Thursday, 22 December 2011

Merry Christmas everyone.......

As we hurtle towards 2012 I have taken a moment to stop and wonder .......2011 has not been a great year. More a year of loss than gain, of too much death and disappointment. But then I got to thinking and looking at pictures and actually there were a lot of other things that happened too.........

Like it snowed a lot......

and I went to France......

and I went to Argentina.......

and walked on a glacier in Patagonia......

and went for a drive in Salta.......

and stayed in a beautiful Finca........

and had a coffee in Buenos Aires.........

and saw Patti Smith sing.........

in Amsterdam........

and grew my own radishes...........

and went to France again..........

and hung around the pool...........

in the hot sun........

and got to write a lot.........

and ate homemade crumpets with jam and cream and a glass of Prosecco in Dorset......

and got these in the secret Santa.....

and finally learnt how to upload a picture on my blog........

And I thought, there's quite a lot to be thankful for really......... so Merry Christmas everyone.......

Top tip: count your blessings!!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A Christmas cracker......

I know we're dashing through December ..... if not through the snow.....but I'm not really feeling it this year. I don't care who knows if I've been naughty or nice, sleigh bells can ring I'm not listening and baby, I don't care if it's cold outside.

I went to Judith Owen and Harry Shearer's Holiday Sing-Along and sang-along......... glorianaing and jingle-belling and walking in a winter wonderland; I've bought my card to make Christmas cards, started hiding presents under jumpers and in the back of my closet where I shall forget I've put them and just baked my second batch of mince pies in three days (pastry from scratch, mincemeat from a jar..... life's too short) but still, it's not beginning to look a lot like Christmas. I've bought a large, pink, not-actually-Victorian glass bauble and am wearing my Sarah Lund meets Santa, Killing sweater in strawberry with a pink, green and yellow pattern, and have collected jars to fill with homemade chilli jam (so much easier to make than it sounds) to give as gifts and am drinking whisky and ginger to get into the spirit.......any spirit. But the spark and glow of yuletide has yet to burst forth and rise up from the ashes of Christmas past, fill my empty stocking-of-joy and raise a cup of cheer to one and all. Hopefully the cold snap of a turkey drumstick, crackle of re-gifted wrapping paper and pop of fizzy wine will fill the bleak mid-winter air and soon I will begin to feel a lot like Christmas.

Did anyone see Black Mirror: The National Anthem, Sunday night, Ch.4 ? I've never been much of a fan of Charlie Brooker, who wrote it, till now: it was brilliant. Fabulously acted by Rory Kinnear and Lindsay Duncan, this pig's tale of the unexpected had me squealing in hysterics and horror. Go watch it again if you missed it.

Top tip: Mrs. White's Physick Rose Youth Serum, it's utterly delicious.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Night Terrors

I haven't been sleeping well recently...... another symptom of the menopause I've been reliably informed........ but I was reminded by a friend of the excellent power of lavender. As I happen to have a handy bunch of dried lavender, lovingly picked in my friend's French garden, dusting nicely in a tin jug on the windowsill, I was able to create my on lavender sleep pillow by shaking the heads into one of those gossamer bags that jewellery often comes gifted in ....... knew it would come in handy one day. I slid the bag into my pillowcase and subsequently enjoyed several nights very good sleep.

Until the other night......... I sat up in bed, it was dark, the buzzer buzzed again. I was out of bed before I was awake. I had no idea what time it was but it was very dark and very cold. I knew my son was at home but I looked at his door just to check. Locked from the inside, it couldn't be him buzzing the buzzer. Maybe one of his friends? It had happened before.
"It's the police," came the response to my hello into the intercom, "open the door."

Still more asleep than awake, I felt completely confused, my heart suddenly racing. I looked at my son's door again: he was definitely asleep, he was in, he was safe. I buzzed open the door to the building and then my front door. A very tall, very young police boy appeared in shirt sleeves and a stab vest. Behind him stood a very short, very young, police girl also wearing a stab vest. It was very, very cold. I remember wondering why they were in shirt sleeves as I stood in the hall, shivering in my pyjamas. I still wasn't quite sure if they were just trying to gain access to my building or me. The police boy then whipped out his note book, he asked if a name I'd never heard before lived in my flat. I said no, I'd never heard of her. I really couldn't get my head around what was going on. I felt utterly dazed, shaking with cold and shock. The police girl asked how long I'd lived there and I had absolutely no idea, I couldn't even remember what year it was. They both kept apologising for it being 'after midnight' and understood I was confused. I hadn't even had a drink. Honestly your honour. I asked what it was about and they said she was a 17 year old missing person and somehow her care home had our address. At this point I began to come too, her first name rang the faintest of bells and I said I believed she maybe the girlfriend of my son's friend, I knew there'd been an argument with a parent, I knew his friend had nowhere to stay. But she definitely didn't live with me. They weren't terribly bothered, thanked me, apologised for waking me, wrote down a reference number and asked if my son might call the next day if he knew anything of her whereabouts. And said good night. I went back to bed. It was only quarter to one. Now I was wide awake.

They were perfectly polite but I was surprised by what a shock their visit had caused, my heart still pounding in my chest. I wondered how it might be if English weren't my first language, if they'd been banging on the door wanting entry, how much more confused I would have been, what I might have done or said or not been able to remember even if their visit had been a mistake.

The girl was 'found' the next day, never knowingly missing, and very sorry.

Top tip: new favourite chocolate, Co-Op's Fairtrade Dark Chocolate with Cranberries..... a taste of Christmas on your tongue

Friday, 18 November 2011

Country Life........

I have been to the country. The proper a-long-way-from-London country. Hardy country. My cousin has moved to Dorset and so I channeled my inner Tess, packed a basket, put on my bonnet and went visiting.

Leaving London by railway train I noted that the top of Battersea Power Station was not even visible so dense was the foggy day. I right pea-souper and no mistake. By Basingstoke the weather had made little improvement. It is one thing to visit the countryside in sunshine, quite another on a dank, drizzle heavy day. My demeanour was little improved upon arrival at the railway station where my cousin informed me the oil for the aga had run out that very morning and there would be no new delivery till after I had departed. I feared, like Withnail, I may have gone on holiday by mistake.

But by the time the drizzle had turned to rain we were safely seated in a warm bar-cum-tearoom in folk appear to know how to cover all bases...... eating delicious Welsh Rarebit, drinking beer and eyeing up the fatest coffee cake I've ever seen.

The 7-bedroom house is huge; a shabby-Georgian gem from which one might expect to see Mrs Bennet emerge in search of Lizzie or Lydia, right opposite a large farm with a lot of cows ....... and a lot of country air. The cost of renting this beast is less than a 2-bedroom flat in north London. The next day the sun was out and we headed to the sea. We walked with the children and their dog along the beach and I filled my pockets with stones...... for my bathroom. The sea sparkled and crashed and lapped the shore like liquid silver. We searched through the bric and brack and tat of the market: Noddy Annuals, stuffed seagulls, blue glass bottles and Marks & Spencer mohair cardis, looking for hidden treasures. I bought an old bottle crate originally from a bar in New York that had somehow washed-up in Bridport which has inspired me to repaint my kitchen. And then we went to Lyme Regis and sat in the window of Hix Oyster & Fish House, perched high on the hill looking down on the Cobb and across the harbour, and ate homemade.... yes homemade ..... crumpets with homemade jam and thick cream and drank Prosecco while watching the dark creep in over the sea and the lights come on along the shore. And to mis-quote Lizzie Bennet, perhaps I didn't always love Dorset as well as I do now, but in such cases as these a good memory is unpardonable......

