Wednesday, July 31, 2002

I can't believe that Williams Cumberbach just came over to my house. He was passing and wanted to say hi, I guess. I was very slightly embarassed that I'm in my working at home gear, but at least my nails looked suitably cool.

We chatted about Kabalah - he goes to the Kabbalah Centre - Jewish history, salsa, South America and weblogs. How strange that he should be interested in the things I'm interested in (apart from blogging; that was a new one for him. Look out for a Williams Cumberbache blog anytime soon.)

He asked me whether I'm Jewish or English first? It's not every day a percussionist extraordinaire and paid-up member of the West London massive comes round to my house to pose contemporary identity politics/sociological questions.

Is this whole thing not a - very pleasurable - surreal experience?
SURVEY TIME - I need you

Here's the deal: you saw my manicure yesterday - it's very dark purple, with silver glitter just at the top of the nails, and my nails are short and straight.

I just this minute blagged my way into an informal meeting tomorrow with the MD of a company I'd love to work for; it's in the business services sector.

Do I remove my nail varnish? Generally, I'd be very happy with the short dark nails; it's the glitter I'm slightly tentative about. And it's an all-or-nothing deal; I can't just take off the glitter.

Reader, comment, please. I need advice.
Yiddish word of the day: zaftig
Granta 77: twenty-four writers discuss the role America has played in their life, as a result of a train of thought about US-ology set off by 9/11.

Ian Buruma: "I still feel a schoolboyish thrill every time I go to America, and an exhilarating sense of lightness when I get there. Chatting to strangers somehow becomes easier. The burden of European caginess, and of the snobberies and class prejudices left behind, like crusty scales, by a European education, appears to be lifted. The feeling never entirely wears off, even when the drawbacks of American society-the sentimentality, the conformism, the insularity-become more apparent."
Can't wait for Donna Tart's new book? Learn Dutch.

[kinda, tangentially, via bookslut]
Ben Hammesley may be the 4th Ben in the world, but I am pretty much all the sashinkas, the 7th Sasha, and - bizarrely, now - the 3rd for portobello van hire.

I wish I could say I knew how I did these fine things, but frankly, I have no idea.
Your wish is my command, Mark honey. Yiddish stuff: book review, unimpressive phrase list, Mendele Yiddish forum, great phrasebook, yiddish slang, alphabet, good glossary.

There, now you'll be farshtopt with information.
Online arabic translator; should, theoretically, improve my understanding of the Israel/Palestine "issue".

Apocryphally, I once heard a story about a woman who had an extremely expensive silk dress, printed with Chinese characters. In a Chinese restaurant, she asked the waiter for a translation: it apparently said I TAKE IN WASHING FOR A LIVING.
About Last Night

P made me a wonderful, dairy-free meal: gazpacho, organic salmon with fresh pasta, followed by strawberries and rasberries. (I have not eaten dairy - well, apart from once - for nearly two weeks, and my excma has almost gone. But enough about me.)

We got to the bottom of bottle of pinot gris, and P played me bossa nova on one of his three guitars. Like I said before: tall, talented and truly surreal. In a good way, I mean about surreal. Some people might not think it's a compliment, but I do, and I'm sure Dali and Magritte did, too. He even signs his emails "a didas".
So Tom gets around.
I know I shouldn't be in love with two people in a twenty-four hour period, but I've just discovered Paul Ford: check out Online Revenge and the Semantic Web. Smart, insightful, geek-enabled.
Probably everyone apart from me knows about the Google blog.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Just painted my nails: I think it's very goth meets bling-bling.

I may be able to coherently discuss technology/current affairs/politics in the Middle East, but I like girl-stuff, too.

The meme replicates: psychalking.

[via dead dog in alleyway...]
In case I keep going out and never get around to actually watching Six Feet Under. See, I have a personal rule: I used to have a serious unwatched video backlog. Now, if I'm out, I miss it. So be it. It is, after all, only TV.

[via bitful]
I think I may be in love with Douglas Rushkoff: he's dead smart, wired, faster-thinking than anyone I know - and I did hang out with him when he was last in London, so I've had real-time experience - and Jewish to boot. What more could you want?

His piece on the AOL/Time Warner merger was so on the money as to be prophetic.
I can't believe that this woman has built up to getting $600 a week to help her pay off her credit card bill. And Elisabeth noticed the weird (ie no value) stuff she's selling on eBay, as well as her bad reviews.

How do I know this is real and not a con? Though it's a long game with a PO Box, so I don't know how watertight a con it is. And why are people sending her money? Just good karma?

If I said: I don't want to get a job-job (aka commercial kind I used to do) I want to earn money from writing and I'd like you all to send me a dollar (or a pound, or a euro); would you? (off-topic: hearing a story on the Today programme this morning about how Travelex is better value than the Post Office for currency exchange, I realised, somewhat belatedly, that there's no foreign money in Europe anymore. How strange is that?). Would I ask? Isn't it just the twenty-first century equivalent of standing on a web-corner telling a hard-luck story and holding out a paper cup?

And here's a thought: if she got $600 dollars last week, that must $1 each from a lot of people. And they can only be - according to direct mail maths - the tiniest percentage of her total visitors. So her bandwidth usage must be crazy; who pays her hosting bills? Like I said; an expensive scam, too. Or, she never got the $600 in the first place...
Not exactly "wait there for the present" - with apologies to Laurie Lee

Background information required for this story: observant Jews don't spend money on the Sabbath (Shabbat), among many other things that make it a day of rest.

So the story. I was about four, and on a Saturday afternoon, I was invited to Vanessa's birthday party, she lived up the road. Remember those kind of kid's parties? Jelly, ice-cream, balloons, pass the parcel, and other kid-related activities.

At some point in the afternoon, Vanessa's mum, a statuesque blonde who later spent most of my teenage years sitting behind me in synagogue poking me in the back and telling me to sit up straight (where I come from, there is a concept of collective motherhood - if you see someone else's child doing something you don't approve of, you tell them anyway. Even if they're thirty-two) - an early Alexander Technique marketing strategy.

I'm at the party, I'm four. Vanessa's mum bends down and says to me, "Sasha, do you want to spend a penny?" Now, I knew that you can't spend money on Shabbat, so I say no. Then, of course, I'm bursting for the loo all afternoon, and too shy to ask where it is.

Eventually I get home, er, relieve myself, and when my parents ask me about the party, tell them, "Vanessa's mummy wanted me to spend a penny, but I know you're not allowed."

I think I was often a source of entertainment to my parents during my childhood.
So the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology says don't get into a relationship with a narcissist, because their OTT self-love gets in the way. No chance of that; nearly everyone I know is racked with something somewhere on the self-loathing lack-of-self-esteem continuum. But, hey.
Remember that really annoying - but strangely mesmeric - song, Barbie Girl?

Apparently, a legal battle has been raging between Universal Music and Mattel over the 1997 pop hit by the obscure Danish quartet Aqua, and whether it infringed Barbie's trademark and sullied her image, as the song is laced - laced, I tell you, with sexual innuendo. It is quite, quite something what people choose to argue about.

But get the last line:

"That claim was also rejected by the appeals court. "The parties are advised to chill," Judge Kozinski wrote in the judgment affirming the lower court ruling."

Just like British judges, then.

[via Barbelith Underground]
My flat is leasehold - if you're not resident in the UK don't even bother finding out about this arcane, practically feudal property pointlessness. So we have a managing agent who is effectively incentivised - to the tune of 17.65% - to get us to pay more for things, as they get a cut of it. Hence the phrase: more is more. So any call-out - electrician, plumber, gutter cleaner - is minimum £150.

We've had plants growing in our gutters for about two years. Whenever the agent sends people round to remove them, they seem to miss them. Then we have to get into arguing about what the spec was, ferchrissakes. It's expensive, aging, hassle, and I can do without it.

