearing into the loo to snort some coke. By the end of the evening he and his friends have drunk industrial quantities of booze and are high as kites on cocaine. At around midnight he sometimes invites me to go to a meal with his friends in Badalona, in a tiny cafe which does very good seafood, and someone singing and playing Sevillanas. We get into the Mercedes,speed off and I think my last moment has come as he drives like a complete lunatic to the restaurant where we enjoy crabs, prawns and other seafood with the music. I am almost sliding down to the floor with fear as we make the return journey, Juan fortified by even more alcohol.

From time to time Juan and his friends disappear together to go to the 'beetch house' i.e. brothel, in the afternoon, usually when drunk and under the influence of various drugs. On more than one occasion they have returned, sober and chastened, an hour or two later, having been relieved of their money.