Top tip: I am currently drinking a glass of water with a spoonful of organic apple cider vinegar....tastes horrid but apparently cures everything and restores a child-like bloom of youth.... we'll see.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Lets face it.........

I seem to be having a growing spurt. Like a toddler who suddenly looks like a child instead of a baby, I now have the face of a much older person. Well, much older than me...... surely. Lines and wrinkles were never something that have ever really bothered me. My course, olive complexion came into it's own just past puberty and kept the aging process at bay. Till now. Now the lines of battle have been drawn up, apparently while I was sleeping, under both eyes, from nose to mouth and between the brows. The only line that's not getting stronger is my jawline. Now the line, 'you look great' is always followed by, 'for your age.' And no amount of sleep seems to make any difference. This is it. Is this trench warfare in need of filler?

So what to do? Where as before a good hair cut and an expensive tub of moisturiser might have made one feel better, if not more beautiful, now there is a whole world of nips, tucks and injectable facelifts. And this is no longer the preserve of the rich and famous, or even the well-off and magazine worker. A friend of mine who recently turned 50 has just had something injected into her face that will, apparently, grow collagen, making her....naturally.....beautiful once more. At £1000 it's not cheap, takes up to 6 months to see the full affect and lasts up to 2 years. What happens then is anyone's guess. She didn't pay, it was a gift from the boyfriend. An interesting conversation: darling, I love the way you look, I just want you to look younger.....

So is this the future? Do I now need the youthful radiance of a Hollywood star to shine in north London? If those in relationships have to stay young and beautiful what hope for those still hoping to find one? Or should I just follow Jerry Hall's anti-aging advice, never wear your glasses when you look in the mirror......

Top tip: Almond oil for body and face it's an exceptional moisturiser, go swim in it.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

My life in pictures........

If it was a movie I would have run down the road and across the walking bridge to Tate Modern and along the embankment, under the glittering lights, hung low and bright and blue in the trees, and into the British Film Institute. I would have turned with a pleading look to the girl with the clip-board standing by the door and she would have smiled, said 'it's OK, you've missed nothing' and let me in. I would have stumbled in the half light to my seat and Alexander Payne, the director of About Schmidt, Sideways and out-soon, The Descendants, would have paused from discussing George Clooney's performance in his new film, looked directly at me and said, 'there's a seat here,' gesturing to the front row. After a fascinating talk about his life and work, when the clapping had died down and we were all reaching for our coats, the enigmatic, gently greying, American would have stepped forward and said, 'Hi.' He would have smiled and hoped I'd enjoyed his talk. I'd have apologised for being late, the buses, the traffic, my crazy madcap life. He would have laughed at my amusing story and asked if I lived in London, if ..... if I was doing anything, how he was having a crazy time of meet and greet and premiers and dinners at the London Film Festival and how it would just be so nice to go for a quite drink, if I wasn't busy that was.....

But it's not a movie, so I ran down the embankment, the cold night air rasping my throat, my bag heavy on my shoulder, sweating my way through the early evening lovers and theatre going tourists who blocked my path, and into the BFI where the girl with the clipboard said the email I thrust at her wasn't good enough and that I would have to go to the box office on the other side of the building to collect my ticket first. At the box office they couldn't find my ticket but they did find a return. Eventually. I ran back to the girl on the door with the clipboard who said I could go in but not without the usher. She went to find the usher. The usher ushered me in to an empty seat next to a man with a beard who kept texting. Alexander Payne didn't notice me. The talk was good though.

Top tip: for dark humour with gorgeous George, go see The Descendants, coming soon to a theatre near you.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Accidents will happen......

Something terrible's happened. Really, really awful.

My friend died of cancer in April. She is the closest friend I have lost. So far. I think about it a lot. It's a shock. I am shocked that she's not here. She was married to a French guy. I've known him for 20 years but I don't really know him. They have 2 daughters, 13 and 14. So it's been a tough time. For everyone. For those of us who were her single friends and don't have kids the same age as hers, we are having to find our new place in our dead friend's family's life; for those with a husband who can still chat to him over the BBQ or kids who can hang out with the girls, it's easier, they still do Sunday lunches, Saturday suppers, long weekends and weeks by the sea. But for those of us who mainly hung out with her, we're auditioning for a new position.

So, when I rang to see how the girls were getting on back at school, I was delighted when the eldest asked if I would help her dye a pair of grey shoes, black. This was my new place, I thought. I dye shoes, bags, clothes. I change things, make things, this is what I did with my dead friend when we were teenagers. This is what I would do with her kids now they were teenagers. We fixed an evening, the first time I'd been there without any other friends since the death. Just like when I used to go for supper when my friend was alive. It felt weired. I felt emotional. But it felt good to go. I had found a place in their life. The girls were on their own when I arrived, there is an hour or so between the help leaving and their Dad getting home. We chatted about the summer, their holiday, they were on good form. They are quite remarkable kids.

Their Dad came home, he is obviously very stressed. My friend and he ran their own interior design business: very high end, very high spec. She ran their business, ran their home and raised their kids, he never even saw a phone bill before. Their home was completely renovated and redecorated before my friend died. Working in interior design, they'd never got it sorted. It was something she wanted to do before she was done. We got the shoes. He said don't do it in here, do it outside. We said it'll be fine, it's dark outside, we'll do it here. Don't worry. I dyed the shoes, the girls went to lay the table for supper, I knocked over the black dye on the super-super-bespoke, high-end, ordinary-people-can't-buy-this-floor floor. I ran to get a cloth, my friend's daughter grabbed a pan scourer. She rubbed off the surface of the super-super-bespoke, high-end, ordinary-people-can't-buy-this-floor floor. The French guy went mental. He was screaming at her. I was screaming at him. We were all nearly in tears. I wanted to run out the door and never come back but I couldn't. I'd come to help, to make things better and now it was so much worse. I told him I would contact the floor people and do what ever it took to fix it. Everyone calmed down. And then we had to eat supper. I felt sick.

That was three weeks ago. The floor is of course created by Pygmy-elves in a forest somewhere undiscovered by the modern world and carried through the night only on full-moon before being laid in one deft movement and then all the elves commit ceremonial suicide so this process can never, ever be recreated again. But, for an incredibly high price and Aussie bloke will come round and try to fix it. He sanded it. He applied the stain and it proved a perfect match. Finally I began to breath again. The next day I returned to oversee the finishing oil. The boards did look a little darker but the family was in Paris for the weekend so plenty of time for it to dry. Today I got a call, apparently it's too dark and the offending patch, which was the size of my fist, undetectable unless pointed out and easily concealable beneath the table where it was, now covers half a dozen boards, spread right across the room, because even the tiniest speck had meant a whole board was sanded down. He says it looks terrible. He wants them to come back, they might have to lay new boards. Now I never want to go back again.

Top tip: go see Midnight In Paris....... Woody nails nostalgia and makes us laugh out loud!!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Walk on by.......