Just found out we can miss out the middle man. So after a lot of searching, I found a local window-cleaner - tell me who else has tall ladders - and he cleaned all our outisde windows, which is more than the sodding managing agent has ever done anyway, and I smiled sweetly, leaned forward a little, and asked him if he would mind taking the Kew Gardens set-up down from the gutter. No problem, love. I gave him £5. This isn't very interesting to other people, but it is to me: how can the agent justify their frantically pumped-up costs, and how can I make them go away without buying the freehold?
Healthy evening with D: salad, salad and more salad. I feel so healthy, I could peel a grape/make a salad/sensible act of your choice. We sat in her garden - which had a very Mediterranean feel to it - because (a) it was hot, and (b) she is having her flat decorated, so there is not a lot of room inside anyhow. Bizarrely, D introduced me to Mary Mary about a year ago, and today they're featured in the Guardian because they've just launched their new album, Incredible. The delay since the first album? They weren't prepared to sell out on God.

The highlight of the night wasn't when she SMS'd me a business card of her beautician, but it was exciting. Technology; enabled of the beauty business, right? Not that I don't live on the edge; I do, honest. The edge of West Hampstead, rilly, darling.
Word of the day:
Stage-phoning... trying to win friends/influence people by talking on your mobile phone in a loud, allegedly impressive way. So it's not anything to do with Graham Norton phoning hapless innocents live from the stage of his show, then?

Monday, July 29, 2002

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics


I've only linked this because something is clearly wrong; I'm not bragging, honest. Especially because my mathematical shenanigans demonstrate that I've actually got nothing to brag about.

So there's no scale, but looking at the proportions, I can get the total votes to add up to 46 - close to 48 - like this:
1 X 0 votes = 0
2 X 2 votes = 4
3 X 4 votes = 12
4 X 4 votes = 16
5 X 8 votes = 40
6 X 4 votes = 24
7 X 12 votes = 84
8 X 4 votes = 36
9 X 6 votes = 54
10 X 2 votes = 20
TOT: 46 votes, 290 points
average, therefore: 6.3

Of course, there's the old-fashioned method; you just look at the chart and go, "average about seven, then?"

Either way, there's either a glitch, or blog - hot or not is just another vanity blogging enterprise to make us all feel better. We should be told.
Why is it OK for men to strip off their shirts in sweltering weather (and ocassionally mop their brow) but not for women?

It seems (a) unfair, and (b) sweaty. Of course, women don't sweat, they pespire. Even though I have lived in 95% humidity in Singapore, even I think it's hot.
So that's where all my sent messages have gone. Right. Really restored my faith in all things Gatesian and Microsoft-oriented. I wish they'd have told me; now I don't have a copy of the deal I agreed with my current client. I know, I know, I should get real email.
Some point during the weekend, someone told me this story:

Her friend works at BBC Films, and last year they got a request from Buckingham Palace for some "christmas TV viewing recommendations."

You can just imagine the conversation: "Phillip, there's so much TV now, how do we choose appropriately regal TV viewing?" Phillip: "Don't we have people who know about that, Liz? The BBC? Don't they know about TV? Ask them."

And, evidently, it's all terribly sponaneous over at Buck House.
UK shamed again. No, really?

Brixton? Crixton? Surely not. It's Cricklehampstead to me, and it always will be.

[via Fraser]
Ever been laid off by text message? No, me neither.

However, when I was working for a dot-com in 2001, I was in Tucson, Arizona at our parent company's conference, trying to cut some deals with my opposite number. Obviously I was aware that money was tight, but we were confident we had another few weeks. Third day of the conference, I get a call from one of the girls in my (extremely embryonic) team: "Hi Sasha, sorry to call so early. Can you tell me what my redundancy package is?"

"Ah," I replied, "Things have moved quicker than I thought. Let me make a couple of calls and come back to you."

Then I called the CEO.

"Ah, Sasha. Yes, was just going to call you."

Lesson learned: there are no jobs for life any more. Have alternative plans. You are responsible for your own destiny.
There really is new columnar activity. Go check it out ---->>

Sunday, July 28, 2002

My First Sex-Educational Experience

Well, not my first. My first was when my parents gave me a book, aged around four, that started off with a picture of a pencil, and said "in the beginning, you were small. Smaller than the dot from this pencil." It was beautifully illustrated and worked its way up from flowers, bees, animals to two people covered in a well-pressed sheet on a neatly-made bed. It was informative.

Aged around eleven, my parents gave me an "everything girls need to know" book. They were modern, sixties parents; I should ask them anything I wanted. I devoured the book in about a day and a half. There was only one question; I'd been well-informed up till then.

My Mum was cooking in the kitchen: "Mum, Mum, I've read the book. What's masturbation?". Her reply: "oh, Sasha, I'm busy, go ask your father."

It was summer, and my Dad was trimming the roses in front of our house and talking to two (male) neighbours. I think it might have been a Sunday; suburbia, you know. I ran outside: "Dad, Dad," I shouted, "What's masturbation?" Sadly, I don't really remember the expression on his face. "Go and ask Mum," he replied. And there I was, caught in an information loop for the rest of my life...

It would be cool to say I just found out yesterday or something, but I guess I found out my other means.
Indian Summer
Hardly the phrase I'd use; it was shvitzing. But cool in a hip way. Anna came over, we hung out in the garden, read the papers, and I put on factor 50 sunblock and still managed to go a darker shade of pink.

Then we went down to Regents Park with about five thousand other hardly-clad mellow revellers of all ages, for the Channel 4 Indian Summer big-chill type thing with Nitin Sawhney, Badmarsh and Shri, featuring UK Apachi and Asian Dub Foundation. Lying in the grass, not exactly working on our tans, and talking crap was the perfect antidote the the (separate) late nights we'd both had. Our collective cleavage was admired by many and we just chilled, enjoyed the people watching, the music, drinking in the atmosphere... till we got hungry and went our separate ways. I'd promised myself an early night, but...
Traditional English Weather Behaviour

It truly is that kind of hot, sweaty weather that makes English people say to each other: "hot enough for you?" Like, what's that about?

I saw a woman on the tube fanning herself by v-e-r-y slowly waving her hand up and down in front of her face. As if that made any difference. I didn't tell her, of course.
I have been in touch with the nice people at Shockheaded Peter and they tell me they're not back in Europe till 2004. In fact, they're not anywhere till 2004. Bugger. Wish I was more, like, organised.
I've been reading Bill Safire on language for about ten years. And he's just got blog. Though he does say he hasn't got one, because he doesn't want people to know what he thinks. He's a writer, innit?
I'm never really sure about these things... just wanted to see how it works, guv, honest... I'd never have put myself up for the real-picuture-of-self one, but... Is my Blog HOT or NOT?
This is the ultimate post-modern, self-referential dilemma. I've just got back from M's fortieth, which was a fab party with lots of gorgeous looking deserts, which I couldn't really try as I've not had serious dairy for a week now and my excma is improving. But I caught up with lots of people I hadn't seen in ages, although it sometimes scares me quite how grown-up everyone is nowadays. I remember laughing uproariously for most of the night, but now I look back I can't remember quite what was so funny... one of those location jokes (AKA you had to be there). Or, conversely, libelous. But one couple regaled the late-stayers with a hysterical story about how they put in an offer on a cottage in Ross-on-Wye, only to have to withdraw it when they realised how far from London it was. What, were they, like, blindfolded/in the boot on the way to their fun weekend destination?

But first - how I met M. I was nineteen, I think, and staying in London in the Uni holidays, and late one night in Harts on Marylebone High Street, I met two guys by the vegetarian cheese counter, M and his then-flatmate, now-business partner. We got chatting, I don't remember about what, and they invited me back to their flat for coffee. An invitation which I accepted, not fearing their potential axe-murderer status, as it was the (very late) eighties and life was way less scary. And of course they weren't axe-murderers, they were nice guys who lived up the road, but still...

