Saturday, January 26, 2008

the wind

Well, considering the only view I’d had of the North before I was so involuntarily transplanted here was from films about people taking all their clothes off, at the drop of a hat, as it were, the weather in these distant latitudes has been most un-cinematically inclement lately. last week it was floods and then on Friday the wind, and, as my neighbour claims Letty can be seen saying through the cowboys, dust and wurlitzer, it’s been right proper drafty. even my husband has been affected by the weather and has spent most of the day clinging to the sofa repeating there's no place like home, there's no place like home. Actually, my neighbour told me recently I reminded him of Lillian Gish. I asked him if it was because we shared that rare quality of fragile resilience but he said it was because I was a rather melodramatic, wore silent film make up and seemed to think it was still the nineteen twenties. I ask you, do I come across as some monstrous caricature to you, Sigh...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

where's trai?

I’m afraid the Super household's satellite dish is pointed south most of the time, sigh. I don’t watch the northern TV news, it just makes me cry, although sometimes I have to turn it around because I'm the only one in the village with a television so the locals rely on me for contact with the rest of their region. However a conversation with my neighbour, who doesn’t watch Look North every night either because they only show North East tonight at his local pub (yes, ITV, so that gives you an idea of the tone of that establishment, sigh) found us wondering upon the same mystery; What has happened to lovely weathergirl Trai Anfield . At first Trai would be in the studio each night, exchanging light banter with ace sportscaster Jeff Brown about whether it would be dry enough on Saturday so as not to cause Michael Owen to fall over and twist something, then she began to appear in more and more remote locations, standing in waders in the middle of the Tees in a flood one day, Tynemouth breakwater in a hurricane the next, but now she has vanished completely. I had just assumed she had been sent so far away from the studio she had fallen into someone else’s local TV region and now was to be found introducing tomorrow’s Outer Hebrides sunburn risk in smiling Gaelic. My neighbour has another theory however, which involves poor Trai being forcibly abandoned on the Farne Islands with nothing but a piece of string, a cheery sweater and box set of Distant Shores DVDs. His already doubtful theory really begins to unravel when he brings in his view on the resemblance of the admittedly tall, dark and rather mysterious Carol Malia to Diana Prince. He speculates that Trai had to be exiled to the middle of the North Sea after she was struck by the star presenter’s handbag as she walked in on her turning onto Wonder Woman in her dressing room and threatened to go public. Of course a moment’s thought brings to mind any number of flaws to this idea: Even super powers wouldn’t prevent poor Carol from turning as blue as her pants in the weather we’ve been having around here lately, her invincibility still wouldn't allow her to risk rescuing anyone in Newcastle whilst wearing a red top, and of course you have to remember what Carol Malia’s cover job is and then ask where was the lasso of truth when some of our North East politicians have been on the show, sigh..

Sunday, January 20, 2008

色,戒 (short story, long film)

The secret police chief wore a grave and serious expression. It was the troubled look of a man who could have still been doing kung fu movies if he hadn’t fallen out of a bamboo tree whilst defeating the forces of evil in his last film. It was clear there had been words with the director about having a flying part in this film, the insurers insisting on giving his character a chauffeur instead, and making him a baddy. Milly leaned over her popcorn. 'Mummy', she whispered. It had seemed a good idea to take the children to the cinema, less so when we got there and found we couldn’t get into Enchanted but the children were interested in the far east after their cousin had told them she was going to China this summer to spend a couple of weeks lounging by a pool over there, and very proud we all were too that she had got into the british Olympic swimming team, so getting tickets for Lust, Caution instead had seemed a good idea at the time.

