Saturday, May 30, 2009

A word in your shell like

I've just purchased a book called 'Chambers address to impress: 200 words you should use'. I was gratified to note that many of the words were among those I already use on a regular basis including: visceral, atavistic, epitomise,circumspect and alacrity.

However, there are some other words which, while I know their meaning, I've never been able to use until now, either due to lack of opportunity or a vague feeling that I am using them incorrectly. Welcome to abstruse, tendentious, sententious, prescient, obloquy and opprobrium.

Quite how I shall introduce these words into my conversation I am still unsure. It's not as if you can go into Sainbury's and use them at the checkouts; although I used to work on the checkouts at Sainsbury's and would have been delighted if someone had said: 'The service in here is the most egregious I have come across for some time, there is a paucity of understanding of customer requirements. I must say my dear though, that you are the exception, offering an exemplary service. You are without doubt the paradigm of how a checkout assistant should be, nay an exemplar.'

I am now spending time practising using these words as you never know when you might meet someone who appreciates your use of elevated vocabulary. As a child I used to chose words at random from the big dictionary and write stories around them (when I wasn't listening to Elisabeth Schwarzkopf; I was an odd child) and am now embarking upon the adult equivalent.

I feel it would be disingenuous of me to say that I was not making it my study to impress. However, I despise dilatory behaviour and believe incontrovertibly in inculcating habitsof self-improvement and eschewing any tendency towards laziness, which is deleterious to the mind, the corollary of which is a decline in ones innate perspicacity. Innit?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A lovely, yeasty blast from my past....

Funny I should mention Horlicks in my last post. The other day I was in the local chemist shop and it occurred to me that you never see Horlicks Tablets anymore. We used to sometimes be treated to them when our grandmother went to visit her friend Mrs B in the chemist down the road, where Mrs B served behind the counter and got all the gossip on the ailments of her neighbours.

Horlicks Tablets were little tablets that tasted like, er, Horlicks and came in a foil tube surrounded by a satisfying little paper tube. They gave you a lovely Horlicks hit with some for later as they were rather dry and got stuck in one's teeth. They were hard to extricate from the tube so often you had to nibble them out which meant the ones beneath got a bit soggy and would stick to the wrapper, so often you had a Horlicks tablet and the foil.

Sadly they don't appear to make them anymore or I would have introduced my children to this delight. Even now I can feel the weight of them stuck in my molars- oh bliss! But wait. I have discovered that they are still available in America. I'll wager if we reintroduced them here, there would be a lot of interest and it could save our young people from the evils of cannabis, glue sniffing and other recreational drugs as they have all the requisite features of foil, tubes etc and the only side-effect is a nice snooze. What could be nicer?

I am off forthwith to mention it to Mr Brown. He might make me Horlicks Czarina and I can spend all the returned expenses money on importing tubes from the states and of course setting up manufacturing facilities in the UK. It can't fail to work!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

And the Horlicks goes to........

Yesterday evening saw S and I being nominated for an award in the same category as Anthony and the Johnsons. Since the category also included June Tabor and The Levellers we figured our chances of winning were extremely slim but were glad nevertheless to go along to the do and enjoy a little reflected glory.

With free wine on offer it seemed rude not to have a few glasses and I soon found myself a little tiddly. So much so in fact that I said to one person nominated in different category: 'I haven't see your show but I really wanted you to win'. Hopefully I'll never see this person again, indeed they may be thinking the same.

Thing is, I did mean it. I really liked the look of their show and hoped they would win. Of course if theatre critics worked like this, many a really bad show would have a long run and many a good one would fail. But actually, that happens anyway so maybe it's something to consider.

This morning as I trudged to the station at 6.30 in the morning in fishnet tights that dug into my toes and agonising high heels, I really felt that the previous night's wacky glamour had dissipated and that reality was kicking in with a vengeance. There's nothing chic about blisters, that's for sure.

Having reached my destination I limped pathetically to my car, shivering in my thin top which was fine last night but was now providing little benefit but a nod to decency. Once home I put on a pair of flat shoes, warm trousers and a jumper and breathed a sigh of relief.

Yes, I am quite relieved to go back to the world of the cosy and mundane. Plans for tonight include a nice hot bath and an early night - oh bliss! I bet even Anthony has a pair of slippers and likes of mug of Horlicks now and then. If only he'd turned up I could have asked him.