As I've now learnt that one needs to exercise 6...yes 6....times a week in middle age, if one is to remain fit and fabulous, I'm now attempting two yoga classes a week and have taken up walking. Living in London, or I'm sure any city, this is very easy. I don't have a car and I live close to tubes and buses and shops and stuff. I can walk to two cinemas, a theatre, a swimming pool, Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsburys, M&S, an art gallery, my yoga class, the bank and Ottolenghi's in under 15 minutes so I know I can always knock off the half hour minimum recommended but now, any journey I reckon I can walk within half an hour or so of home I'm walking. Weather permitting. And all ready I can see the benefits. And it's easy, just open the front door and put one foot in front of the!

However, in the country, walking is much harder. You can't just go for a walk. A walk is a carefully constructed exercise involving time, planning and kit. For starters you have to drive to the walk which must involve a view and/or monument, preferably both, and can be half an hour or more in a car. You must have a minimum of 3 adults, 2 children, 1 dog, Wellingtons, hats, suncream and a cagoule. You need snacks and bottles of water and a backpack to carry the snacks and bottles of water. You must preferably walk in sun-stroke-inducing heat, pouring rain or bitterly cold winds. If you can get pouring rain and bitterly cold it's best to then walk a coastal hill path for the full experience. Immediately after completing the walk you must go to either a pub (if in sun-stroke-inducing heat) or a homemade cafe (pouring rain and/or bitterly cold wind) and either drink cold beer by the pint and eat an entire block of cheddar normally used to feed a family of four for a week by yourself (the pub) or drink large mugs of sweet hot chocolate and eat flapjack by the pound (the cafe) and talk about the walk.
'What a view?'
'Wasn't it?'
'Yes wasn't it....would be...... if it weren't raining.'
'Must have walked for an hour.'
'Two at least.'
'Did one for two and a half last week.'
'Did you?'
'Nearly three.'
'And the children love it.'
'They do. So good for them.'
'Absolutely, have to carry them most of the way of course, but they'll sleep well to night.'
'Oh yes ...... all that air.'
'Oh the air and that view......'

I went for a walk to Shoreditch to get my haircut. By myself. No kit. Thirty five brisk minutes. I saw an old man through a window with his feet in a bowl of water watching TV, a tall black guy wearing a giant hat on top of his giant hair leading a tiny dog, and a young man in a van drive into and then over a set of traffic lights on the Hackney Road............. it's the simple things in life....

Top tip: If you haven't seen it yet, get to a cinema near you for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and see Gary Oldman leading an utterly brilliant cast being brilliant ......fabulous on every level.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Seen it all before.........

There comes a time when you reach a certain age, I believe, that everyone looks familiar. I'm always seeing people I recognise, people who look like someone I went to school or college with except they look as they looked then, which of course they wouldn't now......perhaps, I wonder, are they the son or daughter of my old memory?And I don't think I'm alone. A few weeks ago a friend of mine could be seen waving violently at someone, convinced he was someone she knew, except he was Bob Geldof. Which of course on one level she did know........but not on his level.

Which leads me into the celebrity sitings. I used to have a boyfriend who, apart from being a terrible man, was very funny. We would play the look-who-it-is game all the time, turning to one another to point out such look-a-likes as Michael Palin, Richard Dreyfus or Sue Pollard, at the check-out, cash-point or bus stop. But this week, on Monday, I was so convinced I saw Larry David, the writer, comedian and actor, coming out of a house in my street I actually followed him. He was wearing the unmistakable leeeesure wear of wealthy Americans: a polo shirt, long shorts and loafers; he strolled in a relaxed Larry-lollop, his bold pate fringed by grey, shining in the morning sun. I walked behind him but as he turned into the garage I was gripped by the need to see him ..... full-frontal. He really did look like Larry David. Like a scene from Seinfeld, I became George, peering in through the window as he stood in line to pay for his milk and paper. It wasn't Larry David. I stepped back and as I did i knocked the paper stand and in an effort to stop it from toppling over was narrowly missed by a car looking for petrol who swerved to miss a second car. It may not have been Larry David but his spirit was with us.

Top tip: Waitrose are doing a deal on the Lindt Excellence Touch of Sea Salt dark chocolate.....I'm up to two bars a day.....

Monday, 26 September 2011

Viva la difference........

The Autumn light in late September glows in south west France, picking out the orange, pink, red and plumb of flowers still in bloom. Fat figs hang heavy, striped and fit to burst. Amber coloured, quince-jellied drips blob the kitchen table, coffee-marked mugs and the French crumbs of broken bread finish breakfast. Outside, the hum and buzz of insects are warming to the late morning heat.

I read a book. I make more coffee. I read a magazine. I drink more coffee.

Red, white and chequered with quails eggs, cheeses ripe and firm, tomatoes rich and deep, bread from which a whole meal can be made, potted shrimps: pink-brown and buttery; lunch on the terrace is shaded by plump, black grapes that hang low over the view of fields freshly harvested. The silence broken only by the squawking of force-fed geese and rutting-bulls or the the whine of le facteur's moped, buzzing through the twisted lanes to deliver a fine new pair of Crocs with a fancy-Nubuck-finish, going-out Crocs.

Plus ça change plus c'est la même chose..........

Top tip: keep your mind agile and alert..... learn a new language.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Girl on a bicycle.........

In the spirit of keeping young and beautiful….it is after all my duty to be beautiful ……. and because according to Jill Shaw Rudddock's The Second Half of Your Life , apparently one yoga class a week just doesn’t cut it and I should be exercising six times a week, I've started walking to work. And then I tried a Boris-bike, as they are known in London.

Now, I am not a natural cyclist. Not even close. I don’t have the best sense of balance and I’m scared of my fellow road users. However, I am now working only 25 minutes walk away from home and it’s all down hill and so, I reasoned, why not give it a go, at least on the way there. And so I cycled to work. I say cycled, more like free-wheeled.

First of all I had to find a bike bay near home. There are two, the nearest is small and, it appears, always empty. The other is much bigger but is almost half way to work. Still, it’s a start. Then there is the business of purchasing your ride. They don’t make it easy for the casual user. There is a lot to read and agree to and buttons to press on the touch screen. It costs £1 to hire your bike during a single 24 hour period and if you complete your journey in less than half an hour there is no further payment. Finally, a release code is issued, valid for 10 minutes, which needs to be punched into a pad on the bike’s stand. Fearful of failing to complete all the instructions in time, I finally yanked the bike free and ran over my own foot before discovering the saddle was stuck at the lowest level. Being taller rather than shorter, I was forced to ride the bike with my knees up round my ears, as if in training for the can-can.

The next day I picked out a more suitable bike, the saddle extended to the highest position, before starting the payment process. Armed with the code I released the bike and attempted to mount but this time it was too high and again the adjustable screw was fixed solid. I wobbled on tippy-toe into the traffic and held my breath for the brief journey.

Undefeated, I tried again the next day. This time I selected a bike and checked the height of the saddle first, making sure it would need no adjustments. I punched in the code and, like Goldilocks and the three bikes, it was just right. However, I was wearing a skirt that was pencil in design and not really suitable as it turned out for such sport and so I had to hoike it up, thigh high, in order to pedal. I also broke all my own rules. I’m always forever telling friends to wear a helmet and a high vis-vest or a reflective sash, but failed to myself. I think these bikes are a good idea but I think need to be better prepared.

Top-tip: a cycling helmet in city traffic makes a lot of sense.... and could be a fashion aid for a bad hair day......

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day???

