23 April 2007


It's supposed to give you an insight into my psyche or something (and not a lot else happened today, apart from M and I making gingerbread men and bears), so here, for your edification, is some stuff.

22 April 2007

Place your bets!

We all descended on Corbridge today, for some gambling.

It's not often you get to write that, is it? (Admittedly, if you don't live near Corbridge or aren't planning a holiday to Northumberland in the near future, you'll get to write it even less.)

But I digress. Today was an introduction to the wonderful world of point-to-pointing, complete with spivvy bookies, more tweed jackets than you could shake a stick at, and an awful lot of Land Rovers. Oh, and the odd horse as well.

It all took place in a freezing cold and windswept field just off Hadrian's Wall. Oh, how we laughed, as the old, rather rotund, gentleman in a tweed jacket and flat cap fleeced us of £8 per person at the entrance (sometimes I think they see us urban types coming. Maybe it's the lack of wellies?). Oh how we marvelled, at the assorted horseflesh (horses are LARGE, aren't they? And rather menacing when travelling towards you at high speed) as it ran past and jumped over fences. And oh, how we failed to pick any winners. Spectacularly failed. In fact all seven horses we picked (a) trailed in in last place or (b) failed to finish.

So I don't think gambling's going to make us rich and famous, or even pay for a takeaway curry. I'd say we should stick to the Lottery, if it weren't for the fact that I think we've won a measly £10 over the last two years, and most weeks fail to even get one number right. Maybe it's time for bingo...

21 April 2007

Adventures in Cinema (part 2)

Not content with sitting on the sofa and watching Any Dream will Do, I decided to be intellectual again this week, and went back to the tiny Star and Shadow cinema, to see some films by a team called Desperate Optimists. Now there's a title for a song, if ever I heard one.

They screened three short films from a series called Civic Life, and another slightly longer film called Daydream, developed as part of a cultural initiative in Liverpool. I went along thinking it would be several documentary-type films, but it turned out to be a more experimental and poetic business - the premise of the Civic Life films are that they're shot in one day, and are mostly one long-take. There's often a story in there, but you have to work out for yourself what that is. Sometimes that worked (the third film, Leisure Centre, about a young man who goes back to work after the birth of his child, managed to take you on a physical journey through the leisure centre and engage you emotionally as well), sometimes it didn't (Twilight, set on the Tyne, was technically very good, but just dull). Sadly, I suspect I'm rather traditional in my film watching, and prefer something that has some semblance of a plot, so the one that I liked most was closest to a traditional "story".

The longest film, Daydream, was harder work with ten scenes (eg a man falling from a balcony in a concert hall, a school party getting lost in the woods...) of varying length but a single take. It was supposed to show "the connection between a city during a moment of great change and how this moment can be reflected in the emotional world of its citizens", but it didn't really come across. Yes, the stories were on occasion emotional. But to a non-Liverpudlian, who didn't necessarily know the locations, the connection with the city itself wasn't apparent.

Saturday night popcorn thrillers they weren't. Interesting, though.

17 April 2007

Desk: work in progress

I'm utterly fascinated at the moment by the photos in the Guardian Review section each Saturday, that show writers' rooms. Aside from the fact that I bet they've all been tidied up before the Guardian photographer got his foot inside the door (although Claire Tomalin's desk this week was suitably messy) it's interesting to see what sort of equipment they use (a surprising number of old-fashioned typewriters), and what they cover the walls with (I can't remember who it was last week, but their walls were almost entirely covered by a regiment of Post-it notes).

So, in comparison, here's mine, squashed in next to the filing cabinet:

The pictures on the walls are all ones I've taken in Paris. There's one of the giant geodesic dome at Parc de la Villette, two of La Defense's skyscrapers and wacky modern sculptures at night, a couple of the Louvre, and a close up of the Institute du Monde Arabe's fantastic panelling. Oh, and the Eiffel Tower, natch.

As for the desk (suitably tidied):

  • my laptop
  • a mouse
  • a replica bullet train, sent from Japan in the 1970s by my auntie, containing a stapler, a hole punch and a stack of business cards
  • a picture I did, shortly before M arrived (there's the delights of maternity leave for you...)
  • a money box in the shape of a cat, bearing the legend "rainy day fund". Needless to say, it's empty...
  • a (stilton) pot of assorted pens, mainly those ones you get sent free in the post by charities
  • a coaster
  • small pile of notebooks and diary. If I lose those, I'm dead.

Not sure what all this says about me. No life? No taste? Answers on a (tidied) postcard.

16 April 2007

Arts Corner: The Departed

Dear Martin Scorsese

I rather liked this. Not sure I would have given it the Oscar for Best Picture, as I have a soft spot for Little Miss Sunshine and thought The Queen was spiffing, but it was a good, intelligent Saturday night thriller. I actually had to watch the film and think about it, rather than doing my usual trick of multi-tasking and reading the newspaper as well.

In fact, you got me a bit confused to start off with, because Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon looked so similar what with that haircut and the mumbling. But I muddled through all the same - I'd had some practice while watching Infernal Affairs.

It was a shame a lot of them died in the last half hour, though, especially that nice Martin Sheen. I was a bit surprised that his presidential bodyguards didn't manage to stop him falling off the roof, but I guess even the FBI have their off days.

Anyway, nice try - probably a 7 out of 10.

Yours etc.


11 April 2007

House porn

Otherwise known as Grand Designs. Actually, the alternative is probably porn starring Hugh Laurie, which is just too weird to think about right now.

Aaaanywaaay, I've just sat on the (sadly, IKEA) sofa thinking how it all makes suburbia look a little, well, dull. I love Victorian/Edwardian terraces, but a girl can lust after some modernist clean lines and glass, after all (even though the window cleaning bill would be monstrous). Although I'm not sure I could cope with living in the gorgeous art deco house they covered this week without a complete furniture transplant. Sadly, the aforesaid IKEA couch (at least five years old, wearing its second set of badly-fitting covers) really wouldn't cut the mustard. Neither would the raft of plastic sticklebricks currently floating around the living room floor, or the day-glo plastic mini-kitchen currently being used to produce pancakes (small raisin packets are flipped on a regular basis in our household). But hey, it's home. And I like it.

02 April 2007


Beaches are where it's at, man. Tynemouth Long Sands was fantastic this morning in the spring sunshine - one of those days when you're really glad you're looking after an 18-month-old because you get an excuse to get your wellies out and stomp across the sand, and run in and out of the waves. There were lots of kids digging sandcastles with some very swish spades. A few people flying kites. Several red-faced parents pushing buggies across the sand (will they never learn?). About 10 dogs in varying states of wetness pursuing balls of varying sizes. And a strange man wearing headphones and brandishing some kind of sci-fi scanner, who was presumably looking for dropped change.

Anyway, we got very sandy, rather wet, and topped it all off with a sausage sandwich at the weirdly named Crusoes (I do love Tynemouth but it bears absolutely no resemblance to a desert island...). It was the perfect morning.