26 February 2011

Life's too short not to spoon out the jam jar

An evening in Leytonstone, so far out my shoes pinched at the thought of it. But the two of us tracked down the pub that seemed to have been plucked from the north and winched in among little cottage-like terraced houses along a back road. The pub was putting on a band. An aging Irishman with lambchop sideburns introduced Dan of Green Gables. Two thirds of a favourite band (The Wave Pictures - every song has some sweetstuff in it I swear: jam, ice cream, marmalade, sugar and syrup. A sweet-toothed set-up) have brought in Dan on violin to create this side project. They sound like The Wave Pictures, but Dave is on acoustic rather than electric, Franec is on mandolin, and the violin escalates it all to mesmeric heights. I was wholly in a trance throughout 'I Saw Her Hair Between the Trees' (and not only because the title bears resemblance to my favourite O'Hara line). One of the most beautiful things I have ever heard and only two feet away as we sat at a little round table - big enough for only a couple of pints - right up close. Franec and his round face of cheek and beard, and fast mandolin hand. They told jokes between songs to fill time as they were worried they didn't have enough material. I must stop falling in love, and falling in love so frequently and completely. Dan with his secret-smiling and shy not-quite-looking-at the audience, and occasional spontaneous foot stamp as he raises his bow. I'm a sucker for wool grandad vests. He struck me so truly, I think, because he was merging inside my head and in front of my eyes with a character from a just-read novel. Finn from The Magic Toyshop, also red haired, who dances to a fiddle, and with whom I also fell in love. Only one beer and all drunk on folk in Leytonstone.

24 February 2011

throbbing temples

I walk and it is grape dark and I am so drunk on moonshine I see stars over London.

I've never been one to suffer from hangovers so something has changed. Stiff bones and increase of neck clicks. My bus bruise from last night is blossoming. Plate of watercress and tzatziki followed by many many biscuits as a test cure. Late to work due to an accident on the Old Street roundabout. Jogged from Shoreditch. I sweated past scattered bike helmets and ballet pumps in the road...

All this after an anthology launch in a basement of gloaming light/dark. Red room, canned Red Stripe, burning oils, high on aromatics, hearing disembodied voices float over heads, woozy poetry. Magic wine, refill and refill of red. Oh, and pastel cupcakes. Singing along to a man and his guitar:

If you're going home in a London ambulance, I'm going home in a London ambulance too.

20 February 2011

Bread Pudding/French Toast

I am the content of a mania I can observe

Sundays should always be Sundays, and Sundays mean brunch. So my flatmate and I ventured to The Counter Cafe, a place making a name for itself despite being marooned out in the wastelands of Hackney Wick. Apparently the Victorians used to refer to the East End as 'The Abyss'. It is grey, drizzly, completely deserted... Empty streets, industrial estates and abandoned warehouses make up this hinterland. But brunch is delicious in the abyss. My flatmate plaited her hair around her head and wore a fork earring in one ear, a spoon in the other. We bought the Observer on the way. We were served by a troupe of lovelies: a lanky guy in a lumberjack shirt, braces and big boots, a strapping Australian chap in a sleeveless sports shirt (at odds to February chill), and a girl with two-tone braids and a tattoo up her neck. The best coffee I have had in many a month, and french toast piled with fried banana, toasted almonds and mixed berries, with a mini jug of maple syrup on the side. We may have followed this heart attack plateful with a brownie, split between us...

From moreish meals to moreish prose. I have started reading Angela Carter. People are forever telling me to read her, saying I will love her. This makes me wary. But I began 'The Magic Toyshop' on the bus the other day. I was wholeheartedly unsettled and completely in love. The first line is 'The summer she was fifteen, Melanie discovered she was made of flesh and blood'. This is a recent obsession of mine. She goes on to write of posing for Pre-Raphaelite paintings, and a great deal of bread pudding. I have strong feelings on these things. I adore bread pudding, but this was hard won. There was a time when it symbolised true horror. Melanie thinks similarly. Bread pudding and Pre-Raphaelites are definitely plots on my life map. I want to read 'The Bloody Chamber' next. Vampiric appetites, oh yes.