Well hopefully not if you live in England......... a bit of a damp squib? Dull? Unreliable? Even my first grown and of which I had such high hopes, such ambitions: the salads, sauces, soups....resolutely won't go red.

As we wave good-bye to August and the sticky fingers of lollies licked too slowly, strawberry-stained mouths and sand-between-our-toes...or not......and tip-toe out of the rock-pools, hang-up our shrimping nets once more, and step away from the 99s, there is still the hope, a desperate, clinging, collective wish...... it could be an Indian summer. Nothing, incidentally to do with India who enjoy their summer in the same months as we do, albeit a good deal warmer. No, the hope of hot'n'sunny September days hangs heavy in the air and I imagine that is why I've been invited to Regent's Park open-air theatre tonight and also to a party-in-a-garden and a BBQ too. We are taking a picnic and a good deal of wine and blankets and wet-weather-kit-just-in case.....

And just in case the sun doesn't shine through September I'm off to France for a few days where there will be a higher chance of less rain and a guarantee of free-flowing pink wine and I shall walk and talk and eat outside before coming in for the winter.

Last night I had an extraordinary dream about an ex-boyfriend....very vivid and quite disturbing.....where I apparently expressed thoughts and feelings quite untrue of me and more akin to him.....what does it all mean I wonder? Don't eat toasted cheese for supper perhaps?

Top tip: whether rain or sun, go see The Gaurd, hilarious and Brendan Gleeson is sublime.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Unforced Error......a story in five parts.......

Part 5.

Pia, or Miss Pia Tia Maria to give her her full name, was a six foot two transvestite from Queens. She had lived on the lower east side before it was a village and worked five nights a week at Madame Moo Moo’s over on Waverly and Grove where she had worked her way up from coat check girl to featured attraction. Un-accustomed to getting up before one, due to her punishing work schedule, she was not best pleased to be awoken by loud banging on her door when it was only eleven thirty.

She tried to ignore it but the knocking was insistent and somehow, as she was later to recount, she just knew something bad had happened. She peeled the pink satin sleep mask up on to her forehead and dragged herself from the grand, wrought iron, Victorian reproduction bed she liked to call home because it dominated the whole apartment.

“All right all right I’m coming,” she croaked, wrapping the Chinese silk robe beloved of so many performers, around her ragged frame.

“Who is it?” she called, in the more dulcet tones of miss P. She needed to know how much of a face she needed.

“Its me, Aniese”

Perfect, she thought, no face needed at all. She padded to the door in her size ten, velveteen mules and unlocked the latches. Aniese half fell, half flew into the big man’s arms. Her ashen face, a shade paler than usual, crumpled like an empty crisp packet as she clung to her friend.

“Sweet Jesus what’s happened to you?” said Pia, sweeping her towards the big bed. “Now lie here and let me make you some ‘erb tea”

Aniese lay bleached against the bed linen, Antique White from Bed, Bath & Beyond, and sipped the camomile tea.

“Now,” said Pia, rearranging her robe, “Tell me everything.”

Words swarmed around the apartment as the swirl of sirens filled the air. Aniese sipped her tea and told Pia the whole story. By the time she had finished, should there have been any sun the shadows would have been getting long. Pia sat and looked and listened.

“OK” she said when Aniese was done, “its not such a big deal.” She poured her friend the remains of a bottle of red wine that was standing in a ring on the bedside table.

“But somebody’s dead” sobbed Aniese, “and I’ve been dumped and…”

“And whatever.” Pia went to the other end of the room where the kitchen, such as it was, lived. She retrieved another bottle of wine from the cupboard under the sink and poured herself a glass.

“Look” she said, settling down on the other end of the bed, “You hated that job, the woman was crazy, you should be glad she fired you, you should be thanking her, now at least you’re outta there. And the boyfriend? Well what can I say? He’s a guy who lived in a T-shirt that said I don’t do therapy, there is nothing to say.”

“But I’ve just seen someone get shot”

“Yer well welcome to New York, what do you expect in alphabet city, Donald Duck’s on vacation this week. So one crack addict kills another maybe it’s not such a bad thing?”

Aniese drank her wine.

“But” she said, “the guy with the gun knows where I live. What if he comes after me?”

“Honey, you’re not going to say anything. What did you see for chrissakes? Some guy in a Yanky baseball cap? Its not like you found the bloody glove.”

She reached over to a the black lacquered box that stood on the night stand and fumbled in it for a half smoked joint of particularly potent weed.

“Here” she said offering it to Aniese, “its medicinal. Look you’ve had a nasty shock, maybe you should get out of the city for a little while, you know wait till the heats off.” Pia raised her chin and gave Aniese a dramatic wink, “go under ground for awhile.”

“OK maybe I’m being over dramatic but that kid Angel did shout out my name and someone was kicking at the door.”

She drew on the joint and passed it back to Pia.

“He said your name?”

“Yer, he was shouting at me to get away.”

“And this guy heard him?” she inhaled and passed it back to Aniese.

“Ah Hu,” Aniese nodded, still holding in the heavy smoke, “They both did.”


“Oh yer,” said Aniese, reclining against the pillows and letting the room swivel, “there was the guy with the gun, the guy on the ground, Angel and some other guy.”

“Was he one of the good-guys or one of the bad-guys do you think?” asked Pia.

“Well, I don’t know. I guess they were all bad-guys”

They both started giggling and Pia refilled their glasses with the new bottle of red.

“Yer but do we think he was one of the bad bad-guys or just another punk?”

“Well he was wearing a black Stetson” said Aniese. At this the two of them had complete hysterics and Pia rolled off the bed, clutching her sides and ended up on all fours on the newly acquired rag-rug she’d got in the Pottery Barn sale.

“Ride ‘em cowboy” she shouted, “yey ha.”

Aniese was throbbing with unsuppressed giggles. She took another toke on the joint, lay back and puffed the smoke out in little clouds like she was sending out signals. An S O S, it was almost time to send in the cavalry.

“Look,” said Pia, straining to regain her composure, “Are you sure they actually saw you.”

“I’m absolutely positive,” said Aniese, pulling herself together.

“Well maybe it’s not such a good thing that they know where you live then”

“You think?”

“Oh its probably gonna be fine.”


“Yes” said Pia, sucking down the last of the joint, “It’ll all be fine.”

“Good” said Aniese and she breathed a sigh of relief, “that’s OK then.”

The loud buzzing of the doorbell broke through the fug of calm that had settled on the bed.

“Fuck. What the fuck is that?”

“Its OK. Its Ok Its just the door.” Said Pia tightening the cord around her robe.

“Well who the fuck is it?”

“How the fuck should I know?”

Pia padded over to the intercom.

“Hello?” she intoned in pure Miss P.


“Did we order anything?” she said turning to Aniese.

“No,” said Aniese, now sitting bolt upright, “who is it.”

“We didn’t order anything” barked Pia, jabbing a finger at the speak button on the box, “who the hell are you?”


“What do you want?”

The door buzzed again. Aniese was standing next to Pia now and they both jumped and clung to one another.

“Tell him to fuck off” said Aniese, tears welling up.

“Fuck off” shouted Pia, “get away from here I’ve got a gun.”

“Don’t say that,” said Aniese, “they’ve got a gun too.”

The buzzer didn’t buzz again. They stood in the defining silence and then Aniese whispered:

“What shall we do?”

“I don’t know,” said Pia, “but we gotta get you outta the tri-state area.”

