Tuesday, July 31, 2007

kill all your darlings

Is some very sound advice that appears in The Copy Book. While it is easier to be brutal with one’s copy for an ad or brochure (mostly because the axe – or should I say mouse - wielding art director is always pointing somewhere and saying ‘Your copy has to end there’ and that's that) I find it impossible to discard phrases, sentences and sometimes entire paragraphs from my short stories. Also how much advice should one listen to ? Should I be allowed to say ‘No, I like the way this has turned out and I’m not changing it’ at such a nascent stage of my writing or should I take on board all that I am told?

Sunday, July 29, 2007


I was suitably wired up thanks to copious amounts of coffee before the story reading at Foyles on Friday night. Like some bad actor in an equally bad sitcom I kept tugging at the collar of my shirt and asking everyone around me 'Is it hot in here?'
But the intimate audience of forty that sent out friendly, non threatening vibes, and the presence of friendly faces in the audience, including my husband and a friend from my writing group, put me at ease. I'll link to the story when it goes up on the decongested site. Those of you that came, thanks so much. It meant alot to me!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

John Cleese and slug death

The gravel pathways of recreation ground have become a cemetery. The rains have laid waste to hundreds of able bodied slugs, leeches and snails. Their damaged bodies lie in a pool of sticky mucous, antennae reaching out for a helping hand. You stare hard at the path , keeping an eye out for potential invertebrate land mines, dreading the squelch and burst of gunk. You hear the crunch of heavy boots. You look up. It's the John Cleese lookalike bird watcher with his poncy binoculars around his neck. You always nod and smile at him. But when he returns the head nod, it is never really a nod. It is a nod in reverse. An imperious head tilt if you will. As though he is acknowledging the presence of lesser being. He looks up, binoculars at his eyes in a flash. The squelch is unmistakable. Serves him right.

(Image courtesy: Getty)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A guest post by TCC - cow tree and boy

Early in January, the class teacher Saradmabal sporting her trade mark stern, mirthless look gave out the English essay papers. Ramaswamy tried to sink lower and lower in the last bench. His name was the last to be called out. Saradambal held his answer sheet in her hand. The front benchers noticed a a shudder pass through her body.

"Ramaswamy", she snapped. "You will get your paper tomorrow. But first I need to see your mother. Please bring her along"

Ramaswamy 's mother was keen on her son's education and was ever ready to go to school and discuss his progress with the teachers. In small towns like the one they lived in the teachers were often neighbours and sometime even relatives. Ramaswamy’s mother knew Saradambal, a sour faced woman who she used to meet every now and then in the temple.

The next morning mother and son walked up to the school. As they approached the classroom the roll call was in session.

Saradambal noticed Ramaswamy and his mother at the entrance.
"Vango, vango. Nan than vara sollirunden"

"Enna teacher, ivan nanna padikkarana illaya?"

"Atha solla thane koopittu anuppinen. English essay paperla periya zipher vangi irukkan. Padichu padichu solli kuduthen. Matha pasanga ellam correcta ezhuthi nalla mark eduthanga. Ivan mattum kala vaarittan"

"Ennada Ramaswamy", mother turned to him. "Eppadida ippadi?"

"Amma, athu vandu amma".

Saradambal intervened "Ida parungo. Testukku oru week munnaleye, cleara solli kuduthen. Essay examila rande randu topics than. Onnu vandu coconut tree; innonnu cow. Ithile eadavadu onna pathi than essay ezhuthanumu. Randu subjecta pattiyum padichu padichu essay sollikkuduthen. "

"Pinna enndada. Yenda kadankara, sariya ezhuthala?"

"Amma nan sariya than ezhuthinen amma"

"Enna teacher, onnum puriyalaye. Avan ennadanna sariya ezhuthinengarane"

Saradmbal turned to Ramaswamy " Nan kekkaren. Yen da, testukku munnale yenna sonnen. Randu subject than. Athila ethavathu onnu than testukku keppa. Sonnena illaya?"

"Amam teacher"

"Yennenna subject. Gnapakam irukka?"

