Friday, 5 December 2008

bowie + mercury

every friday me and danceface rach take it in turns to choose a song, email it to the other, and then we listen at the same time in our offices across london, as loud as our ears can take it.

i can't believe how incredible this week's edition was. i'd forgotten how much this song can stop me in my tracks when i really, really listen. but now i remember.

Can't we give ourselves one more chance?
Why can't we give love that one more chance?
Why can't we give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love?
'Cos love's such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves
This is our last dance...


Wednesday, 12 November 2008

tab, you're it!

Tabs that are open on my computer right this very second:

Alan Yentob’s Imagine – last night’s ‘Let there be light’ episode – on BBC iPlayer

hungryman’s inside-outing ‘Timesculpture’ ad for Toshiba

Gerald Cooper’s amazing talk about bees

Image search results for ‘Capitoline Wolf’

Karim Benzema’s Wikipedia entry

An overview of a previous episode of Imagine profiling Doris Lessing

Malcolm Gladwell’s look at the social life of paper

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

the art of happiness

I’ve been a bit obsessed by the question of how to be happy for a long time. So much of our happiness is down to our personal quirks, the vagaries of our days, whether the guy in the cafĂ© butters your bagel while it’s hot out of the toaster so it goes all deliciously melty, or waits for it to go cold and then thickly slathers cold grease over it. But it seems that the structures for improving happiness might actually be fairly quantifiable.

To some extent, a one-size-fits-all approach is still pretty effective. Physical activity is proven to improve emotional wellbeing, for example. So is feeling engaged within a community, be it colleagues, family, or fellow members of the Justin Vernon Appreciation Society.

But listening to Martin Seligman’s talk on TED last night, it got me thinking about how much of happiness is also knowing who we are, and skewing our lives in the directions we’re more or less built to go in. He talks about the Pleasurable Life, the Good Life, and the Meaningful Life, and though I’m totally mangling this, each of us is hardwired with certain skills to derive more happiness from one of these ways of living more than any other.

It made me realise I maybe just don’t know myself very well. Which is interesting, really…hi, nice to meet me! I sat down to take Seligman’s Signature Strengths questionnaire and the process of working out my answers was as interesting as the results. I think it’s cheating, but I had to enlist my housemate, Badam’s, help with some of them. Would friends say I can be arrogant? Um, Badam?

So 240 questions, 2 glasses of wine and the realisation that I am utterly unambitious later, I get to find out what my signature strengths are and it’s pretty much a longwinded way of saying surprise! YOU’RE A LIBRAN.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

when you sit right down in the middle of yourself you better have a comfortable chair

I'm terrified of getting old. I never thought I was. My thinking that was more to do with thinking that either (a) age just wasn't going to get its bony fingers around my taut young limbs, oh no, (b) it was so far away as to be laughable, or (c) if I did have to get older, I'd just do it better, more supple-ly, more decadently, more elegantly, more eccentrically than anyone else.


Having been told by a doctor that my stiff, painful knee was the result of a medical condition known as AGEING, and happening across the cruelest magnifying mirror on the planet and therefore meeting my crow's feet for real for the first time, it would appear that, oh shit, I'm not special. Not only will I really, truly have to get older, but it's already happening. Uh-oh.

So I'm taking lessons.

From the majestic Ms Maya Angelou (talking first about how proud she is to see a black man in the whitest of houses, but fro about 6:30, reciting 'Still I Rise' in that honeyed bass of hers that gives me goosebumps):

From the irrepressible hip cat that is Mr Oscar Brown Jr:

And from the inimitable Ed Rondthaler, the best looking, most electric 102 year old I've EVER seen.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

and all of a sudden, hope the United States has a new President. I can’t explain how excited I am, or even necessarily why. He’s black, and I’m effervescent with happiness about the most visible political force in the world having a black face, given the proportion of the world – and of US citizens – who see black faces in the mirror every single morning and yet have had to wait this long to see it reflected back to them from the political looking glass. He stood staunchly for women’s reproductive rights, and has a wife who isn’t going to be anyone’s shadow. That bodes well. He knows our oil days are and must be numbered, and is willing to be bold in finding solutions.

These could all be reasons I might have cast my vote for him, had I the chance.