“They could be watching the building. Suppose they’re just waiting till I come out so they can get me?”

“I know,” said Pia, still whispering, “we’ll disguise you.”

Down stairs Billy Chen was really mad. The delivery slip definitely said East 7th and Avenue B, apartment 8. Now some crazy fucker was shouting she was gonna shoot him. And this was the third time that new fucker Raoul had fucked up this week. There wasn’t even a fucking phone number on the order. And the thing that made Billy really pissed was he couldn’t even eat the fucking pizza himself because who ever the fuck had ordered it, had ordered fucking anchovies.

Pia stepped out into the damp street that was merging with the dusk and straightened her skirt: a red PVC mini teamed with black fishnets and silver sling backs with a six inch stack. She topped this off with a black leather biker jacket and a gold lame turban. Aniese was wearing the wig. She checked the street and when she was quite sure it was safe she ushered Aniese out of the door and into the damp, dark air. Gingerly they teetered towards the subway, Aniese finding it difficult to combine the heady excesses of the red wine and super-strength weed with the six inch platforms Pia had insisted she wear. Who’d ever heard of a tranny in flats for chrissakes?

“Do you think this’ll work?” she said, adjusting the Jackie O sunglasses and pulling the cerise feather boa a little closer to her face.

“Sweetheart, have I ever failed you?”

“But I’m a woman disguised as a man dressed as a woman”

“And you look fabulous”

The potent cocktail of drink and drugs had resulted in a heavy dose of paranoia and had Aniese been under surveillance then she might have done better to walk down the street with a flashing light on her head. As it was they proceeded on their way unhindered, barely causing a cursory glance from the jaded denizens of the east village who'd pretty much seen it all before.

The End.....or the beginning.....

Friday, 12 August 2011

Unforced Error......a story in five parts.......

Part 4.
The night had passed in an uneventful fug of alcohol and Oreo’s. Aniese had no idea what time she had finally fallen asleep, somewhere between Two Fat Ladies and an imfomercial for a pasta maker that appeared to have magical powers and could make any sad-home-alone-single woman deliriously happy judging by those that sang its praises. Fortunately she had passed out before she could dial and order. She sipped her third refill of coffee and wondered. She wondered how bad her hangover was and how bad she felt about splitting up with Trey, for real this time.

This morning Aniese was really late and to make matters worse it was raining. She splashed her way down First Avenue knowing there was no way Marla would still be at the market. But no matter, she would spend the whole morning going over the break-up and Marla would be delighted to be included. She pushed open the door of the 4th Street Flower Shop, shaking her umbrella carefully and composed her just-dumped demeanour.

“Don’t bother taking your coat off” spat Marla from the other end of the store.

“Marla, I’m so sorry I’m late I….”

“You sent flowers to Naomi Campbell saying Fuck off forever. Her agent is suing me and you better believe it missy, if they sue me I’m suing you.”

“But…..but….they were for Trey and …..but ….I..”

“Tell it to my lawyer,” said Marla turning on her Dock Marten, “now leave.”

Outside in the rain the whole horror of yesterday’s events hit home. Aniese wondered if she could use temporary insanity from loss of love as an excuse. She was sure that once Ms Campbell was made fully aware of the circumstances she would understand, hey hadn’t she ever been dumped herself? Anyway, Marla couldn’t sue her she had nothing to be sued for.

Aniese walked slowly back up First and began to zigzag her way across to Avenue B. She would go home and she would call her friend Pia and she would tell her all about it. Pia would know what to do. She crossed over the road and went into the Korean Bodega on the corner for supplies. She needed Ben & Jerry’s Wavy Gravy ice-cream and tampons and milk and more Oreos. Aniese barely noticed the two kids by the door, hoods up, heads down, standing under the green awning, keeping out of the rain. She was too busy wondering what to choose instead of Wavy Gravy, which appeared to have sold out.

Back outside the rain was stopping and the two guys had moved on. For some reason Aniese did notice the half smoked cigarette now smouldering where they had stood and she stepped on it deliberately and imagined it was Trey’s head, or Marla’s head. And then she imagined Trey, having realised his terrible mistake, rushing down to the flower shop to find her, to beg her to come back to him, and Marla having to tell him she wasn’t there. And Marla would be so upset when she knew what had happened and then they would both be desperately trying to find her and ask for her forgiveness and then the reverie was shattered by the unmistakable crack of a gunshot.

Angel Cortes had made a big mistake when he’d decided to go round to Pauli’s place the night before. Pauli had already been up for two days and he didn’t look like he was stopping any time soon. So Angel had a little smoke and then he had another and well what the hell, it wasn’t like he had anything else to do. And then somewhere along the line Pauli told him about the money he owed which was no biggey, everyone owed money, and then he told him exactly how much it was and who it was to.

Even then they were still OK, they were actually laughing about it. Then Pauli started making calls and then he started getting edgy because he began to realise that there was no way he was going to get that much money together today, which was already yesterday, and that these were not the kind of guys who looked kindly on a bad credit rating. So then they decided to do the 24 hour Korean deli on the corner. This in itself was no great career change, its not like they hadn’t robbed before they’d just never done it with a gun. They were punks but with a small p, now they were about to capitalise.

The thing was night had turned to day and now the lights had come on in the east village things didn’t look quite so clear. They hovered around the front of the store sheltering from the dull rain, heads down, hoods up, and Angel sucked on his cigarette. Pauli was muttering something and hopping from foot to foot like he was warming up for his first serve at the U.S. Open. And then Angel saw through red rimmed eyes his neighbour, Aniese. There was no way he could let her see him, she was always so chatty and he couldn’t speak, he could barely breath. He pushed Pauli away from the door.

“Hey fuck off man,” said Pauli, whose head had started to bob maniacally.

“Fuck you” Angel knew there was no way they were going to rob the deli, they were going to stay just a couple of no-good kids who smoked a little crack. He was going home.

“Forget it” he said, “go home and sleep, we’ll sort it out latter.”

But for Pauli it was already later. As they walked back down the street two guys appeared before them. Angel didn’t know where they had come from, they just seemed to drop from the sky like a couple of Ninjas, he was so out of it he didn’t even know what they were saying but what ever it was they were mad. Then he heard Pauli speak except he didn’t really hear him but he saw the word ‘motherfucker’ float out of his mouth, almost at the same time as he saw the gun.

Aniese watched as the four people who’d been standing at the end of her block seemed to be blown apart. They were all moving at first then one of them went down and then she saw the guy with the baseball cap stop and then she saw a gun in his hand and then she saw him shoot the guy on the ground in the head and then she saw him look at her. Frozen as she was with her key in the door she was sure she could hear that kid Angel who lived in her building, shouting are you having fun Aniese until she realised he was actually saying you gotta fuckin’ run Aniese. But she didn’t because now she was standing in her hallway and the door was closed and someone was kicking at it and shouting and it definitely wasn’t Angel this time.

Now Aniese did run. She ran the four flights up to her apartment and with shaking hands unlocked her door. Still unable to comprehend quite what had just happened, she dropped to her knees and crawled on all fours over to the sash window that looked out of the front of the building, and peered down to the street below. She couldn’t see Angel or the guy in the baseball cap or anyone at all. Then she heard a woman screaming, it was Mrs Schumacher from across the road, she was leaning out of her window crying “oh my gawd, oh my gawd,” which was pretty much the only thing she ever said about anything. Aniese crawled back across the room and out of her apartment. Then she went down a flight a stairs and started banging on the door of number eight.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Unforced Error......a story in several parts.......3

Part 3

“You are so wrong,” said Vincent, thrusting a Parrot Tulip in Juan’s face, “She said Mrs Hollerbeck was a priority and anyway she’s uptown and uptown always goes out first.”

