Friday, June 27, 2008

And onwards

The time has come for us to move from the house we've been renting for a year. It's served us well in that it was close to the hospital that my obs/gyn was based in for all those pregnancy consultations, and indeed where she delivered Julia. I insisted on having our labour hospital close to home just in case Roberto's occasional lazy spells meant he'd miss the labour.

The stairs, unfortunately, finally caught up with me. It's one thing trotting up and down hundreds of stairs once or twice a day, but quite another when you have a baby and are up and down like a jack in the box five times in an hour to settle her, or to retrieve a pacifier, or sock, or bottle of milk. It was also somewhat trying having to navigate all those stairs after having abdominal surgery for my C-section. I don't want to remember that pain any time soon.

I will miss the location - not only are we quite literally on Regent's Park's doorstep, but I've grown very fond of Marlybone High Street with its grossly-overpriced baby boutiques. And of course there's a PC World for Roberto on Tottenham Court Road - his only high street requirement. I won't miss being on the UCLH ambulance route, nor the vast amount of fuel emissions when taking Julia for a walk that does not involve the park. Traffic noise has become the vessel for all my projected hatred - if someone pisses me off, I curse at the passing cars.

Moving is supposed to be one of the major stresses in life. Moving with a baby is just plain stupid. My excitement at being far away from the police and ambulance sirens, as well as the bastards that hoot outside our house when the lights change, is blinding me from the reality of what lies ahead. The solution? Hire people to do it, and lots of them. I took the same approach for our wedding, but still got stressed. That's what happens when you're a control freak - the people you hire land up getting an easy ride, and you resent the money you're paying them because you end up doing it all yourself anyway. Nothing like knowing your flaws and succumbing to them regardless.

I will also not miss the people who slowly walk past our house and stare in, as though we were zoo animals. I am as fond of looking into other people's windows as the next person, but for god's sakes, at least have a bit of style and be discreet about it.

The inevitable pre-move clear out is also looming. This means having to chuck things away that I do not need or use. I am terrible at this. I always think that I will need or use something, some time, even if it's 10 years in the future, when I've eventually lost the weight, and tight hot pink jeans have come back into fashion. At some point I am going to have to make peace with the fact that my inherent laziness and lack of self discipline means I will never be thin. Ever.

My mother kept nothing. She had some fabulous velvet-covered high heel shoes I lusted after as a child. I'd put them on and pretend to be Elizabeth Taylor. By the time I was able to fit into them and they would have been considered very very cool in a vintage chic sort of way, they had long gone to charity. Likewise any items she may have had from the 70's, back when she was a hot leggy young woman who wore beautiful clothes that didn't have to be baby/kid proof. Gone, all gone. I am determined to keep some of my nicer outfits for my daughter, as I've done with some of my childhood toy treasures. If it means going into a box with a ton of moth balls and into storage - so be it.

Robert and I keep talking about the fact that we need to start sorting things out, which leads to a big discussion of the mountain of work that lies ahead. This results in us getting stressed, which calls for a glass of wine and game of scrabble to calm the nerves. And, inevitably, another evening passes with nothing done. There are few things as enjoyable and debilitating as procrastination. And, I'm glad to say, we have both perfected the art beautifully.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dandy In The Underworld

Here's Sebastian Horsley talking about his book, Dandy In The Underworld. Warning - language not NSFW.

If you cant see the clip, go here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Jehovah's Witnesses & Dandies

A couple of well-meaning Jehovah's Witnesses (are there any other kind?) rang our doorbell the other week. I was sorely tempted to invite them in for a free stress test, but instead smiled broadly and said, "No thank you, I'm Catholic," hoping that would scare them off. They looked a bit defeated, but took it on the chin and left saying, "Well, we're happy to hear that god is a part of your household," before heading on to our neighbours.

Our neighbours are Russian, as is their housekeeper, who as it happens, doesn't speak a word of English. As a result she invites pretty much anyone into their entrance hall before wandering off to find her employers. I'd be very interested to know what transpired when our highly coiffed, if somewhat frightening, neighbour descended her staircase to find those two modest ladies in her house brandishing the written word.