But the main reason is just that he made it an election about hope. And enough people tilted their heads and listened and were lit up by his dogged hope to start a glow that’s gathered enough luminescence to banish the darkness of the past 8 years.

I could only ever vote for hope.

So now I want to know, how long will my homeland wait for its own black Prime Minister? Because as buoying as today’s world news is, a sad voice inside me thinks that may not be something I’ll ever live to see happen in Australia. People who weren’t bought and sold but enslaved anyway, people who cared for the land and all its inhabitants far better than its immigrants ever have.

But today’s all about the hope. I’m keeping my own small candle lit.

Monday, 3 November 2008


Gluttony - Gola
Originally uploaded by andrea francesco

Because I am a girl in need of a cattle prod, I have been scheming and formulating and signing up to things left, right and centre. I can consequently announce that I am threatening to actually make some goddamned progress on those resolutions.

To whit: I have rejoined the gym, and have resolved to get to yoga at least a couple of times a year week (oopsy. A genuine, and slightly telling, mistake...). My joints are creakier than Tin Man’s. I've been swimming again and revelling in the slick feeling of immersion. I have also resolved to take a week off the sauce.* And then maybe a bit more. I also have two apples on my desk. PROOF.

And I haven’t cried in the sandwich shop for at least a week. Possibly not that much of an achievement given my credit crunch-induced packed lunch regime. Shit. Still.

Most importantly, I’m going to give NaBloPoMo the kind of red hot go only a Lil’ Aussie Battler can. No more of this once a month business. Look out, internets.

*Possibly excluding Wednesday’s expedition to the Wild West (well, Shepherds Bush Empire) to see the Fleet Foxes when a quieting G&T may well be the only thing between me and a tussle with security after trying to hug Robin Pecknold.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

picking up the pieces

broken love
Originally uploaded by Zha

Here’s what I am going to do. I am going to get enough sleep. I am going to remember how to dance without 6 gin-and-tonics inside me. I am going to read as much Walt Whitman as I need to. I am going to go to bed earlier, and get up earlier. I am going to swim. I’m going to remember to eat. I am going to try to remember how lucky I am to have good health and an amazing family of people I’m related to and people I’ve collected and a job and somewhere nice to live. I am going to keep talking. I’m going to look forward to a Christmas with the hot sun on my skin. I’m going to plan adventures, even tiny ones. I’m going to try to be kind. I’m going to practice making decisions again, small ones like when to go on holiday and where to take my dad out to dinner. I’m going to write. I’m going to believe, when I can. I’m going to make my bed every morning. I’m going to read. I’m going to eat more apples. I’m going to stop crying in the sandwich shop when the lady asks if the mayonnaise should be on one side or both. I’m going to. Just watch me.

Monday, 22 September 2008

what he said

"...The freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the "rat race" - the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing."

This, and much more wisdom, belongs in a speech given by David Foster Wallace to a graduating class. That someone with so much to say, and that so many of us need to hear, is gone, is a tragedy for us all...

Call an old friend and tell them every tiny thing you remember about a day you spent together. Go on, dare you.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

ode to my socks

Originally uploaded by Nodoyuna

there is such a thing as having a talent for present giving. a kind, sweet, surprising man i know bought me new socks and gave them to me the day i left for a muddy festival in the country, with strict instructions not to put them on until the final day.

pablo, i get it...

Ode to My Socks
by Pablo Neruda (translated by Robert Bly)

Mara Mori brought me
a pair of socks
which she knitted herself
with her sheepherder's hands,
two socks as soft as rabbits.
I slipped my feet into them
as if they were two cases
knitted with threads of twilight and goatskin,
Violent socks,
my feet were two fish made of wool,
two long sharks
sea blue, shot through
by one golden thread,
two immense blackbirds,
two cannons,
my feet were honored in this way
by these heavenly socks.
They were so handsome for the first time
my feet seemed to me unacceptable
like two decrepit firemen,
firemen unworthy of that woven fire,
of those glowing socks.

Nevertheless, I resisted the sharp temptation
to save them somewhere as schoolboys
keep fireflies,
as learned men collect
sacred texts,
I resisted the mad impulse to put them
in a golden cage and each day give them
birdseed and pieces of pink melon.
Like explorers in the jungle
who hand over the very rare green deer
to the spit and eat it with remorse,
I stretched out my feet and pulled on
the magnificent socks and then my shoes.

