A Million Reasons for Wanting to Carry on Living

A Life Lived Out Loud

Barbecue blues
Yesterday, we went to a Bank Holiday-cum-Birthday barbecue in Forest Gate. Upon learning that the house two doors down was empty, I decided that my dream was to live in E7 and raise a cat. By four o'clock, it was raining (it is bank holiday after all), and so the BBQ became a grill-less party with free flowing rum and ginger beers and curry flavoured popcorn. I tried to invite myself to a joint stag night that neither of the grooms wanted to have. A five year old punched me on the bum and I was tempted to say: "You'll have to buy me dinner first", but considered that Alphabites, spaghetti hoops and a Nesquik probably aren't the way to my heart. I had to apologise for throwing shade on Wenlock and Mandeville. I met an Italian who not only liked curry, but said that he didn't mind the English weather. If you've ever met an Italian in England, you will know that this is highly unusual. By 10.30 p.m. we'd been there for 8 hours, so it felt like time to go before the alcohol from the back of the cupboard (Limoncello, Ouzo, that weird herb liqueur that someone's always got) came out, and so we got the Overground and then walked from South Tottenham back home, stopping in Grodzinski's on Stamford Hill for eclairs and post-Shabbat atmosphere. It was better than a kebab.

Two Go Mad in Dorset

Southwest Coastal Rendezvous

Four hours and one comfort break and we're in Dorset, staying at Bindon Bottom, the most highly rated B&B on Trip Advisor (Neil's Yard toiletries, home made brownies, antique furniture that clashes with the flat screen TV. No sanitary towels though. Guesthouses never have any menstrual equipment: maybe most of their guests are past all that). It was apparently architecturally designed by Tom Hardy (not that one), but I imagine any Victorian house in Purbeck claims that. Our room is called Barnes, after a local dialect poet and there is a book of his poems in the room. I wonder what's in the Blyton room.

We walk around the village, all thatched cottages and hanging baskets (even the bus-stop is thatched), wild ponies behind the house, a real cider pub, a new church up the hill (the old Norman one remained in the village until 1869, then they decided they wanted a new one). There's also an out of service post box - you'd have to be Steven Finn to reach it, but it's Victorian, so I imagine that there was a campaign to save it, culminating in angry meetings in the village hall.

Dorset - 20 - 17-08-2015 11:42:15

Then down the slope to Lulwoth Cove, where you can get anything you want, as long as it's fudge, ice-cream or a Thanks For Looking After The Cat mug. There is a fossil shop, but I guess fossils are a finite business, so they sell quartz and gemstones as well. I'm on the look-out for animals made from shells, but whilst seaside rock shaped like boobies never goes out of fashion, it seems that shell animals do. We wander around the pebble beach and then foolhardily decided to walk to the mile to Durdle Door: foolish because it's not 20 minutes on a flat surface, but up a cliff and then down a gravel path, but it's worth it for the views.


Back in the cove, we eat in a sunny beer garden where there are free apples, dog biscuits, and wasps.
I imagine that West and East Lulworth are very competitive:
East Lulworth: We have a castle.
West Lulworth: Well we have a cove.
East: We have an MOD firing range!
West: We have a Londis; fuck you, Easties!

There are also lots of anti-windfarm posters everywhere. How about an anti-car campaign: it's pretty difficult to walk through the village on the skinny strip of pavement (or no pavement) with shiny landrovers and 4x4s trying to take your ear off as they pass.

I've installed a fitness app on my phone so I could shame myself about how how little exercise I do. Yesterday was the first day I hit the target of 10,000 steps. So I'm raring to go: we walk up behind the house past a small holding of onions, sweetcorn, orchard fruits, sunflowers and chickens, a bunch of cows chewing the cud around the water cooler, and then round the back of the village in a wooded area before setting off in, um, the car to Wareham, a market town with a quay, a river, boats, pubs, tearooms and shops (where Dave buys a sea captain's cap) and Saxon walls (now covered up in grass and wildflowers) that we walk on and around, before lunching in a place called the Five And Dime, which has pics of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe on the wall. Maybe it was supposed to be a diner for the young folk.

We drive into Corfe, intending to go to the castle, but instead visit the miniature village and see a model of it instead - it's better because there are mini-Roundheads scaling the ramparts and a tiny Lady Bankes trying to repel them. Elsewhere in the model village there is a red postbox and an advert for soap, so our eras are all confused. There's also a village ghost, a Tardis, some yokels doing Morris dancing and miniature village of the miniature village with a miniature village in it. Mind = blown. Conversely, there are giant games of Connect 4, Jenga and draughts.


