Ingratitude! thou marble-hearted fiend...

“Ingratitude is treason to mankind.” James Thomson

Thursday 24 June 2010

She's a lady.

I had my second appointment with the fancy Harley Street endodontist this afternoon and managed to fart around all morning until the last possible minute, fly in and out of the shower and dress in clothes that were ripped (top), too short (both top and bottom) and too low (bottom)/too high (top) to cover my big lacy pants. Score!

(The Harley Street demographic is odd. There are a lot of high heels and augmented body parts. And also double-breasted Colonel and Mrs Colonel types, and a smattering of old couples dragging small, wheeled suitcases.)

Anyway, in the post-appointment anaesthetic haze, I tottered into Jaeger and tried on everything in their sale. I'm fed up of being hot and scruffy and never looking like a proper adult, like one of those women on What Not to Wear who buys all her clothes in charity shops.* I usually think I'm rocking an edgy vintage  look but who's to say I don't look like I get my clothes out of black plastic bags before going to Paddington Station for a wash? That's the kind of day I was having. (Also, my face was too numb to eat anything, so I was also kind of drunk on low blood sugar. Will I never learn to show up early and eat lunch immediately before a dentist appointment?) So I had a wobbly, blurry, short-tempered shopping experience.

This is in contrast to yesterday, when I was totally on my housewifely game and managed to get to the auction to attempt to load a chest of drawers into my car (which, it turns out was not the correct dimensions),** shop for a huge quantity of food, get the car petrolled up, arrive home in time for the actual chest of drawers delivery, clean the fridge, put all the groceries away, bake bread, wash and hang out bedding, and cook five - five - Indian dishes for dinner (thank you Madhur Jaffrey), all by mid-afternoon. I felt like superwoman. Also, I was relatively well turned out (clean and dressed anyway) and made up, which deserves extra points I feel.

And to change the subject completely, who's going to esplain me Twitter please? I don't really understand it. I've had an account for ages and it sits in its little electronic room, silently following Dooce,*** making no impact on the world. I am mystified by the various social media/microblogging options.****

And who is reading this in Greenford?? We're practically neighbours! Leave a comment. Seriously. Comments: I need 'em.

* As we all know, there are charity shops and charity shops.
** Sorry auction porter guys who dragged it out and lifted it into the car in the heat to find it wouldn't go. 
*** When I signed up and was testing it out, she was the only person who came to mind.
**** Get me, using the word "microblogging" in a sentence.

Tuesday 22 June 2010


So the lovely Belgian Waffle has graced me with one of these meme things that all the kids are doing and as usual I have launched into paroxysms of indecision as though my answers will have an actual effect on culture and legislation.

When I was tagged on Facebook (by my best friend for god's sake, who probably could guess all my answers anyway), I spent so much time thinking about it and debating my answers that the moment passed and revealed that no one was very interested anyway, so this time I'm going to grasp my opportunity. 

What experience has most shaped you and why?
Growing up in a bourgeois suburb just outside New York. It formed my image of myself as an outsider; I enjoyed both environments but felt I belonged to neither. This dynamic also helped me move to London for lots of reasons too wordy and boring to go into here.

If you had a whole day with no commitments what would you do?
Cultivate my neurosis. Same old same old.

What food or drink could you never give up?
I don't like very sugary stuff, but there is crucial comfort value in a homemade cake or biscuit. And I don't think I could survive a winter without quality baked goods. Any kind of homemade/well-made stodge really.

If you could travel anywhere, where would that be and why?
I have a fantasy about travelling back in time to live an unremarkable day in my past like Emily in Our Town. I don't know why; it works out very badly in the play. Barring that, I'd go to Japan, maybe to the hot springs in the mountains where you can bathe with monkeys. Japan feels like the moon to me, so brand new and unsettling but full of unexpected pleasures and great beauty.

Who do you have a crush on?
David Dimbleby. In real life (without his reading glasses on) he is unexpectedly tall, commanding and Newman-blue-eyed. Also my lovely man, who is an exciting chap in his own right and wears the hell out of a good suit.