"Yes teacher. The coconut tree; illati the cow"

"Seri, tesulla ennatha patti essay ezhutha sonna ?"

"The cow", teacher"

" Nee ennatha pathi ezhuthine"

"Cowwa pathi than, teacher"

"Ithila coconut treeya pathi allava ezhutheerukke"

"Illa madam, ithu cowwa pathi than"

This conversation was becoming more and more like the vazha pazha scene in Karkattakaran and Rajeev's mother decided to intervene.

"Enna madam. Onnum puriyalaye. Avan cowwa pathi than ezhuthinen nnu sadikkarane. Neengalo vera vidham sollaryale"

Saradambal was not amused by the Senthil act from Rajeev. She opened the test paper " Mami, please wait. I will read your son's essay Neengale sollungo"

The Cow
'Cow is a domestic animal. It has four legs. It eats grass and gives milk.'

Saradambal paused dramatically before moving on.

"It is usually tied to the coconut tree in the back yeard. Almost all houses have coconut trees. Coconut trees are very useful. They have many uses................................................................................................................."

Ramaswamy’s mother went home, promising to look into the matter. But she was actually very impressed with her son's essay.

"Amma,", Ramaswamy explained to her in the evening. "Oru subject than amma padichen. Yedukku time waste pannanumnu. 50 paisa koyina toss panninen;Cow varumnu edirpathen, coconut treeya pathi kettu tholacha. Nan pathen. Randukkuma oru mudicha pottu, coconut treeya pathi ezhuthinen. Ithila ennamma thappu "

Saturday, July 21, 2007

So long, farewell...

I was torn between racing through the book to read the desperately awaited end and savouring each and every word, knowing this was the last installment. I finished the seventh and final Harry Potter about fifteen minutes ago. I don't particular care for reviews when it comes to Potter, so I won't be reading any to find out what others thought. All I can say, is goodbye Harry Potter and Co! It was fun while it lasted!

Two in one!

Straight girl in gay central

“Wetter than a lesbian at Wimbledon”; that’s how comedian, television personality and openly gay Graham Norton described the weather on the day of London Pride. But nothing was going to put a dampener on the city’s spirit – not the weather, not the two car bombs found in the capital the previous day and certainly not the heightened levels of security. In its 35th year, the annual London Pride Day comprised of a parade through central London, a political rally and some great entertainment – all carried out with the sole purpose of raising awareness about the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) community. Hundreds of thousands of people turned up to celebrate sexuality – their own and that of their friends and loved ones.

My first and last brush with sapphic love had been in the 7th standard when a classmate at the all girls’ school I attended wrote me fervent letters on Hello Kitty embossed paper and bought me Amul chocolate bars and glitter pens. I, of course, thought she was being overly expressive, returned the gifts as I wasn’t allowed to accept presents unless it was my birthday and ate the chocolates. I now realise her feelings may have been based on more than just a shared dislike of march-past practice at the YMCA ground. It was with these fond reminisces in my head that I arrived at Baker Street, where the Parade was scheduled to start at 1pm before setting off down the famous shop lined avenues of Oxford street, Regent Street, Piccadilly and Leicester Square. I followed a group of pinafore wearing Dorothy’s (some with a 7o’clock stubble) along the not so yellow brick road to where the parade was assembling.

Pouring rain, men dressed as Diana Ross, music, rainbow striped everything, Wonder Woman and Marilyn Monroe holding hands – it was like a scene out of a very bizarre dream. A disembodied voice shouted ‘Watch out’ and I stepped back just in time, making way for a group of buff young men sprinting along in nothing but body glitter and metallic red briefs. Further ahead, a group of pensioners who appeared to have taken inspiration from pink cotton candy and inflated prophylactics for their outfits vied for camera attention with a group of Roman gladiators and toga wearing Caesars. Was this the city of Westminster or the sets of Carry on up the Forum? The floats represented everyone from the NHS to Nationwide and the Mayor of London’s office to the Metropolitan Police. An iconic rainbow flag that seemed to flutter on forever was held aloft by volunteers while a rag tag percussion band made sure the weather didn’t rain on the parade. This was the kind of weather that Londoners are forever whining about; and today they were out dancing and singing like it was a sunny summer’s day.