The moral of my ode is this:
beauty is twice beauty
and what is good is doubly good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool in winter.

Monday, 8 September 2008

oh, now it all makes perfect sense

There’s little point even in attempting to shoehorn what follows into any kind of sensible diatribe.

Basically, when the inimitable Rach was without internet for a week, the resourceful scamp and her equally handy pals at Hi-ReS! decided to make their own internet, out of gifs, bits and pieces they had on their hard drives, and the cardboard toilet roll inners.

When they got the real internet back, they uploaded part of their homemade internet. Following? I had a play and ended up on the following screen.

And what follows is Rach’s oh-so-matter-of-fact explanation of the weirdness.

I think their internet is easily my favourite thing on the internet. Thank goodness for nonsense, weirdos and flashing gifs shouting ‘YEAH!”

Monday, 1 September 2008

the answer is simple.

"Love one another and you will be happy. It's as simple and as difficult as that."
- Michael Leunig

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

art club

Brits are famed for an obsession with the weather. Small talk on buses, sunburn worn as badges of achievement, weather reports littered with historical comparisons. When I first pitched up in London nearly six years ago, I took it all a bit personally. Am I that boring to speak to that we’re musing about the weather?

I apologise. I get it now.

I’ve endured some pretty miserable summers here. One, two years ago, was referred to afterwards as The Year Summer Never Came, and discussions about it ended solemnly, with people crossing themselves afterwards to ward off similar misfortunes in future.

It was in vain. Hello, “Summer” of 2008. Optimism was maintained throughout July. “It’s always this wet in July! It means August will be scorching.” Early August – when the South East received a month’s worth of rainfall in 12 hours just 3 days in – sparked concern, but we reassured each other, saying that if it had rained this much it couldn’t possibly continue. It’s still worth buying those sandals, you’ll get plenty of wear out of them yet.

Look at the forecast up there. That’s actually one of the better ones of the past 2 months – see, it’s topped 20°C! There’s a chance we’ll get one dry day! My high summer wardrobe has consisted of jeans, boots, cardigans, and a coat. The only bit of my winter clothing that’s had a sabbatical is scarves, and yesterday I was so cold at my desk I wished I’d worn one.

I’ve tried to be nonchalant. I’ve tried to be optimistic. Mostly I’ve just been futilely, aimlessly fucking angry. I feel like I ordered an ice cream sundae and the waitress dished up a meatshake and then spat in it for good measure. There’s only one thing for it: hole up indoors to eat pizza and draw things, AKA Art Club.

There was intricate, beautiful drawing by Rach (it's a tree, with clouds for foliage), and a selection of beards, drawn by me:

Fun with stamps:

Lots of lovely mess:

And much-needed pep talks:

Now scram, pretend it’s winter and have cheese on toast for tea.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

progress + motion

cromer pier
Originally uploaded by lomoD.xx

It seems I’m accidentally making progress on the list – maybe just the process of scrawling them in my journal has helped them come about, or, at the very least, subconsciously spurred me into action.

(Disclaimer: the list existed in my journal for a good month or so before posting it on the interweb, so i haven’t been quite as much of a superachiever as it might first appear...)

2. Grow tomatoes and runner beans
I might be getting ahead of myself here, since there’s plenty of summer left for me to murder them, but at the moment I’m proud dirtmother of a trough of tomatoes and a tangle of bean vines spilling up from a tub of marigolds, and dotted with scarlet flowers. If the sun holds, and I remember to douse them every so often, the day might come when I get to pick a tomato off the vine, rub it against the leg of my shorts, and site on the decking to eat it, with sticky warm juice running down my arms.

14. Send Elsa a surprise in the post
I found the surprise in a vintage fabric shop on Cheshire Street on Saturday. Yip! I just need to photograph it, wrap it and post it.