If you were the leader of your country, what would you do?
I would put half the community support officers on dogshit duty, handing out bags and warnings and arresting persistent offenders. I would bring back the stocks for queue-cutting, being obnoxious, setting off fireworks in the middle of the night and whoever it is who schedules planes to fly over my house at 4:30 am. Also, keep your chicken bones/crisps packet/cellophane from B&H on your person and dispose of them responsibly or face a public egging.

Licensing laws to be enforced to reduce drunken unpleasantness in the streets. Serve people who are underage and/or intoxicated and lose your license. I genuinely feel quite strongly about this, and resent all the moaning and hand-wringing about supermarkets and the strain on the NHS and emergency services. (I appreciate that this is not really in the spirit of the exercise, but I am enjoying my totalitarian soapbox.)

Give me one easy savoury recipe that does not include cheese.
Take a couple of bulbs of fresh fennel, wash and slice as thinly as possible (food processor is good for this). Add oranges (minus peel and seeds). If you're feeling fancy, you can cut them in half and remove the flesh from the membranes like you would a grapefruit, but lazy chopping works too. Use about two oranges per fennel bulb. Add a glug of olive oil and the juice of one or two lemons, salt, pepper, sliced basil and/or mint. Eat chilled or at room temp, at any time of day, with anything or on its own. Can be combined with cooked quinoa or rice to make it more substantial. Particularly nice with roast chicken or fish (that is, if you don't hate fennel).

And my question:
In an ideal world, if you could have particular services/staff at your beck and call (eg butcher, baker, candlestick maker, prostitute, someone to dispose of the bodies), what would make the biggest improvement to your quality of life?

I think I will pass this on to the following thoughtful and clever folk (with apologies and free of obligation if you are not down with the meme thing):
The Great Within
post apocalyptic bohemian
Naked Cupcakes
Bite the Bedbugs
That's Not My Age
Kippered Snacks

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to answer and add a question of your own before sending it on. ("Tagging." That's what the kids call it.)

Monday 21 June 2010

Tedium, now with added happiness.

What an uncharacteristically lovely weekend I have had! Minimal drama, guilt, cringing or associated neurotic tics. It was a little like one of those dreams where nothing really happens - maybe you're drinking a cup of tea in the sunny garden, a friend rings the doorbell and you have a pleasant chat, then you eat some cake and admire your new earrings - but it's suffused with a hazy mist of wellbeing and contentment. And then you wake up and more likely than not it's a sharp-focus rainy Monday morning in January with added toe stubbing and toothpaste dribble stains.

But instead of unpleasantness, I awoke this morning next to the smiling lovely man and endured my minor hangover whilst dosing myself sensibly with much sweet tea. Then I augmented my nightwear with bra, socks, trainers and cardi - Instant daywear! I am nothing if not efficent! - and chatted with my neighbour whilst cutting roses in the garden, and breakfasted on delectable Moroccan flatbread filled with mushrooms, harissa and soft, sweet, browned onions. Monday mornings usually find me hibernating furtively and pretending not to peek out the windows with suspicion and hostility at passers by. I think I am leading someone else's life. Nigella Lawson's? Felicity Kendall's?

On Friday the lovely man was able to work from home, which was nice as I normally only get to communicate with him via text and for the five minutes between his dinner and bedtime. Friday night we met AC and headed over to the local church for their open mic night - was ever a more suburban phrase uttered? - but they had managed to cancel it and not tell anyone, so we went to the pub instead and enjoyed the full Chas 'n' Dave experience of one of their live music nights. I love this place with all my heart. It's a proper old fashioned pub with old blokes and dogs and people doing crosswords with their coats on or playing pool and everyone uneventfully enjoying good beer (including my beloved Chiswick bitter)*. Also, I finally got to hear the story of the BT date which never was. Consensus says he's married.

Saturday morning is my very favourite time of the week, even considering that John Peel is dead and there is no more Home Truths and this weekly vacuum reminds us that we are all headed for the grave. We awoke to Saturday Live, which I don't really listen to with my brain, just my ears. Fi Glover used to do the GLR morning show, so it is a warm enough experience.** Great quantities of tea were consumed and there were buckwheat pancakes.