'Mummy!' whispered Milly (woman moaning), ‘what is that man doing to that lady?’ I sighed. (sigh). ‘Look darling’, I explained, ‘You really must try and get used to reading subtitles for when you grow up and become an intellectual so please try and follow the plot dear’. Milly raised her eyebrows. ‘I didn’t mean the man on the screen mummy, I meant the man in the front row’. Well, I suppose I should have anticipated some awkward questions. (man sitting in next row behind going Shuush!) ‘I think his girlfriend lapsed into a coma during the last mahjong scene and he’s reviving her dear’, I ventured. Milly looked uncertain. ‘Mummy’, she continued, ‘yes dear?’ I replied. 'Why is this film so long?' Ah, the poor innocent child. She has so much to learn. 'It's character building dear', I explained, 'maintaining the same position for hours on end is part of kung fu training'. My daughter had the expression that told me her curiosity was not satisfied. ‘How can Tilly and I get in to see an 18 film when we’re only 7 anyway?’ she asked. ‘Because’, I began, trying not to sound like it the answer was really obvious to me as a grown up, ‘This is an Ang Lee film so you’ll probably turn 18 before the end, so it’s OK darling’. ‘Oh’ said Milly, clearly still not satisfied. ‘So Mummy..’I tried to remain patient. ‘Is that what men and ladies really do to each other?’ ‘Look’ I said, wishing to draw this conversation to a close, ‘It’s nearly eight years since you were conceived', (hotdog going limp), 'How am I supposed to remember?’

My daughter opened her fizzy drink (pop) and went back to eating her popcorn (crackle). 'Milly!' I snapped (snap), a little irritated, 'use your chopsticks or you'll show us all up!' Now I began to think that perhaps I had been mistaken to bring the children to the cinema at all. It’s not that I don’t encourage the girls to ask questions; Is crouching tiger a sexual position? Is Lust, Caution hailed for it’s realism because it actually lasts as long as the Japanese occupation of China? Is it true that the resistance leader did actually say listen very carefully I shall say ziz only once but this was edited out of the subtitles? Why was it necessary to subtitle the sound effects and English dialogue? But sometimes I just want to watch the film. My attention returned to the screen. I didn't think the heroine could keep her secret much longer. I just hoped my daughters would hold out a bit longer when questioned by my London friends as to whether foreign films were shown in the North. I had my reputation to think of and I hadn't even confessed to my chums back home that there was television north of Watford yet. Returning my attention to the film the sinister secret police chief was clearly planning to have his wicked way with the heroine again. He took off his shirt and undid his belt ( things looking up). I looked across to Milly and Tilly to check they were not too shocked by a naked man in the bedroom but they were both sleeping soundly. They grow up so fast nowadays, sigh

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

evident malaise

My dear friend Emma's musings on prison toilet bowls being the main actor which deters her from a life of crime have inevitably turned my own thoughts to the art world. Not as you might think because of Marcel Duchamp , but because of my own husband’s occasionally intimated wish to be a master criminal à la Steve McQueen in the Thomas Crown affair. I think I can be reasonably sure he's not going to act on this desire, mainly because he really only wants to be chased by Faye Dunaway (he does like strong women, sigh) but also because if he broke into the Tate Gallery (The proper one, not the TonyBankside or whatever it's called) he would do much more to impress our friends by stealing the coffee shop’s expresso machine for our kitchen wall rather than a pictue of some old castle. Anyway, what’s the point of going to an art gallery in the middle of the night wearing a balaclava? Who’s going to see you there? Surely better to give the old masters a miss and pinch a ‘I’m so rich and cultured I do my clothes shopping in an art gallery’ t-shirt or two from the gallery shop, which is I'm fairly sure more expensive than an original Turner anyway

Actually we did go down on the big blue train recently because my husband’s aforementioned fascination with slighty dangerous redheds led him to drag us both down to Millbank to catch the last weekend of a show of pictures of Lizzie Siddal demonstrating the various stages of consumption. It was lovely to forget The North for a day, although this relief didn’t last long as my husband insisted on dropping into the Morpeth Arms on the way from the tube. Is there no escape, sigh? It was a very interesting exhibition, the painter chap in question having been a bit of an enfant terrible, the Damien Hurst of his day perhaps, well, Damien Hurst with sideburns, artistic talent but a perhaps overly predictable tendency never to be found very far from a wet corset. It was all the more exciting because many of the paintings had travelled from as far as two or three rooms away, obviously not worth going to see when they’re free lest people should think one is a care in the community case or even, god forbid, a student or just plain poor but well worth ten of anyone’s husband’s pounds to go and stand shoulder to shoulder with talking guidebooks squeaking away in a dozen languages. Some of the models did have a look which was rather less pre-raphael than pre-menstrual but it was all a jolly nice day out. The only disappointment was when we found the gallery café had run out of sugar. No sugar? In the Tate? It’s not the same London I left behind. I miss London so much and it was very clear that day that they're not coping very well without me either...