The winner was the wonderful Lady Carol of the Moon.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

All out of proportion

The mother of a friend of Flora's has lost 7.5 lbs recently. Or a whopping 7.5 lbs as the tabloids would say. I was musing on this last night and trying to work out what proportion of my own weight 7.5 lbs was, eventually working out it was just over two thirds.

I'm still not convinced though and I started to wonder if other people can work these things out without having to lie in bed counting on their fingers and doing the three times table in their head. Maths is my Achilles' heel and no mistake; I'm the girl who knew the things we used in maths were called Cuisenaire Rods because I liked the name but had no idea what they were for.

I've improved over the years through gaining a bit of confidence and finding ways and means of doing things but proportions always get me. To be honest if someone tells me a place is 300 yards away I wouldn't have a clue how close it was but I do know the green around which I lived as a child was 100 yards long so I use this as my guide.

I find percentages incredibly difficult to get my head around. I've never understood how you can get 110% of something when a percentage is a proportion of 100. Can anyone explain that to me?

My lifelong relationship with my weighing scales means I am an expert on my own pounds and stones but I couldn't pick up a bag of sugar and tell you how many ounces it was or even grams. Inches I work out through shoe heels. I have a vague idea what a three inch heel looks like but centimetres I'm not sure about at all. Are they bigger than inches - I think they are?

The odd things is that, despite this difficulty with being able to visualise and assess proportion, I have a very good sense of direction; however, I think this is less to do with being able to intuit distances and the lie of the land and more to do with being nosy about road signs, landmarks etc. I wonder if the sense of direction I prize so much would be as good in the middle of a desert for instance. I am also utterly instinctive about time. I couldn't tell the time properly until I was fourteen when suddenly I had an epiphany, realising at last what three quarters of an hour actually meant. Despite being a slow developer on the time front, I've always been pretty good at guessing what the time is, perhaps employing some deep-rooted, atavistic skill at reading the position of the sun. I like that image, me as urban Aborigine reading the skies.

So should you meet me, don't tell me that the place I need to get to is 600 yards away. Tell me it's past a pub called the Nags Head and that I'll pass a pound shop and a fountain on the way. I'm 110% sure I'll find it then and if you want to meet me don't tell me the time, I'll come when the sun is low in the sky.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Carnival time

The sky is a clear and blue outside and I'm hoping this beautiful weather lasts until tomorrow, the day of the Luton Carnival, billed as the biggest one day carnival in the world. Last year torrential rain resulted in it being cancelled meaning disappointment for many and lost revenues for the council, trades people and sponsors.

But why do I care? I suppose I have a bit of love/hate relationship with Luton. A supporter always of the underdog, I can see that life is a bit of a struggle at times for one of Britain's least loved towns. Once possessing a rather fine town centre, the heart was ripped out of it during the 1960s to make way for a monstrous Arndale centre, replacing interesting old buildings like the Plait Hall where straw plait was traded in the heydey of Luton's traditional straw hat industry.

The railway and proximity to London brought industry to the town and with industry came ugliness. Yet even in all this industrial bleakness there are the odd gems. I work in a very fine listed building, an oasis in a rather souless industrial area.

Wave after wave of immigration has turned the town into a cultural melting pot and a rather successful one at that, where racial tension exists but mostly people work together. This rich mixture of cultures is one of the things that is showcased in the carnival not least the amazing costumes made by Afro-Caribbean groups who dance along the street to thumping sound systems on the back of trucks as the carnival processes through the unlovely streets of Luton. And it's not just the Afro-Caribbean community who join the mas clubs to make costumes, all across the area people are joining in and people come from outside the town too to show off their ideas.

It's hard being Luton, one of the 'crap towns' but I think it does carnival supremely well and my goodness it deserves a break. I can't be there tomorrow but here's hoping the sun shines on everyone.

He started something he couldn't finish....

When the idols of your teens and twenties get old, it certainly makes you think about your own mortality. And so it was this week when I discovered Morrissey had turned fifty! Morrissey, who's words seemed to define my younger years even if I wasn't a depressed bloke living in Manchester. There was something about the way he articulated feelings of inadequacy and not fitting in, the joy of not fitting in as well as the travails, that really meant something to me. What's more I loved the way he embraced the intellectual, ordinary and comi with equal fervour - from Shakespeare, John Donne, Oscar Wilde, French film to kitchen sink drama, Carry On and Ealing comedy - and made them part of an unexpected but somehow sensible whole that seemed quintessentially British. I still feel a wave of happy nostalgia listening to The Smiths.