Doll House

Flat discussion about Country House Novels, and creating a display for them in a bookshop using a large doll house as the focal point, as an interesting object to illustrate the theme and on which to arrange the books. Three days later: FATE. Discovery of an abandoned doll house outside our block by the bins.

Sky blue with a beautiful lift-up tiled roof, open fronted, studded at the sides with little windows. In need of a bit of a spring clean but otherwise perfect. We can use tester pots of paint to touch up the places looking a little worse for wear, and to detail climbing plants, vines, butterflies, perhaps a cat by a windowsill. (Not with nail varnish. I attacked my mother's childhood doll house with the stuff when young and stupid. Iridescent pink chimneys did not go down well). We can se
t up scenes from the novels inside it. Atonement with Briony watching lovers by the fountain and, later, rape. The Pursuit of Love with the toasty Hons cupboard filled with Radlett children chatting about naughty things. And, though not a novel, we could go to town with Ibsen.

17 February 2011

Harold Pinter laughed

'Henry Green, mid-century novelist and miserablist, read in a French newspaper of a motorcyclist who wore his jacket back to front in order to keep out the chill wind as he rode. The motorcyclist then crashed and flew onto hard tarmac. He was knocked unconscious. Another man drove by and stopped when he spotted the unconscious motorcyclist. He saw the back to front jacket and thought that the motorcyclist's head had twisted right round in the accident. So he wrenched the head back into what he thought was the correct position, killing the motorcyclist.'

They all laughed and I said O God.

15 February 2011

Black, white and grey areas.

All smiles.

12 February 2011

I've read the poets and the analysts / Searched through the books on human behaviour

I was watching and listening to a boy that I am most used to hearing sing in basements. I was wearing my shirt that is very Vanessa Bell - a shirt I can see her having worn, and a textile she may have designed. I was with a lot of the people who had been my own Bloomsbury group. The boy sang a Nick Cave song. He sang

I loved her then and I guess I love her still
Hers is the face I see when a certain mood moves in
She lives in my blood and skin
Her wild feral stare, her dark hair
Her winter lips as cold as stone, I was her man

But there are some things love won't allow
I held her hand but I don't hold it now
I don't know why and I don't know how
But she's nobody's baby now

I also want my worry dolls. Tiny Guatemalan limbs, brightly coloured dresses and trousers, hand painted eyes and half-smiles, lying together in the little woven drawstring bag. Tucking my worries under my pillow.

9 February 2011

You floor me, even on the roof.

I'm staying six floors up, sleeping in a white bed in a white room, with black-haired animals. I listen to the voice of Edith Sitwell reading her poetry and reggae and drink more than one cup of tea. I like tea again. We make Jamie's pasta, even though we hate Jamie. Hacking at fresh lasagne sheets, trying to make vague approximations of tagliatelle. Parmesan, basil, egg, oil. Bowl, fork, spoons. Sleeping with the spaniel, who almost purrs when he snores. Being woken by a cleaner coming in with her key (I didn't know it was her day), hastily pulling on clothes and trying to avoid dog, dog, dog in my face. Being surprised by a window cleaner on pulleys at the bedroom window - more surprised by how normal, even banal, it must now be for him, seeing into people's bedrooms so very high. Returning from discussing termite queens and the clicking off of wings, and thinking of honeybee queens and the trailing body bits of drones, and a beautiful poem about the Menae written for Keats. Returning to spin on the roof in the wind and dancing with the dog on hind legs and all of London blowing around us up on the 6th floor.

4 February 2011

Hum of Men

He speaks in metaphors and wears braces with collarless shirts and has the most lovely kind voice you could ever hope to hear in your whole life. You would believe him if he told you Everything Is Going To Be OK. I always end up staring at his silver wedding ring. He writes of my father (according to my mother).

Andrew Motion listened to a four hour reading of In Memoriam in a freezing cold church and was moved to tears. It is two hundred years since Hallam's death, so Motion and Hollinghurst organised the reading. I am reading Hollinghurst now - The Swimming Pool Library - and so far it's all cocks in beautiful prose.

I love the faces in this photo. And how it says JAMES BROWN really big behind us. Tufnell Park rock bar. I miss those tufnell trees that breathed through their spectacles.