Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Hobo squirrels

I thought Dennis my UK yob of a squirrel was rude but here the squirrels are actually a little frightening. They have black fur and less puffy tails so more 'rat-like' AND they go through the rubbish like old pro’s. They are completely unfazed by humanity often standing in groups and yelling obscenities at passing people.

I have passed several squirrels panhandling whilst walking West down Dundass and Bloor into the heart of Toronto over the last few days. It is a fascinating trek, walking through eddies of different cultures; Polish, Italian, Portugeuse, Chinese. Ramshackle houses become sturdier the closer downtown you get and shop fronts become more inviting but I quite like the strangeness of the edgier bits of town. Is it a deli or a fur shop? Hard to tell.

Yesterday I walked down Parkside to the Lake. On one side was was High Park and on the other the posher suburbia; large chocolate box houses with yellow school buses dropping off clean, healthy children herded home by shiny smartly dressed parental figures. It looked both idyllic and a little unreal as if everyone was acting on a huge film set.

Back at the apartment my friend and I sit through the entire series of The Office to remind me of what I am missing back in UK.
I go to bed subdued and depressed. I have not yet heard back from the various job applications I put in before I left UK and I can’t sleep for thinking about how to reduce my grocery bills without cutting back on the gin.

My bed is over a warm air vent which blasts every few minutes and I begin to worry about inadvertent mummification and then my brain adds some bad old memories, a infuriatingly catchy line from that horrid 'Umbrella' song by Rhiannon and a faint unsettling feeling that I have left a window open back in Cambridge. No sleep for the rest of the night then.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Tinku or bust

The Tinku Gallery opening was lovely. Lights, flowers, smart people and erudite conversation. No, really! My friend, A looked very glamorous and elegant in a crafted little black number and just the right earrings. She had lent me a dress that had a neckline that plunged so dramatically it was just managing to cling precariously to decency. This would have been fine had I the confidence to carry it off but I kept having to glance down at my own breasts to ensure they hadn’t broken cover completely which was disconcerting for anyone trying to make small talk.

What is the difference between throwing a party here in Toronto and throwing one in London or Lusaka? Well I will tell you:

  1. There is booze left over…not just in the bottom of glasses either but actual bottles…uncorked. I kid you not

  2. There are snacks left over, without cigarette butts in them and no one has taken handfuls from the bags of surplus cheese crisps under the table

  3. Only one glass is broken and apologised for. It is not thrown at someone’s head. It is knocked over in conversation.

  4. NO ONE, not even me, nicked the gorgeous soaps and hand cream laid out in the bathroom.

  5. Everyone left calmly on time and when we cleaned up we didn’t come across the lone random drunk sitting sobbing and cursing in a corner and refusing to leave

  6. Although people may have turned up high not one person bought a hooker.

    As you can imagine this is all rather unsettling for me used to more unsavoury end of party episodes. I became obsessed with the hand cream in the loo.

    ‘You’ve left it unprotected,’ I mutter nervously to A.
    ‘Someone from England will steal it’

    She looks at me with pity from under a mountain of flowers and gifts.

    ‘You have trust issues,’ she says sagely. ‘Hey I think your nipple is showing….’’

Thursday, 24 April 2008

The end of the influenza

Ok I admit it. I am still not 100% . I am still snuffling and snorting and aching. Its been weeks now and I had had enough this morning. I am in Toronto after all. The sun is shining and the weather is sweet (yeah Marley maaan!)

‘I am feeling better!’ I announce. I make myself leap from bed and do some sun salutes.

’See, see just how healthy I am world!’ I wheeze.

I dress flamboyantly in blue and big hat and skip out of the house.
However in just a few minutes I began to get the familiar cold sweats and the haze over my central vision. I grit my teeth. I will walk into the heart of the city. I will.

‘I will not oh excuse me ….let this..ouch opps sorry…sodding cold….whoops…ruin my experience of Toronto…… ‘

When I nearly upend the 15th baby stroller trying to share a pavement with me I go into a deli to cool down and can’t even see the coins in my hand let alone what they are. The Polish woman slicing salami looks at me with sympathy and shakes her head.

‘You are ill?’