The fact that we see so little of each other often means our weekends are given over to Planning and Execution of Important Tasks. So much more enjoyable to spend the day doing little, planning little and wasting time while still accomplishing stuff by stealthy means. Featured were:
- trying on, sorting out and photographing an enormous quantity of vintage clothing for later eBay/Etsy listing.
- walking the dogs down to the funny shop near Kew Bridge which sells military clothing and filing cabinets and nothing else.
- homemade fish curry and dhal and grilled asparagus.
- mounting old plates on our bedroom wall (wonky photo above, with curiously bent-looking ceiling).
The Sopranos.

On Sunday morning, after copious quantities of tea and Broadcasting House, a surprise decision was taken to eat breakfast at the farmer's market. We went to the auction and looked at all the weird and wonderful detritus there. Then we got on a train to Waterloo and had a quick bite and a bottle of wine before seeing Elvis Costello in concert, which I loved until I was reminded that he is a bitter misogynist*** but by then my bladder was full to bursting so I had to leave anyway.

What you have just endured may be the most tedious weblog entry ever in history, and I know this and somehow don't mind.

* Now overshadowed by the more well-known London Pride, which is more alcoholic, stronger in flavour and harder to cock up.
 ** None of this will mean anything to most people, but suffice it to say that in the late 90s there was a moment of Radio Nirvana and eventually it ended but life went on. If you understand the concept of Radio Nirvana, yours is probably different.
*** Also - musician with monstrous ego shock horror etc. He sort of did a big arms-in-the-air after each song, which he performed alone onstage until Richard Thompson joined him for some Claptonesque guitar noodling. I found this tiresome. Perhaps I have returned to form.

Thursday 10 June 2010

Some random and gratuitous hysteria, evening edition.

So I'm going to let you know what I've been up to and you can venture a guess as to whether or not I am having a good day.

I have already cleaned up two piles of shit, which is two too many for someone who has neither kids nor faecal incontinence. As the person with the keys and the opposable thumbs, I am responsible for letting the dogs out and I feel guilty. (But fucking hell, the boy dog had just come home from his eight hour session with the dog walker. I would not ordinarily expect him to require an immediate toilet break.)

I collected my expensive new glasses this afternoon and they were tight and uncomfortable. The little passive-aggressive bloke at the optician's who clearly wanted me to take them and go was instead forced to adjust them for me. Each adjustment gave me about .5mm less tightness. When I made my third request for them to please be slightly less vice-like, he took them away and did something to them such as you might do to a wire hanger if you were going to use it to break into your car. He called me "madam" throughout. About 34 times.

My new glasses are not as fabulous as I thought they were when I giddily ordered them. And now they're a little saggy.

In my efforts to extract something positive from the visit to the soulless shopping centre, I nipped into Marks and Spencer and became thoroughly depressed at the unspeakable foulness of every. single. thing. A little lingerie browse at Marks's once had the power to perk me up a little. That ship has sailed.

Trundled home and let the dogs out. As I was emptying the dishwasher, the dogs returned from the garden. I went to close the door and turned to find one of them licking the clean dishes. I burst into tears.

And btw, if I take another dirty item (something which has undergone the cleaning process and remains dirty) from a completed dishwasher cycle or clean load of laundry - or if I find such an item carelessly returned to the cupboards (you know who you are) - I cannot be responsible for my actions.

I washed my hands for the gazillionth time today in preparation to empty the dishwasher and was forced to do something (say, remove a dog from the dishwasher door) that necessitated an immediate second hand washing, which may have caused me to internally lose my shit. And burst into tears.

I think I may be at a low ebb.

Wednesday 9 June 2010

The tyranny of the terrier.

Every morning, I awake around 8 or 8:30, trundle downstairs, put the kettle on, make a cup of tea and feed the dogs. If Everybody Loves Raymond is still weaving its magic, I will give them a small scoop of dry food and hotfoot it into the living room with my mug and they get the full-on Butcher's-plus-glucosamine-tablet extravaganza a little later, maybe 9ish. This evening they had a little snack of half a carrot each around 4:30 while I was making my own dinner. Their evening meal is served at 6:30, and the girl dog gets a small snack before bed to stop her stomach getting growly and queasy which happens sometimes now that she is an old lady of 13.

