Tuesday, 18 February 2014

A Book to Read in a French Restaurant in London while eating Creme Brulee and Macarons

Posted By Daisy
'East End Faces', Sunday Times Magazine 1968; Bailey's Stardust

LAST WEEK, I did lots of lovely London things.

On Thursday, I went to Bailey’s ‘Stardust’ in the National Portrait Gallery. It was so relaxing wandering around looking at the photographs with lovely music playing in the background.

Afterwards, I met my friends for drinks at ‘Lateshift’ in the lobby. It felt very ‘Sex and The City’ wandering around the gallery, glass of cava in hand. Especially when a friend of a friend introduced herself with a limp handshake, elevator-eyed my leopard print dress and brogues (I thought I looked the part anyway!) and said smoothly ‘What do you do?’ Blunt as you like. What I really wanted to say was ‘Oh, is that question back in vogue again, haven’t heard it since 1985’, but of course I was so taken aback, I ended up sounding like a spluttering fool.

My brother in law told me that when he had an important decision to make recently, he climbed the stairs in the Great Hall of the Natural History Museum, and thought ‘How could one not strive for greatness in a place as beautiful this?’

It was even better with less crowds last weekend. Myself and a friend attended the ‘Beautiful tour there on Valentine’s night. We had drinks and snacks, and did a mini tour of the museum.
A geologist showed us the beauty of the solar system, and rocks.

The Blaschka Collection
Another scientist showed us tiny glass sculptures of sea creatures from the Blaschka collection. She passed one around to the audience in a box, and as we heard the soft thwunk of a glass ornament hitting the carpet, we all turned around to hear muffled apologies and a girl hiding her head in her boyfriend's jumper.

A very entertaining zoologist showed us lots of photographs of hideous-looking fish. He talked about the sea horses mating dance (where the female woos the male), and about fish whose bodies light up deep in the ocean.

On Saturday night, we drank cocktails and ate olives and salted almonds in the gorgeous Rivoli bar at the Ritz, where we people-watched with the rest of the tourists sampling a piece of the high-life. There was a middle-aged woman in a risqué red sequinned dress, a man in a jacket holding a chair for a beautiful woman wearing a full length fur coat over her little black dress, and a friendly, fresh-faced waiter from Dublin.

Afterwards, we went to one of my favourite, totally un-ritzy restaurants, across the road in Shepherd’s Market, L’Artiste Muscle, to eat boeuf bourguignon and crème brulee. On a recent weeknight trip there, I heard a posh businessman thanking the waiter for ‘the best snails I’ve eaten in my life.’ 

This week however, I've spent lots of time babysitting. And learned something about the simple pleasures of life.
‘I’m so happy’, my 3-year-old nephew told me.
‘Why’, I asked.
‘Because I found my red digger book,’ he exclaimed, as if it was the most obvious reason in the world.
'TransAtlantic' by Colum McCann
Elevator Pitch: Two men cross the Atlantic in a tiny plane, a former American slave tours Ireland as famine begins, an Irish maid takes a ship to New York and builds a new life, a senator brokers a historic agreement, there’s death in an ice house, and an ancient letter is finally opened – there are so many fictional and historical stories intermingled in ‘TransAtlantic’, it’s difficult to remember them all.
And although I really enjoyed reading this, I just don’t think I’ll remember it in the same way as I remember ‘Dancer’ or ‘Let the Great World Spin’.



Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Monday, 3 February 2014

A Book to Read When it's February (Hallellujah)

Posted By Daisy

JANUARY is over. Hallelujah. I had two fabulous weeks on Christmas holidays in Ireland.