There's also a faerie glen, which looks like a gift shop has puked up in it (if I were 7, I'd have loved it). Opposite the model village is Ginger Pop, an Enid Blyton book and toyshop. In the window is a teatowel featuring "The Darkest Gnome" (a gollywog type creature) and words like "Diversity" and "Equality". Are they trying to reclaim Golly as a post-racial icon? In Wareham museum there was a gollywog toy and a golly postcard for sale; let's just say that if some blacked-up Morris men came prancing down the road, I wouldn't be surprised. It's probably not worth getting incensed about such trivialities; I'm sure if black tourists went into Ginger Pop, they wouldn't be treated differently from a white family, but it's the insistence that these things were OK, that we don't need to move on from our past that annoys me. It sometimes feels as if the battles aren't between rich and poor or left and right anymore, but between the anti-PC "Well, Nigel's got a point" brigade and rational, thinking people. On the Ginger Pop website, it staties that they sell books as Enid Blyton write them "not as someone else thought she should write them". Also: "lashings of ginger beer" is from the Comic Strip, not Blyton's oeuvre.

We try to find a cream tea in the village of Wool (there's only a Chinese takeaway) and then at Lulworth Castle (about to close) so we go back to the B&B and I have my own version with a cup of green tea and the aforementioned brownie. Later, we go to a pub that men go to to complain about each other's wives, although the barman does give me a free soda water.

I know that I'll be back in Chesil Beach someday

We walk up the hill behind the house and then through the MOD rifle range, which is open for the summer (I consider shouting "Viva ISIS, death to America", but resist), past some not unfriendly baby bulls, a ruined cottage, a Jurassic coast sign that implies early Homo Erectus hung out with dinos, down to Fossil Cove which has been decimated by local A-level geology students, past Mope Bay and back to Lulworth Cove, where we stumble down the cliffs and around the pebbly cove.

Dorset - 12 - 16-08-2015 17:23:48

We drive west to Portland where we're staying at the bottom of Chesil Beach. I wanted to walk along the tombolo, but what looked like a long line of golden sand both from the map and the top of the cliffs this morning is actually all pebbles. Chesil = coesil = pebble. Hmph. We manage about half a mile before giving up and walking into Chiswell village, but finding nowhere to eat (so many closed up shops and cafes, not ever charity shops have moved into the void), we go further to Fortuneswell and find a gallery cafe, where we sit in the sunny window and look at the view.

Dorset - 55 - 18-08-2015 14:27:56

I'm finding it hard to adjust to all the niceness of the countryside (David is in his element). In Abroad I try hard to be nice and polite, so as not to give a bad impression of British people. In the countryside, I do the same so they don't think all Londoners are arrogant. It's only up north that I can be my bad (blunt) self.

We drive down to Portland Bill, passing the stone quarry (the place is much more industrial than I thought) and wander around the lighthouse, having a surprisingly delicious al fresco cream tea from the cafe, looking out at the channel, trying to spot France. Later, because we're fed up of pub food and Portland only seems to have pubs, chippies and a sad looking Indian restaurant, and because Dave has keep up his daily alcohol ration, we take the bus into Weymouth. The bus is regular and the fares are comparable to London (£3.50 return). It drops us off in the town centre, no fucking about trying to find parking. The old harbour is flush with restaurants (but not Carluccio's, Pizza Express or Cafe Rouge). We eat tapas outside in the square, accompanied by a lady playing piano versions of jazz standards and then ruining a perfectly good heroin ballad by warbling her way through it. The man on the table opposite treads in the bowl of dog water by his feet. Everywhere we go it's dog biscuits this and dog water that. Dorset is open for dogs. There's even a Dog, Sausage and Cider festival. No wonder we haven't met a solitary cat - I was hoping for a holiday romance with my platonic ideal feline.

We then drift into a craft beer bar opposite. They have a poster on the wall stating: Keep Calm And Wine. Surely the last word is missing an 'h'. I wish the relatives of the draughtsman/woman who created that poster in the war would serve cease and desist notices on everyone selling posters, mugs, t-shirts, coasters etc featuring that design.

On the prom, the town is lighting up for tomorrow's carnival. We walk on the beach and listen to the sharp short swoosh of sea over the sand. On the way back, we see one pub advertising Tranioke, i.e. men dress up as women to sing Sweet Caroline and Hi Ho Silver Lining. It's not a gay bar. No. Just no.