Sebastian Horsley's long-awaited book,
Dandy in the Underworld: An Unauthorized Autobiography, is now available in paperback. He's a regular character at the poetry evenings I attend at Home House, and is known for his penchant for drugs and prostitutes, and writing about it in expletive-filled articles in the Erotic Review. Or at least he used to write for the Erotic Review before being fired, and writing an equally expletive filled, violent, and shocking piece about his feelings for the editor. Which, to her credit, she apparently published.

Sebastian was recently denied entry into the USA, to attend his book tour over there, on the grounds of moral turpitude. Seriously, he was held at the airport in New York, questioned, and then turned back. I believe the last person this happened to upon entry to the USA was John Lennon. So at least Sebastian stands in good company. Here's a video of him being interviewed by a Canadian radio station following the USA airport debacle.

He's a bit of a puzzle. The first time I heard him read I disliked him. He has a strange, slightly nasal, bored way of speaking, with a distinct public school varnish. He read his work as though he were bored with it, and with us the listeners, and it was full of the f word (you've heard the one about the use of profanity revealing a lack of imagination and poor vocabulary?), and what I perceived as a violent sexual attitude towards women. He also struck me as terribly pretentious - a fake sort of person who affects a controversial personality to disguise just how shallow they really are.

The only redeeming quality to him was that when you took away the expletives, and that annoying reading voice, and listened, well, his writing was actually very good. Literary poetry and brilliant word play, but at the same time direct, fast paced, and gritty. I wanted to hear more, which is why when I got home that evening I went onto Amazon to buy his book, only to discover that it had not yet been published.

On another occasion I decided to brave the man in person. I say brave because someone who is so depraved, or at least says he is, can be kind of daunting. In person he was actually delightfully polite in an old school sort of way, a bit shy and self deprecating, and interested in what I had to say. I mention the latter because a truly shallow vessel seldom gives a shit about what you think, and has a way of droning on about themselves which becomes tiresome very quickly. He, on the other hand, struck me as an intelligent person, and there's clearly a lot of creative substance to back up the bullshit. I imagine some of the front is very much a front, but beneath all the ponce and pomp, he is indeed an interesting and complex man, and more so, a talented writer. His book, which I am reading now, is very very good actually. Extremely well written and a compulsive read. There are some good reviews here (scroll down).

Photo of Sebastian Horsley by Rob Greig via timeout

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Random observation of the day

This evening, while playing Scrabble, Roberto tried to get 'Chav' past me. And no, it's not in the Scrabble dictionary so it didn't fly. We decided to check if it's made it into the regular dictionary as slang so often does these days, and couldn't help noticing the accompaning sponsored link.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Finding St. Francis

Roberto and I are presently holidaying in Tuscany with Julia. We've also rented a car, which as we've only been driving for a year or so, is some feat considering Italy requires driving on the right-hand side of the road. Oh yes, and did I mention that Italian drivers are homicidal? Signaling is clearly not considered a requirement, nor is adhering to the speed limit. In fact keeping a legal speed seems to be a huge faux pas around here and results in a lot of light flashing and tail gating.

Tuscany is really quite beautiful, as is Umbria. Today we ventured into the latter to visit Asissi. I have to say I was disappointed. I was expecting a very rural sort of place with Franciscan monks sitting around drinking out of wooden chalices, with lambs and lions resting peacefully at their feet, and birds alight on their shoulders. I might be so lucky as to have a bird land on my shoulders while I breathed in the delicious country air and smiled beatifically. But no, it was a sham - none of that stuff is true. Assisi is a town. Admittedly a really gorgeous old picturesque one with lots of great churches and stunning views. But a giant petting zoo it was not.

I took a lot of photos, a lot. Which, ok, is nothing unusual for me, but this place was just so beautiful I couldn't help myself. There were also a ton of shops selling little religious figurines, and I took it upon myself to find the perfect St Francis for my mother. Not an easy task. Buying figurines is all about finding the right expression. Some of the St Francis's didn't quite cut the beatific mustard as far as I was concerned. In fact some looked almost aggressive, while others looked like the village eejit, and others just kind of vacant. But my hard work paid off and I found one that I think looks appropriately saint-like, without being cheesy. When I came out of the shop Robert, looking very concerned, asked me, "Just one right? Just one for your mother right?" It's tough being a Catholic in these times.

