Borough, my Borough

I’m sure you’re all sick of it by now, but this is my space, and so here it is.

Saturday night, I was pootling about at home, trying to do some writing but actually spodding on the internet. You know, how we all do. Suddenly I see a Tweet about London Bridge, and because I spent a lot of my time there, I followed it up.

What became apparent from the hashtags filled me with horror.

There was the usual gamut of thoughts;

Maybe it’s just a run of the mill accident…Maybe it’s people larking about on a Saturday night. White van men, eh?

Oh. Let’s hope nobody’s badly hurt, maybe they missed everyone? Maybe everyone got out of the way?

Oh no…no…not agai – and now it’s spreading…the Market, it’s full of people…dear god no…who do I know who might be there? What if TwoShuks at Ted’s Veg or Graham at The Turkish Deli are on a late clean up shift? What about the teams at Pulia, Roast, Black and Blue – what – how on earth can I find anything out?!

The answer was to stay glued to Twitter. There was nothing I could do but follow the Met Police feed because newspapers are alarmist at best and tend to quote each other as sources.

As the night went on, my heart sank. Pockets of lightness happened when my friends checked in on FB, one by one. Do not underestimate how important that is. Just because YOU might know that you are safe, and miles away, your friends on the other side of the screen do not. Just check in. My friends across the pond know that I go to Borough a lot, they had no way of knowing if I’d gone there for a late night event or not, so in I checked.

Eventually I went to bed, knowing that those who had checked in or tweeted or sent me a text were safe, and that I’d just have to wait.

At 12.34am I got a text from my husband, who was away for the weekend. I knew he was ok, and hadn’t popped into town for a steak dinner or something. I went to bed, dreading the news.

Sunday was spent pointedly not looking at the internet. I needed my head to get itself together. It didn’t really, not until late afternoon. I felt listless, groundless, like being in 1000 places all at the same time whilst standing stone still.

This is MY city, MY home, MY patch, MY alleyways and cobbled streets and hidden walkways. My respite, my joy, the place that I go to unwind, to seek out new things, to talk to the people I have got to know over the years, to share recipes and food ideas, swap stories, talk politics, eat fried breakfasts fit for a king, try samples, buy lots of brilliant things from the myriad of sellers.

It’s where I go in the very early morning, to watch it wake up. To see the bread and coffee stalls uncover, the restaurants and cafés open their sleepy-eyed shutters. The fish and meat stalls washing out the remains of yesterday’s trading, ready to start all over again.

My favourite grocer’s stalls laying out the fruits and vegetables in ever more intricate piles, rainbow hued and gleaming tomatoes, onions, aubergines and lemons, ranks of tall heads of celery, forests of celeriac with the full set of leaves still on, the olive drab and thistle purple of artichokes, and the papery white or vibrant green of garlic old or young. It makes my heart long for a stove, a pan and some olive oil, right there in the middle of it all, so I can cook with the fabulous produce.

There’s the early morning banter by the fish and meat stalls, the same as you get in Smithfield, or New Covent Garden; people who have worked together for years, all being a part of the whirling, turning buzzing whole. I feel completely at home there, and totally safe.

I can sit at Maria’s on a dark, cold morning, long before I need to be in work, fortified with a proper cup of builder’s tea and a sausage sandwich that defies all others, watching everything emerge and unfurl around me, listening to her cockney accent punctuated by machine gun Italian. I watch the cook arrive at the Turkish deli, knowing that she is going to make amazing baklava, the softest dolma, the most garlicky sweet carrot dip, surrounded by the green, briney tang of olives and the dusky waft of Turkish coffee.

One morning down by the river, three homeless men serenaded me because they were so happy to be in the sunshine, and just to be with friends. The rasta Big Issue seller (Chris, by The Shard) talks to me of his family, his daughters, his hopes, and his philosophy. After Westminster, he held my hand, told me not to be afraid, and to be strong and hold my head up.

It’s all I can do. It’s all we can do.

We might be a nation that recoils from eye contact on the tube, or actively runs the other way when we see someone we know (no we don’t know why we do that either, we just do) but we will hold fast, and we WILL help when it’s right there and we WILL save our pint of beer even whilst being pursued by asshats of the highest order, and we WILL be back the next day and pay our bloody bill, and we WILL make jokes and invoke the god of sarcasm and understatement because we are British. Everyone on this island is. Regardless of colour, creed, religion – British is what we are.

You cross that border line, you stand in a long, long queue, patiently? British.