And the days were just packed

I am woken up by a seagull, yesterday it was a chicken. Tomorrow, I expect a crow to be sitting on the bedstead, reading me an Aesop's fable.

Our luck had to run out. It's raining. We were going to take a gander at Weymouth's carnival, but standing around in the rain watching local bands soundcheck sounds unappealing. We decide to set off for Bournemouth via Poundbury so we can make snide remarks about Prince Charles's architectural vision, we but take the wrong turn at Dorchester and the traffic going back is harsh, so we head north to Blandford Forum, a fine example of a Georgian town. It is pretty and we linger for a coffee, but no longer.

In Bournemouth, after we've fed our faces on toffish and chips at the veggie Zoukini cafe, the rain clears enough for us to walk through the rather charming Alum Chine ravine walk to the prom, where I beat Dave's ass at air hockey. It's kind of frustrating to be finally on a sandy beach in the daytime - in 15 degree temperatures. There's another nice park between the front and the town, unfortunately it's pissing it down once more so we seek refuge in Espresso Kitchen and then wander around the high street shops, buying DVDs and jeans. You can see why some people's hobby is shopping, there's nothing else to do and the shops themselves are quieter and nicer than, say, Oxford Street or Westfield. I can also see why the Netflix model is so appealing since a DVD of a film released last year is £14.99 in HMV. Later, we eat at Wagamama, the saviour of many a provincial evening, and take a taxi back to the B&B as it's still raining.

Now I'm lost in some small town, I'm lost somewhere in England

It's still raining. We set off for Poole, checking out the cockle trail (old buildings with local history - Charles II visited (a building that stood on the site of) the Sainsbury's), the Scaplen's Court Medieval house, the museum, and ye olde coffee saloon.

I like Poole. It's tedious when people go somewhere on holiday and immediately want to move there, but I could see myself living there when I'm old(er). It's a seaside town, but not so touristy that you feel that the place would be dead in the winter (most of Dorset's economy seems to be 90% cream tea based). There is a sci-fi shop, a comic books shop, a second hand record shop; it's good that such things still exiss. There are also tea rooms (one offering a vegan menu), a high street (if only I could monetize spotting which building used to house the Woolworth's), a pottery shop where we watch a man make, and then destroy, a teapot, and a historic quay with boat trips to see the red squirrels on Brownsea island.

We drive to our B&B, which is on an industrial estate. We were dithering for ages about booking it as it looked like you had to walk down the A35 to get to the town (there's actually a car-free walkway), but I'm glad we did because, apart from the chintz o'clock decor, it's very cosy with Dorset apple cake on the side, a proper bathroom, a very reasonably priced minibar, and is run by the kind of eccentrics you only meet when you stay in B&Bs. She is from Doncaster, he from Nottingham and I'm sure Steve Coogan must have stayed here, because he is the very spit of Saxondale with his droopy moustache, too long hair and "I left the oil rig to spend more time with my motorbike". There's a private bar downstairs with UV lighting and thank you cards taped into the guestbook.

We decide to go back to Bournemouth to see the much advertised airshow. The journey, which should take 14 minutes, takes us an hour due to waiting for the train, delays, some more delays, and I'm in a temper by the time we leave the station, especially as it's badly signposted how to get to town. When we do find the way, it's across, then down the side of a busy road. People travelling by train obviously have no car so why make things so deliberately pedestrian-unfriendly? It's not even as if it's great for cars either, today, we got tangled up in the one way system, yesterday, roundabouts conspired against us. Never mind going back in time to kill Hitler, I'd go back the 1960s and murder the town planners. Ban cars from towns and run free or cheap buses. You can have that one for free, Jeremy Corbyn.

I get into even more of a mood when we find out that the airshow has been cancelled. I don't even like airshows - I'm not interested in old planes or the WW2 heritage industry and the guys doing tricks with coloured exhaust fumes don't make me proud to be British, but it's been so heavily promoted that it now seems a bit sad to cancel it because of rain*. The day seems mostly to be an advert for the RAF anyway - we are Guantanamod by tannoy adverts all the way down the prom and through the town: "I was born in Lincoln/Carlisle/Portmouth, but the RAF/Navy/Army made me". Big Brother is forcing you to join the forces.