The Italians have a very different approach to babies than people back home. When I go for my walks around central London, people steal a glance at Julia and then quickly look away as though any excessive eye contact will result in me reaching for my panic button and can of Mace. Here the Italians, complete strangers, march straight past us and up to Julia and grab her hands and feet and start praising her in loud admiring tones. Today an elderly woman walked up to her, clasped her hands and kissed them, without so much as a sideways glance at us, the parents. I had to stifle my germ-phobe desire to immediately reach for a wet wipe, considering those little hands are always in her mouth, and that woman may have had a cold or some other nasty germs. Paranoia - my every present trusty companion. Julia, on the other hand, seems to enjoy all the attention and has taken to flirting with people at other tables during meal times in the hopes of garnering even more attention. I have absolutely no idea where she gets this from - must be Robert's side of the family.

I got to see an Italian doctor today to get a prescription for a nasty chest/sinus infection I have. Fortunately the phrase book/dictionary we purchased came in handy, and after a day and evening of concentrated memorisation, I was able to effortlessly communicate my symptoms in pidgin Italian: "
I have cough. Yes, lots cough. Pain chest. Me think bronchitis. Yes yes, green." The last accompanied by me play acting what I imagined one looks like coughing up phlegm, because the darn phrase book didn't have a word for phlegm, if you can believe that!

After waiting patiently for me to finish my strange, and no doubt idiotic-looking charade-like spiel, the doctor replied, in nearly perfect English, "I see, well, let's take a look and see what's going on."

And last, but certainly not least, a big congratulations to our friends Stacie and David on their marriage, which was the raison d'etre for us coming to this lovely part of the world. Their wedding, near Perugia, was simply breathtaking, and we wish them a long, healthy, and happy life together.

Monday, June 02, 2008


I've been a bit slack on the posting side, I know. The most exciting thing I've come across in the last week is an article about a man that has sex with his car. Enough said. I'm also totally knackered in the evenings having spent 12 hours entertaining a small person. Don't be fooled by their size - babies are tough bosses to work for.

We've been house hunting for a couple of months now, and an alarming number of properties we viewed are being sold because the couples are divorcing. I know, what with stats and all, that this shouldn't surprise me. And it's probably better that they are selling for that reason rather than, say, a secret rat infestation or ghost. But still, it's kind of sad and disconcerting in a bad karmaesque way for a couple such as ourselves that are looking for a family home.

You walk around these houses and there's all these wedding photos and pictures of kids, showing once happier times. Then you open the closet and see there's only a man's clothes in there. Or, in some of the houses, there are no family photos at all, as though the past has been deliberately erased, or is perhaps too painful to have in plain view.

One house had the word 'ring' etched into the glass of the dresser mirror in the main bedroom. I imagined the woman scratching that in with the diamond of her engagement ring, before packing her bags and leaving her cheating husband in a dramatic flurry. Yes, it could have been the other way round, but that's the version I prefer - a lot more cinematic.

Julia is two weeks shy of being six months. On the one hand these past months have felt like a jam-packed sleep deprived eternity, and on the other its as though they have joyfully flitted by in the blink of an eye.

When people, specifically couples who are thinking of procreating, ask me what having a baby is like, I tell them it's great. Because to tell people, specifically a broody woman, that it's a tough job and not for the faint hearted, is like telling kids not to eat the cookies in a jar you've placed in front of them. You know they're going to do it anyway, and so they should. Who ever said that the good stuff came easy? Oh yes, and I tell them to hire help - as much as money can buy.

So yeah, it's tough, but it's also lovely. I think to get the most out of the experience you have to totally gear down, employ the patience of Jesus, and just forget about time constraints, getting decent sleep, your personal appearance, and having a tidy house. As my American neighbor wisely advised me, 'Imagine life through the eyes of your child and live the experience with them."

Wise words indeed.