Eventually that eye contact is made, the small talk happens “Bloody trains, eh?” “Is this queue ever going to move?” “Look at him pushing in, tsk.”

and damnit humans are bloody alright, really.

Until the next time we’re in a crowded train carriage.

Keith

From https://www.instagram.com/p/BU_McxZg7_2/? Two Shuks, Ted’s Veg.

Body acceptance is the new black.

This link made me cry silent tears on the train on the way in to work when I first read it. You know the ones, the stealth ones, that just slide down your face until you accidentally inhale one and then have to cough and pretend you have allergies.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/8760102/When-your-mother-says-shes-fat

So much of it hit nerves  – although hardly any of it is me, not any more, because I have long since accepted my shape and that it is FINE – but it is true of other people that I love, or like, or admire or even see in passing on the train.

You get a group of women together (I’m sorry guys, for not including you, but it is still mainly women that do this), and invariably the topic turns to diets.

They ‘can’t’ have this bit of cake, or that bit of biscuit, they daren’t have that salad dressing, or the yoghurt they like, or even the FRUIT that they like. It’s got too many calories, or carbs, or too much fat, or sugar or, oh, anything except AIR for goodness sake. A headsup; you absolutely can have whatever you want. You don’t need permission, or for it to be a ‘treat’, or a bit of ‘naughtiness’. It’s just food. Enjoy it. You are not a lesser mortal. You, too, are allowed to have nice things.

My body is a fabulous thing. It is. Honestly. I don’t care if nobody else thinks it is. I want it to continue to be a fabulous thing.

If my weight impacts on my health, and I can tell when it does, then I know what I need to do, because I KNOW MY BODY. I eat plant and protein based, essentially, for a few weeks, and I feel better. Note FEEL better, not LOOK better.

I do not want to fit into society’s ideal. Because society is totally fucked up with regards to female body image. Of course, every so often, I think I would like to have a slimmer figure, because buying clothes might be easier – though I doubt it – but you know what? I DON’T have that slimmer figure. I’m a big girl, with a big frame, and in order to change
it, I have to go to silly extremes, and I am not going to do that just to conform. Just like those naturally skinny women. Why should they start to eat tons of everything just so they might look like…what? A totally different person, with totally different genetics to them?

I went to a gym for 6 months, for two hours, three times a week. Did I lose weight? Nope. I did have fun though. I was the only person in that place smiling. And why? Because my body was letting me do stuff. I can still go out and dance for 5 hours, if my back lets me, should I so choose.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I am fed up with seeing gorgeous, intelligent, wonderful women reduce themselves, their whole remarkable, living, breathing, child-raising, child-teaching, nightclub running, law practising, engineering, science experimenting, music playing, truck driving, bike-riding, company running, techgeeking, game playing, language learning, absolutely-fan-fucking-tastic selves, to a figure on a scale, a comparison to an ideal that so often isn’t even what it looks like on the page.

Enough already, Society, enough.

Our bodies are miraculous. No matter which bit is broken, or which bit has hair, or ‘too much’ fat, or spots, or stretch marks, or wrinkles or saggy boobs, or chunky legs, or ‘too big’ hips, the rest of it keeps us here, and breathing and living and loving.

And thank whatever deities we choose to believe in, for that. And you.

IMG_1758

You might be happy, but are you WELL?

Personally, yes, I am well. Ok, so I have a chronic illness, that periodically makes my life a misery, but even in those times, and in-between those times, I am – mostly – well and happy and content.

I am perfectly happy with how I look, despite The Media yelling at me all the time that how I look is somehow wrong. (There is no wrong way to have a body. Just saying.)

I enjoy my food, and I am comfortable in that joy. In fact, I relish that joy of cooking and eating.

Wellness for me is not the elimination of everything you hold dear with no sound medical reason, because someone else has tagged it ‘unclean’. That doesn’t lead to wellness, it leads to fear, and paranoia, self denial and almost self flagellation. It also seems to lead to an awful lot of expense. The wellness and clean eating trend seems to mean a totally clean wallet, mainly. The Medjool date sellers and Sainsbury’s must be in heaven.

I am very well aware of how my body works, and what it needs to nourish itself.

Now. Read that again. “I am very well aware of how my body works, and what it needs to nourish itself.”

MY body, not yours. Or anyone else’s. What works for me (and I do NOT mean what makes me lose weight, in case anyone asks) may very well not work for anyone else at all on this planet.

We are legion, and because we are legion, there are as many body types, and health types as there are teeming billions on this tiny blue pearl of ours coasting through space.