18. Stay overnight by the sea & 19. Go on a weekend away somewhere with Sooz
It was actually Sooz who made this happen; I can’t take the credit. She texted me one Thursday, saying ‘I have to get out of London this weekend. Can you come?’, and two days later, we, plus Jems, Nadja and Sara, piled into Nadja’s tiny, decrepit hatchback and hotfooted it out to a tiny coastal town in Norfolk called Cromer. We screeched to a halt at a roadside stall to buy the reddest, sherbetiest strawberries I’ve ever tasted in my life, ate local crab, looked at the sea, gorged ourselves on fish and chips, and were all tucked in bed by midnight. It was just the tonic, and if you can escape for even a night to somewhere that puts a different backdrop behind your friendships and your mood, do it…

20. Master the mise en ventre en roulet on trapeze
I’m getting there. It’s slow, shoulder-wrenching work. This one was quite ambitious… maybe ‘master’ should have been ‘look less pudding-y while attempting…’

22. Take Kate for a lazy picnic
At Kate’s suggestion (again, no credit here) we traipsed up to Kenwood House yesterday afternoon. It was the hottest day of the year so far, and we sat in the velvety green grass, watched swans in the lake and people playing Frisbee, and lazed luxuriantly. To say I ‘took’ her is grossly misleading, though, given that she drove and mustered up goats’ cheese and roasted tomato tart, and all I managed to bring was beer and a bag of sausages. All glamour, me.

That’s it, so far, but it feels like something, motion, sneaked pleasures and delicious surprises…which is enough, really.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

retox redux

So, it’s done. 21 days of deprivation detox is over. Naturally, to celebrate, I went out with my wonderful housemate Badam to eat an insanely rich meal and got so drunk on red wine I had hiccups for about 4 hours. (Hic! Kill me. Hic! Kill me.)

Detoxes are almost as boring to talk about as they are to do, but I brought it up here so I should probably put it to bed. I was surprised how ordinary I felt at the end of three weeks of avoiding things that usually make up the better part of my diet. At first I wondered how come I wasn’t jumping out of my skin, until I realised that consistent okayness was probably the best I HAD felt in a long time. Weekends were a totally bizarre experience – awake while the day was still young, not stumbling from hangover to pub to hangover, hearing my housemate and seeing The Boy come home at 4:30AM and thinking, with genuine surprise, ‘I’m so glad that’s not me’.

So I’ve been joyfully reunited with bread and cheese, but I am still caffeine free. I’m going to keep avoiding sugar, stick to raw foods for snacks, and be mindful of how much fish I’m eating. And I want to keep a lid on the boozing. I love wine, I love a cold beer on a blue-skied day, I love a gin and tonic in a cold, beaded glass. But I found out that I can have fun, and be fun, even when I’m not drinking and everyone else is. It’s also a freaking load cheaper…

So there you have it. Detox: part sham, part revelation.

Now two treasures to relish:

I adore the Little People project – quirky, making you look askance at the world, full of dark humour and wonder…

Phillip Toledano’s Days With My Father photo series made me hold my breath. How do we continue to live when death is so close? Beautiful.

Happy Thursday. Go get yourself an ice cream.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

29 before 29

There’s not a lot of time before I turn 29 – two months and 23 days. But there’s some stuff I’ve been needing a bit of a poke to get out and do, and I’m thinking this clean-living month might make some of this more likely to happen. So, here ‘tis; 29 things I’d like to be able to say I’ve done when my 29th rolls around.

1. Swim in the lido on Hampstead Heath.
2. Grow tomatoes and runner beans.
3. Make a red velvet cake.
4. Host a tea party.
5. Eat at Gordon Ramsay’s gastropub.
6. Read Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit.
7. Go rollerskating.
8. Dance like nobody’s watching.
9. Finish my Moleskine notebook.
10. Write every day for a month.
11. Buy some poppies.
12. Learn how to use my new camera.
13. Take part in hulaseventy’s postcard swap!
14. Send Elsa a surprise in the post.
15. Take a self-portrait every day for a month.
16. Finish knitting my grey scarf.
17. Start knitting a snood.
18. Stay overnight by the sea.
19. Go on a weekend away somewhere with Sooz.
20. Master the mise en ventre en roulet on trapeze.
21. Have my For Like Ever poster properly framed. Finally.
22. Take Kate for a lazy picnic.
23. Go to a Wills-Moody jumble sale with Sara and Julie.
24. Leave guerrilla messages of kindness somewhere.
25. Go screenprinting with Rach.
26. Spend an afternoon blowing giant bubbles.
27. Visit Elena in Oxford.
28. Surprise Loz with mail art.
29. Finish Wim’s birthday book.