It has not always been so. I used to be rather lax with dog meals and they came at any time I thought of it. Girl dog - for she was once my one and only - just ate happily and when her meal was put down for her. She has never been greedy, or a beggar.

Here she is a few years ago, with her poorly cracked toenail. She dove underfoot to snaffle some foul snack on the pavement and her foot was trodden on. So maybe she is a little greedy.

She has taken to hovering every evening, making the kind of rude sigh you might make if someone was taking too long buying a train ticket or blocking a corridor. If you say "show me" with a rising inflection, she will lead you where she wants you - which allows her to tell us if she wants to go out or if she wants food, for whatever she wants rarely deviates from these two things. These days it is always the food. 

Despite her extreme cuteness, this is driving me a little potty. It starts at 5 and carries on as long as I ignore her. She stands, staring, one hind foot shaking slightly, sighing loudly and emitting the general impatient air of someone waiting for someone else to get on with it.

Her stomach is not gurgling audibly. Her dinner is only 90 minutes away. She is a small dog and weight gain at her time of life is best avoided. She won't be coddled or cuddled or otherwise distracted. If I scoop her up and try to make her sit with me, she'll scoot away and resume her vigil.

I recently gave in and served her a small scoop of dry food. Now she is doubly relentless. 

This is on top of the new non-walking development which means that she will walk out of the front garden as far as the pavement and no further, leaving me dangling there at the end of the lead unable to go left or right. The only way an actual walk will take place is if I drive somewhere. Yesterday, she came with when I took the car for its MOT and service and she hopped out and walked home like there was never a problem. At the park, she runs like a greyhound. Outside her own home, she cannot be persuaded to move. No way. No how.

Monday 7 June 2010

Current state of play

I am feeling great big blog love for The Harridan, 52 Seductions and Suburban Matron. Should I embarrass myself with all the gushing about how smart and funny and irresistible I find these blogs and admit that I have been working my way through the archives and am making the authors my very own imaginary friends? Never mind, whatever you may imagine, I'm definitely not having at this exact moment a special tea party in the garden around a little table with their blog banners stuck on over the faces of my three favourite cuddly toys. That would be creepy.

So it is glaringly obvious to me (and now, to you) that I need to expand my social horizons, but how? I am toying with joining the American Women's Club in the hope that there will be a number of delightful, underemployed, overeducated, politically and socially leftish types with whom to partake of luncheon or the occasional sweetmeat while we pass the time with our needlework. I want it to be like Sex and the City, without the labels and incessant jabbering about cocks and money and with added vintage clothes and people-watching and smart high/low cultural content. I fear that it will be more like the Harper Valley PTA.

Here chez Ingrate we are watching the fourth season of The Sopranos and I am already worrying about it all finishing too soon. The characters are brilliantly well-realised, the stories are credible and gripping, there is a great balance of horror and humour, and a certain lovely man of this parish is just perfecting his Silvio Dante impersonation, so there will be a huge mournful hole in our lives when it's all over.

My head is a little bit all over the place these days. Pre-menstrual, yes, but also just the usual weirdness. Everything just sloshing all around. I'm giving beta blockers a go for the doorstep anxiety (that moment when I have a sort of emotional stutter about getting out of the house) and it seems like they may be useful. I had a proper internal meltdown on Saturday getting ready to go to a friend's for lunch - couldn't think straight, heart pounding, hands shaking, resisting the idea of going at all. I told the lovely man I was struggling and he was blessedly wonderful and gave me some room to wring my hands and wig the fuck out and then I organised myself and managed it and we left about an hour later than we had planned. I felt guilty about being late but fucking hell, I was glad I got there in the end.