Sunday, January 13, 2008


I fumbled amongst all the assorted drawings and stories my daughter had brought home at the end of term from the Ted Hughes School for Girls that she and her sister attend. I was looking for the DVD of the nativity play; my daughter was a crow, I was so proud of her, when I came across a poem she had written. I always worried she might have heard her father and I discussing moving house again. Now I could see that my fears had been realised.

She has done it again
One year in every otto, neun or zehn she manages it
To pack up the lampshade and paperweight
Cancel the german class
Dream of book launches
Downshifting is an art
She does it exceptionally well
Whenever her agent makes the call
She says it makes her feel real
But to me it feels like hell
She is always the same identical woman
I don’t know why she doesn’t stay put
But that lacks the theatrical
And doesn’t explore the feminist dialectic
Thank goodness the aga’s not gas, just electric
Unwrapping herself hand and foot
For the peanut munching crowd
These are her thoughts, her soul, and my childhood
Muttered into her dictafone head set
buried in The North and she’s not even dead yet
But further north still might she go for inspirational air?
Up to where everybody has red hair
The locals had better beware, beware

Tilly super, aged seven and three quarters

I looked at the teacher's comments in red pen underneath. 'A little derivative Tilly', said the note, 'see me after school' . That seemed a little harsh for a seven year old, I thought. I put down the crumpled paper. I could see my daughter was starting to think about the important things in life but at her young impressionable age there was still something she hadn’t grasped: There’s no money in poetry you silly girl; tales of downshifting woe are where the cash is at. I looked up and as down in the valley the rain swollen waters washed over the bared roots of river bank trees under the dark northern sky I thought of home and turned on the radio

Sunday, January 06, 2008

new year's lay

It was New Year's Day . My husband appeared in the doorway of the lounge. ‘I say’, he said, ‘awfully quiet around here’. ‘The children have gone to Basil and Coriander’s house’, I explained. My husband thought for a moment. ‘Well’, he began, ‘this year I’m going to pay more attention to some important things I’ve been neglecting rather terribly in the past’. I looked up. He stretched out his arms. ‘Yes, I need to give some parts of this old body a bit more exercise than they've been getting of late’. I raised my eyebrows and moved to get up. ‘You stay there darling’, he told me, ever so authoritatively. ‘I just need to pop upstairs, get out of these things, you know…’ and he disappeared. Of course I knew what was coming. I quickly undressed, arranged myself in a seductive pose across the chaise longue, and awaited my man...

The door opened. 'Oh gosh darling’ said my husband, observing my classical repose ‘you really have acclimatised while I've been away haven't you !’ I looked up at my husband. ‘Darling’ I said softly, ‘has anyone ever told you how sexy you are in those running shoes?’ He smiled. ‘Yes, actually, well, just Fabio’, he replied, ‘but then he’s my secretary so I suppose he doesn’t really count, sigh’. I gave a come hither shrug of my goosebumped shoulders. ‘Anyway, just off for a once around the village, blow the cobwebs away, you know!' ‘What about my bloody cobwebs?’ I thought, but said ‘you won’t get lost will you dear?’ He smiled nervously. 'Oh, err, what’s our house number again?' I told him.‘And the errr…’ I told him the name of our street. ‘And just in case I should stray outside the houses…’ I told him the name of the village. ‘Don’t worry’, I assured him, 'if you end up at the wrong house at least you’ll know when you don’t recognise the children!’. He laughed. ‘Oh yes’, he said, peering at a photo on the mantlepiece. ‘Of course, who could forget the children?’ . ‘That’s your nephew’, I corrected. ‘You have daughters’. He blushed. ‘Ha ha’ he said, ‘well, you can’t tell them apart at that age can you!’ ‘That’s his graduation photo darling’. ‘Oh, well,’ he said, turning to leave, ‘if I’m not back by dark call out those big strapping chaps from the fell rescue team for me!’ although of course he really didn’t need to tell me that. As the door slammed behind him I was already dialling their number.