So: my dilemma. A couple of months back, I mentioned this blog in passing to someone I know. I forgot about it. I don't run into him that often. Tonight, he comes up to me, and says "I know all about you, now." Not in a scary way, just in a knowing way; one of those second-stage conversations I already talked about. And our conversation was about what I might write. Would I write about him? What would I say? Should I use his name? Just an initial? (answer: he plumped for his whole name: meglomaniac). Then other friends said; don't mention him - that'll get him. See, but, I'm damned-if-do and damned-if-I-don't. And now I'm writing about what I might write, ferchrissakes. How up-your-own-arse is that?

I also bumped into an acquaintance who's an editor on a major newspaper. I tried to pitch him my great idea about how technology is changing how we communicate. Except I've never pitched a story to someone in my life. He said they were more celebrity focussed. I said I lived next-door to someone who's got a major storyline on East Enders; now, there's a story.

Back to my dilemma: I open it to the floor; should I, like, take requests on my blog?
Friday afternoon, driving over to N2 in a hurry. I'd realised about ten minutes before I was leaving - when I was already late - that my friend S's mother always says that you can't go out with your toenails unpainted in sandals. So I quickly put that sqashy toe-separating technology (a phrase I use here in the loosest possible way) between my toes, and painted my nails blue-purple, with silver glitter on the big toes. No time for more. Felt a bit of a fool runnning down the stairs in my hall holding my sandals and my neighbour looking at my feet. But hey.
Weekend update: Stayed at D&H's - they made truly fabulous mediterranean stylee food that put me to shame, frankly, including a great carrot/lime/ginger soup that I will be trying out faster than you can say Covent Garden Recipe Book, should you want to say that - and we had intelligent conversation, though I did flake out in the afternoon, so never made it round to M's, which was by all accounts enjoyable. Friday night, I went to Z&D's but the evening's events are censored. Not for any special reason; just because they are.

Every time I go to zone 4 - or the Republic of Limmudistan, as one friend called it - I have a real dilemma about choosing zone two/urban/near town against zone four/suburban/loads of nice friends/how old am I now? stuff. My current impecunious state stops me from doing anything about it, but I like to worry.
Barbelith lives. I can sleep nights, now.

Friday, July 26, 2002

So there's Sysadmin Appreciation Day. And it's today. If I had one, I'd sure appreciate them. Oh... just remembered. Hi, Yoz.

When I lived in Singapore, they had National Bosses Day (sometime in October) for extra-special up-sucking. Not my scene, I can tell you.
No! Novelists hiring writers to write their books for them? Seems so. I'm thinking of hiring someone to get a job for me. Or maybe I could get someone to go to the toilet for me?
I was trying to explain to an moderately unwired friend this week what "open source" was, and I too chose the word community. Used in its broadest sense it means a whole of host of huggy/sharing/not-for-profit things, but, for me anyhow, goes so far as to cover all manner of nice people helping me out when I bugger up my code. Now, that's community.

And now Dan Gillmour has said pretty much the same as me.
Anyone else see Dustin Hoffman on Graham Norton last night? When he called Graham "brave, courageous and humane" I couldn't tell if he was taking the piss or not.

And Graham was truly starstruck - the wasted first three minutes with Graham going "you've been in so many films. sooo many. films," just made me wish I had a TV programme, because I could have taken advantage of the circumstances so much better. I think. But Graham vindicated himself with the great lost-mobile phone in taxi gag, and Dustin truly rose to the ocassion. Method acting, eat your heart out. Or maybe that was method acting. Anyway, Dustin's filming Neverland as we speak, which I'm looking forward to.

And am I the only person who thinks that Graham Norton has a significant influence on the outcome of Big Brother? He's on every night straight after BB3, does a little diatribe, and then it turns out he's a trend forecaster. Duh. How does that work? "Jade got harpooned." "Mock and vote, people, mock and vote." Like, that makes it OK? I like Graham Norton enormously - though I am not familiar with him in any sense of the word - but in any other circumstances, I'd say he's a bully. He's the cool kid with loads of mates and the latest trainers (tr: sneakers) in the playground, and Jade's the fat kid who doesn't make the grade.
The tyranny of that unlucky combination of an unusual name and someone with too much time on their hands: googling on people you know/don't know, just to check them out. [Think this requires registration - I have too many cookies - sashablog/sashablog should work]. And it's by Jennifer 8.Leigh. Do you think she may have been genetically modified?

I've often felt that the only way to escape the information society is to get a new name. Or, like, insert a number into your existing one.
Just heard someone on Radio 4, discussing the Omagh Victims Legal Group's case against the alleged bombers, talking about "pacific incidents." My geography's bad, but I guess he means specific.
I'm not the only one with strong views on BBC bias about Israel, then.

[via Tea for Two]

Thursday, July 25, 2002

I'm delighted that I'm bubbling under on David's personal list of favourite blogs.

While I wouldn't want to mess with his opinion, the editor's decision is final blah blah blah, I learned something from his description. I did a quick search and found out that I have 25 posts that mention being Jewish (and 5 about Kabbalah, which could be a subset of Jewish, in the venn-diagram of my life, I guess), ten posts that mention hair in any meaningful way, and only three that mention dating. I can't believe that I try so hard not to be hello-I'm-Jewish and then I am. Or maybe I'm just talking about my life, and it's part of it. Dunno.

Obviously, the challenge of being, er, now what's the word? Poly-interested? Wide-ranging? Short-attention-spanned? Anyway, the challenge of being whoever it is I am is that I don't fit in a box. I can think outside of one if I'm forced to in employment circumstances, but I wonder if the crap I write about defies categorisation.

So there's a challenge. Here's my own 30 word intro to me, my blog, I:

An idiosyncratic cultural commentary; truth telling; story telling; the geek-lite side of news and views, arts reviews, a garnish of Kabbalah and a hint of girlie stuff.

Tough job, summing yourself up. Not sure I did it very well.

So Salon is attempting to monetize the blogosphere.
Watch the BBC Six O'clock News report on Warchalking. If you have realplayer.
Yesterday, kept seeing those faux-handwritten signs that the Evening Standard give to newspaper sellers to improve their sales (er, adverts, I think they're called) that said: SPACE ROCK ON COLLISION COURSE WITH EARTH.

Sounded kinda scary to me, but people were just carrying on their everyday business. Turns out it's not due till 2019. So, no rush then. And of course, it could be delayed if it forgets to change at Crewe.
Sick of blogging about blogging, yet?

You will be. Today's collection includes SFGate's commentary on the UC Berkeley blogging class. Is blogging hitting the mainstream? I don't really have a strong view; I mean I'm hardly a hardcore geektype myself. I guess I'm a second generation blogger - geek enough, but not a developer-type. The first generation types probably hate people like me.

And a - hardly impartial, though he does lay his cards on the table upfront - blogging software roundup from Microcontent News.

Using blogs in business. Like, yeah, isn't that just an intranet with bells on it?

and I'm sure there's more...
Porn Clerk Stories.

Ten months in the life of a guy/gal dealing with ... well, it's obvious, innit?
How silent? Food for thought...

"... for Plath indeed wrote about herself and the people she knew as if they were characters in a novel. ... Plath writes about people with a novelist's noticing eye, and the journals' atmosphere of intrusive intimacy derives from this. We "know" Hughes and Sassoon and Dick Norton and Aurelia and Plath herself in the way we "know" characters in a novel, which is more deeply and clearly than we know anyone in life except our closest intimates...

...Because the Annas and ... Holden Caulfields ... do not exist outside the pages of their novels, we are unembarassed by our voyeurism, by the abashing amount of personal information we receive about them. With the characters of Hughes and Sassoon and Norton and Aurelia, who have counterparts in life, we lose our feeling of comfortable omniscience; we feel we should look the other way - as in the that moment of embarassment when we meet our analyst on the street. As the analyst doesn't "belong" there - he should exist only in the consulting room - so the characters in Plath's journals become displaced persons of a sort."