On a domestic note, everything that comes out of the dishwasher smells (and sometimes tastes) like dishwasher soap. I no longer put my silicone baking stuff in there after the soapy bread incident, and today's last crust of banana cake (stored in a plastic Lock and Lock box) also was a little tainted. Since living in a communal house where I regularly shopped, cooked and washed up after meals for 12-15 people, I am a champion washer-upper. I can do a sink full of dishes (both sides of plates, removing gungy crust from pots and pans, sparkling glassware, etc.) before you have even mustered your tea towel and taken your drying-up position. Dishwashers are the work of the devil. They promise the luxury of capable housework completed at the touch of a button, but they deliver half-hearted rinses, redistributed desiccated powdery food remnants baked on the wine glasses and nasty sluglike surprises from the bottom of the cutlery basket. Like most Americans, I am generally optimistic about technology, but as an individual, I often suspect I would do it better with my own hands. (Though if the household technology gods are listening, I would rather cut off my own arms than manually launder the bedclothes.)

And finally, I know this is old and probably everyone and his grandmother have seen it, but I can't get it out of my head:

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Outright Ingrate: Making Matches since 2010

What I neglected to mention in my last post was that the BT chap who came to replace my router* seemed like a lovely guy, so I asked him if he was available to date my lovely friend AC. Is that weird?

I can't remember when the penny dropped, but I suddenly realised I was mentally going through a list of attributes (height, appearance, various other personal qualities) I knew to be her cup of tea, and having found them all present and correct in this particular gentleman, I began to wonder how I could get him to divulge some contact details. When I asked if he was available and looking (because I have this lovely friend, etc.) he reacted exactly how he should have done (slight hesitation, embarrassment, worried expression, clocking the exits) and before he left he wrote his number on the back of the invoice.

Afterwards, I vacillated between worryingly inappropriately giddy and a bit ashamed. Was I wrong to say something? I'm afraid I don't know the etiquette for this sort of thing. Something involving calling cards and a go-between? Letter of introduction? I guess I won't know how much of a tit I am until I find out what she did. I'm dying to know if she's rung him but I'm reluctantly hanging back, impersonating someone who has other things to think about.

Oh, and I attribute the lacklustre nature of this post to the fact that I am testing to see if my Blogger comments function has reappeared now that I have deinstalled the IntenseDebate widget that messed it up in the first place. So, if there is a place to leave comments, go to it!** Have you ever propositioned a complete stranger on behalf of someone else? Is it socially okay to do this? Is this the sort of matronly behaviour which ushers in the age of hot flushes, facial hair and excessive porcelain animal display? Oh, who am I kidding? I knew this day would come.

* Yes it was just the router and yes I could have just gone and bought one and avoided waiting for a week and yes the router I could have bought in the shops would have cost about a third less. Thanks BT!
**It appears not. I shall investigate. UPDATE: they're back! Comments akimbo, all! Have at it, etc.. 
UPDATE PS - Sorry that my fannying around with posts to fix comments has apparently done things to RSS things. Perhaps this addendum will also duplicate already duplicated posts? We can only hope!

I emerge, blinking, into the new dawn of a new information age, with a new router.

So on Wednesday the 19th, the lights on the router began to flicker ominously, and my computer told me simultaneously that I was and was not connected to the internet. All indications confirmed the latter. For instance, I couldn't connect to the internet. That was the first clue.

Thus ensued an amazing, inspirational story in which I ring an internet service provider and they tell me they will come in four days' time within a five-hour window and I confirm the appointment with  three  different  people  and on the day I wait the full five hours but lo! the engineer doesn't show and the phone appointment people finally admit that they failed to pass the appointment on to an engineer and they arrange another appointment, now in another three days' time and there is a great deal of argument and rending of hair and garments and then there is some violent hyperbole (am I allowed to say that I hunted them down and battered them all to death with my broken router?) and then I lose my mind and go to their corporate headquarters and dismantle it piece by piece with my bare hands, eventually joined and aided by hundreds, then thousands of other disgruntled customers all baying like wild animals and inflicting horrible acts of technology-themed brutality, and the whole of the evil entity is trampled into the ground and the earth there sown with salt. Then, once rid of the sinister useless corporate menace, the world is a peaceful and happy place.

No, what really happened was that I was transported into the eighties, when the phone service was an expensive and laughable shambles and there was no internet. Thanks BT!

Today they replaced my router and I'm back. Time travel is fun.