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.