- The Silent Woman, Janet Malcolm, Papermac 1995, pp 96-97
Home Alone - and it's not a movie

My friend Jamie - James to his readers - has written a fascinating piece on Singleton Society at spiked-online.

Did you know there are more single that family households in the US? That within five years 20% of single people will be using the internet to find a partner?

I'd probably take issue with Jamie's argument that a highly rarefied commitment to their health and wellbeing is primarily what's stopping people get into lasting relationships. I think it's economics and higher expectations; my Mum's generation needed to leave their parents house and hook-up with someone with a better income than them. Women have more choices now... which may not always be a good thing.

And were Microsoft really surprised that "just over half of the 1500 young women surveyed admitted to obsessing about their weight, while a fifth were permanently unhappy about the state of their bodies"? I could have told them that for way less money than it cost them to do their 2001 survey.

But Jamie writes sharply and fluidly, and whenever I talk to him my mind's buzzing with good ideas. And he didn't even pay me to say that.
Great essay on Multiculturalism and Shades of Meaning in the New South Africa.

Reminded me of a similar occurence in my own life. Don't you hate it when people say that?

1990-something (early, can't remember), I'm working in Singapore and my company has organised my green card/work visa. There's a whole underclass in Singapore of guys who ride around on scooters with their jackets on their fronts (presumably as windcheeters, but I never found out), and our office had one of these errand-boy types. Except that they're generally in their thirties and forties with large families.

Singapore - then, anyway - was how I imagined England to be in the inter-war era. There was a definite class system (whites -> Eurasians -> Hong Kong Chinese -> mainland Chinese -> Indonesians - > Asians - > Malay... but that's a whole other story), and it was a bit of a shock to me. I remember seeing a job ad in the Straits Times which said:

Beautiful Young Girls with Good Skin
required as Air Hostesses for XXXXXXXXXXX
(Malays need not apply)

I haven't named the well-known pan-asian airline because (a) it was a long time ago, and (b) consequently, I can't remember the exact wording, and would hate to libel them unecessarily.

So it's a different world. I'm filling out my work visa, and it asks me a question I've never come across before: Race. I ponder this, with my post-Holocaust sensibilities, and really don't want to answer it. In the end, I answer: human.

Our errand guy goes and queues for a day or so, and comes back, and says to me: "They didn't like you answer, la. (everyone in Singapore says la at the end of nearly every sentence). So they asked me to describe you, la. And they said you're white, la."

So that's one major mystery cleared up, then. Of course, I never know how to answer the census question, either, and tend to put white-other. Truth is, I just hate even getting into those discussions. What difference does it make?
H came over for dinner last night (I'm never sure whether to say dinner or supper - one of them is terribly down-market, but I don't know which), and there's no prizes for guessing which surprise dish I cooked. Followed by vodka-drenched watermelon. I'm an edge-liver, cooking-wise, I know. H brought a fab bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and we put the world to rights, or as much as one can in one evening. I do feel reasured meeting people who have the same values - often about small things - and we discussed the nuances of social niceties.

Like we talked about accepting invitations. I have a big party once a year, and sometimes, if I can be bothered, I make invitations and post them to people in the old fashioned way. Me? Retro? Hardly; I live in a post-postal era, according to the latest news from Consignia, sorry, The Royal Mail. Anyway, enough carping, I'm not a fish. So people never RSVP, I've got used to that now. One time, I ran into a putative party guest a couple of weeks before my party, and asked if they'd got the invitation; the replied as if to say I was the rude one. How dare I ask them to make plans with such long notice; they wanted to evaluate all their party possibilities on the day (night) and make an ad hoc decision. I've got used to the fact that the people who say they're coming don't, and lots of people who never said anything turn up, and bring friends too. It's a party. It's cool. I've met some interesting people that way.

Even with weddings, friends have told me that loads of people don't reply, and they have to chase them. And I guess I've sometimes got that wrong too; I always feel terribly embarassed, but I, y'know, just get so much post.

Ten years ago, me, my brother and sister made a surprise silver wedding party for my parents. It was catered, and we got invitations printed. The day they arrived, nearly everyone called up to thank me for the invitation, and were charming, delighted to be invited and looking forward to it. Some people even wrote: "thank you for including us". Out of about eighty people, there were two who hadn't replied when we were organising catering numbers, and I got the short straw and had to call them. They were so apologetic. It was their fault. They were so sorry. They'd love to come. There was no guilt, or arrangement arbitrage, or implication that it was rude of me to ask.

I like the old fashioned way. Not for dancing, of course. Well, sometimes. But I do miss... manners. Saying thank you. I try and treat people the way I want to be treated, and I think those little things make the biggest differences. Shit, I'm starting to sound like a Hallmark card; think I'll stop now.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Have you seen the Alzheimer's Society new range of adverts? I will resist the temptation to say I saw one and forgot.

This one definitely tickled me:

Does your mother phone fifty times a night?

I can't help thinking that the answer might not be dementia. She might just be Jewish.
I can't find a single image on the web for Benjy's, so this may not work. Benjy's is an el cheapo chain of sandwich shops in London. They have a new ad, which seems to also be part of their logo. It says this:


Now the first time I saw it, I thought it meant they had stopped serving bread, and were instead offering wheat-free alternatives to their building site/secretary clientele. But then - a few days later, admittedly - I realised. Less bread. Cheaper. Silly me.
In the West End this afternoon, I had to hold myself back from purchasing an of-the-moment peasant-style fringed shoulder bag. (Hey, I should be a fashion writer. Just remembered: on my blog I can be whatever I want to be.) I already have more than one or two once-trendy bag-like items at home.

When the aliens come to take me away, they will probably think I am the high-priestess of some kind of handbag cult.
One reason I'm wearing that t-shirt is that it's quite high cut.

I have some serious cleavage, and I take it quite seriously. Whatever that means. Generally I wear lowish-cut tops, not least because if you don't you just look like one very large breast coming towards you. But now I have some kind of eczma in my cleavage. In my cleavage; how unfair is that? So while I'm putting yucky creamy things on it, I have to cover up. The old-fashioned, superstitious part of me can't help wondering if it's a message from the abishter (tr: old-fashioned Yiddish word for God) to tell me not to show it off. But I'm sure ze likes it really; I mean, ze made it, right?
T-shirt of the Day

So I'm wearing my american college stylee t-shirt emblazoned with the legend F A C U L T Y. But it's a cursive, curly script, and at first glance, it could easily say F A U L T Y.
I am angry. I rarely talk politics - here and in real life - but then I'm rarely this incensed.

I just heard James Naughtie interview Ephraim Sneh, Israel's Transportation Minister, in the most biased tone of voice I have heard for some time. After a Palestinian representative (whose name I didn't, unfortunately, catch) was interviewed in an outside broadcast, where they called Saleh Shehadeh "a man of peace", and when questioned on that, restated it, together with the fact that he had just apparently agreed to a PA ceasefire.

My understanding of Saleh Shehadeh is that he was a documented terrorist, who the Israeli Government have been asking the PA to imprison for some time.

Then, James Naughtie said to Sneh,

"What you did yesterday, is counter-productive, isn't it?"

This was said without a good morning, or welcome, and in the tone of voice teachers use for persistently evil children. Studying Latin in school, I learned that there are two words for surely: num and nonne . One means "surely yes" and one "surely no", though I forget which is which. This was clearly a "surely yes" question, anyhow.

Sneh tried to say that Israeli intelligence had known that innocents were in the vicinity, the attack would have been cancelled, but he is a weak speaker at the best of times, and didn't represent himself well. Interestingly, when he wanted to "correct" the views of the other side, he was interrupted, whereas the Palestinian representative was not.

Crucial missing fact: innocents are killed in all Palestinian suicide bombs. Children. Grandparents. Families. That's the strategy. There's never an apology or regret.

I don't think Israel is always perfect - far from it - but I fervently believe in her right to exist, and don't understand why Israel seems to have to make a case for her very existence in the mainstream UK media every single day.