With the rain still pelting down I found myself a part of the parade and not merely a spectator as initially planned. A large, black man wearing a spangled pink ball gown and zooming about on roller skates was pouting and posing for my camera and I was so taken in with him (her?) that I didn’t see the looming parade heading toward us. While Diana Ross managed to make a quick exit on his skates I was swept up by the parade and its revellers. After years of standing behind the barricades and cheering passing parades on, here I was a part of one. People called out ‘Good for you!’ and took my photograph (Mom, if you see me splashed across some newspaper under the heading ‘Lesbians show their pride in London’ I can explain) It was all rather wonderful, until a volunteer noticed me and said “Oi! You shouldn’t be here!” I wondered how she knew. Is there a pheromone lesbians give off that other lesbians can pick up on? Or am I so boringly heterosexual that it’s practically tattooed across my forehead? I briefly considered challenging her but then thought better of it and jumped over a barrier near Selfridges, my fall cushioned by the crowds that thronged the sidewalks of Oxford Circus – there were those who had come to see the parade (including two grannies equipped with folding chairs, brollies and a thermos), shoppers and plenty of bemused tourists - I overheard a middle aged uncle explain the spectacle to his sari clad, Birkenstock wearing mummyji as a fancy dress parade.

And in a way it was. With the Icons theme out in full force and paraders set to outdo one another, everyone from Liberace to Madonna circa 1984 was present and the scantily clad angel look was a hot favourite. If this parade had been in Madras I can bet that the look of the day would have been The Boss - Badshah not Bruce. I bumped in to a group of Asian transvestites dressed to kill in shimmering chiffons and ornate blouses that would have given Jackpot Khusboo a complex. The head of the group, a towering presence gently complained of how their sari borders and pallus were getting soiled in the rain! Next to them, kilt wearing Scots, biker boys and a busload of desis dancing to ‘Kajra re’ poor Lord Nelson looked decidedly drab and out of place at Trafalgar Square where the rally was held. Perhaps a rainbow striped boa would have perked him up a bit. The stage at Trafalgar Square saw performances by Darren Hayes (formerly of Savage Garden) while the Leicester Square stage was the venue for this years Drag Idol contest hosted by the delightfully named Titti La Camp and Lola Lasagna.

But Pride London wasn’t just about having a good time. Amnesty passed out literature that berated Russia and Belarus for not recognising the rights of GLBTs. Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London recounted that when London Pride first set out decades ago, the Royal Parks committee said that Regents Park (the chosen venue) was meant for families and not homosexuals. From there to having the capital’s busiest thoroughfares shut down for the day shows how far this event has come. I spoke to A, a young Indian bisexual who attended the event with her girlfriend “It was my first Pride Parade but I’ll definitely be back next year” she said, “I felt encouraged enough to hold my girlfriend’s hand in public for a couple of minutes. The sight of a girl here with her mother made me wish that someday I could tell my mom and that she'd be proud of me in spite of or because of my choices.” While we do have our Miss. Koovagam contests, I couldn’t help but wonder how long it would be before a parade and rally like this would make its way down Mount Road or Marine Drive.

As I returned home, boots soaked through and arms aching, I had only complaint - not a single person hit on me. Next year, I’m busting out the Silk Smitha outfit.

An edited version of this appeared here.


A little more mirchi this time round?

Poor Gordon Brown. After years of waiting for Tony to clear out of Number 10 so that he could move in with his fooze ball table and plans for world domination, his day finally arrives. As the new Prime Minister stood outside one of London’s most famous addresses waving at the cameras with his lovely wife, how could he have possibly known that news so colossal was just around the corner, that people no longer cared about his plans for the NHS? No, it wasn’t about Miss. Hilton’s exit interview with Larry King (now that she’s no longer jail bait, who cares that she was curled up in to a little ball crying?) or the startling news that Russia plans to annex 460,000 square miles of the Arctic. In fact it was reports that the Spice Girls were planning a comeback. My first reaction when I heard the news was that of any sensible person – I ducked. Once I was convinced that there was no imminent danger of being assaulted by indecipherable bits of lyric like ‘zig-a-zig-ah’ I emerged from beneath my dining table – a foolish place to have hidden anyway. It’s made of glass.