Skates on, then…!

On the Things Of Wonder front…

Yeondoo Jung’s ever-so-lovely photographic reproductions of kids’ drawings

Melinda Gebbie and Alan Moore’s incredible 3-volume 'pornotopian' graphic novel Lost Girls (I went to hear them speak on Saturday night – true one-offs, erudite, charming and funny)

Vincent Fournier’s surreal photos

Thursday, 3 July 2008

day three

I’m teary, bloated, have a vice clamped around the back of my head, and I am utterly, ludicrously shickered. Right now I’m blogging to stay awake. At work. My head sags helplessly towards the desk like a sunflower head way too big for its stalk. My eyelids are wet sails. My skin is worse than a 14 year-old’s.

In short: I feel like poop; and detox sucks.

Worst of all is the exhaustion, though. Around 3 o’clock I’ve always had a quicksand half hour that threatens to suck me under into a pit of sleep. But in the past 3 days it’s been more or less a constant battle to stay conscious – and self-medicating with caffeine or sugar is off the menu. It’ll be a wonder if I don’t end up jobless by the end of the three weeks!

Does this get better?

Three things that are getting me through this day:

Microfunding charities with GlobalGiving – no matter how little you’ve got to give, you can go straight to the source and watch it make a difference.

My brand new print from Alyson Fox (I love how resolutely the little boy remains in his own world…)

The ohsohappy summertime ‘Toe Jam’ from Fatboy Slim.

(Also my friends Susan and Nick who have just had the Most. Beautiful. Baby. Boy. Ever. Just…wow.)

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

fitter, happier, more productive

sunshine on my window, originally uploaded by inkling.

In pursuit of this fine goal – and because I’ve just returned from a company jaunt to beautiful Valencia where I had a swig of booze more or less every time I blinked for 72 hours – I’m embarking on a month-long…um, clean-living effort. (I HATE the word detox. Just thinking about it makes me want to splash about in a bathtub full of gin with a barrel of roast potatoes for company.)

I’m a bit embarrassed about it, but I’m reading this book to give me some sort of structure over this next month. And because it talks about the other side of wellness too, which, to be honest, is the part I’m more interested in. I want to find out how much of my cloudiness might clear given some breathing space, enough sleep, some exercise and a month off mind-affecting substances.

On that list is (according to the book) apparently alcohol, dairy, caffeine, sugar and gluten. I haven’t even got to the part of the book yet that gives you the full rundown. Eegads.

To sum up: eek.

Having gone 6 hours without alcohol or caffeine, I’m pleased to report I’m feeling pretty chipper. Mind you, it’s only 3:30pm. I’ll keep you posted. I’m anticipating that not drinking alcohol will leave me with a LOT of spare time, so later on I’ll post my list of things I want to do before my birthday in October.

Happy Monday.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

this is...

This is …well, late, for a start. This is …much harder than I thought it would be. This is…the space in which I create.

Kind of.

It’s my desk at work, which these days, besides the odd half-remembered dream scrawled in my Moleskine, or cackhanded knitting done on the tube, is the only kind of ‘creating’ I’m doing.

But that’s going to change.

Other ‘This is…’ challenge-takers:

Meet me at Mike’s
Miss Frugality (reminds me of the funny louvred room tacked onto the side of a house I once lived in, three lifetimes ago…freezing cold or stiflingly hot, but so full of light it was almost outside…)

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

almost you

Last night I went to the cinema for the first time in…god, ever…cycled my bike fast down Pentonville Road (flying down that hill almost makes going up it worthwhile. Almost.) with the rare warm wind ribboning out around my arms and legs.

I met Rach on the steps of the Renoir and we went inside to see Bruce Weber’s well-loved (and well-written-about) documentary Let’s Get Lost about Chet Baker. I didn’t know anything about the film, or anything about Chet Baker, besides what I’d flitted over on the Renoir’s website. I wasn’t ready for what happened.

What happened was 2-ish hours of the sweetest melancholy. Chet Baker was intensely gifted, intensely adored, intensely addicted to various highs. Heroin. Methadone. Women. Gorgeous cars. His horn. And god, how he blew. Gently, without edges, romantic, stopping just shy of sentimentality.