It's the tyranny of the weak. It's underdog politics - and the Palestinians are clearly the underdog. But the weaker party is not necessarily in the morally right position, despite our leftist leanings and desire to represent them as such.

I just talked to J - my old school friend who lives in Yoqneam (well-inside the green line). She's frightened to leave her house. When she takes her kid to nursery each day, she hugs her in case it's the last time she sees her. There's an opportunity cost to going out to get a pint of milk. She's frightened every single moment of every single day for herself and her family. Why isn't her story getting reported?

We talked about a guy we both knew as kids - Danny Frei. An idealist, sure, and living in Michmash, next-door to Ma-aleh Adumim, just the other side of the green line. He was killed in 1995 by an Arab terrorist who had been accused of being a collaborator, and had to kill a Jew to prove he wasn't. He murdered Danny in his bed, killed his unborn child - his wife was pregnant - though his wife and daughter survived. He was 27, I think. Why aren't stories like that reported in the mainstream press?

All I want is Israel fairly represented in the media. Why is the Today Programme ready to hold one side to account for its actions, but - for some unknown imperialist reason?- by its actions refusing to treat both sides equally?
In trials, 28% of bike ambulances in London arrived before the "real" ones.

Says something about London, doesn't it? Perhaps I should trot out that "traffic goes at the same speed as it did one hundred years ago."

Ken needs to spend more time fixing stuff and less time on vanity politics.
A slight hangover from that Boston/New England thang: the Salem Witch Trials.

[via plep]

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Just talked to L, because he's getting married. Congrats all round. He emailed me Sunday, but because he bcc'd, it went into my bulk mail box, and it was only when I was clearing it out tonight that I saw his note. He told me the wedding'll be 150 people. "Oh," I replied, "a small wedding, then". By Jewish standards, is what I mean. By any other measure, 150 people is huge.

A few years ago, J got engaged, and told me he was getting married in Scotland. "Oh, I didn't know X is from Scotland," I said. (The Jewish custom is to get married in the woman's (parents) syngagogue, and both J and X were culturally Jewish.) "She's not," he replied. "Anyway, it's a small wedding." "But how can you expect 150 people to shlep up to Scotland?" I enquired. "It's a small wedding," J told me, "25 people." So, you live and learn.
I don't watch Big Brother, honest. Well, seen it a coupla times. And Jade does seem, er, well... annoying. But Esther Addley's article in Friday's Guardian hit the nail on the head in terms of body fascism.

So Jade's a little "fleshy". She's certainly not very bright. And she has a slightly funny look. The only difference between her and the majority of people I saw on the Jubilee line today is that she's on TV. And, as we all know, TV makes you add ten pounds, at least. I'm pretty sure that if I had the motivation, interest or remotest desire to apply to Big Brother - and believe me, it's not even on my list. In fact, I have a special sub-list of things I must never do. There's no money you could pay me to get naked on national TV and share a house with a bunch of people I don't know. But anyway, say I did apply. I'm fairly sure that my curvaceous body would not be the kind that Endemol want sullying their TV screens and damaging their ratings.

Jade's not fat, ferchrissakes, she's normal.
Just got back from dinner with S at dish-dash on Goodge Street. Some call the area Fitzrovia, although they seem to call it Noho on their website. Noho, I ask you. I know there's a restaurant called Noho, but now it turns out it's an acutal up-and-coming location. And adds at least £20,000 to the purchase price of any property, I would wager. Noho is the new Fitrovia. North of where, I ask you?

Anyway, we put the world to rights over a bottle of chilled, still water, because we really live on the edge when it comes to drinking. Women in their thirties. Complexion concerns. Transparent motives, right? S was full of fab ideas on how I could permanently avoid the world of nine to five, and suggested I might be creatively hampered by the dirty commercial world. Don't I know it, but does anyone have a better idea?

We were once both headhunters in the same straight-laced - and that's not a corset - English firm. It's a world where your judgement on other people is pretty much everything, and consultants are constantly coming up with new ways to describe people; she reported overhearing a former colleague comment thus on a candidate:

"He's a wheel 'em in, dry-ice kinda guy who needs his grapes peeled."

As I'm so fond of saying, this week; you couldn't make it up.
Call me a bandwaggon jumper if you will, but I was deeply moved by Mordant's account of her epileptic fit. On the inside looking out?
Lost: Mojito

In the interests of glastnost and other such late eighties ideals, I think I should be honest.

I feel a little down.

I don't know if it's the prospect of having a regular job (as opposed to waiting to be discovered in NW6) - I had a good interview this morning, and it's probable that I'll get to the second round, but it's a more junior job than my last job, but there aren't so many jobs around. Or it might be all this tosh-like joshing about the weblog competition has sent my mojo on vacation. Or it might be that I want to buy things - CDs, clothes, cars, large mansions, a real digital camera - and don't have the money. Or it might be seasonal; perhaps I'm affectively disordered by the promise of sunshine and the delivery of bleurghy almost-rain. Or maybe it's because I had a wonderful holiday last week and real life pales into insignificance. Or maybe it's because I'm a Londoner, though thankfully I can't sing.


The fruits of my evening with D last night. I've never yet taken a photograph I liked (D took the mirror one, evidently), but my new toy lets me play and play.
Developmental stages of a writer in three acts. Hmm.

[via uren dagen nachten]
Talk about multi-tasking. I want one of these: a Prodikeys.
I just did a very surreal thing. I left the radio on on Radio 4 in my bedroom, and then came into the spare room (home/shrine to my laptop) and played Radio 4 off the web. And now I have John Humphreys in series, rather than parallel; some kind of bizarre stereo that seems to be five minutes out of sync.

Why is that? And which one, in this digital age, is real?

Monday, July 22, 2002

Malcolm Gladwell is definitely one of my heroes. Here's his latest piece from the New Yorker on The Talent Myth and its effect on Enron.

When I was a headhunter, people were always saying things like "it's a war for talent out there," "talent-centric is the way forward", "it's the talent, stupid", "our people are not so much consultants as talent managers" and other such patently riduclous balderdash. Or so I felt at the time. I hate to say I told you so, but I feel vindicated, in some way.
A medieval tribute to Black Sabbath. I kid you not. At least it's not Status Quo. You couldn't make this stuff up.

[via hydragenic]
I may be the only person I know who's never had a Nigerian email scam, but then some of my best friends....

[via Mordant Carnival, via memetic life]
I've got a sore throat. And a job-interview. Hoping the two aren't mutually exclusive.
They See Me Coming (They Really Do)

I'm having a mad-panic tidy up as D is coming round in a minute, and I thought "must nip out and get the Guardian, it being Monday and me job hunting and all." So - despite all my exercise last week - I went in the car, as I was in a hurry, and on my way back, there's an old man with a dog in our path. The dog's off the lead, and looking for somewhere to do his business. I try not to run him over, and when I get out of the car, the old man says to me "I was born on 22 July 1920. I'll say no more."

How did he know where I live? Is there a message board for local nutters in need of conversation? SashaFilter? Obviously, I had to wish him happy birthday, and next thing I know, we're in conversation. Bugger. Must get my big-city-don't-even-think-about-it vibe back.
I promised to post my thai green curry recipe. And then I got to thinking I have lots of recipes that I like. So I'm working on something; but here's a pre-production advanced notice recipe. Go, visit.
Not only does Fraser share my postcode - though not all six digits - but he gave me a cute little piece of java and now my archives are fixed. He is the Blog Prince of Brondesbury. Or something else that is alliterative.
You're probably wondering why I'm not signed up for the blogathon seeing as how I update every twenty-three seconds anyway. It would be no great hardship, and for sweed charidee to boot. You are, as ever, completely right. It's just that it's on a Saturday - the Jewish Sabbath - and this weekend I'm giving a dvar torah in my synagogue, and I can't be in two places at once unless I have some kind of operation.
So I finally posted all the crap photos I took on my Sipix Digicam-a-like. Then no-one could get into my free space. Then Z sent me this; a proof text/timely piece from the BBC about how we're all going to go live in caves because technology is pointless and digital cameras damage our memories. Which I've kind of thought before, actually.
I have all sorts of good intentions to read Ullyses. One day. And now: this -

[via bifurcated rivets]
Courtesy of M, who likes nothing better than a good list in the morning, so he tells me, comes this: Aneki - loads and loads of world-ranky type things.
Silly-Bugger Phrases People Use At Work

Business critical. Tell me why you would do something that wasn't business-critical? (aka important). Unless you were veering away from the strategic business plan? And that means slapped hands and no supper, as we all know.
As a multiple-tribute to A, his superlative vegetable procurement skills and an all-round fabulous holiday, I bring you: a braised fennel recipe.