“I know uptown goes out first but you fucked up the Blaustein order and day gotta go now man, and dats what she told me”

“I fucked up nothing you asshole”

“Hey Aniese tell da fucking faggot what he fucked up, I’m outta here.”

Everything was as it should be at the 4th Street Flower Shop: Vincent, the Queen arranger, was having his usual morning meeting with Juan, a six foot, Latino, ex-speed freak with an innate ability to arrange flowers and Marla, the proprietor, was still at the market. Aniese rearranged the pile of invoices on her desk and kept her head down.

“Well if you could write fucking English sweetheart, then maybe I could read the fucking order, you fucking wetback.”

The last comment was lost on Juan whose lumbering frame was already out of the door. The unlikely coupling of Juan the ex-con and Marla the fashionista’s favourite florist had come about when the young flower girl had decided to quit her job arranging for the good, the bad and the ugly on the upper Westside and branch out on her own. Juan had been there right from the start. Initially hired as van driver, then a stem cutter he had helped her re-model the empty liquor store, the only property she could afford to lease, in what was then a far from fashionable neighbourhood. He had kept the bums at bay, who insisted upon banging on the door for a bottle, while he learnt the names of flowers. She gave him the necessary references to get off probation. Now he had a bank account, a wife and a new baby boy and Marla had a thriving business in what had become a very funky hood. It was widely believed the arrangement had only lasted so long because Juan was one of the few people whom the headstrong Marla could give no shit to being as how he took no shit from no one, especially her. And this she respected and therefore he became the only member of her itinerant staff who lasted more than a year. Plus, legal employment was not something that would come easy to a man with his back ground and Juan knew that his life span was likey to be a lot longer arranging flowers than it was back on the street.

“OK cupcake,” trilled Vincent, downing his blooms, “I’m getin’ coffee, skinny latte for the lady?”

“Better make it a large one,” said Aniese, swivelling in her chair.

“Late night?”

“Long night”

“Hold that thought, honey, I wanna hear everything. And tell the arsehole the Blaustein’s are ready in the refrigerator and he can go fuck himself.”

Vincent and Juan carried on a perpetual love hate banter but would die to defend one another from anyone else. Proven when Vincent perjured himself in court to give Juan an alibi after he was accused of doing a break-in with Marla’s delivery van (a job actually carried out by Juan’s now estranged half-brother who was temporarily employed by 4th Street at the time). And Juan had laid to waste a Neanderthal that had once tried to suggest that taking it up the butt might not be God’s way, while kicking Vincent down the steps of the subway on Astor Place.

The phone rang and Aniese remembered just in time to put on her happy voice, the voice she was supposed to use when dealing with the clients but rarely did. Instead she reserved it mainly for the call Marla always made when she was on her way back from the flower market. Yes everything was great, Vincent was great, Juan was great, there was no drama, no hiccups, no problem. She put the phone down and took the kid gloves off. To say Marla was highly strung was a mild understatement, she was a forty-year old adolescent. Yes she could do the most amazing things with even the humblest bunch of flowers, this was an indisputable fact but she was an hormonal headcase. Marla would stamp her feet, slam down the phone, scream and shout then happily sit down and discuss the tiniest minutiae of one’s personal life. However, should Aniese ever have to ask her a question regarding an account she would be off again, flouncing about the office, ranting on about having to do everything and the pressures of life and why didn’t any one care and on and on and on. So why was Aniese still there? Because she wasn’t, she was leaving. It’s just that she hadn’t gotten around to it yet and besides it was convenient. She only lived a few blocks away and the money was OK and it wasn’t rocket science and so what if her boss was a raving nutcase at least she had a job and she was able to work at her next career move in her own time. Plus, she could be late and Marla was never going to sack her, who else would put up with her?

Aniese finished writing the billet-doux from the guy on Wall St. and stuffed it in the little envelope and addressed it to Kattie Koloski. She paper-clipped it on the right hand side (always the right hand side) of the relevant yellow slip with the arrangement instructions neatly printed in the middle and the address written in the box on the left. Then, she put it with the card to the eminent English Dame who was opening on Broadway, the thank you note from the guy who had a different date every day, the well done, the commiserations, the congratulations and the you-go-girl for Naomi Campbell from her agent.

“So what shall I put?” she said, chewing the end of her pen in lovelorn angst.

“How about you may be a loser but you’re still my stud muffin?”

“Thanks Vincent, that’ll cheer him up”

Aniese stared out of the window at the strip of tree that blocked the view and thought some more. The wording had to be just right.

“Is he still doing coke?” asked Vincent thrusting a baby artichoke into the oasis.

“Only recreationally”

“Well what about sniff this?”

“Look Vincent this is important. I want him to know I have forgiven him his short comings and that I’m prepared to give him another chance without undermining his confidence within our relationship”

“ Oh Lordy let me sit down I’m having an Oprah moment,” said Vincent, fanning himself dramatically with an Arum Lily. “Listen sister, has he even called yet?”

Vincent had a point. Aniese was already working on the afternoon orders and there had still been no word from Trey; no crying, no begging, no pleading for her to come back.

“Maybe he didn’t realise I was being serious”

“But you aren’t.”

“But I was last night.”

She looked down at what she had just written on the little card she’d been planning to attach to the bouquet of berries, rose buds and baby bell peppers for Trey: Only you, forever Aniese.

“Maybe I’ll just check my messages,” she said, speed dialling her home phone.

“What like he’s lost your cell” quipped Vincent who believed Aniese would be better off with a cat rather than go belly-up with Trey. “Let him go honey, what you need…….” He stopped mid way through his denunciation of the young man as he realised Aniese was not listening. She was standing in a pool of grief stricken shock, her face distorted by disbelief, her hand to her mouth, eyes unblinking.

“Oh my God what’s happened?” said Vincent, springing in to action with a pack of Marlboro Lights.

“He’s dumped me.” She crumpled in to her chair, knocking over the out-going orders box and scattering all the messages of love and lust on to the floor.

“He says I’m absolutely right, he’s says we were strangling each others creativity and he feels like he’s just taken off a hat that was too tight. He says he wants to move to California and he hopes we can always be friends and he wants to thank me for making it all so clear.”

“Is that all?” said Vincent, lighting a cigarette anyway, “I thought someone had died or something.”

“They have, I have”

“Sweetheart, you dumped the schmuck last night.”

“But that was before….before I knew he was the one. And now I am a hat that’s too tight” she dissolved into a snotty sob, “and he did it on my answer phone.”

“Yer, that is bad.” Said Vincent, sucking ruefully while thrusting his arm through the open window, “but look at it this way, it just goes to show what a loser he is. You do not need someone like that in your life.”

Aniese bent down and shovelled the cards back into the box. She plucked out the one she’d just written to Trey and ripped it in half.

“Bastard” she sniffed.

“That’s right honey.”

“Fuck him anyway,” she blew her nose.

“Now you’re talking, you take those flowers home yourself”

“No way” said Aniese, feverishly writing out a new card, “Send ‘em out.”

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Unforced Error......a story in several parts.......