And then there is the man himself. For someone who claimed to eschew sex, he was a very sexy proposition indeed. And he knew it! As he moved sinuously around the mic stand, showing off his lean and hairless chest, he was the hottest geek in town. He's grown into a rather solid, muscular middle aged man but is still sexy despite himself. I would!!!

Musically I felt, in common with many, that he suffered for the lack of Johnny Marr and I haven't bought one of his records in years as he seems to have become stuck in a groove. But I can't help loving him, so here's raising a vegeburger to Morrissey.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Something for the ladies

Yesterday I went shopping and decided to buy myself a few books. I like nothing better than shopping for books and Waterstones had their never-ending three for one offer on. Having chosen two books easily, I was stumped for a second choice. I absolutely refuse to read anything called 'The Something or Other Club' or 'The Wotsit's Daughter', as most books seem to be called these days, so the choice was limited.

Then I saw something interesting; a book of erotic stories written under deliberately daft pseudonyms by well-known women authors such as Joanne Harris and Fay Weldon. Having delved very little into erotica, I thought this might be of interest and took it home with my more homely books in a brown paper bag, well a Waterstone's bag really.

In time-honoured tradition, once home, I flicked through the book looking for the naughty bits (the grown up equivalent of looking up 'bum' when you first buy a dictionary. Actually I still do that!). And naughty it most certainly is and, interestingly and probably not entirely surprisingly, naughty in different ways depending on the author.

The difference between authors is illustrated by their chosen nomenclature for areas anatomical. Some just opt for your straight Latin names while others go round the houses trying to find a euphemism that fits the bill. I can't work out which I prefer. The scientific names are helpful when you are trying to work out what is going on but leave one rather cold, while the euphemisms are rather silly and sound vaguely like something out of Penthouse.

The best stories for me are the ones where the author has accepted joyfully that she is writing a book of erotic stories and just goes for it. Less successful are the subtler, more artful efforts. C'mon girls, you agreed to be in the book, do the job properly and give us a thoroughly rude story. Stop beating about the bush - literally!

Not sure I've been 'turned on' to making erotica a regular on my book case, and I suspect this is a book of tasteful, literary erotica, but it's a good three for one (ooh-er).

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Flirting Gene

I've been wondering today if there is a flirting gene because if there is, I haven't got it. It's no good, I'm crap at flirting. I don't think the opposite sex finds me completely repulsive but I'm certainly no man magnet and as, in a moment of quiet despair, I contemplated a future as an old lady with only her vacuum packed cats for company (owing to my allergies), I mused on what makes some people good at flirting and indeed what flirting actually is and how you do it? I know women who are no oil paintings yet men pant at their feet whereas I could walk through a room in a thong and nipple tassels with the body of Elle McPherson and no one would notice me. It's clear I'm going wrong somewhere.

According to
Wikipedia (yes, I am that sad), flirting is: 'a common form of social interaction whereby one person obliquely indicates a romantic and/or sexual interest towards another. It can consist of conversation, body language, or brief physical contact. It may be one-sided or reciprocated (encouraged)'

So social interaction. I'm good at that. I am open, friendly, warm and genuinely interested in people so why can't I flirt properly? Having spoken to friends I am getting a feel for what I' m missing. Apparently you must laugh at all their jokes and not make your own, you must make them feel like they are the only person in the room and that you find them incredibly interesting and be touchy feely.

Well now last time I did any of those things, in both cases accidentally. I a) picked up an OAP who wouldn't take no for an answer and b) was admonished by someone who didn't appreciate my attentions (that's Wikpedia's one sided option I believe). It doesn't exactly encourage one to pursue the flirtatious route. But where have my naturally flirty friends learned their craft? At their mother's knee, from other women, at school even? Or do they have it as naturally as I feel I don't have it.

Anyway armed with their advice I am going to flirt with everyone until it becomes natural. If all else fails, another friend has advised a low cut top and lots of eyeliner.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Move over Liza, Edith and Judy - a new gay icon is on the scene

Our show in the Brighton Fringe has received three very positive reviews so far and one in particular from a gay, lesbian, transexual and bisexual website. The writer hoped that we would receive the 'cult stardom' we deserve (shucks!). More importantly the reviewer recognised that I wasn't dressed as the Hinge half of Hinge and Bracket but was working a 20s-30s bohemian vibe. Yes, I feel gay icon status approaching.