Do we really want the Spice Girls to get back together? And just when we thought we’d put the nineties behind us too. Sure, as a decade they weren’t as bad as the 80s (printed tights and baggy t-shirts… or was that just me?) but the thought of all-PVC outfits and red, knee-high, lace-up, pleather boots gives me sleepless nights.

I can see why the Spice Girls might want to make a come-back though. Since the group split in 2000, they’ve all gone on to not so successful solo careers and not the best media coverage. Posh is better known as the wife of David Beckham, her many fashion faux pas and an ever shrinking, orange frame. Attempts at a fresh start in L.A haven’t gone her way, with the crew of her reality show reportedly calling her mean and rude (maybe if she ate real food she wouldn’t be so crabby). Poor Scary Spice was dumped by Eddie Murphy on television chat show (and no, she wasn’t on the show with him) and none of the girls’ solo albums have set the charts alight. So in many ways a reunion will be an attempt to recapture their glory days and salvage their reputations. Or will it? I foresee some teething problems.

First of all, there’s the name itself. Can we still call them the Spice ‘Girls’? Now I’m not being ageist or sexist (I think it’s high time the Beach Boys changed their name to the Beach Mamas) but they all seem to be more women than girls to me. Perhaps the name needs a rethink – though Spice Ladies doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, I’ll agree. I’m sure some overpriced branding agency will come up with something, though my only recommendation is to not go to the same people who came up with the London 2012 Olympics logo. Band name aside, there’s also the small matter of their own personal monikers. Can we still call Posh, well Posh? According to some quarters, the lady is anything but stylish while others (her PR agency mostly) insist that her style quotient has risen stratospherically. Who are we to believe? Baby Spice now lives in with her boyfriend Jade Jones and is expecting a baby of her own this summer. And Ginger Spice spent most of her time away from the girl band as a blonde.

So perhaps the Spice Girls need a bit of an image overhaul before they contemplate making a comeback. They could take some pointers from Madonna who thankfully hasn’t stuck to the taffeta wearing street walker look she favoured back in the day (though I slightly prefer it to her last look – Flashdance meets a purple highlighter). Much of Madonna’s success can be attributed to her ever changing look, dalliances with religion (remember the ‘I am Esther’ Kaballah period?) and experiments with interestingly shaped underwear. And according to some, the woman can sing. That always helps.

The girls will no doubt be encouraged to stage a reunion tour after the success of Take That’s sell out concerts last year. But will fans want to be reminded of a time when they wore Doc Martens and embroidered jeans (replaced in the noughties by *gag* glitter jeans)? Will the ‘girls’ be able to get away with lyrics like ‘I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna really really really wanna zigazig-ha.’? Is girl power still relevant? Can Geri still carry off a Union Jack dress?

I’m sure we’ll find out the answers to all these questions of global importance once their tour kicks off. But one thing is for sure - The Spice Girls might need to grow up a little. Their fans most certainly have.

An edited version of this appeared in the latest edition of the NewIndPress Sunday Magazine.

Monday, July 16, 2007


I'll be reading my short story Birthday Blues at Foyles , Charing Cross on Friday, 27th July at 7:00 pm as a part of the Decongested line up. Entrance is £3, £2.50 concessions. Those who would like to come and cheer loudly to save me from embarrassing silences are welcome!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Monday, July 09, 2007

Podding along

80GB is a lot of space. And lets face it, I don't have enough music to fill 80 GB - it's not like I'm not trying... every other week I head to our local library and return home arms loaded with books I have every intention of reading (I will too finish Anna Karenina before I turn 30)and a selection of Cd's. At 45p a pop it's a great way to try new music or as some like to say 'broaden my 80's nostalgia cluttered horizons'. If I hate what I've got out... it's OK. It only cost me about half a quid. Add to this limewire (it is legal right?) and I'm slowly but surely filling every little byte my Ipod has with music.