‘No oh no! I’, say coughing like a hag. ‘I’m dandy thanks. ‘

She backs away from me with her hands trying to protect her meat counter. ‘Dandy’ is obviously another word for tuberculosis in Polish.

I give up and stumble off back to base. Later this afternoon I will walk healthily in the park..but first..perhaps just a short nap...

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Canada very dry

‘Can we help you…?’

I am standing glumly unsure about whether to wait for assistance from the BA ground staff (will they make me sit in a bloody wheelchair again) or just take pot luck and stride off in the general direction of customs when I hear this question from the couple in front.
It is apparent they are not going to move or let anyone else off the plane unless I capitulate so I fall in line behind them and grab the woman’s elbow as we hit the terminal.

By one of those marvellously strange twists of coincidence it turns out that they are filmmakers screening a documentary at the Hot Docs festival and that the first film the chap made back in the mid ‘90’s was about an English man with…guess what…. Retinitis Pigmentosa!! In the short walk through to baggage we discussed methods of exposing film to simulate sight loss, colour vision and the red spectrum and the problems of guiding and being guided.

My beautiful friend A met me at the airport and we drove around to her new little gallery on Roncesvalle St. Having not slept for over 30 hours I was beginning to hallucinate so the art on the walls seemed to be 3D and wobbling and I made some complementary noises about the ‘installation’ only to realise it was the storage area. The gallery itself was lovely with sunlight streaming in through the windows and everything painted and primed. The opening do is on Friday and A is a tiny powerhouse of energy, holding down a fulltime job and pulling this business venture together in her ‘spare’ time!

Toronto by the way is blazing hot. I however packed for sleet and snow and am feeling a bit foolish and in need of some sandals. I have yet to see a Mountie and have not had a chance to eat anything with maple syrup in it.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Open and shut case.

Suitcase is packed.
I will be back in touch from Torontooooo!

Friday, 18 April 2008

Man flu

My mini man flu flattened me. My head felt as if it had swollen to twice its size and my sight got as foggy as my brain. Even today, three days later I am still in pyjamas and still feeling as if I have been on a very long uphill walk when the truth is I have done nothing but lie down.
I have managed to drag my suitcase into the middle of the living room and when I get my breath back I shall start throwing things at it….looks like its going to be bloody chilly in Canada so will dig out the fur knickers. I desperately want to be well as I need to start getting fit for summer and I have put on a lot of winter weight. I promised myself I would learn to run properly and to date all I seem to have achieved are blisters and flu and I will need to start all over a bloody gain. (Hmmm.. that was a girlie sick winge was it not? My typing got really shrill. Sorry.)
I believe that in Canada I will get to hike, run, eat well and booze less to kick start it all. But I also believe that the earth is mounted on the back of a huge turtle who in turn is balanced on two elephants.

I am glad they caught that shipment of arms heading through SA to Zimbabwe…wonder who broke that story and what will happen next? They can’t let it through…can they? Can they?

Oh and the radio piece worked really well! Another one in pipeline out on Radio 4’s In Touch programme soon.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008



I am standing in the bathroom peering in the mirror with a steri-strip thermometer plastered to my sweaty forehead. I am trying to read my temperature but it looks to me like I am in rigor mortis. Fuzzy and aching I find the magnifier and after a long and complicated thought process manage to turn the thing the right way around. I am not actually cold but boiling. I have a fever. I am sick.


I still have to go into the BBC London to edit the radio pieces the next day and only notice the strange stuff I am saying when some silly woman refuses to accept that I DON’T need assistance and instead insists on guiding me onto the WRONG train so I, late and with cracking headache, go the WRONG way and get spewed out at Caledonian Road instead of Tottenham Court Road saying,

‘Goodness. Blimey. Lawks a-mercy’.

That is not me. I have a foul mouth. Not as foul as the Komodo dragon of couse, that poisons its prey with its saliva…well that and its knifing, tearing teeth. If you kick a komodo dragon in the shin (aww go on go on go on) the expletives it hisses will turn its mouth blue. When you kick a human..say the person who told you this was the right the shin they also swear. Apparently swearing, like the gutteral noises we make when exhausted or when making love, come from the depths of our limbic system..from the ancient lizard part of our prehensile brain. We swear because in part we are all komodo dragon ..but without the poisonous saliva… (add in your own joke here…I am too knackered!)

