Thursday, 28 March 2013

SE1 Bathroom Mysteries..........

Looking at my guests toothmug with his brush standing in it, I could not help wondering why it was half full of water, then looked in the loo to see a 1p coin glinting up from the water. Was this some kind of statement about the purpose of the loo, I wondered? Dear me. Since I have had a rather nasty cold with an irritating chest infection my life has closed in around me a bit. I spent yesterday in bed, trying to think of ways to raise money. I then remembered a huge canteen of silver, which I fished out. I think the scrap value may be around £1000, which when added to my gold scrap would raise around 4-5k. I am quite impressed that my past spendthrift habits may provide a source of cash if needed. If not needed, then I shall ask Nibby to take the gold and have it melted into either one enormous, or two or three less enormous bangles. That way I will still have the possibility of raising dosh for the future. Of course, if I could raise some money from artwork that would be even better, but though I have sold stuff, it is slow and hard work. I definitely need a Saatchi type to buy all the stuff I have already done, which would help a lot. Oh well... Feeling a bit better today and I shall venture out to the shops. The bug will take a few more days to subside, and my next guest is due on the Tuesday after Easter Monday. I am hoping Dorothy may come over on Sunday, and my guest leaves on Saturday. I suspect I have been very lucky so far in my guests: a distinct contrast to my experience with the lodger. After that experience I had started to wonder if I was a bit difficult, but my confidence has increased with each guest, and I am always trying to think of ways to improve the place, which may require money I don't have, but who knows what may happen? I have put the Airbnb professional snaps onto my Facebook, but can't put them here. They make the place look much bigger and better, the clue being when I looked at a mirror, which was much shorter and wider than in reality, and then realised they were using an incredibly wide angled lens. I just hope people won't be disappointed when they arrive.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Girls' Day Out

Had a fab day out with Romy last week: went to Egham on the train and Romy met me in a rather snazzy sports car which was a recent purchase. Dashed back to Romy's cute cottage before leaping back in the car again to partake of a very elegant coffee and fabulous cookie at a wonderful country house hotel called Great Fosters. This reminded me of some of the places we stayed in when working, and is a fabulous Tudor mansion with a fascinating history of visits and events put on for Royalty, Hollywood Royalty, etc. Superb place. We then sallied forth to Buratta's for lunch, where we both purchased a few items. Fortunately I had to come back on the train which prevented any further or larger purchases. Great lunch of bangers and mash, after which we visited a modern hotel by the river which promised to be a great place in the summer with a riverside terrace and huge picture windows. Then we dashed off to Egham and visited a couple of charity shops. I found rather a pretty little bag, a black and white top and a black jacket. As we arrived back at the car park, totally laden, Romy suddently realised the car keys were missing. Fortunately she had left them in the loo at Tesco, so all was well. I am a bit dim about cars and just saw the name 'Boxster' on the back. Apparently it is a rather good Porsche - so used to seeing red Porsches that this rather subtle version did not ring a bell with me. Dorothy tells me it is a very good car. I have to say the acceleration was noticeably good. I could get used to this kind of thing. That was Friday and on Saturday went to St. Pancras with Luke's Drink & Draw. Francesca and I did a little drawing in a station cafe, before the others met to go off to find a Pret. We were far too cold and after purchasing a couple of cheap sketchbooks in Paperchase, we went home. Madeleine came round for lunch on Sunday. We had a roast chicken with roast potatoes and roast vegetables supplemented by some Brussels sprouts. For pud we had a giant strawberry with banana cake and millionaire's shortcake ice cream from Marks. Nicos popped in for a while in the afternoon. He seems to spend his time travelling all over the place and plans to drive down to Plymouth for Easter weekend with four other guys. We pointed out that they might have difficulty finding somewhere to stay but he did not seem worried. A call from Dorothy revealed a rather problematic tax debt, so I am trying to find a way of making a lot of money quickly. Tricky. If I could sell the flat in Barcelona that might solve the problem, but I can't imagine finding a buyer. Oh well. The registration for the Urban Sketchers symposium in Barcelona started at 1pm yesterday, with the expected problems of a hopeless booking procedure. This was eventually sorted out and I managed to pay for an earlybird booking which cost just under £240. A couple of hours later, booking closed due to an unexpected demand for tickets. Not really surprising when you think that Urban Sketchers are all over the world, and increasing all the time, and I had been horrified to discover there were only 120 places. At least I managed to get mine, which is just as well, having booked flights etc. Yesterday I was feeling a bit ill with a nasty dry cough which developed into a vile cough and headache with fever last night. My throat had the familiar feeling of being full of razor blades and my chest crackled horribly all night. Dear me. I also had a very tiresome enquiry for my Airbnb room from someone who pestered me with 13 emails. Finally I withdrew my approval for her to stay as I decided she had been so difficult already that I would be totally against her by the time she arrived, and she wanted to book for a whole month. It is one thing having really nice people like my current guest staying for a month, but if I do have someone difficult I would prefer it to be only for a few days. Or not at all.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