We quit Bournemouth (taking advantage of the delayed trains this time by nipping onto one 8 minutes late) and go back to the more refined confines of Poole. We eat in a Thai restaurant, populated by northerners having a birthday meal. I often feel like a member of an established community when newer immigrants arrive when I witness Yorkshire folk down south (i.e. I feel embarrassed by their loud mitherings). The birthday girl is making her poor aged grandparents eat Thai green curry and chips.

Poole, unlike Bournemouth, has not cancelled its entertainments. I check the Poole Tourism twitter feed: "Breeze sponsored by Volkswagen is going ahead tonight!!" Breeze comprises three lovely ladies doing a kind of clockwork ballet to Katy Perry and then a quick costume change to Riverdance. It's bloody freezing, so I applaud their English stoicism in the face of an English summer. Then there's a singer doing Commitments covers, a cold magician, and a shivering balloon wrangler. We retire to the Drift craft bar, which is tinier than the same one in Weymouth, but with an upstairs gin bar with nobody in it, until it's invaded by some middle aged men with a penchant for music from 1974 and loud opinions. We go outside to watch the fireworks (every Thursday throughout the summer), with a climax of a big hoot-hoot from the chimney of a moored ship, then make our way B&Bwards.

* NB: I wrote this before I read about the Shoreham airshow disaster.

Homeward Bound

Through the New Forest to Lymington (Idea: combine the tourist attraction of Monkey World with the wild horses of the New Forest to create a simian rodeo). Lymington is a Blandford-style market town, until you take a right turn down a cobbled street where it suddenly becomes St Ives, with boats and fisherfolk cottages and a natural saltwater pool.

Then we sit on the M25 for several hours before arriving back into civilisation.


Hordes Of Scribbling Women #20
Swiming Home has swum. I haven't written a review, but I did like it and look forward to reading more of Ms Levy's dark lit-fic soon. Next up is The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. I gave this to my mum when she went on a girls' coach trip to India, hoping she'd lend it to me, but as she hasn't done, I borrowed it from the library.

I walk The Line
Actually we cycled The Line as it is quite a long way and whilst I like nothing better than spending Saturday wandering around industrial estates, I can see it might be problematic for other people. Also, there's a gap in the map where you're expected to take the DLR, which is a bit like taking the dog for a walk and then carrying it. And TfL's vaguaries mean that the light railway might be closed anyway.

Here are the sculptures:

1. Just south of the Olympic Park near Pudding Mill Lane, just off the canal.

2. Video installation at Three Mills, where we stopped for a sandwich made by the world's dodderiest cafe owners: "Was that on white or brown bread? And it was hummous and watercress? Oh hummous and beetroot, right. On white or brown?"

3 Just before Cody Dock. This was in the shape of a double helix, entitled Shopping DNA.

4. Just after Cody Dock. This is by Damien Hirst (I checked for formaldehyde, there was none) and is an enlargement of a 3mm piece of skin. Apparently. Cody Dock was delightful: an old gasworks site turned into a community garden, with a cafe on a ship, their own sculpture (a sea-goddess made from tyres) and an air of calm loveliness.


There was nobody there though. Opposite, Millennium Mills slowly decayed.

5. Near the cable car. We eschewed the DLR and cycled through Canning Town, which is probably the new Stratford, and round the Excel centre where building work made it difficult for us to find our way. What they doing here? I queried, then saw a Crossrail sign. If there's work going on in London, you can safely assume it's for Crossrail. It's our very own Sagrada Familia. Round the front of the Excel centre were loads of gothy/skaty young men in three quarter length shorts, there for a magicks convention. This week: warlocks, next week: arms fair!

6. Next to the cable car. Onto Princess Dock we found loads of families out for the day, sitting outside cafes or on benches with an ice-cream. I didn't realise this area was such a big draw. There were long queues for the cable car, so we didn't bother going over the water to finish off the trail at the Dome, instead taking the DLR back to Stratford to cycle back along the canal.


Hordes Of Scribbling Women #19
The Sea, The Sea has gone out. Review (spoiler: I loved it). Next up is Swimming Home by Deborah Levy, a beach read for people who don't like beach reads.

The sea, the sea
On Yorkshire Day, we went to Kent, which, despite what my mother claimed, wasn't shut*. We took a trip from Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey: a suprisingly nice Victorian port with a Dickensian harbour (one can imagine Magwitch rising up out of the marshes, and a press-gang** catching the drunken sailor unawares in the Old House pub), littered with boats, one olde sailboat is complete with photovoltaic hub, and the Grain Island power station lurking in the background. A plaque next to an anchor tells us that we're looking out at Dead Man's island where Napoleonic prisoners of war were interred and then buried. The right of way is permitted by Abbot Labs, which is behind us: I wonder if their half-pig half-human experiements will rise, zombie-like, to flee to roam the marshes, ending their undead days on Dead Man's island.

