Think, Speak and Do

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Change of scene

If anyone had told me at the time I started this that I'd be so poor at writing it, I'd probably not have bothered! Anyway, in the true spirit of sharing worldly goods, Pab's let me write here.

See you on the Other Side!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Hmm, it's been a while. I didn't realise when I started this experiment that I'd be so rubbish at making time to keep up with writing, and although it was tempting to try to write a load of date-faked retrospectives I found that it's been so long since I last wrote that I'd actually forgotten what I'd been up to. Or maybe I've been taking a leaf out of my soon-to-be husband's book.


One item of note is the long-overdue closure of one of the less happy chapters of my life: my PhD/MPhil. I registered to do the research on the first of October 1997: three submissions, two failures (well, three actually if you count failing my first-year submission too) and almost exactly nine years later, it's finally all done. There was a time when I would have been devastated to have finished with an MPhil rather than the PhD that I thought I'd be getting out of it, but with the benefit of time and reflection (or rather, having done the mental equivalent of putting it under the bed for the last two years) I'm actually quite pleased with the overall outcome. Now that it doesn't matter to my career, and it's stopped costing me money.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Monday morning

Having left my car at work on Friday evening, I walked to work this morning, early. The walk takes about half an hour, at about the same pace as the traffic on a bad morning, but this morning it was well worth it as a chance to enjoy the sunshine and start the day gently.

I enjoy this early period before work, as a meditative time when I can fill my ears with music and be transported into a parallel place. This morning I noticed round green fruit hanging from the trees which a few months ago were covered in white blossom. The sun sparked through the leaves of the trees on the fringe of The Wilderness, and on my way onto the campus my eye was caught by a single sycamore leaf, manically waving a happy welcome, blown by its own personal breeze.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

False toenails..., it's really true, they exist and are in use, although why defeats me. I have seen them with my very own eyes. On the number 12 bus in Reading.

I couldn't leave without imparting this particularly unusual piece of information, if you could call it such a thing.


Blog retrospective

An early lesson.

If you're going to do it, do it either a) daily without fail or b) acknowledge when you've been too busy/lacking in inspiration.
Don't save it all up for a big marathon unless you've got the stamina, or broadband.

Sportscar in London

Or, how to arrive in style.
We met with P's lovely sister, her husband and their beautiful daughter to see Undercover Surrealism at the Hayward. Train timetabling meant that we either caught a bus from Ipswich, drive to Marks Tey and pick up the train, or drive the whole way to London, and we chose the latter as a treat. I've never been through central London by car, and the prospect of driving through the immense and iconic streets seemed to good to miss.

Catch the exhibition while you can: the juxtaposition of Dali with a massive photograph of a rather hairy toe undelines the more serious counter-reading of the significance of the key Surrealists. It takes a while to absorb, but for an alternative to the standard reading of the works of Dali, Picasso and Miro the exhibition provided some thought-provoking ideas.

And it was wonderful. Roof off the car, gazing in wide-eyed wonder at the geography of the buildings, their intricacies, the skill of managing the traffic, the reality of the place. A charity bike race through Lambeth, an accident on Tower Bridge, views across Waterloo, all burning in the bright sunshine. Runners dodging the camera-wielding tourists on the Embankment, overdressed hotel porters, a small group of young men in ghetto-chic miming and posing for a video filmed under the South Bank.

Lunch in Wagamama, a quick trip to John Lewis to add to the wedding list, and a trip out to Primrose Hill to admire the view before heading back to Paddington. Getting onto my final train, I was filled with a feeling that the spell had been broken and the shadow of the mundane loomed large.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Shingle Street

I love this place. A thick beach of ochre yellow and spotty brown pebbles; cold grey North Sea views. Usually wildly desolate, today, dotted with sunbathers. Dashing in and out of the surf, it was still cold enough in the water to be refreshingly British, and wholesome in a windburning kind of way.

The stones were warm and smooth, and the sound of the waves as they sucked at the shingles was the otherwordly noise of a hundred shipwrecks.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Wrong kind of heat

The kind that apparently makes rails go wrong.

I didn't think it was that hot today, at least, not as hot as that mad week when the whole nation got its collective tan and places like Margate probably had a run on jellied eels and Mr Whippy.

On my way to Woodbridge during the afternoon, the First Great Western service I was on first slowed to 20 mph, to allow to the train to skate along the heated-to-plasma-phase rails, and then stopped at Iver (Iver? Where?) because train in front had done an emergency stop.

I got to Paddington a little bit behind time, and decided to brave the Circle line (a bit hit and miss since the engineering works started) and was impressed when one arrived in good time and went to Edgeware Road. Where it stopped, and waited. And waited.

It seems that they have to queue in a row to stop at the platform, and that this queue can get quite long, and last for quite a while until the situation resolves itself. Sort of like tranport constipation, if one should be so crude.

Agitated men in crumpled suits looked at their watches in consternation. The smiling Asian man sitting next to me with a beautiful potted plant between his feet gazed out of the window. The larking boys swinging from the roof bars got fidgety and play-punched each other. An attractive, aging hippy-Earth-Mother type hummed to herself, and periodically checked an ancient mobile phone. When the train finally lurched forwards, the human millieu was jostled together, and elbows, cases, bags and bodies collided. The tall black man who'd sat down on his luggage (a Paratroop Regiment careers guide and a box of new army-style boots) toppled over, laughing. All of us now sweating, and the carriage feeling like a greenhouse.

From Liverpool street, more delays - a long wait at points ouside Ipswich, sitting opposite an irrate fellow-traveller, on a train where the trolley service liquid refreshment had started to run dry. 'Got any water?' I asked, seeing that there wasn't any. 'It's Adnam's beer or pop m'love' came the answer, and so, warm can of Sprite in hand I waited again for train movement, and watched out of the window as ducks flew past over the ripening corn fields, and the sun lit the Suffolk countryside.

The Eraser

The CD that Pab and I simultaneously bought for my birthday was Thom Yorke's one-man (even he shies away from calling it a solo) record The Eraser. Complete with what feels like recycled carboard fold-out case covered in a Stanley Donwood lino cut, the album itself is well worth it. Recorded around the same time as Kid A, it's similar in tone, with the main revelation being the quality of Thom's vocals. I'm the biggest Radiohead fan this side of my computer screen, but even I'm prepared to concede that sometimes Thom is a little...strained? Nasal? Incomprehensible? For a side-project, the results are stunning, and stand-out songs for me include the tracks Analyse and HarrowDownHill, a reference to the late Dr David Kelly. The lyric 'don't walk the plank like I did' isn't an obvious opener, but HarrowDownHill grows into an edgy song of persecution and loss. It's not a happy album, but uplifting in a soul-burning kind of way; music which is greater than the sum of its parts.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Birthday Girl

I'm 31 today! Thirty-one years since I popped out of Mummy's tummy/was delivered by the Stork/Daddy went to the vegetable garden and found me in the cabbage row (or if you want to suggest a better lie to tell impressionable children about their origins, please do let me know).

Actually, Daddy used to mainly find slugs and caterpillars in the cabbage row, so maybe there's some milage in that one.

I have eaten plenty of cake and been fussed over, have recieved some lovely cards and have accidently bought for myself the same CD which Pab sent me in the post as a gift (complete with envelope bearing the instruction NOT TO BE OPENED UNTIL WEDNESDAY; as if I would). Bless, two minds that think as one.

I am going grey and getting saggy, but at least I have the age-accumulated wisdom to not give a stuff.