Sunday, 17 April 2011

Why it's better to stay than to (try to) leave...

The date is Friday April 15th. Tooting is destined for the uncharacteristically sunny North East, specifically to Newcastle where she is to stay with an old pal for a couple of days. This is how she got there ... 9:52 am - Tooting pops into ... well, Tooting to have some breakfast and run a few errands. She parks, as always, in the Sainsbury's supermarket, and goes to the cafe across the road and has a coffee and an indulgent Danish. She then goes to a couple of shops to pick a few essentials up for her trip, and then to Sainsbury's for a flying grocery shop. 11:53 am - She goes to leave Sainsbury's car park to discover that she's over-run her two hour parking allowance by a minute. "You'll have to pay the fine at the machine, madame," says the grinning attendant. WHAT?! I spend hundreds of pounds in this supermarket and you're begrudging me a flaming minute?! He continues to grin and shrug. 12:05 pm - A £10 fine later, she arrives home, unpacks the groceries into the kitchen, irons a top, packs her weekend bag, waters the plants, puts the rubbish out and puts the laundry away. 12:45 pm - She leaves the house. 12:46 pm - She goes back to the house, picks up her train ticket, and leaves again. 12:58 pm - She boards the Victoria train and makes her way to the tube to Kings Cross. 1:50 pm - She arrives with a respectable forty minutes to kill before her train leaves. She gets some cash out, buys a paper, a coffee and a sandwich. According to the display boards, her train, the 2:30pm, is "on time," the platform will be announced at 2:15pm, and the gates closed at 2:28pm. By 5:30 she'll be out in the Toon, and she's feeling perky. 2:15 pm - the platform number is not announced. 2:20 pm - the platform number is not announced. 2:25 pm - the platform number is not announced. 2:28 pm - The train status changes to "delayed". An announcement is made. "Would all passengers please note that, due to an incident at Biggleswade, some trains might be subject to delay. Please watch boards for further details." 2:40 pm - A new announcement. "Due to a person being struck by a train at Biggleswade, some trains might be subject to delay." All trains on the board now read "delayed", so there seems to be no "might" about it. A passing man in uniform mutters into a walkie-talkie as he passes that, "this shit usually lasts at least an hour." Tooting texts her pal to say she'll be a bit late. 3:15 pm - Train status changes to, "cancelled" and the tannoy crackles into life. The only option presented is to go to St Pancras and get a train via Carlisle. This will take until some time next Thursday to arrive. Alternatively, go home and try again tomorrow. 3:20 pm - She goes to advanced bookings, to switch her booking to a train in the morning. She is advised that a train has to be delayed by two hours before it is considered delayed enough to transfer tickets. But my train has been cancelled. "Not by two hours, it hasn't." The logic is beyond her. "But stick around. Things will be running again soon." Isn't this entirely NOT what she had been told five minutes ago? She shuffles, perplexed, back onto the concourse to mill aimlessly around, wondering who to believe. 3:4o pm - Tooting finds a seat next to an old lady and shares a bag of liquorice comfits with her, whilst comparing notes on destinations and plans. 3:45 pm - There is some movement over to our right. Tooting's new old lady friend says, "I think there might be a train going over there." She looks where she's pointing her crinkly arthritic finger, and see that she's right. People are going through the barriers. Without so much as a backward glance, Tooting leaps up, grabs her bags, and starts running. Survival of the fittest. Through the barriers, along the platform, past as many people as she can get before she thinks her lungs will burst, then through the next door and into a seat. Phew! 4:05 pm - The train glides out of the station. Everyone on board cheers and settles in. 5:15 pm - Just north of Grantham, the train slows and stops. We sit and wait. There is an announcement. "Sorry for the delay ladies and gentlemen. We're experiencing some signalling problems. We'll get moving again as soon as possible." 5:25 pm - "We are sorry for the ongoing delay, ladies and gentlemen. Unfortunately we are experiencing complete electrical failure between here and Newark. We are likely to be held here for some time." 5:55 pm - The train reverses back into Grantham station so that we can stretch our legs. 6:40 pm - An alternative train pulls up on the adjacent platform, and everyone pours out of one onto the other. This train will follow a diversion around the signal failure, and link up with the East Coast Mainline at Doncaster. This is a diversion which is anticipated to take an hour. 8:10 pm - We link up with the East Coast Mainline. 9:30 pm - Nearly nine hours after leaving the house, seven hours after her train was meant to depart, five and a half hours after it did depart, Tooting arrives in Newcastle, the promised land. Tired, emotional, starving, and hoping that the rest of the weekend was going to be more relaxed. Which is was.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