Wellness, to me, doesn’t mean restriction to the point of madness. It certainly doesn’t mean designating a foodstuff ‘evil’ just because YOU have a reaction to it.

For example, if I take tetracycline antibiotic, it kills my white blood cells. We learned this through a nearly fatal experience when I was 6 or 7, but I am certainly not going to go around telling everyone I meet that they should never take it and that it will kill them. There is not, and never will be, a one size fits all when it comes to food and eating, and nor should there be. We are not living in Airstrip One. Yet.

Thane Prince made a very good comment the other night at our cookbook club, in that the current fads are now decrying what used to be our ‘wellness’ foods back in the day.

Good, wholemeal homemade bread has now become evil incarnate. It’s a great shame. One of the most simple, basic foods there has ever been, a food which has sustained millions, banished by people who think the world needs to be spoken to like they all have an illness or an allergy.  I am not in favour of the Chorleywood technique, as that has caused its own problems, despite it being a very useful tool when it was needed but the pure pleasure in eating well made bread, with cool butter, is one that should not be ignored.

Bread – 4 or so ingredients, butter 2 ingredients. Together they bring joy. (I am, however, extremely glad that a gluten free bakery in London has managed to provide my GF friends with the same joy. Restriction through necessity is not fun.)

Bread

Projecting your own food fears and obsessions out into the world can be dangerous, but it is also highly profitable. Our £60 BILLION diet industry is proof of that. It plays on our fears, and our insecurities. Ruby Tandoh has a rather brilliant post here on the subject. I am extremely glad that she is using her media position to speak out.

Life will be better IF we are more slim, just that bit more slim, and then a bit more.

WHEN you lose the weight, you can do [swimming/cycling/play with your kids]

This is all just another Cambridge Diet, or F Plan, or Slim Fast or Grapefruit Diet or Lighter Life in another guise.

Cycle, play with your kids, swim, walk, dance when nobody’s looking, dance when somebody IS looking. It’s YOUR body. Nobody else owns it.

I wish that people were able to genuinely love themselves for who and what they are.

Life doesn’t begin when you lose weight. It’s only you that is stopping yourself from doing all those fabulous things. Yes, I did lose a lot of weight a long time ago, through severe restriction. NOTHING CHANGED. I was still me, and what I discovered was that am not a bad thing to be.

I’ll go on the beach, or by the pool, in a swimsuit and hang the critics. Why? Because it’s my body, and it’s my life, and people do not dictate to me.

You are under no obligation to look at me. But you can if you want.

Run with the Moon
Sent to me by my friend Becca, as it reminded her of me. I am deeply honoured.

Keep Calm and Twitter On

Friday 12th was meant to be a day off. I had to go to the dentist in the morning, and I always take the whole day off because it’s just easier that way. Thursday night, The Sniffles started, and it all went downhill from there. My previous post will detail that for you.

Fast forward to today, the 18th.

I AM STILL ILL. I am so fed up of this I can’t even tell you. It takes a lot for me to take time off work, so believe me, this thing is a lot.

You see, I am a contractor, so being ill means using up our small sick day allocation, then holiday once you run out, then going unpaid after that. This is not helpful for a person who already has a stress exacerbated chronic illness but that’s the way it is. I won’t say it’s what I signed up for, because how the sick leave is worked out is a mystery to me, but that is the way it is. C’est la vie.

Being home alone with a non verbal cat does give you time to think though. Probably too much , in my case, but that’s a habit I’m never likely to break. Something struck me today as I wallowed about at home, feeling quite pitiful and more than a bit Sad Sack about things, wailing into the void on Twitter whilst prone in bed.

One of my friends answered a LazyWeb question of mine, then another, and another, giving kind, caring advice to what is, essentially, just a name on a web page.

Far be it from me, a lowly mortal, to oppose the likes of Stephen Fry (darling, I adore you, but really…) but I have to say that Twitter is a valuable resource for many, many people.

It enables me to be, and keep, in touch with hundreds of people. I can get an answer in seconds if I ask a question. I can watch the antics of people on the other side of the world, share a joke with someone in my town, and headbang along to a livetweet session of Metallica at Glastonbury with people all across the country. (Yes, we did that. It was AMAZING)

I have been shown photos from decades past,

Moonshine

FT

seen weather fronts rolling in across the sea as people film it, watched many kittens chase many bits of string, and gazed at beautiful things that people have cooked, and shared.