To aid my mission I recently turned to the services of the Itunes PodDirectory, as many of you know a pretty comprehensive listing of podcasts. So for the last couple of weeks I've been ignoring some of the maestros on my Pod and have turned me ears (and eyes) over to these guys

Books on Guardian Unlimited
Some great author interviews here plus serialisation of Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver (which I am yet to listen to)

Penguin Podcast

Interesting podcasts that look at trends in publishing, features soon to be published Penguin books and interviews with authors and publishers.

The New Yorker
Short stories featured in the New Yorker read aloud by well known authors with an interesting q&a session at the end. But I really love the animated cartoons - some of them are great!

Mark Kermode's film reviews

Just listen to his 20 minute rant against Pirates 3 and you'll know why he's so good.

From our own Correspondent
BBC Radio 4 correspondents from across the world report on the stories that don't make it to the front page news. Always interesting.

Woman's Hour
Also from BBC Radio 4, Woman's Hour covers everything from breast cancer to Nancy Dell'olio to rows over mums dropping kids off at school in their PJ's.

And here a few new ones I've just subscribed to today. Can not vouch for them as I haven't seen or heard any of them yet, but do check them out

Tate Shots
Vodcast from the Tate Modern looking at what else - modern and contemporary art.

Suggestion or links to other podcasts are welcome.

All links are for podcast urls.

Friday, July 06, 2007

A day at the museum

Yes, yes, we love The Tate and the V&A is a national treasure, but there’s more to London’s museum scene you know. The capital is full of offbeat spaces that will satisfy the most niche tastes: devotees of sewing machines, hand fans (not people with hand fetishes but those fascinated by pleated cooling accessories) and even hot beverage drinkers will find a museum dedicated to their passion.

Pollock’s Toy Museum

Tucked away behind Goodge Street Station, Pollock’s Toy Museum gives new meaning to the words hidden treasure. Spread out over six cosy (British for tiny) rooms connected by creaking narrow stairways Pollock’s is like a dolls houses itself. The museum pays loving tribute to the toys and gewgaws that have entertained children across the world: here you can see the familiar rude visages of Punch and Judy, catapults, marbles, vintage train sets, board games and what appear to be the earliest form of trading cards (including a set on English poets and their work. My Wordsworth for your Byron?). Dotted along the walls are toys from former colonial outposts – India, China, America, Africa. I was delighted to find a pair of marapachi dolls (traditionally given to South Indian girls when they get married) jostling for space with rag toys from Delhi. Many of the exhibits are decades old like a well loved Felix the Cat c.1924, but the two oldest residents of the museum are a pair of English wax dolls: Caroline (born 1822) and her nameless friend. The latter left England in the 19th century, travelled across the American Rockies in a wagon when the Wild West opened up only to find herself back home all these years later. One can’t help wonder what has become of the girl who hosted tea parties at her Victorian dolls houses and the Sebastian that owned that Aloysius. Pollock’s evokes bittersweet memories of childhood and leaves one mourning the passing on of a simpler time. After all, in an age of Playstations and Xboxes who has time for the pleasures of a game of snakes and ladders?