End of an era

For as many years as I can remember, the family Tooting have holidayed in Devon. First two weeks in August every year, come rain or shine. To start with we stayed at a bed and breakfast at a farm on the edge of a small town a few miles from the coast. We stayed, all four of us, in a family room, and spent the days at the beach and the evenings chasing dogs around fields. When we outgrew the family room, we started staying at the coast. In a particular village on the coast, we'd book a cottage for a fortnight, and spend our days on the beach and our evenings ... on the beach. All very idyllic. When I was about eleven, my parents booked a beach hut for the first time. It was nothing more than a shed really, but it was somewhere to put the deckchairs, and to get changed without having to do that beach-towel-shuffle that the English excel at. And the hut also came with neighbours, and they transformed the Devon experience for us. On one side, was a Yorkshire family - mother, father and their daughter just a year or so younger than me. In subsequent years, Father Yorkshire recommended his career to me, and I now do almost exactly the same thing as he did then. Yorkshire Daughter and I remain friends, largely thanks to the wonder that is Facebook. On the other, was a retired couple from Oxford. Bob and Dot. They'd have been in their late sixties I guess. He was a not-so-retired artist, and musician. She was the grounded one. They were both lovely. She encouraged my early creative endeavours, and we did the Woman's Weekly crossword together. He painted pebbles with little beach scenes and cartoon characters on for the children that played on the beach, locals and tourists alike, painting as many as 200 in a season. I've still got most of the ones he did for me over the years. He also taught me to play cribbage, patiently taking me through the complicated scoring; fifteen-two, fifteen-four and the rest won't score, and he drove us all mad with his one-man ukulele shows. Over the last twenty years, we have all grown up together. The nine of us in those three huts are 180 years older between us. We have, between us, bought four houses and countless cars. One of us has got married. We have collectively buried seven parents and one child. Three of us have got university degrees and new careers and four of us have retired. And today one of us died. Bob, 89 years old now, couldn't shake off a chest infection, and today it got the better of him. I feel that the world is a gloomier place tonight. I feel wistful that this summer we won't be regaled with the ukulele, or be given a new beautifully painted pebble. I feel a great loss that I've lost my first, and still my favourite cribbage partner. And I feel sad that this year, our original nine will be eight. So, in memory of a great man, and a greater couple, I'm giving you this lovely Video Nation clip of a few years ago, which I watch from time to time when I need my faith restoring in the human race. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Ukulele Bob.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

I saw the light (well ... almost)

Today, thanks to a mid afternoon "meeting" (ahem) out of the office I was able to get away a bit earlier than usual.

This, combined with the thrill of ever lengthing days meant that it was still light as my train pulled out of Victoria.

I'd forgotten what a difference that makes to a girl's journey home, so, excited at the prospect of a real view, I fired up my camera ready to take a photo along the river - Albert Bridge, Battersea Park and Chelsea beyond.

Then, as we got to the bridge, the Gatwick Express, packed full of smug so-and-sos heading for the airport, raced past me and blocked the view.

So that's why there's no photo on this post. I didn't think you needed to see a snap of the sun setting behind the Gatwick Express. There'll be more light evenings and more views won't there? I mean ... we've got the whole summer unfolding in front of us!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Feeling Crafty?

The lovely Gillian from over yonder at Fabric Nation is a crafty clever lady.

One day, a little while ago, she spoke to me about setting up some sort of crafty workshoppy something or other. It all sounded like a grand idea. But there was a wee bit of something missing that we couldn't quite put our fingers on.

Then, you might recall, in January, we did this to celebrate young Concetta's birthday, and it all sort of fell into place.

So, starting from 2nd April, and then on the first Saturday of every (yes ... EVERY!) month we are hosting a crafty workshop at the Tooting Tram and Social.

If you find yourselves knocking around south west London one weekend, wanting something crafty to do, then come along. Here's the griff ...

Sunday, 13 March 2011


A very good friend (in fact, my rock) over at Perpetual Motion pointed out to me recently that I've rather let my blogging fall by the wayside.

"Oi!" she delicately started, "get back to that blog!"
"I've got nothing left to say." I told her.
"Rubbish," was her poignant reply.

That was a week ago, and since then I've been mulling over what to write, when to write, how to write.

Do you have one of those friends who you owe an email? Someone who you didn't reply to right away, then it got to a week, then two, three, four weeks, and you realise that any message you send now has to be REALLY good to excuse the hiatus? Well that's how I've come to feel about this writing malarky. I let it go too long and it got harder and harder to pick it up smoothly.

But I have also realised another thing this last week.