Cake

I can ‘talk’ to beloved chefs, even have a story ‘read’ to me in real time by one of my favourite authors, whilst I sit in bed feeling sorry for myself. Seen the inside of buildings on the other side of the world that I’ll never visit, and wept along with thousands when Bowie died, all of us feeling the same thing, sharing that loss with one another as we filled the internet with as many images and songs and sounds as we could, trying to affirm that it wasn’t really true, but knowing it was, and holding each other close in the only way we had open to us.

TheHunger

It has opened up paths to me that I never thought I’d have, met people that I simply wouldn’t have come across in my every day life, and whom I now consider to be some of my closest friends.

The everyday things are there too. Train times, travel updates, finding out where not to go, and where to go. It was a source of huge information during the London riots, and also a great way for criminals to out themselves by Tweeting selfies with their ill gotten gains.

Twitter is what you make it. You can be as loud, and out there, and as outspoken as you want. Or you can spend a few days just reading, and watching.

Of course it has its downsides. Everything does.

As easy as it is to be a platform for greatness, it can also be a platform for the underbelly, the Below The Line commenters, the trolls and the quite frankly psychotic women haters out there. This is as it is in life. Every person you meet can be a hidden criminal, or a murderer, or an angel, or a saint, or anything in between those things. You can even be Donald Trump or Kanye West, though please, I’ll not Follow you, if that’s ok.

All you can do – the only thing open to us to do – is block and move along. Disable notifications, stop reading for a few days, breathe, breathe, breathe…and then come back and poke your head around the door again. (I am aware there are serious cases of harassment, that have had police involvement, this is not about those.)

Stephen, all you had to do was say “Oh darlings! We’re great chums, it’s an in-joke, we’re all fine. Sorry it came out wrong sweeties.” but you didn’t. You reacted in such a way as to more or less provoke the backlash, and then were surprised you got your botty spanked.

It was a botty spanking by thousands of people, admittedly, but then thousands of people hear your voice. I do hope you return, but if you don’t, then I hope you at least feel all the better for it.

I’m not giving up on Twitter just yet. (Though I admit, I pray they don’t go the Facebook route, because that has become wholly unusable.)

Camilla

I do feel sorry for Camilla Long and her ilk.

I realise this is a bit of an odd statement, given how she’s pretty much horrified and insulted Bowie fandom by telling us to ‘man up’ (I’m a woman, by the way Cam old girl, no ‘manning’ needed) and to not display our grief in public.

“I think grief should be private,” she argued. “This is to do with the utter insincerity of social media grief, the odd mimicry and circle-jerkery of it.”

Why should I feel sorry for her? Someone who finds it satisfying to publicly berate grieving people in their hour of sadness surely should not be the receiver of sympathy or softness in any way. But oh…what did we have? What DO we have that she doesn’t?

Those of us who lost an idol, a hero, a friend-in-imagination, maybe a lover in dreams, a sound, a heartbeat that ran through our lives and provided the background and the pulse, what did we have in those hours, and the following days?

We had like-minded others.

All across the world, disbelief and loss was shared, myriad candles went on like stars across the earthscape, music was played, albums were taken out of their precious sleeves and played to within an inch of their lives, films were watched and books read.

Commiserations with total strangers were exchanged, dances were had, tears and silent sobs acknowledged and greeted with mutual understanding.

ACROSS THE WORLD this happened.

The radio stations were filled, the airwaves echoing time after time after wonderful, heartbreaking, brain searing time with his beautiful voice and sharp as cut glass words, and then…and then…with our voices, our thoughts and feelings and our sadnesses mirrored across a whole damned planet.

In our loss, we had everyone else’s loss. We knew, we know, and will continued to know, for decades to come, where we were when Bowie died, what we were doing. We will meet another’s eyes, and we will know.

We will never lose that. She cannot take it away. No matter how much scorn she, and others,  pour on us, it doesn’t matter.

It absolutely doesn’t matter because we have Bowie.

Her words will fade, but his…

Yes, he’s gone, in as much as such a legend can be gone when the pulsing network of music and video and electronic communications across the entire planet is  full of him.

His music echoes across the emptiness of space. It went to the stars, and we went with him. His words, those notes that he searched for, the keys and the chords that speared his ferocious and intense interest and then brought us all along for the thrill of the ride.

A bitter hack who seems to be channelling Katie Hopkins, cannot ever take that vast, shared and literally universal experience away from us. After all, who got an entire new album as a legacy gift?

Look where he took us. Just look.