You're wondering what's going on? Rightly so. A did a mega-shop at, and a combination of his healthy rural upbringing and a deep-seated love of green leafy vegetables (I was brought up on largely unhealthy ashkenazi/eastern european dairy-laden delights), combined with lack of clarity on the tesco-com website, meant that we had four times as much fennel as we might have ideally wanted. Because you think you're buying one bulb, but you're buying a pack of four. That's how they come out of the ground, apparently.

So we had fennel salad. Barbecued fennel. Braised fennel. Fennel with fish (or was that the last holiday?). Anyway, lots of fennel. And celeriac. I am a new, healthy-vegetable type: I went out this morning and bought brocolli, courgettes, peppers, rocket and cucumber. Though not a piece of fennel in sight; I'm in cold-fennel-turkey.

Sasha Throws Herself Into Weblogging/Guardian Debate

No sooner do you leave your broadband connection, and be in some mobile-phone blackspot dial-up hell, than debate rages. Rages, I tell ya.

So there's a Guardian Weblog competition. I think I vaguely knew about that before I left. Then there's debate and consternation among bloggers.

Yesterday, Neil McIntosh attempts to answer some of these points on OnlineBlog.

Here's my twopennorth.

I'm sure that the Guardian does not have particularly malicious intentions, but at the same time, although they "get" blog, they don't get it entirely. So it's only blogger that gets mentioned, rather than Moveable Type or Greymatter, or - Godforbid, Livejournal - any other software. Blah blah blah.. it's all been said, really. Interesting aside: as I was writing that, a little thought came into my head: if I want to enter, can I still say the Guardian is imperfect? Does that hamper my candidacy? See, it's happening already. Except that I don't care, I'm still writing.

I dont think weblogging should be competitive...except that it already is. There's already an understanding both globally and in the UK about who the Big Bloggers are. And that's not physically big. And Tom already won the bloggies thingy - it's effectively a competition. Blogdex is useful for knowing the six degrees who-links-to-whom stuff, but is essentially competitive... who has the most links. So i think many of last week's arguments are spurious.

There's this obvious fact; I don't think you can blog in isolation. For me, anyhow, blogging is just as much about linking to people who showed me things, as getting linked by people who like what I say. Not in a whos-got-the-most way, just in a community-of-like-minded people. And - like pretty much everyone, whether they admit it or not - I like the fact that people read me. D said I should make a chart of my site-stats and label it "self esteem". I don't think it's that bad, but if I'm honest, I like the fact that people read me, I love the fact that they come back, and I still get terribly excited when people comment. Especially when I don't know them.

In the end, I'll make my decision based on what suits me. That's why I started blogging - no editors, no control, just me - and that's why I carry on. So my motivation for starting a weblog was writing. Oh, and having somewhere to dump all the links I like. And somewhere to empty my head. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't care about anything else. Of course I care; I'm not taking 96-sheet posters in the underground advertising my wares to other Jubilee line travellers, but if I can find an easy no-hassle way of other people reading me, then why not?

Of course, I'll have to tidy up first. Fix my archives. Improve my buttons. Put my recipes up (recipes? I hear you enquire.) Clean up some of the columns. But, hey, it's like moving house...

So, I don't know, but I don't really care. I don't really get why some people have gotten so het up about it. Any allegedly countercultural activity eventually comes full circle and the early adopters say "it's not how it used to be." Maybe it's not, but I still like it.
I'm back. I'm home. I slept in my own bed last night (I mean, I like holidays, but I like coming home, too). I had a lot of post, and I mean a lot. A small EU paper mountain, at the very least.

Yesterday, I went to J&R's leaving (as in leaving the country) do, and J's thirtieth - he is, bizarrely, exactly the same age as Tom, although they don't know each other. Not that there's any reason that two people born on the same day should know each other.

J's party was great; stylish and well-dressed people sipping wine and beer discussing interior design, typography, Hoxton, other people and literary theory. I kid you not. I like it when my friends have really interesting other friends. He's bought so much furniture from Atomic Antiques - on Shoreditch High Street, no webpage - that he invited the guys who own it.

J&R's party was more of an all day/all night affair, so I only saw the afternoon/bring yer kids bit. I put my kids out to dry and forgot to take them. But caught up with lots of interesting people, used my new para-digital camera to take some truly awful photos - I've realised that I'm neither photogenic, nor a good photographer, whatever the camera - and watched M wire a new light fitting.

You know how it is; your house is imperfect, and then you're going away for two years, and renting it out, and finish all the things you've been planning to do for ages. So M was standing on a chair in the living room, wiring the fitting, and it was for all the world like a piece of performance eletrical work. Sadly, my photos are shit.

Sunday, July 21, 2002

ATPIELI 6: Melrose Avenue NW2 Shared with C, a friend of a friend of a friend, and she was a great landlady, because not only did she let me put up all the pictures and junk I’d brought back from Asia, she basically taught me how to cook.

There’s a strange thing about living on Melrose Avenue: Dennis Nilson had two London addresses – one in Muswell Hill and one at (195, I think) Melrose Avenue. So whenever I told someone my address, they said “sounds strangely familiar… do I know someone who lives there?” And the bloke across the road had an inordinate amount of visitors who used to leave clutching a brown paper bag. My brother suggested he might be a (freelance, presumably) greengrocer, but I thought different.
ATPIELI 5: Woodside Avenue N12 Got back and stayed with M – owner of Malden Road – at his country mansion for six months or so till I got my act together. I felt at home as he had lots of my furniture and was a fabulous friend. But there was only so long I could take advantage of his generous hospitality, so I thought I’d return to (the edge of) zone two.
ATPIELI aside: So I spent eighteen months in Asia/Europe/the States in about fourteen countries all told. Must have reformatted my (mental) harddisk, as I have only the vaguest recollection of addresses (Victoria Street in Singapore, behind Wildschut in Amsterdam Zuid). I had an accommodation address in Highgate N6 as it was before the internet and my friend N was getting all my bank statements. And my belongings/furniture were farmed out all over North London. I lost my list while I was away, and every so often, even now, someone says to me: "my Mum has some of your junk in her garage".

Lesson learned: you need way less stuff than you think.
ATPIELI 4: Malden Road NW5 One of the happiest times of my life, and the first time I lived on my own – good practice because I later worked abroad and did a lot of that. Rented M’s cute studio flat that he’d bought during the last property boom and now couldn’t offload due to negative equity. It was bijoux. It was on a main road. You had to stand in the bathroom when you answered the front door to let the guests walk into the living/bedroom, but it was home. I was untidy. I was on the number 24 bus route.

It was my first zone two experience. I could walk to Camden, which I did with monotonous regularity. Then I got offered a job in Singapore.

Saturday, July 20, 2002

Just remembered: Thursday, I intended to spend the day secreted in one of Hartington's two coffee shops; the Corner House. The others left mid-morning to train for the Tour de France, and I took my laptop next door and ordered a cup of tea. I said to the (grey, older woman) waitress; "I'm a writer - only a slight white lie. I mean, I like to write - would it be OK if I plug in my computer?"