When I first started writing this blog, I was in a fairly gloomy place. I had lots of nice things happening in my life, but I just couldn't shake off the cloud that permanently hung over me. I technically started the blog mainly so that I could promote my jewellery and crafting and arty things, but I realised pretty quickly that it was a good outlet.

So there were days when my enthusiasm for writing something astute or amusing made me keep my eyes and ears open and see things. It was good for me. I took notice. I looked up instead of down when I walked. I spent my time alone mulling over positive things instead of wallowing. It was all good.

And there were days when a bit of well placed positive thought wasn't enough, and I wrote something less up-beat, and that was a therapy in itself. Is it the whole, "a problem shared" thing, do you think? Or is it just that the written word helps you order your thought?

Either way, penning a few considered words a few times a week was cathartic and here I am in Spring 2011, in a much more positive frame of mind. I see skies are blue, and red roses too. Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. I feel good.

So I think that, perhaps, the reason for the slowing of my blogging has been, quite simply, because I don't need to anymore.

But I want to. So I'll pick it up again, and only write about the things I want to write about, and hopefully never again write about things that I need to write about. And for that, I am grateful.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Will you ...

... be my secret Valentine?

Love from


Sunday, 13 February 2011

Love is all around

Good friends were in London this weekend, staying with other good friends, so a couple of us gatecrashed their lovely evening for curry and chat. It was the chat you have with people that you've known for twenty years that we craved, and it was this that we got.

After our food, when we were all stretched out around the room, groaning under the weight of our curry-filled bellies, Lorraine turned to Andy and asked him, "do you have a man-crush?"

"Ian Waite" said Andy, quick as a flash. The room fell silent for a fraction of a second, before we all shouted something. Ian Waite, for the uninitiated was one of the professional dancers on our Strictly Come Dancing. Usually, when he's on the telly-box, he is clad something like this ...

Andy said, in defence of his quick answer, that he had previously discussed the man-crush / girl-crush thing with colleagues, so had already given the matter some consideration. Still, the answer tripped a little too quickly off his tongue, don't you think?

Why, you might ask, did Lorraine think to ask such a thing? Well, it's because her husband, Simon, has developed something of a man-crush himself. He is smitten with Nigel Barker, a judge on America's Next Top Model, and fashion photographer. He is not someone who I was aware of, so we googled him, and decided that Simon had good taste. In fact, Angela went as far as to say, "oh yeah" in her don't-mind-if-I-do voice.

Simon felt the need to clarify something though. "Don't get me wrong. If he came in here and asked me, I'd probably still say no." Did anyone else notice the use of the word, "probably"? We all did...

Naturally, we turned our attention to Mark next, and mercifully his answer, at least, was not on the tip of his tongue. He thought about it long and hard. There was a lot of head scratching, and, at last, the votes having been counted and verified, he gave us his decision. Guy Pearce. A quirky choice, I think, and not someone who'd be in many people's top tens, but look at him?

Mark's right. He is quite a hottie. We do still think that Simon has the best taste in men, but I think Mark is a close second. I wonder whether it was his performance as Mike in Neighbours, King Edward in The King's Speech, or Felicia in Priscilla that sealed the deal where Mark is concerned.

It would be unkind, I think, to hang the boys out to dry, without telling you that, of course, we three girls gave it some thought too. Angela admitted that she used to have a thing for Cheryl Cole, but that she didn't any more. I'm not sure what it was that CC did to lose Angela's love, but lost it she has. "It's really always been Natalie Portman," she declared. It was said in such a matter-of-fact way that I wondered whether, in fact, we didn't all secretly slightly love her ourselves. I mean, she's very beautiful, talented, strong moral values, good balance between Hollywood glamour, and girl-next-door charms. Perhaps she's the perfect girl for us all.

"I think, I'm going with Billie Piper," said Lorraine. Again, attractive and yet down-to-earth. Another good choice I'd say. and, as we speculated, she's bound to have learned a thing or two filming Secret Diary Of A Call Girl (a role which has, I understand, earned her the dubious title of Britain's Best Loved Prostitute. Her husband must ooze with pride). Anyway, it can't be denied that she'll have a trick or two up her sleeves, so I say nice choice Lorraine.

And me? Who shall I have for my girl-crush? Well, I also toyed with Cheryl Cole, and then, at the opposite end of the spectrum, Helena Bonham Carter, but I settled, in the end, for Claudia Winkleman. I don't know why. The reckless combination of posh and a bit mental? The extravagant and supremely fabulous use of vast amounts of eye liner? The carefree manner of saying exactly the words that are passing through her head without a care for the fact she's on the telly? Who knows. But I do know that, if I have to chose just the one lady-love, then for me, it's the Winkle.