Bruce Weber’s grainy black and white poured shadow into every crag of Chet’s too-old face. His cheekbones weren’t monumental anymore, they were like scaffolding the rest of his exhausted face clung onto. I listened to stories told by his ex-wives and girlfriends. There were a lot of them, and they had a lot of stories, not many of which agreed with each other, besides the conclusion they unanimously drew that Chet Baker was a serial liar, a manipulator, a flake. It was hard to know who to believe – they all pointed accusing fingers at each other – she’s crazy! She got him into drugs! Narcissist! And then there was Chet, telling his version of a history that might have happened, seducing with his saddest eyes and quiet croon.

Whatever happened, some hair pricklingly lovely music came out of it, and several dislocated lives, and a strange and lonely death. One of the loveliest songs in the film is his version of Elvis Costello’s ‘Almost Blue’ that I’ve been listening to all day and still reaches a hot hand around my heart every time I press play. In the film, he sings it to a luvvie-filled, distracted Cannes crowd who could have had no way of knowing it was one of the last times this man would ever sing his heart out.

Friday, 6 June 2008

polaroid love

polaroid loveliness from rockmenow48 on flickr

I love the weird fadedness of Polaroid that makes everything look like memory, even nanoseconds after the event, I love the instant gratification of it, I love the effort of depressing the button and ‘CHK! Zzzzzzzz’ sound of your image burning into the film and being spat out, raw and undeveloped. I love the anticipation, watching it develop. I love the popping colour and the smoothed-out skin tones.

everydaypolaroid is lovely – getting the perfect shot is secondary to just recording…let it be known…I was here…I noticed this…this was one of my moments in a day in my finite quota of days…

I love this project to stun your grandchildren with this weird, antiquated image maker.

And then I stumbled across Polaroid A Day. Jamie Livingstone was a photographer, film-maker, and circus performer, who took a photograph a day each day for 18 years, from March 31, 1979, until his death from brain cancer on October 25, 1997. The photographs include friends, family, Mets games, meals, operations to remove the cancer from his brain, birthdays, engagement, and final stint in hospital. Sometimes I think all this self-documentation is just vanity and ego. But looking through this live thoroughly lived, and simply recorded, reminds me that it matters that we know we’re humans, we’re all humans, we have more in common than not. I matter. You matter. Trying to live well matters.


My amazing friend rach describes it gorgeously:

"... when you have time to sit and gaze at a patch of sun on a wall till you have the urge to shut your eyes and imagine that you are on a train on the way somewhere little but not too beautiful and you are travelling on your own, with your head leant against the window, hair getting warm in the sunshine, watching faded green fields pass by, until you close your dream eyes and drift off to sleep. feeling like everything is right there, just out of reach of your fingertips and you just need to stretch a bit further, lean a bit more and you'll be able to touch everything you ever wanted."

Press play:as if yearning was all and more than enough

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

These here are rainy days.

Gorgeous Campbell's Soup pic originally uploaded by sugar-snaps

In principle, I’m a big fan of rainy days – drinking a hot cup of tea while reading and listening to rain spattering against the window is pretty much my pleasure spot – but it’s been raining here in London now for about eight freaking months. Needless to say, I’m a little over leaky shoes, drizzle-induced hair insanity, the smell of wet wool, and being permanently damp.

Finding something to enjoy in this yesterday was tough. I was crabby and tired and daydreaming again of my escape to Melbourne. So the silver lining in yesterday’s leaden skies was making up a sort of minestrone recipe. I ate it with parmesan toast, bad TV, and the streetlights outside the window casting bright haloes of amber on the rainslick black streets. If you’re feeling a little bit neglected, dishevelled, melancholic or winter weary, try it please; it’ll make your small corner of the world a tiny bit glowier for it (even better if some sweetheart makes it for you, sets it before you in an old chipped plate with a heavy spoon and pats your hair while you eat it…but it’s an excellent salve any old how you get at it.)