1 Scala Street London W1T 2HL
Tel: 020 7636 3452

The Freud Museum

The most famous resident of Maresfield Garden, London NW3 no longer lives there. A blue plaque outside number 20 identifies the premises as the home of one Dr. Sigmund Freud. Fleeing from Nazi occupied Vienna Freud arrived in London on 27th September 1938 and lived at no. 20 till his death on 23rd September 1939. From the parquet flooring to Freud’s vast collection of ancient antiquities to a portrait of him by Salvador Dali, the house and its contents have been lovingly maintained. On the ground floor, Freud’s study is the quintessential professor’s pad with its book lined walls and priceless antiques artfully arranged. But the star attractions of this room are the couch - yes, that couch - covered in rich tapestry rugs and the green tub chair Freud sat on as his patients delved deep within. I had the strongest urge to duck beneath the velvet cordon and lie down myself and no doubt would have but for the dapper old gentleman who invited me upstairs to view a film. Fancy that kind of attention at The British Museum! There’s also an exhibition of letters, postcards and books from Freud’s travels on the first floor, but what really caught my eye here was the visitor’s book. People are invited to write down their dreams here and it’s wonderful what we will admit to under the cloak of anonymity. But I felt terribly voyeuristic reading some of the intimate, touching and often bizarre and frightening dreams. The museum manages to retain the air of a warm and inviting home and as I went from room to room I felt like a nosey guest. The Doctor may no longer be in, but The Freud Museum is the perfect prescription for a day out.

20 Maresfield Gardens London NW3 5SX
Tel: +44 (0)20 7435 2002

Bank of England Museum

Situated in the heart of London’s financial district, The Bank of England Museum traces the history of money, business and the Bank itself. With its large domed ceilings, arched walkways and John Soanes’ original caryatids, this museum definitely wants to impress upon you its gravitas in British history. The Bank of England I learned was a place of many firsts: the first purpose built bank in the world, the first house in the city to employ women in 1894 and the first (and only) place in the country where one can handle a bar of pure gold. There are some wonderful things to see here - the bank’s personal silver collection, satirical cartoons that date back to the 18th century and some of the very first currency notes ever circulated. For those who can’t tell the difference between Monet and Manet (it’s more than just one vowel you know) but can spot a real currency note from a fake, The Bank of England Museum will provide hours of joy.

Bartholomew Lane,
Off Threadneedle Street
Tel: (020) 7601 5545

The Geffrye Museum

I can’t resist sneaking a look into people’s homes when I walk by (which is why you should always keep your curtains drawn), so a trip to The Geffrye Museum is heaven for someone like me. Housed in a former almshouse of the Ironmonger Company in the heart of trendy Shoreditch, the museum traces the evolution of the urban middle class home from the 1600s to the present day. Visitors can walk by a series of beautifully recreated rooms that capture the pared down look of the 17th century to the high style of the Victorians to the utilitarian trend that pervaded post-war Britain. The museum also offers fascinating insights in to the lives of men and women from each period. You can listen to someone read from the diary of a housewife living at the end of the Elizabethan era: an average day consisted of prayer, private prayer, wandering about the house, ordering dinner, more wandering about the house and contemplation (No wonder Bridget Jones’ Diary was a hit). My personal favourite was the lusciously blue Regency room. All that was missing was Lizzie, her brood of sisters and Mama writing, sewing and catching up on correspondence waiting for news of Mr. Bingley. It’s fitting that the museum’s logo is an old fashioned keyhole. It offers us an intimate look at the way people once lived without risking a restraining order.

136 Kingsland Road
London E2
020 7739 9893

Museum of Gardening History

Underneath the vaulted ceilings of an old chapel on Lambeth Palace Road, The Museum of Gardening History presents a collection of gardening implements that go back to the Palaeolithic age. There are some rather weird and wonderful things on display here: folding multi-knives (c.1820) with bone handles that look like primitive Swiss army knives, Tudor thumb pots and a specimen of the vegetable lamb(not to be confused with a tofu alternative for vegans). Once found on the banks of the Volga the vegetable lamb was considered a natural wonder of the world. With all the features of a lamb(including a woolly exterior) it was believed that it grew from and was tethered to a stem. In reality it was nothing but a plant (Cibotium Barometz) with a rhizome body often sculpted to get gullible buyers in to purchasing them for private collections (The British Museum bought two!). Outside the museum is a beautiful knot garden – a square framework within which hedges are grown in intricate geometric shapes – and a dazzling array of flowers and herbs. Take some time to sit in the shade and look upon the final resting place of Admiral Bligh (yes, of Mutiny on the Bounty fame) who among other things ‘first transplanted the bread fruit tree from Otaheite to the West Indies’.

