Monthly Archives: April 2014

S is for Southbank

Taken standing on the bank of the Thames at low tide. There’s something rather marvellous about these ten foot high letters being submerged at high tide and surviving time after time to tell the tale.

On another note, after my fossicking amongst the detritus washed up on the Thames beach, I am still wondering if I have contracted Weil’s disease as a consequence. Call me a catastrophist if you wish…

south bank

I’ll photograph some of the finds for tomorrow.

Live Below The Line 2014: Shopping, prep and a very small fiver…

Good luck to Jack Monroe in this challenge, erstwhile spinster of this parish 🙂 Link to sponsor her should you wish at the bottom of the page.

Jack Monroe

Well, the Smalls went back to nursery this morning, so I dashed to the shops afterwards on an empty stomach, clutching my fiver for this year’s Live Below The Line challenge.

I no longer live in Southend on Sea next to the big orange supermarket that was my lifeline when I was living on an excruciatingly tight (and often non existent) budget. I now live in London, and my nearest large supermarket is a 20 minute walk away.

I darted into the two supermarket shops closest to me, a Tesco Express and a Sainsburys Local – and found that the T.E. had nothing from the Value range except a jar of coffee, at 57p. Nope, I definitely don’t need that, but I bought a bag of oats (68p, annoyingly I knew that the larger bags were 75p in the bigger shops), and 6 free range eggs for £1 – a…

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Pin Stripe, Plain and Plaid Skyline

(As our American cousins might say.)

If I could frame this again, I might have changed the angle a little to obscure that awkward grille on the Hayward Gallery. As Martin Creed might ask, ‘What’s the point of it?’

Oh well.

Outside Hayward

Mr Probz

It was all about the Robin Schulz radio remix on Friday night – but this has Sunday evening written all over it.

~ Waves ~

Nabokov or Asimov

But please not P.G. Wodehouse!

A few years ago a writing style analyser came out online called I Write Like. It was the brainchild of Russian software programmer Dmitry Chestnykh and it’s basically a bunch of algorithms (whatever they are…) I fed some of my text into it years ago and thought no more about it, but lately, as I approached the second draft/third draft revisions stage of my book, and began panicking that I had written a many, many-headed bastard hydra of differing styles and voice I thought it might be interesting to feed the chapters in to at least see if there was at least some style consistency.

The good news was that there was. The bad news that out of twenty-four chapters, there is one outlier (Asimov) and even worse, two chapters ‘like Wodehouse’. It’s enough to make you burn the whole manuscript a la Nabokov – who the rest of the thing wot I wrote turns out like. Unfortunately none of this really means too much – Margaret Atwood fed in her text and it came out: I Write Like H.P. Lovecraft. If Lovecraft was around to feed in his prose, he would find that he writes like James Joyce, and not himself. So much for all that.

However, if there is an ounce of anything to be taken from this, it may be that my beloved beta-readers, some of whom prefer the sparse prose style, will be ready to string me up and feed me my work, page by page…


Found in London

On a bin outside the Tate Modern (which I now find does a very nice carrot cake).
I didn’t try the banana variety.
No giraffes.



I have a deep fascination with the Thames…

Doesn’t that sound pretentious? I have no such thing. Actually, I do. I am obsessed with it as a thoroughfare, a literary device, a witness of history. With the whale that swam up it, and the swimmers that swim down. With its floods and barriers, its sunken ships (at least one full of explosives), the Shivering Sands straight out of H.G Wells, and the boat that Magwitch and Pip rowed down it in the Victorian fog, at least as far as Chalkwell Beach and the Crowstone which marks the limits of the reach of the Port of London Authority.

Which leads me to mudlarking – basically scavenging on the foreshore. Inter-tidal archaeologist or no, the bottom line is you fossick for stuff when the tide is out. Except… if you don’t have a licence, issued by aforementioned Authority, then you cannot dig.

Guess what? I now want a licence. Turns out if I want to dig to a depth of 7.5 cm (basically a tourist’s visa) it’s going to cost me ÂŁ70 for a standard licence for a year. Then if I want the full mudlarking shizzle – I have to serve two years probation at the 7.5 cm depth, and a build a record of submitting finds to the Museum of London. Then, if approved, I can excavate to the mighty depths of 120 cms. Watch this space.

In the meantime, I found this – too heavy to carry. I thought it quite beautiful and it reminded me of a friend. As well as all this, I sensed the ghosts of many a workman fulminating, ‘Bloody bucket!’ as they lobbed their wooden contraption with a busted galvanised handle into the deeps with a splosh. If you go, wear gloves and wash your hands.



This is today’s Earth Day 2014 hashtag over on Twitter. Well worth checking out. Here’s my contribution as I try to resume my version of ‘normal’ service round here…


Metta Bhavana ~ Loving Kindness Meditation

I am currently trying to build my mindfulness practice, and today, for a change I tried a loving kindess meditation. There are various stages to go through, that end with you trying to hold yourself in the same loving kindness you have previously, in the same meditation, held someone else in. I used a person, and found it hard. I tried a pet, the cat to be precise and found it…

Well, I can’t really say. Meditation is not about words, so much, as noticing feelings. I noticed a very unexpected feeling, in the heart area, that stayed with me for a while. Meditation is also about accepting what is, without judgement, without attaching a story… that wouldn’t make much of a blog post however… suffice to say that the feeling was also painful. The meditation felt like it moved me from a closed heart state to a more open, but pained one. I am interested in this process, that’s why I’ve written it down. I will go there again, but not today. Will I go with more trepidation next time, based on today’s experience? Hopefully not.

It really is amazing what goes on with our bodies that our busy mind does not often allow us to notice. Yesterday, I decided to notice the soles of my feet as I walked round the corner with the youngest to the orthodontist (another post lies behind those doors). I decided to notice them, and appreciate them for all the hard work they do on my behalf for which I simply NEVER thank them. After only a few minutes of this walking whilst noticing what the sensations were, I can only say that the soles of my feet really appreciated the attention. Try it some time.

No-one need know.

I found a ring in the sand

Only a quarter of the upper edge was showing. For a moment, as I thought to pull it out, I hesitated, wondering if all I would find was the rim of a glass bottle – the shoulders all shattered and deadly, ready to cut me.

It was a ring for a reason, from the inscription. Next to the ubiquitous eBay white metal stamp 925, an Uzbek woman’s name, with love…

I imagined the man. He stood one night, bankrupt, smoking furiously on the deck of the casino. The wooden platform is cantilevered out over the dark waves which slap beneath the soles of his feet. In the grip of some nameless betrayal, he yanked the ring from his finger.

As I pulled it from the sand, I was reminded of the cabin by the lake in Michigan, where I said, if I really was someone, then I too would throw my most treasured possession into its half-frozen waters and walk away without looking back as if none of it had every really happened. Turns out I wasn’t someone.

Don’t most rings turn out to be like broken bottles in the end?