Having possibly infected the entire BBC staff, including a very handsome voiced continuity man, with my mini flu I creep ill-ly off to a friends’ house.

‘Blimey – that was one doosey of a day!.’ say I, crawling up the stairs and collapsing jellyfishlike on their sofa.

‘You have an anti-Tourettes infection’, says my friend looking anxiously at his wife.

She kicks me in the shins.

‘Dang’, I say.

‘You are bad!’, says she ‘I haven’t seen it so bad. ‘

My friends confer, put Kinder and Dorfmeister on the sound system and begin feeding me take away curry and cider.

‘I have to go to bed,’ I whimper an hour or two later.

‘How badly?’ they chorus

‘A fuck of a lot,’ I say.

They nod smugly and release me to the futon.

‘She’s cured,’ I hear him say.

‘Blimey Moses..that was close..’, says she.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Bashing bin emn

Actually I had a bit of a difficult week. On new sprung foam fuelled feet I have been attempting to run again.. This means, what with rubbish eyes, getting up and out at 6 am and doing laps of my housing estate where there is due to the time and location:
1. no one to bump into
2. no one to stare at my fat ass and sweaty red face
3. no one to out run…

The first couple of runs were fantastic and within three days I was leaping out of bed with a song in my heart and easily managing a fast 20 minutes…but then ti all went blah. Why? I think I just realised that running around and around a housing estate does not smack of freedom in the same way as leaping gazelle like through a forest or pounding in slo-mo along a deserted shore. Nope. Plus I do occasionally run into bin men and then get anxious about wacking into them again on the next lap.

And worst of all I am not instantly fit. The contrary in fact. I am exhausted and sore and fall asleep in my Citizens Advice training by lunch time. I was expected to be lean and swift by now. I am not. I am podgy and insecure (Snow White got restraining orders against those two dwarves when she signed with Disney)

By the you know what is going on in East Congo? Well you should. It may not be good reading and it may be there is nothing you can do..but you should know about it. If the Nazis resurfaced you’d want to know about it right…? If there was potentially another Rwanda brewing you would want to know right? …

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Lucky 7!

I've been tagged. I have no idea what a meme is but I will try to play. The wonderful Doc Susie tagged me, she of 'Up the Hill Backwards' fame and I have been told this is how you play. I have lifted the rules directly from her blog as she did to the chap who tagged her...and so it goes:

Rules are:1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

So here goes..7 things about me..hmmm no… that will get me arrested…and not that one..I was upside down and I can’t be sure…. OK How about these?

1. I have a pressure point on my chin which makes me hiccup when I wash my face. It is most annoying.

2. I have an almost pathological fear of sharks. I saw just the trailer for ‘Jaws’ when I was 10 and that was it. Now I find snorkling makes my heart beat so loudly that I am sure every shark around can hear it donging like a dinner bell. (That is nothing to my fear of dentists..)

3. I still think I one day will be able to talk to the animals, become a ballerina and find my soul mate.

4. In 1989, Zambia, I found myself very stoned one darkening evening with a lovely, na├»ve foreign boyfriend in the car next to me surrounded by very nervous and angry Zambian paramilitary with a phalanx of bristling, loaded and cocked AK47s pointed at our faces. I have no idea how we survived without being beaten, raped and shot apart from the fact that we were so obviously high that when the man with biggest gun came over to the car I pointed to the storm cloud on the horizon and said from between numb lips, ‘This is completely my fault. I was taking my boyfriend to that cloud.’ He nodded, rolled his eyes and said
‘Turn around and just go. But if you stall we will open fire.’ We didn’t stall.

5. Sometimes when I am in a difficult crowd and my eyes are knackered i.e .London at rush hour, I calm myself by looking at the people coming towards me and thinking how I would take them out in a fight.

6. For many years as a child I believed that the tube trains shared the same tunnels as the people. This explained why people were always anxious and running – to get away from the trains coming pounding up the corridors behind them. I couldn’t understand why people weren’t screaming in fear and I would pull on my parents’ arms trying to drag them to safety completely baffled by their lack of concern.