At It Again

Actually spent ages doing a sketch of a corner of the sitting room. I replaced the TV with a fan, a present from Romy, as the TV looked a bit crap there. Anyway it is all a bit wonky, and even more wonky in this snap, but never mind. Had some prints done which look better than the original. Oh well. This morning I shot off, wearing my grey wig, much admired. It had become rather chilly again, so it kept my head warm which was a bonus. Anyway I had a coffee with my friend, then purchased lots of stuff from Tesco, though they were delivering the heavy stuff later, but when looking for my clubcard discovered that this, along with my keys, had been left at home. Texted Dorothy who was in meetings all day, panicked a bit and then rang my cleaner, who actually came over with the keys and we had a coffee before she departed. Must not do that again. Shared a snap of Nibby blowing her whistle at the protest in Macclesfield. She looks very good I think. Quite the revolutionary. Purchased another jasmine and a couple of mini daffs, which look quite sweet. I put the hyacinths in the garden, where I hope they will blossom again next year. There is a worrying encroachment of bamboo which is now only just outside my fence. I am wondering whether to lob a hand grenade so it falls just over the fence, but where to purchase such a thing? It might shock the bamboo into considering its position, literally. Maybe. We shall see. At least there are lots of small birds twittering away among the leaves there. Kooky is still being very picky about food. I am thinking of purchasing some hairball remedy, in case he has a large hairball, since he has been dry vomiting a bit recently. I need to pay large sums of money on Monday to try and assure my place at the Urban Sketcher symposium. Horrified to hear they only have 120 places. If I don't get a ticket I suppose I can hang around where they are doing workshops and sketch and pick things up, as well as getting a bit of sketching done anyway. We shall see.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Double Vision

or something made me put two sketches on the last post. Oh well. I ventured out through cold and driving rain to the Brasserie Toulouse Lautrec jam session last night. I left really early, only to discover a couple sitting at my usual table dammit. It was good to see people again, but my efforts were distinctly sketchy. Anyway this morning met my pal David for coffee, and wore my grey wig. He was very enthusiastic about this and said he rather fancied me in it, but that I should wear it at all times. Dear me. Anyway things are a bit quiet this week. At least I have had the loo seat finished, which took ages and confirmed my decision to call the plumber. On Friday I am due at Romy's in Egham, Saturday is Luke's Drink & Draw at St. Pancras, and Madeleine will come over on Sunday. Anyway here's the rather dodgy sketches I did at Toulouse Lautrec:

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Silver Sue of Southwark SE1

just went completely batty and bought a grey wig - if you can't have grey hair at 71 - just buy it! Anyway I think it looks quite good, but would rather like a white bob too. Maybe I can find one of these somewhere. Did a bit of sketching at St. Martin in the Fields crypt cafe on Friday, where we were joined by a tiny French child who was seriously sketching with us. We may sketch at Gaby's Deli just up the Charing Cross Road later. This is threatened as the owner wants to get rid of his properties and have more chains like Costa. Seems that Gaby's was a favourite of my ex, and it has been there since the mid sixties. All the actors have been up in arms and doing gigs there to raise publicity. I suggested that a bunch of artists sketching and posting their sketches on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter etc. might help here. Seems that Nibby had a good march in Macclesfield yesterday where they are protesting about the same kind of thing, trying to preserve the independent little shops and studios there. We're all at it. Admitted most of mine is of an armchair nature through the internet, but right on, say I! On the domestic front, my new polisher is very useful, I have purchased more garden plants, some new and smart frying pans and a new pet feeder for the Kookster, who remains capricious and picky about his food. I wish I did. Met Dorothy in Borough Market, and after purchasing all the sensible fruit he made a beeline for the chocolate stall where we purchased lots of chocs and proceeded to eat these with a cuppa at his place. We agonised about the cost of repairing his expensive shoes, going skiing, etc etc before parting company. He may well be skiing over Easter now so I shall refrain from making a huge effort for this. My current guest is leaving on Easter Saturday so I have purchased some mini hot cross buns from M & S which I stuck in the freezer. Due to go to Romy's next Friday (third time lucky with our attempted arrangements? we shall see). Meanwhile tomorrow, my plumber is due to come and attempt to change the loo seat (WHAT a palaver). If he remembers to come so I may text him. Today is Paddy's day and the pub on the corner is opening for the weekend for the first time, including Sunday lunch, so I may well partake of this. We shall see.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

snowy and sunny Southwark

but bloody cold and windy. Sketched a portrait demo at the Mall with Francesca and Artists & Illustrators on Sunday, but came back home soon as it was very cold. Later, Dorothy arrived bearing a huge smart bouquet from Borough Market and we dined at the Delaunay, which was very good indeed. A very satisfactory Mothers Day. Very exciting text messages from a friend on a rather enjoyable blind date, affording vicarious pleasure to this old bat. Yesterday I discovered a launderette in Walworth Road, so today left a pile of bedding there which I shall collect tomorrow. I thought it was rather expensive at £20, so I suspect a one-off, but at least I now know where to go to get things laundered. If they haven't lost them (and I hope they won't as one set is very expensive linen and the other is very expensive designer cotton) I shall collect tomorrow. Managed to use a couple of Gudrun bags to transport them in. Last night I did a bit of sketching at the Albert Arms at the Pubsci meeting where there was a most interesting talk on reconstructing how dinosaurs probably looked from examining a few old bones. Paleo Sam is an artist specialising in this kind of thing. Came home a bit knackered. This morning I discovered a huge pot had fallen over and broken in the garden. It had been knocked over by the wind. I spent quite a long time tidying up and planting a few of my wilting primroses. Must get some more pond weed. It seems to disappear fast from the larger pond, but the snails are making a good job of cleaning up all the fish poo in the small one. I had a moment of extreme extravagance and have purchased a lightweight floor polisher from Lakeland for £79. I hope to God it will do something for the kitchen floor. If not I may well put some lino on top of the black marble tiles. We shall see. I also took the unprecedented step of booking a ticked for the Oldie Literary Lunch, an excuse for authors to flog copies of their latest books. There are three speakers: Orlando Figes, Nicky Haslam and Posy Simmonds. The ticket was so much I doubt I will be able to afford to buy any books. Of course I am interested in Posy Simmonds whose drawings I admire. I have heard that Nicky Haslam is actually OK, and apparently the Figes book is very good according to reviews. I have also purchased a cheap secondhand paperback by the recently deceased Sylvia Smith. I had never heard of her until I read her obit in the Times yesterday and decided she sounded quite intriguing. Oh well, we shall see. Quite looking forward to sketching in the Crypt on Friday and off to Romy's new pad in Egham on Saturday. Such treats!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Knackered of SE1 - Part 2

