Friday, 29 October 2010


The Plumber
Greenwich has this wonderful scheme which provides free odd jobs to we vintage models. Wonderful I hear you say and I said too. Unfortunately there is a fifteen-minute limit to this visit and there's not a lot that can be done in fifteen minutes. However they will assess your needs, make a report , then you apply for a claim and in the fullness of time the work will be done. Our blocked sink seemed to be more urgent than this process would allow so my friend got on to a plumber.

He arrived nearly within the half hour he promised and did the usual head shaking with warnings that it wasn't going to be a straightforward job and that the pipes had vicious bends that might be unreachable and he may have to dismantle the entire drainage system. Then he went off to Wicks to get a piece of pipe, he would be back in ten minutes. We did a joint panic job envisaging floorboards up and general disaster. Our lodger chose this moment to make a cake and we were in such a state of anxiety - twittering among ourselves - that we watched her go to it with the aplomb that she brings to everything.

After an hour I was convinced he had abandoned the job with the sink in bits and ourselves in turmoil. He rang to say that he had to go somewhere else for the spare part but would be back soon. ' I bet he's having a fry up in some café!' I said. 'Probably on his third cup of tea now.' My friend was building up to fury with beetled brow and dangerous eyes. She began to speak of the British workman in derogatory terms when the intercom went. 'Plumber!' his cheery voice rang out and he bounced in with no sign of a pipe and I fancied I got the scent of fried bread off him, I licked my lips and he proceeded to apply his vacuum thing to the dismantled waste pipe and in two minutes it was all over, clean as a whistle clear as a bell as if by magic.

He looked triumphant like a conjuror and we, in our relief joyfully paid him what he asked and thanked him profusely. 'Just make sure you put boiling water down it once a week and it will be fine! It's a build up of grease.' I am the fry up merchant of the family and I hung my head slightly. But all in all we were delighted and it was a nice pantomime: scare the bejesus out of the punter, leave them for an hour to build up the tension then come back and do the job that would have taken all of ten minutes. I like to think of it as an exercise of the emotions! Fair play Mr plumber. We came away happy and so did you.
The lodgers cake was excellent.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The Literary Event

The Literary Event &
I had read weeks ago in the Guardian about the 'To Hell with the Lighthouse' event which takes place  monthly in a Rock and Roll Club in Denmark street. Naomi Alderman was to read on that occasion and I had enjoyed her first novel  'Disobedience' enormously. Unfortunately I was unable to get to that particular meeting but what I had heard I liked so I decided to go anyway and had been looking forward to it too, happily dismissing a mention of 'young talent'.

I thought it would be fun to meet some new people, make a few contacts, network. I am fairly new to the networking game and I am sure I will never get the air kiss past the edge of a face right. But I can't believe this is vital. I do hope not. I have quite recently begun to tweet and have been blogging with great enthusiasm since February so now for some flesh-to-flesh networking I thought and I must say I found the idea rather exciting. In fact I tweeted somebody who was reading and she sounded keen to have me there so I was hopeful. I descended the stairs into a club that reminded me very much of places I had known in the sixties and the shop above was enchanting, in fact Denmark street appears to have absorbed  all the music shops in this part of London. It's been a long time since I've been there and had forgotten how great it is.

The barman sold me some fairly unpleasant white wine pointing at a happy hour poster and I found a seat beside a young woman at a table so I could begin my networking straight away. 'Hi' I said and she smiled and carried on her conversation. I looked around the fairly empty bar where some jolly men in reversed baseball caps were having a merry time, I wondered if I should give up on networking and join them - they looked friendly enough - at least they smiled. 

But no, I am here for a purpose I thought and tried the girl on my right again.
'Who's reading tonight?' she mentioned one name but said she didn't know who else. She went back to her conversation. I noticed a magazine on the table called 'Fat', I asked if I could buy one and she smiled and said I could. It was a misnomer I thought for this very slender mag that cost £2, the content was pretty slim too, and it was called a countercultural ladies' mag. I might be countercultural if they allow women of advanced age to be countercultural, which seems dubious. But 'ladies' is a word that I take issue with. I imagine it is used ironically though there was not much sign of irony in the interior of the magazine. There was a little self conscious swearing in the editorial so perhaps that is the countercultural bit. Spare Rib it 'aint, more's the pity.