Redsands Sea Forts - 03 - 01-08-2015 10:55:19

Anyway, we're here to do a trip out to the Red Sands sea forts on a fishing smack run by a man only known as the Skipper and his first mate Mark. The boat takes almost two hours to get there, as the forts turn from black spots on the horizon to old fashioned Hollywood tripod cameras to alien landing crafts to At-Ats frozen in time on a post-climate change Hoth to strange, huge, physical, rusting hulks collapsing into the sea. The clouds blow away and we sun ourselves on the deck. The Skipper kept mentioning that the charity that runs the tours needs £30,000 to renovate one of them to use as a hotel (hopefully not a prison for migrants). We saw a posh Tea Clipper from Whitstable on their tour, but we have to ignore it as they are the arch-rivals of the Skipper and Mark. There is also a small red boat, basically a dinghy with an engine, that has attached a rope to one of the forts and we can see a figure running around on the roof. I think it's urban explorers (maybe this is the cool new thing to do now that Bill Turnbull has decried tombstoning), but the Skipper is convinced that they're thieves, asset stripping the edifice. We circle around them for a while as Mark shouts that he's called the PLA (Port of Lonon Authority) who'll be out to get 'em. Eventually we set off back to the harbour and have chips in the town (we're at the seaside, after all), before getting the train back to London.


Redsands Sea Forts - 27 - 01-08-2015 13:38:29

Redsands Sea Forts - 07 - 01-08-2015 11:43:56

* She even said that the Eurostar wasn't running due to the migrant "crisis" - I'm thinking of booking the care home for her now.
** Georgian, rather than Victorian

Hordes Of Scribbling Women #18
The Last Kings Of Sark have abdicated. Review. Next up is The Sea, The Sea, by Iris Murdoch, because I've got to the age of 42 without ever having read a novel by her.

At The RA
We went to see the Summer Show at the Royal Academy. As ever, the fun was had not looking at the art (there's far too much to take in, starting with the stairs which were zig zagging brightly, and therefore difficult to walk up), but guessing the price-tag. There was celebrity corner: Damien Hirst by Harry Hill, for the inconsequential sum of £2K, Grayson Perry by Una Stubbs (a mere four hundred quid), and Simon Cowell by Jean Samtula (NFS). Elsewhere, we found a large abstract in oils for £57,000 and a small watercolour of a gas holder (£250), which I liked equally. The most shocking price was £9 for a gin and tonic from the in-gallery bar.

Unlike, for example, the NPG's annual portrait prize, which always features: a small child, an old person, a celebrity, a self-portrait and a person from a different race to the artist, the Summer Exhibition is multifarious: sculpture, wood cuttings, aluminium canvasses, portraiture, architectural objects, tapestry, neon installation, traditional watercolour landscape painting, post-impressionist street-scenes, all of life is here. There was also some dreadful shit.

Dave and I both liked this Venn diagram come to life:

Afterwards, we ate lunch at Cha Cha Moon, which gave us both bad stomachs. I looked up their awful food hygiene rating, and have become a little obsessed with this site. My favourite Stoke Newington Indian restaurant also has a two!

Summer '15
I haven’t been wasting the summer just reading books. I’ve been “playing” four-a-side football (and have the bruises to prove it), visiting Tjinder Singh’s record shop in his front garden, seeing Prolapse at the Roundhouse (leading to more bruises of the ocular kind), eating ice-cream on the hottest day of the year, attending birthdays in pubs and parks, going to see Carsten Nicolai’s Unicolor at the Vinyl Factory on Brewer Street, as well as DJ-ing with off centre records at the sound installation in the same space, then popping over the road to the Lights of Soho ultra-neon exhibition, and visiting the Serpentine pavilion on the second hottest day of the year (it was so blisteringly boiling inside that I was prepared to pay £4* for an iced coffee at the Fortnum and Mason concession stand).

* let Dave pay £4 for an iced coffee at the Fortnum and Mason concession stand.


Hordes Of Scribbling Women #17
NW has been travelled. Review. Next up is The Last Kings Of Sark by Rosa Rankin Gee, which I want to read because I once went to Sark and thought it was lovely.


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