The photographer took ages to snap my flat (just caught him here, in the kitchen), but I eventually escaped to Monmouth Street, where I devoured a few nordic snacks kindly provided at Gudrun's, before indulging in some retail therapy. Met a woman I had previously bumped into: a felter from Morley College. A very successful day. Yesterday I set forth for Canary Wharf and met Luke and the others. I decided it was far too cold for outside sketching so hid in a Pret and did a rather desultory sketch, later joined by the other sketchers who were freezing. I had noticed that the Jubilee line arrived at Stratford which I had wanted to visit, so abandoned sketching in favour of a trip to Westfields, where I found a very useful and cheap thin unlined dark parka for the spring, just heavy enough to be a little windproof and cover the ancient arms over sleeveless things. Fortunately I was wearing some of my Gudrun black and white purchases, so was able to see that it looked OK over these. Marks & Spencer is a most useful shop. On the return journey to Southwark, I had a sudden impulse to try the Emirates Airline, so leapt off at Greenwich North. Assessing (rightly, according to other travellers) that there was nothing much on the other side, I purchased a 360 degree round trip. I was a bit terrified at first, but the cable cars feel very secure and safe. The one unusual thing I did see was a man rising out of the water below on a huge jet of water coming out of a snakelike yellow cable. He would be in the water and suddenly rise straight out to quite a height. He seemed to keep his balance by holding out two kind of hoses pointing downwards from each hand. The whole thing was obviously quite skilled. According to a fellow passenger, this is a new craze. Quite spectacular. Worth the trip just to see that, but it is an easy, pleasant little trip. I may take a closer look at the O2 next time as I espied a Cafe Rouge next door. Arrived home in time to feed the Kookster. My guest came home much later after a shopping trip.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Gifts Galore!

Romy paid me a surprise visit yesterday. She came bearing gifts: a wonderful black bag with a very useful inner bag. The bag has a very trendy diamante skull, and inside the inner bag was this gorgeous lacy scarf from Spain. Fantastic - I shall wear these to my Mother's Day dinner with Dorothy. I can fit sketchbooks in, too, so very handy indeed. I don't know whether I mentioned I am having my more trashy bits of gold melted down into a bangle. Nibby's jeweller is going to do the work and Nibby will collect the gold on her next visit. Quite exciting! My new guest from Paris is settling in well as he is here for a month's internship just around the corner, so staying here is very handy for him. I have purchased some flowers to brighten up the garden since the Airbnb snapper is coming tomorrow. Mind you, he probably won't snap the garden since it is probably going to be pissing with rain. We shall see. Maybe I shall fill some baskets with flowers so they can be carried inside or out. Frantically cleaning meanwhile. Romy left her scarf behind and will hopefully collect it today. She is also bringing a Karcher window cleaning machine so I can have a go at the windows. Dear me, I am almost becoming a bit domesticated. I even baked a cake yesterday like the boiled orange cake, but substituting three overripe bananas. I may be forced to make another just to use them up. Romy was interested in the recipe which is 200g ground almonds, 150 to 200g sugar, 5 whole eggs, three very overripe bananas and a pinch of cinnamon or allspice. Oven on to about 170, then chucking in the bananas first and processing for a bit, chuck all the rest in a food processor until smooth. Line a sponge pan or two with baking parchment and cook for half an hour, but you may need nearly an hour if the dish is deeply filled. This is delicious served with cream, ice cream or alone and can be sliced and frozen. My guest had a slice which he enjoyed with a cuppa when he arrived home from work. Later tomorrow I may well go to the Gudrun shop where she is doing drinks and goodie bags etc for International Women's Day. I shall report back on this.

Still a Landlady

Set forth for the Cinema Museum which is handily placed right next door to the Buddhist place in Renfrew Road. Welcomed in for the day which provided plenty of things to study for cinema buffs and a few other bits and pieces. They were selling lots of home made cakes with tea and coffee for only £1 each, so I fell for a cupcake immediately. Had a chat with a few people including a fellow artist who has designed a statue of Charlie Chaplin with several optional locations. My favourite was the latest: near the 'shaver' building at Elephant & Castle. Funds need to be raised, which is probably the most difficult thing here, but it would seem appropriate to have a Chaplin statue somewhere in or near his 'manor', since there are numerous Chaplin statues all over the world. There is a very laid-back, informal air to the Museum which I enjoyed, but unfortunately too much interactivity to be left in peace to sketch so I took a few snaps of bits and pieces. There was to be a tour and film showing later, but I became rather tired and decided to leave earlier. I would like to have a tour and maybe see a film there at some date in the near future. The grating is a metal one in the ceiling. I did wonder whether inmates of the workhouse (which was the Museum's former incarnation)looked up and gazed at this as I did. Who knows, Charlie Chaplin might have stared at this - though it probably went in much later, who knows?