I found a stray book on the table and began to read, it was an interesting idea about gods on Hampstead Heath, I wondered what the cruisers and bathers made of them. Probably wouldn't notice them I thought - particularly if they were over thirty - but gods are immortal of course. I liked reading it and a woman came up and told me it was a proof copy so I was welcome to it and could get it signed. I said thanks and she left before I could engage her in any conversation. Besides the place was filling up with young women with a few men among them and the noise level had increased to what I imagine it must be like in a parrot cage just before feeding.  Not all the noise was that of kissing air, some was from the many 'hello darlings' and a generalised squawking.

I have been reading a lot about obesity of late but here there were few above size eight and most in tiny printed cotton dresses. I asked the woman on my right in one of her breaks from leaping up to deliver a kiss; 'Why is the magazine called Fat when you are all so thin?' I think she said something about tapestry but will never be sure. The lights were dimmed and there was a plug for the magazine and the first reader, a substantial American woman was introduced. She read well and told us with delight how she had annoyed her mother with her first book. There was nothing that shocked me in her reading and nothing new either, but what do I know? The audience liked it.

Then there was a break and the lights went up and the woman who had given me the book dashed in to take the book back:' I'm going to steal this back' she said 'Oh fine!' I said limply. Then I got up to go to the 'Ladies' room and when I came back my seat had been taken and I left sadder and no wiser.
Never has a woman been so comprehensively spurned by so many for so long. I thought as I hit the local Subway for solid solace.

Sunday, 17 October 2010


On Memory
It is usual to express regret about forgetting words. To lambaste oneself and to see this as a fault of the ageing brain. The fact that I can remember a blues riff and all the words from something I heard in 1958 is given no value. I disagree. I would far prefer to remember 'My Kitchen Man' and forget the name of Glucasamine Sulphate  than the other way around and when I go to my local health shop I can wander about the place until I find it- and I have no idea where I would find the words of the wonderful Bessie. Certainly not in Holland and Barretts.
So. I conclude that the brain very sensibly picks the vital more interesting memories and discards the others. It sometimes embarrasses but only momentarily and I have my own methods of bluffing and recognise other people with even better methods and I am not slow to heist these. One of the most profound misconceptions about we vintage models is that we become rather naïve and I wish to deny this, most of the characters I know are as crafty as ever they were and as venal too, if that was their inclination. I think some ancients go along with this 'simple minded' belief and let on that they are innocent as new borns thus leaving themselves open to any amount of patronising. And I do wish they would stop. There is no value at all in being pathetic.

This train of thought was brought on by looking up Blues that I used as titles of chapters in my novel. I chose titles that were suitable and now the original Blues Who's Who book has disintregeted with half the index gone I know not where.  But I began looking at it again and can remember hearing this music from over fifty years ago and know the words in full and can sing them in my terrible voice and I am back in a smoky dive dancing or snogging to the music. The personnel involved are mostly and wisely gone from my memory and just the songs remain and the essence of the time - another clever trick of the good old brain.

I am about to make, with a lot of help from my friends, a CD of the blues in question as background to a reading and this has brought forth some delicious memories of times long gone and I must congratulate my brain on its taste in selection. It is good to remember blues parties in Somerleyton road in Brixton and dances in the St Louis in the East End and the Flamingo Club it seems that there is nobody around to correct me if I get the name wrong. And that's what is also excellent about remembering those long gone times; they don't have to be precise just the essence comes back so you remember a song and relive the heartache that you thought would never go away and the woozy joy of being in love again. And it is safe now - no danger of the heart breaking just a gentle marvel at the amount of time I spent engaged in futile but enjoyable passion and I am delighted that I have these sweet memories and that my good old brain has the sound sense to filter out the dross of the price the gas bill was last year and when my car insurance is due. People will remind me of these boring details and I don't need a reminiscence group to jog my memory it is a fully functioning part of me thanks to my very sensible brain.
And next time I  forget my keys or I go from the room to do a reprise to jog my memory because I have no idea why I came in I shall know that whatever it was will come back to me and not to worry eh? And when I forget the procedure for downloading a photograph I will know that my brain is busy elsewhere remembering fascinating titbits from the dim and distant past
And I shan't castigate myself - if I remember!