So what makes a gay icon and indeed could I be one? A certain element of tragedy, overcome womanfully yet always with you, flickering across one's face in those quiet moments. Er, check-
ish. I've had my share of 'tragedy' like anyone but nothing on the Judy scale, nor have I been a prostitute (see Edith and Billy), an alcoholic (see Liza) or had a life threatening illness (see Kylie).

A tendency to dress theatrically? Check, sometimes. Although I don't wear silk pyjamas at night but sport a Dennis the Menace teeshirt and some grey jogging bottoms. Not terribly diva-like. A voice suffused with sadness? Well I do make old ladies, and indeed our reviewer, shed a tear (for the right reasons hopefully). A self-destructive drink or drugs habit? Well, I do sometimes go a bit heavy on the Diet Coke and have a chronic Ventolin dependency. Does that count?

I think gay icon status would be rather marvellous actually although I do wish their straight brethren noticed my charms as readily. It would be nice to think they do but don't express it in the same way, I doubt it though. So in the absence of any convincing straight attention I'll take what I can get and bask in the temporary glow of a positive review. You'll excuse me while I lie on my chaise longue with a glass of absinthe, being tragic.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Flora among the bluebells

Bluebells are one of our most beautiful and ephemeral sights. For a matter of a couple of weeks you look between the trees and there they are, carpeting the woodland floor with a haze of blue. The smell they give off is an intoxicating whiff of hyacinth mixed with something altogether earthier. Going into a wood full of bluebells I always feel I've seen something unexpected and precious, even if they do return each year without fail.

I went up to the woods a few weeks ago and the bluebells were at their best. Seen from a distance they looked like a cloud of purple blue suspended just above the ground but close up I could see each delicate, individual plant as I inhaled their heady scent. I went again yesterday with Flora, hoping to share with her their beauty. They are still there, not quite as abundant as before and probably coming to the end of their days. Where do they hide I wonder?

I decided to take a photo of Flora, literally among the bluebells (despite the risk of her getting earwigs down her back) and convinced her to lie on the ground like Millais' Ophelia, surrounded by the flowers. I am no photographer and tend to point, shoot and hope for the best so I was astonished at what a beautiful photo resulted.

I captured two precious and ephemeral things; the bluebells and my daughter's eleventh year. The bluebells will return as they always do but Flora will never be eleven again so this serendipitous photo is a special gift for me.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The ambient sausage roll - coming to a Co-Op near you

Our local Co-op is selling ambient sausage rolls. The words ambient and sausage roll don't usually pop into your mind together, so I mused for some time on how a sausage roll might demonstrate ambience. I suppose if you cooked it there would a sausage rollish ambience but in this case the sausage roll is said to have the property of ambience rather than creating an ambience. According to my dictionary ambience relates to the immediate surroundings.

Of course I am being a little facetious as I used to do cuttings from The Grocer when I worked in advertising in pre-internet days and know very well that ambient food is food that can be stored at room temperature i.e: the ambient temperature of the food. Basically it's fresh food that doesn't need refrigerating but the use of the word 'ambient' makes it feel far more important and mysterious.
So next time you buy an ambient sausage roll, take it home and if it fails to create an atmosphere march straight back to the Co-Op with your lacklustre processed meat filled pastry product and complain.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Da Vinci Commode

Leonardo Da Vinci. What a man! Painter, designer, inventor. A real Renaissance renaissance man, if you get my drift. So it was no surprise then to discover in the toilets at Luton Borough Council a Da Vinci toilet roll dispenser. I'm not sure that there was toilet roll in Leonardo's day but then again there weren't helicopter pads and he still invented a proto-helicopter.

Looking at its clever two roll dispensing system (one for now, another for backup) and its cunning spool threading system, I felt sure that had Leonardo been asked to invent a toilet roll dispenser this would have been it. Da Vinci's own website illustrates the amazing inventiveness of their dispenser which helps with that tricky problem of stub roll waste. How often have you chastised yourself for wasting that all important stub?

'Da Vinci toilet tissue dispensers overcome the drawbacks of traditional jumbo toilet roll dispensing by eliminating stub roll waste. The dispensers control usage by allowing access to only one roll at a time.'

'Only when the first roll is finished can the second be accessed. This allows for efficient replenishment and ensures that product need never run out.'

Indeed perhaps La Gioconda's was smiling as she sat on the loo knowing that she was about to use Leonardo's wonderful toilet roll dispenser with its innovative 'replenishment system.'. Perhaps this is the secret of her enigmatic smile, she's feeling a bit smug as she knows that if one roll runs out there will be a backup. No more asking her mates to pass some bog roll under the cubicle door for our Lisa.