7. My guide, the yoga instructor and I very nearly died crossing a wooden log bridge over a swollen river in Nepal a few months ago. Half way across roaring white water that plummeted hundreds of feet down the rocky gorge, the rough logs of the temporary bridge started to come apart. For a split second there was horrifying, empty space beneath us but somehow we leapt to safety just in time and then just stood on the bank, held hands and laughed and laughed. We didn’t say another word about it for the rest of the two week trek.

Here are 7 links including the fabulous ‘Up the Hill Backwards’ and the bizarre blog of a middle aged couple's new European adventure ‘Epicblogue’.
Also some fitness stuff (I read with admiration with glass of wine in hand..) some comedy, Mr. Bridgstock, RESSSPEK , some disability stuff and an interesting graphic design blog I happened upon. Enjoy!!

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Zombie Carpet Training Day

It is sunny outside but inside the room with the florescent ‘dinky donk dink’ lights is chilly. Training. Doesn’t matter what it is fo, the excitement palls in a room like this…and training is always done in rooms like this. I don’t mind the uncomfortable plastic chairs that look as if they could fall apart but are always heavy and difficult to lift (and you know you are going to have to lift them when it comes to those horrifically embarresing exercises that begin with the words ‘Now I want you to get into pairs..’

I don’t even really mind the formica tables wit the faux wood patterns chipping off, the sharp corners and the hidden gum stuck to the bottom. No, what I hate is the zombie carpet. Nylon tiles of nightmare off-orange, hardwearing chemically enhanced, zombie carpet.

I had no feeling about this kind of carpet until I discovered the true secret behind its escalation back in Lusaka when I was 7 years old. I had joined the Zambian equivilent of Brownies and was, as a hippie, barefoot, thug of a child, having some trouble remembering to clean my fingernails and get my buttons alighned; so it was a foregone conclusion I would be out on my ear as soon as I had convinced my poor parents to cough up the kwacha for the uniform, joining fee, first set of potential badges, annual fee and sash.
It had been a day of training for the 'Hostess' badge or some such and we had been forced to lay tables for over two hours. I refused to believe there was directionality for the desert spoon and had been told to sit down cross legged in the corner in disgrace. It was my excitement at being forgiven and allowed to join the group for the last 10 minutes of games that made me careless. Had I been more wary I might have heard the nylon carpet beneth my bottom hissing with anticipation…

‘Duck Duck Goose’ kicked off. For this game all sit in a large circle and one girl runs around the outside patting (well whapping actually) the heads of each girl whilst whispering, ‘duck, duck duck’ . When she came to her intended victim she wacks even harder and shouts ‘GOOSE!’ and both girls leap up and run in opposite directions as fast as possible around the circle and the first to crash back into the space left by girl 2 is the winner. The loser starts over ‘duck duck..GOOSE’

Whap! ‘GOOOOSE!’ Its me!

Slightly dazed by the wack on the head, I leap to my feet treading in the lap of the girl next to me and wheel around elbow in the face of the girl opposite. I care not! Around the circle I fly swift as a speeding small child with long banana feet can speed. Only I misjudge the circle and spin out of control landing and sliding for 10 yards across the…..da da daaaaa….zombie carpet. When I try to stand I find the carpet has burnt the skin off both my knees and they are virtually smoking. I also notice through my blurry teary screams that the carpet has grown more tiles….oh yep. I kid you not. The carpet now extends into the hall.
‘The carpet is growing!’ I wail. No one believes me and I have my Mental Competence badge ripped off my uniform the following week.

And that, my dear friends, is why there is so much off-orange, hard wearing, chemically enhanced nylon carpet: miles and miles and miles of tiles....from conference halls in Beijing to staff rooms in Brussels the stuff continues to grow insidiously underfoot fed by every drop of coffee, juice, sandwich crumb and especially blood and flesh it manages to find. That is also why any room with the stuff in feels slightly menacing and if stuck in said room for any length of time people become agitated and then slightly..well homicidal. If you listen you can hear it hissing… Beware!!!!..