Tuesday, 25 March 2008


Driving home through hosts of sunny daffodils, I smile. My newest tutee is bright, confident, and has a place at Cambridge. He attends one of the country's finest public schools and is set to achieve the highest grade at A Level. Despite this, he wants six to eight hours of tuition a week throughout the Easter holidays. I feel torn between taking the money and telling him I don't think he needs that much extra help, but I go along to our first session with an open mind. 

As the lesson progresses, I see clearly how I can help him. By the end of the lesson, so does he. I tell him straight that I can't give him his six to eight hours, and that I don't want to waste my time or his money. He agrees. We reach a compromise. As I leave, I see respect in his face, and hope. For my part, I feel great pleasure at the chance to teach someone so bright, and that my own ability remains undiminished. We will do good work.

The Destroyer Of Worlds

I often drive past a bespoke tailor's and have long looked for an excuse to go inside. The shop appears to originate in other times, when service and individuality mattered. Today, the traffic causes me to stop directly outside and I notice, for the first time, that the tailor's surname is De'Ath.

De'Ath. A popular solution to the surname Death. It makes me chuckle, and wonder if he specialises in funeral shrouds.

Monday, 24 March 2008


Sitting at my desk, devoid of inspiration with a pile of books to review, I stare out of the window and listen to Colette’s passion on the radio. Her lush, seductive prose washes over me, arouses me, and lost for a moment, in words and memory, I suddenly realise it is snowing. Fat, fluffy flakes fall gently, erratically into the garden, drawing me back to the present. I watch the Easter snow come down, desire unfulfilled.

Friday, 21 March 2008


I ummed and aahed over the flowers, not sure I could justify the expense of a bunch of orange tulips and a bunch of blue hyacinths. But then I remembered the bonus I wasn't expecting and I leave them in my shopping trolley. For days, they’ve sat demurely in the pale blue vase on the mantelpiece, but today, I come downstairs to open smiling faces and the sweet perfume of Spring. Inhaling deeply and with great satisfaction, I find myself thinking, 'I deserve this pleasure.'

*Yeah, I know the tulips in the image are yellow - couldn't find orange.

Thursday, 20 March 2008


I telephone the German lingerie designer I met in Berlin. She’s made me a pair of knickers and I need to pay her before she can send them to me. After several failed attempts, we speak, and she is warm and friendly. We giggle with each other throughout our call, and she is obviously happy to hear from me. The pleasure of anticipating the imminent arrival of made-to-order knickers is enhanced by the pleasure of realising I’ve made a new friend.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008


‘What about this one?’ I ask, emerging from the changing room in another black, satin pencil skirt and socks.

‘No,’ says my Nigerian friend, ‘I don’t like it as much as the other one. The other one made you look like you have a bum.’

‘I have got a bum. I’ve got a very nice bum thank you very much. And I think that one was too tight.’

‘You may have a bum, but you haven’t got a proper African bum. At least the first one makes your bum stand out.’ And she clacks her tongue and rolls her eyes at me for being so foolish. We laugh, while the Polish sales assistant tries to politely disguise her shock.

I buy the tighter skirt.

Friday, 14 March 2008


Wiping the rain from my beautiful handbag with a paper napkin, I try to conceal my tears. It’s all been too much, and sitting there, outmaneuvered at the train station, with both my parents, I just can’t deal with any more.

‘What an exquisite handbag. It’s stunning. Just beautiful.’ Says a woman at the next table.

I look up surprised. ‘Thank you.’ I say, smiling a watery smile. ‘It’s my pride and joy.’

‘It’s just lovely – so unusual.’ She continues.

‘She has good taste, my daughter,’ interrupts my father, ‘She inherited it from her parents.’

‘You don’t inherit good taste,’ replies the woman, calmly but firmly, ‘You’re born with it. It’s inherent and particular to the self.’

I look at her and she smiles kindly at me. She understands, understands how difficult it is, how difficult he is. And for a moment, I don’t feel quite so alone.


The numbness starts to lift as I pavement pound Orchard Street. Heading towards the Oxford Street thrum, I realise I am Grade A-Motherfuckin’-Pissed Off. An old lady steps into my path with a mean eye and an intention; she wants me to move out of the way, or more accurately, she wants to tut at me and engage in a conflict of wills. But I am in no mood for such shenanigans and I return her look with one that says, quite simply, ‘Do not fuck around with me; I’m not in the mood.’ It’s enough. She steps aside, not even brushing my shopping bag. Now I just need to get past the family of four walking side-by-side across the pavement, in the same direction as me. Why do people do that? It's so bloody rude.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Maternal Instinct

India Rose is nearly four weeks old. She comes to trapeze class with mum and dad, and all the bags and baskets needed to keep her happy. Dad sets about teaching, mum meets the new students and looks after baby, but India Rose is fractious and hungry. I am asked to hold her while mum opens the dairy. It’s been a long while since I’ve held such a small child, and I take her from her mother’s arms nervously. Her delicate little body feels incongruous in my arms but I remember how to hold her and the grizzling child soon quietens, only to start crying again when I hand her back to mum.

She won’t settle, and during the course of the class, I am asked to hold her twice more. Each time, the child quickly settles. ‘She likes you.’ says her dad.

‘Ah,’ I reply, ‘I’ve got the touch – babies and dogs love me.’