Lambeth Palace Road
020 7401 8865

So the next time you’re in London, skip the queues at Madame Tussauds for a glimpse at how the British once lived, played and yes, gardened. You might find that we aren’t as different as we’d like to believe.


Flights: Daily 5 flights from Delhi and 7 from Mumbai. Log on to www.ba.com or www.jetairways.com
Visas: Apply UK embassies in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. Visas cost Rs. 5700.

Where to stay The Beaufort Hotel, Knightsbridge (http://www.thebeaufort.co.uk/) might look like a venerable old building from the outside but inside it’s avant garde style all the way. A double room ranges from £160-£205. The Ritz London (http://www.theritzlondon.com/) is ideally located for business and pleasure, and don’t forget the fabulous afternoon tea service. Superior Queen Rooms start at £260. One Aldwych (http://www.onealdwych.com) provides contemporary luxury in the heart of bustling Covent Garden. Rooms start at £340.

Where to eat Breakfast Pick up a croissant and freshly squeezed orange juice at Patisserie Valeria(www.patisserie-valerie.co.uk). Lunch: With it’s dark wood communal style tables and great food, Busaba Eathai(13 Bird Street W1U 1BU Marylebone 020 7518 8080) is perfect for family and working lunches alike. If you’re traveling with toddlers try Jack & Lulu’s (North End Way, NW3 7ES 0870 438 2525) child friendly eating in the posh North London suburb of Hampstead. Dinner and drinks: Head to Albannach (http://www.albannach.co.uk) for a fine collection of whiskies and a late meal under the watchful eyes of Lord Nelson.

What to do * Catch the Royal Shakespeare Company if they’re on tour * Drop in at the Hayward Gallery at The Southbank Centre for interesting brush with contemporary art (note: the gallery shows a few major exhibitions a year and does not have a permanent collection)* If weather permits (if not, buy a pair of wellies) head to The London Wetland Centre a 105-acre city wildlife area of lakes, reedbeds and marshes.

An edited version of this piece appeared here.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


Her feet plod on, not particularly enjoying the enforced exercise but dutifully following the brain’s instructions. She was early today and the usually coterie of old men and women walking their Golden Retrievers and tube like dachshunds were yet to arrive. She wished she had left at the usual time – she missed them and their smiling, wrinkly faces. They always had something to say to her ‘Lovely day isn’t it?’ ‘My, aren’t you working up a sweat today’; the old man who always pointed at his collie and said ‘Why don’t you take her for a walk? She won’t come though!’ and then burst in to laughter waiting expectantly for her chuckle. There was even the stooped over old woman who always arrived with a full face of makeup and made her way around the park at an excruciatingly slow pace. The woman had stopped her once and asked what she was listening to. She had removed her headphones wiped them down and then slid them over the soft, whispy down covering the woman’s head. She watched the bemused expression on the wizened face as M.S’s cajoling voice filtered through. She had laughed when the old woman shook her head and said ‘I don’t understand.’

None of them were there though. In their place joggers in aggressively shiny track suits rumbled along the track, inhaling and exhaling ‘shoop whoosh shoop whoosh’ to the rhythm of their feet. They made her feel fat and slovenly. It was as though they were thinking to themselves ‘Lazy cow. Why isn’t she running?’ She had offered hesitant smiles at some of them, but they had been ignored. She stepped aside as a group of young girls ran by, terrycloth shorts moulded over their pert derrieres, their legs long and smooth. She thought shamefully of the Amazonian growth that covered her legs. Some young boys were playing basketball, their pale, hairless bodies supple flashes of light across the court. She spotted a jogger in the distance running towards her. Without thinking she launched in to a brisk jog.

‘I’ll run right by you’ she muttered herself ‘like a graceful gazelle’ and composed her features in to what she hoped was haughty disdain.


He watched the woman break out in to a manic run, face contorted in agony. He slowed down a little, worried she was one of those unstable types who attacked people without warning. She was all but a few feet away when she suddenly turned left and went scrambling towards the nearest exit. Shame, he thought to himself, picking up his pace, she had been rather attractive.

Sunday, July 01, 2007