Part 2.

Aniese sat and sipped and stared. She felt completely inert, unable to shake life back in to her leaden legs, unable to stop going over and over the events of the night before, trapped in a permanent loop of what she’d said, what he’d said. What she was trying to work out was had she actually broken up with her boyfriend or not? And if she had how did she feel about it? And was this feeling of nausea in her stomach and the tightening across the back of her neck and the slight throbbing in the temples a consequence of the way she felt about Trey? Or was it a hangover? And in among these questions of life altering importance she couldn’t help wondering if the old man sitting at the counter was the same old man depicted in the mural that ran the length of the restaurant. A mural that represented the happy glow of the contented customers enjoying bowls of borsch and plates of pierogis, painted in the heavy hand of the Eastern-block artist and no doubt done by one of the many émigré in lieu of payment for food already eaten.

At that moment the old man raised one hand to his baldpate and slammed the other on the counter. Voices were raised and the waitress behind the counter started shouting at the short order cook who was now holding his spatula aloft and jabbing it in the direction of the old man.

“Over easy over easy” shouted the old man, “is dat so hard?”

“Ah fuck you” replied the chief, who then resorted to his native tongue to berate the waitress, the old man and anyone else who might be listening.

Aniese took this as a sign, she could no longer contemplate her life amongst the din. So she retrieved the check from beneath the sugar bowl and moved to the cash register.

Outside, Aniese could smell the change of season, Fall seemed to hang in the air like the last of the summer leaves clinging to the trees. The sky was bright and blue and fresh, so high it could raise even the lowest of spirits. She walked south towards the 4th Street Flower Shop, one of the coolest florists in Manhattan according to New York Magazine, and her current place of employment. Had she really split up with Trey? They certainly had had a big fight and she had told him it was over, that she’d had enough, that she was thirty-two now and that they’d been going out for nearly two years and that she couldn’t afford to waste another two years if this relationship wasn’t going anywhere. And he’d said thanks very much he hadn’t realised that being with him was a waste of time, and that they were fine weren’t they and what did she want anyway, being as how they both lived in studio apartments and that neither of them could afford a one bedroom right now, unless they moved to Brooklyn, which neither of them wanted to do, and anyway they only lived a couple of blocks apart and why was she always looking at what she hadn’t got instead of what she had?

Aniese had called Trey a loser and he had called her uptight. Both of these statements were true but were they a good enough reason to split up? In a city famous for being the capital of single women, for inventing the rules and thirtysomthings and being the spiritual home of every book and TV sitcom depicting single-sad-home-alones, was Trey’s inability to get a proper job (bartending+DJing x being 35 does not= a proper job) and his love of spending half the day in bed and the other half burning toast, a valid reason to give him up?

Possibly, she thought. But as her good friend Pia had said, time spent with boyfriends when you’re past thirty should be counted in dog years and, as she also said, how can you catch a cab if you’re already on the bus? Was Aniese on the bus? She had definitely thought she was in a cab about eighteen months ago. Trey was tall and good-looking in the spends-no-time-on-his-personal-appearance kind of way. He’d been working in a bar in the evening and in a studio during the day. He already had several credits on some quite well known CDs. He was planning to start his own label and open his own studio, Trey was really going places. But somehow nothing much had happened since then, except that he didn’t work in the studio anymore because he was always so exhausted and he had to work in the bar more because he wasn’t earning enough just doing three nights a week, and now pretty much every evening he and Aniese spent together involved either being in the bar or doing something early before he went to the bar or something late after he finished at the bar and Aniese had realised she was going out with a bar tender which wasn’t quite as cool as the gorgeous music guy she’d originally met.

Mind you she wasn’t exactly scaling any dizzy career heights herself. The part-time job she’d taken in the flower shop, to cover while her friend was on holiday in Mexico, had only gone full-time when her friend had failed to return due to being busted at customs with a sizeable amount of cocaine concealed in the novelty piñata she was taking home. The photography course she’d enrolled in had failed to contribute anything to her CV, likewise the acting classes which had lasted long enough for her to declare her dislike for mime before being denounced by the teacher and forced to retire from a profession she had yet to join. Then there was the writing course, the aromatherapy massage course and the time she tried to learn how to teach English as a foreign language in order to earn her living more successfully. All had come to naught. So, was she just taking her frustrations about her own life out on poor Trey? Yes, she certainly had felt that if she’d had a better boyfriend, someone worthier of her, then she in turn would have a much better life, ergo it was all Trey’s fault. But was that fair? Of course not and besides winter was coming and if a boyfriend wasn’t forever then he certainly was for Christmas. And anyway she knew he’d get a really good gig if she did dump him and then he’d meet someone else and she’d get the benefit of all Aniese’s hard work. No it just wasn’t worth it. Aniese resolved to send him flowers and give him one more chance.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Unforced Error......a story in several parts.......

Part 1.

From the day she was born, Aniese had been a great disappointment to her mother, primarily because she was white. Aniese’s mother was white too but her boyfriend, at the time of her daughter’s birth, had been black. Not black like a Starbucks latte but real black, black like a double espresso black, and Aniese should have been a cute, coffee-coloured little kid with curly black ringlets and big eyes as round as silver dollar pancakes and the colour of Aunt Jemima’s Syrup. But she wasn’t. Aniese was as white as the driven snow that had fallen on the December night that she was born, in the state of Vermont, with hair the colour of straw and eyes as blue as the flat sky of a Norfolk summer’s day. Because as it turned out Norfolk was where her real dad came from.

Stella Siedleman, Aniese’s mom, had been a budding actress and one of the founder members of Happy Daze, a passionate group of avant-garde actors based in Cidergate, Vermont in the late 60’s and early 70’s. She wore long flowing dresses and kohl rimmed eyes and was dedicated to her art and a number of her fellow actors. But in 1969 she became particularly enamoured with a young black actor from New York who’d joined the happy band of players. Six months later she found out she was with child and she was delighted. To be having a baby outside of wedlock was, to her, quite wonderful. To be having a baby of mixed race was the ultimate badge of cool and if it gave her mother a coronary then all well and good. After all she might just as well have been in league with the anti-Christ for all the love and understanding Mr and Mrs Siedleman had shown her since she had dropped out of college.

Had Aniese turned out to be the daughter of the aspiring, young Lenny Levine (who although he never really made it big did get to be a series regular on the Cosby Show) then maybe everything might have turned out different. But it was no good crying over spilt sperm. Aniese was in fact the daughter of Dave Veral, an inept musician and one time roadie from England who’d enjoyed the pleasures of Stella, and several other young ladies, whilst on a tour across America with a band whose name no one could remember. The conception had taken place in the Astoria hotel in Manhattan during one of the few parties that Stella had attended that lived up to the era. There had been sex and drugs and rock and roll and Stella had arrived with Lenny and several other friends during a brief sojourn to the big city. No one could remember who it was who knew about the party.

There had been a fight over Lenny’s keen appraisal of one of the other guests who was wearing nothing more than body paint and Stella had walked out. It was in the elevator that she’d met Dave Veral who was staying in the same hotel but on a different floor, and was on his way home after the gig. He had been planning to have his own little party with one of the many girls who frequented the backstage environs. However, he had failed to locate any willing partner and was delighted when the beautiful, nubile, waif with the kohl-rimmed eyes fell into the lift she hoped was going down but was in fact travelling up. Four floors later Dave had persuaded Stella to join him for a little R&R and the course of history, Aniese’s history, was changed forever.