Monday, 4 March 2013

Modern Bathrooms

and loos and taps and sinks etc are utterly hopeless. Designed by some narcissistic idiot, the fittings are different (and usually expensive and nasty but cheaply made) for every type of loo, tap and bath and sink - and there are countless different types. So it is difficult to replace them. My sink is hopeless: it looks good but unless you are careful the water splashes all over the bathroom and the plug arrangement is so hopeless I have had to replace it with an ordinary plug. Ditto the bath plug. The bath connections are so bad that the bath has leaked into the guest bedroom on numerous occasions because things have become disconnected underneath, the large plate-like shower caked up and started spraying all over the bathroom so had to be replaced and now, for the final touch, I managed to get a new loo seat from Bathstore, only to discover that the old one is fixed in some modern way so it cannot be removed without two (very strong) people. I spent hours trying to do it yesterday, and despite using the right screwdriver, I suspect I have ruined the bits you unscrew. I finally had to ring the plumber who will charge a fortune and can't come for a week. All my (long) life until the last fifteen years or so, there were ordinary, fairly standard, baths, sinks, loos etc with fairly standard fittings. A loo seat took five minutes to replace. I suppose there was a reason for all this. It worked. Now, not only are things difficult to change and replace, but often they don't work very well in the first place. Rant over. Anyway my last very charming and easygoing guest has moved on and I now have a young guy here to work for a few weeks locally. So far he is also very pleasant and unobtrusive. However the photographers are coming on Friday. I looked at the place with new eyes and realised that gutting the place, buying new modern furniture and total redecoration was not an option. I proceeded to attempt to hide most of my stuff. So far I have tackled the bathroom and kitchen which are passable. The living room is a work in progress. I also had a bit of a go in the hopelessly mucky garden, as in the right season, this could be an asset, but has been untouched all winter so presents rather a challenge. On Saturday we went to Saatchi. Francesca and I decided to sketch in a rather unprepossing cafe until the rather officious staff became a bit bolshy, so we left and sketched outside for a bit, eventually decamping to Peter Jones to meet some of the others, and ending up in a pub for a chat. Found a bus (360) which comes all the way to Elephant & Castle. Must use this again because it is quicker than the tube, being more direct. Today is an open day at the Cinema Museum which I am looking forward to.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Hospitality's Me in SE1

Having prepared the guest room with everything I could think of, even some little primrose plants in a basket in the window, as well as fruit, water, tissues etc etc. I heaved myself onto a tube to Sloane Square for a bit of sketching. Luckily I was very early, so had time to purchase a new small porcelain jug to heat milk for coffee in, and eventually found a super window seat. The place was quite noisy though, full of yummy mummies and babes, rather like a creche. I had a sandwich and set down to do some quick sketches. Eventually the others arrived and we colonised a small area of the restaurant. There really are some excellent artists there. I had to dash off a bit early as my new guest was arriving. Having purchased the makings of a full English, lots of fruit plus croissants etc., I realised that it was all rather wasted on my guest who did not drink dairy milk, coffee or alcohol (I was so proud of my Nespresso machine and my newly made liqueurs. Oh well). Anyway he was a very charming, very young guy who settled happily in before taking a wander to the supermarket to buy some bits and pieces. After an early night he seemed keen to make his own breakfast so I left him to it, then he left to visit the V & A and Science Museum before his conference starts tonight at Imperial College. I told him to be sure to try the cafe at the V & A which is so interestingly decorated. Today I sallied forth to the Cafe Nero where I met my American art buyer. He bought me a coffee and we chatted for a while before exchanging cash and the painting. Seems he has been all over the place on a long trip before going back home tomorrow. He was very happy with the painting and mentioned that his brother had a great interest in English pubs. I said I was trying to get to draw and record some of these before they shut down and he said his brother might well be interested in seeing some of my pub pictures. We shall see. It's a busy weekend: I am drawing at the Saatchi tomorrow. On Sunday my guest is leaving and my new guest arriving from Paris. Busy, busy. Next week on Friday the Airbnb photographer is coming to take some snaps, so I shall have to spend my entire time putting things away so the place looks less cluttered. Hmmmm..........