‘Babies and dogs,’ he laughs, ‘But not cats?’

‘Oh yes, cats, too.’

India Rose stares at me intently. She seems to like my white bunny earrings, and a smile hovers around her tiny pink lips. As I hand her over, she stirs and her mother makes some remark about the baby hating her and always crying when she holds her. ‘No,’ I say, ‘You are the fount of all food and love. You are the centre of her universe and she loves you best.’ Our eyes meet. There is gratitude in hers, and the hope that what I say is true.

Friday, 7 March 2008


A dear, old friend points out that I have a birthday coming up, and that at some point in the next year, we will have known each other for two decades. This fact is both shocking and uncomfortable, and he apologises for bringing it to my attention. I reassure him, ‘One cannot escape time – I need to face up to the fact I’m turning into an old spinster.’ In response, he sends me this.

'My dictionary says:

"In modern everyday English, however, spinster cannot be used to mean simply ‘unmarried woman’; it is now always a derogatory term, referring or alluding to a stereotype of an older woman who is unmarried, childless, prissy, and repressed."

You are so far away from being prissy and repressed my dear, the definition can't possibly apply.'

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Green Cross Code

Standing on the corner of Grosvenor Gardens a woman sports black, high-heeled boots and a black, tailored winter coat, belt pulled tight around her not inconsiderable curves. In one hand she holds a black leather handbag with ornate brass fittings, and in the other, a plainer black leather shopping bag. She looks like a thousand other women on their way to work, with one incongruous exception; on her head she wears a silver motorbike helmet as she looks left, then right, then left again. Not a motorbike in sight.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Crimes Against Fashion II

Among a certain class of aspiring gentleman exists a fondness for brightly-coloured corduroy trousers, military cut, sans turn-ups. Eschewing the usual navy blue, lovat green and camel varieties, these men express a perceived English Eccentricity with mustard yellow, scarlet, and even a strong salmon pink. But today, as I passed Balls Brothers on the corner of Buckingham Palace Road, I spied a gentleman lounging at an outside table sporting a navy blue blazer, a pale blue and white checked shirt, navy blue socks, brown Oxford shoes (brown in town, so vulgar), and violent violet cords. I double-take; surely not? But sadly, 'tis surely so; purple, bright purple – with navy blue. Adding insult to injury, his hair is slicked loosely back in caddish fashion and he carries the air of one who believes himself to be cutting a dash. Poor, deluded fool.

* Oh my God, and here they are. Tsk. I thought Cordings would know better.


It’s low tide this bright February morning. Verdant algae glows green and fecund on the river bank walls while the sulky trees sit resolutely brown and spiky behind them. London basks in blues skies and sunshine, and even the passive-aggressive, insistent pressure of a short, fat woman’s bulk on my wrist as I struggle to stay standing on a packed bendy bus can’t stop my spirit soaring for Spring.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008


At lunchtime, I enter a bubble of good fortune that sticks close to me for four days. My colleague offers to buy me lunch, I don’t get asked to pay for a train ticket, I’m not charged for checking my bag in on the flight, we find a taxi straight away and the address of our accommodation despite me leaving it in England. The rest of the weekend flows beautifully and the universe is generous and true.

All the way through, I find myself thinking that it can’t last, that karma must kick in (even though I haven’t intentionally done anything to warrant karmic retribution), and that life, my life, really cannot be this good. Can it?

This sense of undeserving, so pure, so flouted by circumstance, unveils the next layer to be dealt with. For years I thought one sorted oneself out then lived a happy life, but the truth is that we continue to uncover deeper and deeper layers of crap, and choose how to deal with them, and how to accept our flawed selves. The lesson here is clear; I have put enough good out into the world to warrant this abundance, and yet, still, I do not believe I deserve it. Under it all, I feel unworthy.

With the trip over, things start to go wrong and in one day, I receive a parking ticket, my ipod dies, and I miss my train. Time to refocus. Time to believe. Time to accept life’s gifts. Time to love again.

* Image courtesy of August - although truth be told, I nicked it without her permission. Naughty Puss.


Two round old ladies amble towards me, bundled up in coats, hats pulled down against the cold. As I pass them on my way towards Oval tube station, I hear a snippet of their conversation, deep, rich West Indian tones that make me smile, feel warm and remember the shy, startled, too-young girl, alone in the big city, who lodged with a family from Trinidad, a family who watched her grow up and who laughed indulgently at her youthful caprice. The years have not diminished affection.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Beer Talking

My friend is at the bar. As I wait for her to return, a man taps me on the shoulder. ‘Excuse me. Sorry. Excuse me. Sorry to bother you, but is that my pint?’ He points at a pint of lager on our table and wobbles.

‘Yes, I believe it is.’ I reply smiling and pushing the glass towards him, 'Here you go.'

‘Thank you.’ He says, ‘Sorry. You could’ve had that.’

‘Ah, not for me,’ I say, ‘I’m a Guinness girl.’ And I lift the empty pint glass and show him its Guinnessy residue.

‘I’m not.’ He replies, ‘I’m a beer hoo-er.’

We laugh heartily at this, me repeating his pronunciation – a beer hoo-er. The banter continues and he asks my name, then gets it wrong all evening, calling me all manner of names, each starting with the same letter as my own, but not my own. As he staggers off home at closing time, we shake hands and I’m told ‘You’re alright, you. You're a good girl.’