Nine months later Aniese made her grand entrance, centre stage, to the dulcet tones of Bob Dylan. It was immediately apparent to Stella’s close friend and community midwife, Dale, (who’d flown in especially from California to preside over the birth) that even in the gloom of the many handmade candles, which Lenny and his best friend Marvin had so carefully placed around the bedroom, that things were not quite right. And in the full glare of the electric light bulb, unsheathed from its tie-die scarf, Lenny knew that this baby girl was nothing to do with him.

Poor Stella, torn between the joy of mother hood and the shock of the birth, wept as she took the baby to her breast while Lenny retreated to the safety of a bottle of Jack Daniels and the first of many spliffs. Dale sat and wept with her while they pondered the mystery of Aniese. Lenny had known all about the date that was Dave for in those enlightened times love was still considered free and fairly easy. But it had never dawned on either of them that their bundle of joy was anything but the progeny of them. Stella had never been good at numbers but it was no good trying to remember dates now and anyway in the orange glow of the lamp, now draped once more, she had already fallen in love.

But that was all a long time ago, thirty-two years had slipped by since then at what seemed to Aniese to be an alarming rate. In fact as she sat in the Polish dinner on the corner of Avenue A sipping her third refill of coffee she felt the movement of time was almost palpable. Why when you wanted something to happen, she wondered, did time refuse to move and yet when you were late for work, for example, the minutes moved with the speed of light.

Being late for work had become part of Aniese’s occupation. She hated her job, she hated her apartment she hated her boyfriend. Today Aniese Siedleman hated everything especially her mother. If she’d been born Aniese Levine then maybe when Lenny had left Vermont he’d have taken them all with him to California, instead of disappearing in the dead of night with Dale the midwife. Maybe she’d have grown up in a sunny suburb of Los Angeles with her dad on TV every week instead of in a commune, a log cabin with out electricity, a Tee-Pee, a selection of hotels that have never been featured in any tourist guide and finally a cold-water walk up in downtown Manhattan where she’d slept in a loft bed above the refrigerator in the kitchen. Oh happy daze.

to be continued....

Monday, 1 August 2011

Nothing more than feelings......

The sun is shining when I get out of bed this makes me feel happy.
I leave the house and head for the bus stop. The bus takes longer than the tube but is a much nicer commute: upstairs, at the front if I'm lucky. But I remember I have run out of money on my Oyster card. This makes me angry because I have to go to the tube to put money on it but I also feel relieved I didn't find out when boarding the bus.
The Victoria line is in turmoil. This makes me want to cry.
The journey makes me very hot.
And tiered because I have to respond to an email from the office pig. Responding to emails, I have learnt, is part of being in an office. This is all new to me, it made me feel anxious. It has kept me awake in the early hours all weekend. Feeling anxious.
My travelling companion arrives as I do. This makes me feel very happy. In the office I think I'm having a hot flush. My travelling companion goes into melt down because she's so hot. She is 33. I realise it's not a hot flush. It's just a hot day in a small room. This makes me feel better.
I compose an exquisite email. This makes me feel much better. But still quite hot.
My head phones finally part company from their wires. This makes me feel annoyed. I cannot cocoon myself with Lauren Lavern on 6 Music. This makes me throw the broken headphones on the floor and say:
"It's all gone wrong", quite loudly.
This makes my 22 year old camera boy and work colleague laugh. At me I think, not with me.
This makes me go to the bathroom and cry.
While in the bathroom I notice a spot on my chin. I haven't had a zit since I was 16. Now I have zits. Again. This makes me feel depressed.
I call my friend who has been on holiday in Ibiza and is now back.
"You're back," I say, "was it great?"
"Yes," she says, "It was great so I'm going back, for a week. Or two. Today."
This makes me feel envious. My friend married a rich man. Her second husband had serious money. Then she got a lovely boyfriend. Then she got breast cancer. Then she got better. But how much better? Who knows. I can't feel envious.
This makes me think about my friend who died recently from breast cancer, she's gone. This makes me feel shocked. Again.
I can't find my sunglasses. This makes me feel anoyed. I wonder if I put them on this morning. This makes me feel confused. I never leave home without them, especially if the sun is shining. This makes me feel panicked. They're Prada. Second hand Prada but Prada none the less. I can't stop thinking about my sun glasses. This makes me feel distressed.
I have to go scout a location in Camden. On the tube platform someone steps on my fit-flopped toe. I feel so angry I want to push him on to the tracks. The location has closed down. I feel like I want to scream.
I visit a friend who lives around the corner from where Amy Winehouse lived. I decide to walk past and pay my respects. People are sitting on the pavement in the sunshine. There are lots of flowers. Lots of empty bottles. Cans. Drawings. Cards. I feel weired. In my head I realise I am singing, 'I don't wanna go to rehab....' I feel sad. I hope Amy feels better.
At home my son greets me with a torrent of demands for money and reasons why he needs to go to Sheffield to work in a theatre he can't remember on a show he doesn't know because his friend is. I feel confused. I tell him to talk to his father. He does. He gets angry. He goes out. I feel like a bad mother. He comes back and says he's not going to Sheffield. I feel exhausted.
This is how it feels to be fifty.

Top tip: If you can, go see Beyond the Moulin Rouge: Toulouse Lautrec and Jane Avril at the Courtauld Gallery in London....spell will raise your spirits as high as a can-can-kick.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Horrible Bosses

'I'm leaving,' I wanted to say, 'because I can't work with a middle aged,

misogynistic office boy, stuck in the vernacular of a bad 1970s sitcom.' point and sing loudly from across the room:

'You're a dick and you know you are....'

Or....just shout:

'Fuck off you cunt.....'

Or.....turn away and quietly say:

'Manners cost nothing....and maketh man.'

Or....stand in front of him and everyone else, look him in the eye and say:

'How dare you wave your finger at me and say 'later'. Later? I'm working

my arse off to sort out a mess that should never have happened if you'd

given me this information 6 months ago. And you can't answer one

question. I'm trying to save your skin here. You're not my boss. I don't

even know what it is you do. No one knows what it is you do. What

exactly is it Richard does, we ask each other. You're the office joke you

paunching, balding, sad-sack of a man.'

But I didn't. I went for a walk. I

walked around John Lewis seeking solace. I went into the basement and

bought Soba noodles and coconut creme and Cannellini beans even

though I didn't need them. And a bar of dark, dark chocolate covered

marzipan even though I wasn't hungry. I didn't smoke a cigarette. I did call

friends on my mobile phone and say all the things I hadn't actually said to

Richard-the-fuckwit. And I felt really, really pissed off. And I wanted to

quit the job and cause a huge problem at a very tricky time for which he

would be blamed. So he would lose his job because I already know he's a

bit of a dead man walking. And I know he knows he is. And for a man in

his 40s with a young family, who was made redundant last year, this is a

chance he can't afford to fuck up. And he already has. So I went back to

work and he said he was ready to answer my question. And I looked at the

paunching, balding, sad-sack of a man and I felt sorry for him. Because his

wife gives him pitta bread and humus for lunch. Every single day. And this is his


I think I need to work somewhere else. Suggestions on a postcard please…..

Will work for money.

Top tip: as the Buddha would say, ‘you will not be punished for your anger,

You will be punished by your anger…..’