By numbers, it went something like this:

Cigarettes smoked: Too many (I fell off the wagon and had a cigarette in my mouth before my suitcase hit the hall floor on arrival in my mum’s house)

Nights out: 10 (out of 14)

Fake fur, elbow length sleeved, opera coats acquired: 1 (Thanks mum)

People who kissed me on the mouth: 1 (a red lipsticked work-friend was delighted I was home and landed a platonic smacker on me)

Resolutions made: 3 (Get one short story published anywhere this year; Be brave and remember, nothing is serious really; Approach men I like instead of waiting and being overly delighted by the eejits who approach me)

Bedroom bins puked into after a night out: 1

Future events during which I’ll drink Dark and Stormy’s all night long: 0

People I insulted: 1 (Sorry, BR)

Pounds lost: Half a stone (with all the smoking and drinking, I didn’t feel much like eating)

Friends I met who were having a rough time of it in the run-up to Christmas: 3

Bar counters sat at on Christmas Eve listening to a lovely friend discussing something sad: 1

Bracing walks by the sea: 2

Men whose girlfriends were 3000 miles away on holidays who came up behind me and tweaked my waist inappropriately in the pub smoking area, before asking me was I still single:1

Minutes spend talking to that guy after the tweaking: 0 (I got out of there fast, realising that if anyone else saw any hint of flirting, it would be me, the single girl, who would be blamed)

Men I greeted as I walked past them on a crowded dance floor who held up their ring fingers in a panic and shouted ‘I’m married’ before whipping out photos of their twins on their iPhone: 1

Previous moments I had ever thought of that man in a romantic way: 0

Cosy bus journeys up the west coast of Ireland at night: 1

Number of men kissed: 0 (disappointment)

Number of men chatted to/ego boosted by: A fair few – yippee for Irish friendly men.

Then I came back to London. I felt shivery and exhausted the first week and thought ‘Feck London, it’s the same here as anywhere else, what am I doing with my life…..’ and other such cheery thoughts.
I was also slapped lightly with London unfriendliness on the day I arrived home. Standing outside my apartment block, smoking a cigarette, wearing my new leather cross-shoulder bag, I said ‘Hiya’ to a couple who exited via the door beside me. They both looked at me strangely, said nothing and walked on. As they walked down the road, I heard the girl mutter something and the guy saying loudly ‘I swear, I never saw her before in my life, I promise, I don’t know who she is, honest, I never saw her before, I thought she was a courier….’ I may have caused a fight between a couple by simply saying hi. Seriously.

The second week was spent hovering, washing, ironing, spraying and moth balling every piece of clothing I own, after finding little brown moths burrowing in my favourite fake fur coat (Both Google and my mum told me to put it in a plastic bag in the freezer to kill the critters, but I considered it a fairly major house-share faux pas – imagine, one of my flatmates arriving home from work, whistling as they open the freezer to get out their frozen pizza, and boom, a moth-eaten fur coat squashed in the meat section – so, with regret, I threw it out).

On the third week, I felt better, and on the fourth week, our 17-year-old dog, Benny, died and I cried on the tube while looking at photos of him, and wished I was at home in Ireland. I wanted to get his bowl bronzed but my mum refused, and then had a great laugh with the rest of the family, embellishing the story to become ‘Daisy wants to store Benny’s ashes in his open bronzed drinking bowl on the mantelpiece.’ Despite the fact that the whole family has bite mark scars from him, we’ll still really miss him.

Mainly minor issues, I know. But still. Roll on February.
Things I’ve learned over the past month:
  • You don’t have to be the life and soul of the party. Sometimes, people appreciate you just showing up. Be brave and show up – you never know what might happen.
  • Life can turn on a sixpence. Enjoy it.
  • Men in their thirties can be strange sometimes.

'Play it As it Lays' by Joan Didion

My brother in law is working his way through this list of books that promises to ‘change your life’.

Elevator Pitch: Even though the book is set in LA in the late 1960’s, it still feels modern and relevant. Two-bit actress Maria struggles with her failing marriage to a film producer, her relationship with the vapid women around her, her constant visits to her disabled daughter in a care home, and her languid days spent lying by the pool or driving aimlessly down the freeway.

It’s a bleak, almost catatonic book where nothing really happens, but it definitely portrays the languid life of a not-so-successful Hollywood starlet.

(all above drawings by the amazing www.marcjohns.com)