She looked mightily impressed by the bijoux nature of my technology, and said of course, no problem. I had a good day; wrote 3,000 words, had endless cups of tea, cheese toasties, toasted tea-cakes and other carbohydrate-laden unhealthy snacks. I was already thinking I would leave a sizeable tip (I had figured their average order value to be around £3, as I was seated near the till).

I even chewed the cud with two (of the very, very many) white-haired older women who seem to frequent Hartington. It's like the Stepford Wives only older and without hair colour. They'd come on a day trip from Glossop. Ethel and Muriel. They didn't talk to each other much, and seemed very happy to chat to me. They talked a lot like old people do in the North - mouthing words without pronouncing them, apparently a hangover from working in the mills and talking over loud machinery for forty years - and Ethel told me Muriel was ninety two.

"You look good", I said to her, "what's your secret?"

"Caving." She replied.

"Caving? Isn't it horrible and dark?"

"Yes, and wet. But, ee, I miss it. It's tha legs. Just don't work anymore."

So folks, those of you looking for the key to longevity in Derbyshire; get thee down to the Blue John Mines.

Anyway, around four o'clock a new, previously unsighted older, white-haired woman came out of the kitchen. The place was still pretty full, and she stood over me, hands on hips, apron dirty, and said:

"You going to be much longer? Using our electricity like this? It's not right."

I was suitably embarassed, explained that her "colleague" had said it was OK, but she wasn't having any. I got my bill (£6) and left a hefty tip (£4), leaving with my tail between my legs.

Later, A was deeply unimpressed. After I'd persuaded him it wasn't really worth boycotting them as (a) we were leaving soon and (b) they apparently have the best cream tea in the village, he decided that he and the other two should have a different plan, each going in separately. One would ask, upfront, what the daily rate for using electricity to plug in a PC is. One would plug in without asking and just take over the place, implying that this is the norm now. And the third would fall into an easy and relaxed convesation with the owner, asking them "if they knew who I was" - ie me, Sasha, the, er, famous writer.

I suspect the irony may be wasted on the Hartington locals.
I feel like Robin Hood; going from internet to internet connection, stealing from the rich to give to the poor. Or something like that. So now I'm holed up in my brother's study in Manchester, desperately trying to recreate all those great thoughts I've had since Thursday.

Friday, July 19, 2002

ATPIELI 3: Holders Hill Road NW4

Moved round the corner to a beautiful flat on the corner of Holders Hill Road and the A1. That’s the road where people get off the M1 and I didn’t sleep for two years because you could always hear cars screeching to a halt at the traffic lights all night. And every third screech or so, you’d hear a crash. Relaxing, it wasn’t. But it was clean and well-kept, even if G, my landlady was a little too perfect for me. My brother couldn’t stay because the neighbours might talk, and we were on completely different timescales; when I got up she’d gone to work at the crack of dawn, and when I got home she was already in bed. Good arrangement. She was one of those people who have two distinct looks; so it was quilted dressing gown – who still wore those in the early nineties? – taped together NHS glasses, neat (as in full-strength, rather than tidy) spot-cover and no conversation when it was the two of us. If someone was coming round, she went into her bedroom and did a WonderWoman act, and came out looking groomed, perfect and pretty and made charming small talk. I think we fell out, but I have no idea why.

Thursday, July 18, 2002

ATPIELI 2: Southbourne Crescent NW4

Can’t remember why I moved, except possibly that at that time I viewed Hendon as residential nirvana – guess I’ve moved on now – so answered an ad and ended up living with three blokes on a road which was a short cut from the North Circular to the A1. Idyllic it wasn’t. It was one of those brown draylon/hessian rented houses that had seen better days, and it was a true education for me living with three lads and meeting a new woman over breakfast (practically) every day. Eventually I got sick of cleaning up after them, we got mice and I wanted somewhere more sanitary. The guys ripped the piss out of me for my innocent girliness, and insisted I find a replacement tenant. Fair enough. I persuaded a friend of a friend on the advertisement desk of the Jewish Chronicle to send them this confirmation:

To: Messrs Cohen, Cohen and Cohen
Re: Your Flatshare Advert Copy

WANTED: Girl who goes all the way to share dirty house with three sex-starved studs in NW4.

We didn’t really stay in touch.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

I love the Guardian - apart from its Israel coverage - and I'm not saying that in a sycophantic way. I'm just saying it because it's true. So I've had stuff in my head for a while about food/diets/body image/women's stuff, and then yesterday Lucy Atkins wrote a very thoughtful piece on Bursting the Fat Bubble, which was sparked off by this article in the New York Times magazine.

I think it's like this: there's so much information and counter-information that how the hell do you know what's true? So first it was calorie control - as long as you don't go over your 1500 kcals or whatever, you're fine. Offshoots of this are - in the UK - Weight Watchers and Slimming World, the latter being the one where you count actual (food) sins. Emotionally healthy? You decide. Then it was fat-gram counting - Rosemary Conley (I think) says eat nothing that contains more than 5% fat. I think that's a very dull diet indeed, and had me craving, nay crazing, decent, wholesome food. Then there was the whole glycaemic index thing, which is basically about sugar content in things you previously thought of as good for you, like carrots. Somewhere in this timeline, obsessive exercising reared its head: eat what you want, just burn it off. Burn, baby, burn was the aerobic-enabled motto, and it wasn't about a suntan.

That morphed into (and not in a Mork and Mindy way) the high-protein low/no-carb diets like the Atkins diet and the Zone, which apparently work wonders so long as you don't go into ketosis. Oh, and aren't a vegetarian; it's basically chicken and vegetables. Nice, but hardly varied or vegan.

We are, apparently, 10% heavier than we were twenty years ago, and all because we live in a "toxic-food environment".

What kind of a world is it where our very sustenance is considered poisonous? Where large swathes of us (women, mostly) hate the bodies we have and yearn desperately for better, thinner ones that will bring with them the dreams we aspire to? Where - nearly - every woman I know could do a PhD on diets/food fat-content/relative merits of aerobic classes but feel their imperfections so intensely that their lives are never fully enjoyed? Where that still, small voice whispers in your ear, all the time, "you could lose a little weight, couldn't you?"

The tyranny of the functional food/diet industry and how it relates to the fashion sector hurts me. Badly. I'm healthy - ferchrissakes, I cycled eighteen miles yesterday - and curvy and womanly and reasonably wise, and I laugh and smile, but every other day there's a chink in my armour, and I can't help feeling bloated and ugly and like a new body will answer all my prayers.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – apparently, though it pisses me of something rotten when people do it to me – so I’m sure Mike won’t mind me memetically responding to his Stations of the Diva doodar with my All The Places I’ve Ever Lived In (conveniently abbreviated to ATPIELI. Oh, and actually it’s only the London ones). Fashioned after a well known piece of conceptual art. But it’s not in a tent.

ATPIELI 1: Devonshire Place W1

So I’d just got off the boat from Manchester, and ended up sharing a windowless basement flat with two old friends. Bear in mind that I’d never left home before – long story – so I was not an ideal flatmate. I don’t know anything about darts, but the rent was one-hundred-and-eighty pounds a week between the three of us, which even in the early nineties was cheap for a West End address. It was great from the outside; imposing stucco-fronted mansion. On the inside, we were behind an underground dental surgery with all associated noises – lightbulb moment; maybe this is the source of my dental phobia? – and I had to call M in the morning to find out what the weather was like as you couldn’t tell day from night inside the flat. L and H were a great duo: L was anally tidy, a cordon bleu cook and kept the place spotless, and H was doing the whole late-onset rebellion thing and we stayed up all night watching movies.
A weird words site that I'll play with as soon as I get back to broadband regularity. Sorry to harp on so, just realised that I'm not cut out for the unwired-life.
Had my first early night in about five years last night. 9.30pm. It's amazing what serious exercse does to you. In a good way. All this healthy living and mobile-phone-free environment is turning me... Japanese? Healthy? Glowing? Something, anyhow.

