Monday, April 16, 2007

What is it with birds and flowers?

My attitude to the world is changing.

On Sunday night at the end of a day filled with sun, we walked through our neighbourhood on our way to spend a night in a dark room listening to Swedish pop rockers.

We set off through the woods at the back of our house and were immediately arrested by the sight of great swathes of bluebells that must have only arrived in the past few days. Delighted by what I saw, I scampered about like a fox terrier (in ballet pumps).

The woods are pretty small (brilliantly saved a hundred years ago by Henrietta Barnett) so we soon exited and joined one of the roads up to the main square only to be stopped in our tracks by some unusual squawks coming from one of the many tall trees that populate the area.

Looking up, I saw the noise was coming from one, two, three parakeets flying in and out of the branches in little loops around one another. Whilst I'd heard that parakeets had gone native in some of the parks of London, I'd never seen them in the flesh and was thrilled so stood watching them for a few minutes.

Reluctantly leaving my little green friends behind, we eventually left the square turning off into a short road, Heathgate, still chattering about how brilliant nature is, to find that this squat avenue was now lined with trees woozy with fat pink blossom.

The only way that I could be pulled away by this stage was to allow me to take a rubbish picture with my phone so I could sit and look at it on the tube (so bad there's no point in sharing, the picture to the right is courtesy of a generous Flickr contributor).

So despite initial fears, my first year of suburban life has not changed me so much so that I've thrown myself into local community issues (although the great squirrel cull debate in the residents' newsletter had us gripped) nor have I yet worried about keeping up with the Joneses(although have worried a little about what Mr Jones may have spotted as we still don't have curtains). But possibly for the first time ever am aware and excited by what the seasons are bringing us.

That said, I did once got tearry on hearing a blackbird on Brewer Street (not quite a nightingale in Berkeley Square, I grant you), so there must have been a latent tendency all along. Before you know it I'll have ditched Private Eye and be subscribing to Suttons.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Poppy Shakespeare MicroReview: It Aint Half Annoying

Finished Clare Allan's Poppy Shakespeare. It annoyed me, but the story and themes have stayed with me for a few days and provoked some thought.

It's about the treatment of the mentally ill, questioning what constitutes mental illness, with lots of big blobs illustrating the nature vs nurture debate. It has been compared to Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest but it's not as subtle.

However, it annoyed me because it is written phonetically/colloquially, as if spoken by a common or garden Londoner. As someone who is at heart a true Estuary girl, I find the depiction of London accents intensely annoying even when pretty consistently and accurately deployed. I'm sure Dickens managed without it.

That said, it is really interesting and does feel authentic, but stimulates the reader in a short sharp shock way with a simple plotline and accompanying twist that means it's not worth spelling out anymore for fear of ruining the literary money shot.

Consider it ECT and you won't be too disappointed.

Friday, April 06, 2007

British Holidaymaking

Much as I like people to mistake my inability to drive as an eco-stance, our decision to holiday yet again in the British isles could be seen as us doing our bit - carbon offsetting the rest of you bastards' jollying around the world.

The real reason for both our holiday habits and my lack of car mastery is being a bit rubbish and just not really getting round to it.

Devon it was then.

We had fun - we always do. Rob managed to get sunburnt and at least I didn't have the creeping deep vein thrombosis dread tainting my week as is usual after any flight longer than thirty minutes.

Unfortunately I forgot the camera, so didn't manage to capture some of the beautiful days we enjoyed on stunning coastal walks. But for those of you who may be considering your first British holiday in order to up your green credentials I have noted down a few things to give you an insight into the new experiences you will be opening yourself up to:

Old and mentally disabled people travelling in packs
Holidaying in the UK is actually very low stress - so low stress in fact, that you will find groups of oldies and special needs characters also enjoying your holiday with you. Absolutely nothing wrong with either of these groups but not something you'll necessarily have experienced on your last jaunt to Marrakesh. After getting trapped between two groups of mentally disabled adults in Woolacombe I did worry we might get split up and submerged into the groups never to be heard of again (they looked like they were having a lot of fun).

The fifty/fifty chance on whether the food's any good
I am talking about smallish restaurants or hotel dining fayre in resort towns and villages. In France, you probably have only about a ten per cent chance that the food will be bad, Spain maybe creeps up to a twenty five per cent chance it won't be up to scratch, with Germany creeping up to around thirty five - forty per cent. In Britain you get the added excitement of it being as high as fifty/fifty whether the food will be edible. I have known places to make even crumble disgusting (salty and smelling of sick if you're wondering).

People holidaying like it's 1959*
Yes, they still have those stripey wind break things that they plant on the beach and huddle behind, drink tea out of thermoses whilst sitting in their cars, sit down to eat fish and chips in a restaurant that has a formica table top and still wear headscarves over stiff, coiffed hair.

*A prize to the person who guesses correctly which one of these activities I indulged in during my own British holiday.