Here it is, a kind of recipe for what I have christened FuckyousummerwhyamistilleatingsoupinJune Minestrone:

4 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
8 or 10 chestnut mushrooms, quartered
2 carrots, diced
2 parsnips, diced
1 smallish head of broccoli pulled apart into florets
A greedy handful of green beans, chopped
1 courgette, diced
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tin white beans (I used cannellini beans)
Around 1.5L vegetable stock
2 tsps fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
And the secret ingredient…the rind from a wedge of parmesan

It’s so simple to make that instructions are practically patronising – basically gently fry the garlic, then lob in the carrots and parsnips and cook for a couple of minutes until they’re glistening and lightly garlicky. Add the stock, tinned tomatoes, thyme, and season well. Throw in the magical parmesan rind as well. It’s truly alchemical what this innocuous bit of parmeggiano does to this otherwise ordinary soup – it adds a salty, almost meaty richness to the broth that’s kind of pornographic (for a turophile like me, anyway). Honest.

The green veg go in when the root vegetables are almost cooked – any sooner and they’ll be soft and dull by the time you dish up. Add the white beans at the same time as the greens and warm through. Let simmer until everything’s just cooked.
Eat with a good book or bad television, alone or with snuggly friends. And maybe a purring kitty if you can procure one.

Buon appetito. And hey, English summer? Baci mi culo.

PS: Second most sublime soup recipe - and oh-so-good for you, marvellously - is here.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Allow me to introduce myself

I am the second daughter of a father who couldn’t see the point in children, he said, but we became best friends, maybe so that he wouldn’t have to become the father he didn’t want to be. Later we stopped being friends, briefly ceased being much at all, but now we talk happily over the phone again, and over cheap Indian food, and over beers. I was born in Salford in a hospital called Hope. 17 years later I met my best friend, 12,000 miles away in an arid desert city, born 17 months earlier than me and just down the hall. I grew up in a brick house in an Australian town named after a highland sanctuary with a kidney-shaped swimming pool, a trampoline, a little sister in a bunk bed below me and an older sister across the hall, whose three-storey dollhouse can still make me shake with covetousness. I live these days, again, under grey summertime skies and drop a postcard each week into a red post box for my mum. I love to dance but don’t do it often enough. I love to drink red wine or gin and but I do that too often. I love books, bookshops, new pens. Today I love Fleetwood Mac, plum and raspberry teacakes, and the incredible Doris Lessing. I am a Libran, a lapsed Catholic, an amateur trapeze-r (a trapezoid?), a copywriter, a shameless optimist, a haphazard collection of synapses and sensations, in love with the details. I’d like to stow away, to drive a campervan to the sea at weekends, to teach the world to sing, to take better photographs, to know who you are, right this second. Yeah – right now.

Hullo. It’s really my pleasure to meet you.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Music makes us different: happier, rawer and bloodier, revved up for revolution, sleep-ready… Nina Simone makes me want to drink whisky, wear lipstick, and smoke cigarettes. Ani di Franco makes me want to get in a car, and drive, fast, down empty country roads. Bjork makes me want to put on a big feathery headdress and walk through the woods at night making friends with owls. The Roots make me want to dance my trainer soles paperthin at a street party on Brick Lane.

Bon Iver makes me different. In the split second it took for him to suck air into his magnificent bellows, the entire audience held still in their bodies whatever air they had, the cars outside slowed to a quiet swish on the wet tarmac and the drivers switched their radios off, the bricks of the building paused their slow crumbling, static filled the air and our ears. And then he opened his mouth and wailed. And crooned. And yelped and cursed and railed, and the damp drums pounded and the sweet faced boy with the baritone guitar sang like a choir boy.

Listen now and be made different in a good way. Or your money back.

Monday, 19 May 2008

remember being small and unselfconscious? remember being in your body and not harbouring a thousand tiny fears and loathings about it? remember really dancing? watch this lovely film of a girl dancing alongside a video of her 4-year-old self and remember some of how that felt...


so, another blog; my third, in fact. if blogs were pets, there would be bumper stickers that read 'a blog is for life, not just for THREE FREAKING WEEKS, CLARE'.

but i'm trying again. because i'm a hopeless optimist, because this time i want it to house all the tiny jagged pieces of things i always mean to do but don't because on their own they just seem too daunting, because i want a space that implores me to write regularly, because i would like to connect with people i don't know and might never meet, because i want to make something i would like to read.

so this is this.

here i go.