Also, I chipped my manicure, and the others laughed. With me, rather than at me, I think. Off to write my daily word allowance in the local coffee shop. J, E and A - gluttoms for punishment/fitter than me - are cycling to Buxton. My bum and hands are still a little numb- apparently that's perfectly normal - so I'm giving it a miss.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

M mailed me and told me he read in the New Yorker, years ago, that "real writers write every day". Does that make me a real writer? Or just a girl with stuff in her head she needs to get down on (figurative) paper?
Cycled eighteen miles today, from Hartington to Tissington and back. I sat in the sun for a couple of hours reading The Silent Woman, whilst the others cycled on to Ashbourne to buy fish.

Previously, I had the custom of saying "no one in my family has finished a sentence in three generations", but I'm fairly sure no-one's ever got on a bike, either. We think it's a long walk to the kerb. I feel unbelievably healthy, and as I type, J is rustling up a fish barbeque, which will not help my bum get any less sore, but will surely be delicious. I feel my new found health consciousness does not sit well with alcohol consumption, so I may have to forgo the vodka tonight. Maybe.
Language bugbears: III

People who start their sentences: “what was I gonna say?” – and start every sentence that way. I once had a flatmate whose conversation went; “what was I gonna say? You in tonight?”. “What was I gonna say? There’s a phone call for you.” “What was I gonna say? Can we talk about the fridge?” There was only one thing I wanted to say to her: stop wasting my precious life with your ridiculous repetition.
Language bugbears: II

People who raid other people’s cultural heritage and then wear it like it’s their own. Which obviously I do, too. I’ve lived abroad too long, and often speak an annoying pan-Pacific patois which involves people bringing the check, getting something in a restaurant, talking on my cell-phone (stress on first syllable of two) or on my mobile phone (stress on first syllable of three). I’ll talk about stress – both personal and word-stylee - another time.

White people who talk about bidness. Black people who say “come, come, my man”. And, in unrelated news, white people who braid their hair; I know the truth – black people laugh at them behind their collective backs.

I’m not a cultural separatist, no siree, I just think that you have to be really sure about why your using someone else’s language before you do it.

Monday, July 15, 2002

There was a moment this morning when I was surrounded by my Sony Vaio, Palm VX and mobile phone, and was painting my nails an extremely dark purple (nay, black, I hear you say) and A pointed out I wasn't very rural at all. Urban, that's me.
Am I Bakewell Tart? Now that some none-English people are reading this, I guess I should say that Bakewell tart is a northern English traditional, stodgy desert.

E and I hooked up with J and A for a late lunch in Bakewell; it was hard to decide between the Bakewell Tart and the Bakewell Pudding. We had two of each between us. Stodgy? Nah. Scrumpious? Truly.

When I was at school, my domestic science teacher, Miss Sidebottom - who insisted we called her Miss Sid-ee-both-um - taught us to make this local northern delicacy. But I cocked it up... I put the jam in the bottom of the pie case, but forgot the almonds, so I scraped it out and remixed it and put it back in the flan. Mine didn't look quite so perfect as my classmates, and when I took it home, it was rock hard and you couldn't even cut it with a knife. We knew one family with a dog - lots of Jewish people are scared of dogs, because of the pogroms, apparently - so I took it up the road to Shirley and Jeffrey, and their dog, famously, wouldn't eat it. So that's the family history on my baking skills.

I've improved since then; tonight I improvised Thai green curry - currently the house, or at least my house, dish - though it turned out red. With wild/basmati rice, followeed by vodka drenched melon. E is moving to Jersey and has brought the entire contents of her drinks cabinet with her, which we are working our way through. It's Monday, it must be vodka. Though every day is a vodka day for me.

Tomorrow: the Tissington Trail. Or, possibly, more vodka.

Oh, and I wrote 2,000 words today. The spell is broken.
Language bugbears: I

Wait there for the present – I know just how Laurie Lee felt. The way grown-ups speak is often mystifying.

Even though I’m guilty of using it myself, I have a personal thing about “pop”. As in: “just pop that on my desk, there’s a poppet”. You can tell that I’ve mostly worked in commercial environments where the majority of my colleagues went to naice private girls’ schools.

I’m reasonably OK with “pop in/pop out”. But I hate being spoken to like I just got in from mucking out the horses. Truism: language belies your roots way more than any accent ever does.

Like, when I was a headhunter – terribly English – I sat next to the “sweetest guy.” He was the right honourable something or other, and had a significant property portfolio; I was never quite sure why he worked.

He was always on the phone to his mates – check me, a Northerner – saying things like, “you owe me some wongadoolee for the old vino at the weekend.” He occasionally talked about “left-footers” – which, the way he said, I thought meant gay people, but turned out to mean Catholics. Don’t even ask.

But his commitment to the evident language of his childhood brought out my devotion to mine, and I was on the phone all day calling my landsleit and talking Yiddish at a rate of knots. Well, only the punchlines to jokes; I don’t know enough Yiddish to hold a conversation. It’s a generational thing, apparently.
Derybshire Tales: I'll be brief, as I'm on a dial-up account in an internet cafe (AKA The Charles Cotton Hotel in Hartington) as I can't get my own dial-up to work. I hate dial-up: it's everything I hate about the past: slow, unresponsive, breaks for no reason. Rant over.

Mind-blowing day yesterday - had impressive late lunch/tea-style meal at my Mum and Dad's with J, E and A. It was a truly, truly scrumptious spread, and we got lots of interesting (aka ethnic/Jewish) food to take away with us. My parents were mightily impressed with A's career, and thought my frriends were so lovely they'd show them my O'level art sketch pad. Lucky they don't have any bear-skin rug photos of me as a small child. It was fun seeing my neice and nephews, and S, my three year old nephew is very excited about "coming to London" to stay and go to the Transport Museum, although he does think London is in the next street and Bath (where his other auntie lives) is upstairs and has a toilet. Kids, eh?

Great evening with Mike and K, drinks at theirs and then fabulous swordfish at the Gate in Brassington, though I'm sure M will do it much more justice than I can at £1 for 15 minutes and something of a hangover. Though I've learned my lesson: don't mix your drinks, kids. I stuck with vodka all night. Though I may have said a couple of emarassing things. I guess I'll never know.

Off to Bakewell to meet up with J and A who have power-cycled there. E and I are going in the car and straight to the Bakewell tart and antique shops. Later.

Sunday, July 14, 2002

Just leaving: Had a great time at D's birthday last night - both white russians and black russians were drunk - and caught up with (another) D who I haven't seen for ages and is moving to NW6 next week. Hanging out will definitely happen. Talked to M, and she so reminded me of a younger version of me, that I had to hold back the desire to stop her from making all the mistakes that I know she's going to make. It was like a time-machine. But life's a learning curve, right? There's no point in telling someone. I know I wouldn't have listened.

Leaving for The North shortly. Posting may be a little erratic depending on my dialup situation. I had a dry run: it's v-e-r-y, v-e-r-y slow and made me feel that I should dress in early nineties clothes to complete the effect.

Saturday, July 13, 2002

My lunch turned into a rolling eating extravaganza: most people turned up 1ish (and M, helpfully earlier and almost-sorted my dialup account. You will be hearing from me in Derbyshire) and we ended up eating strawberries and watermelon in the garden and playing with my new toy.

I don't really have the money, but my instant-gratification desire for a digital camera overcame me, so I made do with a Sipix Blink, for the princley sum of £40. So we messed around taking photos, and I even took photos of my shoes to send to the feral living shoe project.

All flaked out in the garden, we had fun entertaining J (who's two) who is entertainment himself. In fact, he's Mister Entertainment. Anway, five minutes after everyone had gone, Q turned up for a very late lunch and just left now.

I feel frazzled: a bunch of stuff to do before I leave, and I'm just off to (one of the many, as in D's I know) D's party. Walking across to Hamsptead whilst the weather's good. I haven't got him a real birthday present yet, as he is truly the man who has everything, but I have bought him a tube of those big plastic bubbles we used to make when we were kids. Well, I did. He's a younger man than I.