Dark November Days – digging out from the doldrums?

Friday 30 November, 2018

Doldrums for the weather and for my blog. Hopefully, the photos will tell the story of what’s been happening during this mostly dreary month. With any luck my ennui won’t show!

Taken early in November. The bark is going and the leaves getting sparse
Taken early in November from my window. The bark is going and the leaves getting sparse
Street art in the back streets of Dalston - ethereal, magical
Street art in the back streets of Dalston – ethereal, magical
A catfish noodle salad box at Bánh Mì Hội-An, Hackney Central
A catfish noodle salad box at Bánh Mì Hội-An, Hackney Central – Passable, cheap, not really a salad!

Behind the counter at Bánh Mì Hội-An, Hackney Central
Behind the counter at Bánh Mì Hội-An, Hackney Central

Continue reading “Dark November Days – digging out from the doldrums?”

Suzy’s documentary – women in music, women in the world

Saturday, 17 November, 2018

This is a serious post! (I know!)

I’d never met my cousin Terry’s daughter, Suzy. We’ve chatted a few times on Facebook. I’ve seen she’s been in London (she lives in York) and also Toronto this year but she’s a quiet, private sort of person, and not really who you’d expect to be a musician – or a filmmaker for that matter. But she’s made a documentary film and it was showing as part of the Doc’n Roll Festival at the Genesis cinema.

So, which band is your boyfriend in? is a documentary exploring gender in the UK’s DIY and underground music scenes. That’s how it’s described. And after the documentary there’d be a Q&A with Suzy. I asked if she wanted to meet and, yes….and so we did. Suzy, her husband Simon, and me.

Waiting for the film to start
Waiting for the film to start

We had a nice chat, ate some awful Pieminster pie – mine was chicken and mushroom (mostly sauce and sliced mushroom). We talked about family and about how nervous she felt about the size of the audience and being interviewed afterwards. She described the film as ‘rough’ but fueled by her obsession with music. Obsessions are interesting but I’d call hers a passion. With her shy personality, it would have to be for her to get up on stage and perform – she plays trumpet, unusual for a female she said.

So the documentary. She’s interviewed maybe a dozen people who identify as female’ in music. Most are musicians, with a journalist, a sound engineer and a road manager in the mix. I think I have that right. The interviews are edited and spliced into segments, each telling the story of why and how these various women have chosen their craft and what it feels like to be non-male in a male-dominated industry.

A nervous, studious Suzy, with Simon, watching the film
A nervous, studious Suzy, with Simon, watching the film

I enjoyed it, some bits more than others. Surprisingly, it wasn’t just about prejudice and I was even more surprised to hear very little about harassment. I wondered if this was because the musicians didn’t talk about it or simply didn’t really experience it. Although Suzy mentioned it, the #metoo spectre wasn’t really present. If I can pin Suzy down, I’d like to ask her.

Another surprising, but not new, thing I noticed was how casual the women are. There’s no real dress up, as if they’ve arrived on the stage wearing whatever they usually wear or were wearing that day. Is this a generational thing, or is it more? Interesting since it takes away the sexual nature of the stage performer, often seen as the object of desire for audience members. So for this reason I would like to have known more about their attitudes and experiences around harassment.

Talking about my own experiences as a woman in this man’s world is something I reserve for all-female audiences or sympathetic mixed or male ones. I absolutely believe that women are seen as being less. Less valuable, less important, less powerful, less worthy of attention. And that, although we’ve come a long way, we have so much further to go. There are biological reasons for the prevailing attitudes . But it’s how those things are viewed and treated that make things so annoyingly difficult. It’s a case of women being told to fit into the male-oriented world and somehow not that we all need to fit together regardless of gender. We each have much to offer but we can’t do that if we’re seen to not fit the mould, and that mould is decidedly male.

Briefly about the #metoo movement. Me too! Way too many times. In the workplace, while dating, just by walking along, sitting in a room, by being. Most of us are products of our environment, and upbringing. In a rape prevention workshop, the leader told us that when he asked a room of women could they gouge a man’s eyeballs if he attacked, almost all of them said no. We’re taught to be ‘nice girls,’ desirable, sweet, and compliant. Saying no is not on the table. Sometimes saying yes or staying silent is really an unspoken no. How does this work? That’s the trick. But no is more than just what’s spoken, there’s body language, and other visual and physical clues that only a sensitive and caring person would pick up and act on. So, without talking specifically about my personal experiences – some horrific but many just disturbing – that’s how I feel. No debate.

So back to Suzy’s documentary. I enjoyed it a lot. These were strong people, passionate about what they were doing, honest and earnest in their interviews. Interesting people, some of whom I could happily sit and chat to for hours. Talented people. It didn’t feel rough – it felt real.

Q&A
Q&A – the confident Suzy, in her element (music!)

And her Q&A was good, nothing to have been scared about. She did amazingly well, sounded expert and confident, only becoming timid and worried after it was all over. She sounded and looked like family.

© Suzy Harrison

I thought that maybe we could do this precisely because we’re all unreasonable people and progress depends on our changing the world to fit us. Not the other way around. I want to believe that. I must believe that.

— Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace), Halt and Catch Fire, Season 1: FUD

Bethnal Green and a new mural

Friday, 16 November, 2018

I seem to be having loads of Torino hints in front of me. That’s so odd.

Chocolate in the kosher shop, Clapton
Chocolate in the kosher shop, Clapton
Great range of Lavazza coffee in Sainsbury's, Dalston
Great range of Lavazza coffee in Sainsbury’s, Dalston
On Bethnal Green Road
On Bethnal Green Road
Shrine, so Italian, on April Street, Hackney
Shrine, so Italian, on April Street, Hackney

If I were superstitious…

I had bloodwork on Thursday morning. Once upon a time they told us the old doctor’s office would be renovated or built over with a new office but this never happened. The offices are in such a drab old building and the interior isn’t all that much different, but there’s a lot of new technology. Maybe one day they’ll rebuild it. Meanwhile, the phlebotomist is the nice one, and not the mean one, so that’s a very good thing!

Somerford Grove General Practice
Somerford Grove General Practice

Opposite the doctors is an imposing 30s style buildingOpposite the doctors is an imposing 30s style building[/caption>

My plan after that was to go to a pop up bakery, check out a new mural I’d seen on Instagram, and then meet Krish for lunch.
Continue reading “Bethnal Green and a new mural”

Torino to London – Back to the Hack!*

Monday, 5 December, 2018

Things went really smoothly for leaving Turin. The cab showed up exactly as we got downstairs with our luggage, the train came on time, and our seats were great! This time first class felt a lot more like first class. Don’t know what happened the last time.

Porta Susa - waiting for the platform announcement
Porta Susa – waiting for the platform announcement
From the platform, Porta Susa
From the platform, Porta Susa
Half a sandwich and a chocolate on the train. The menu had a lot but I ordered only a sparkling water
Half a sandwich and a chocolate on the train. The menu had a lot but I ordered only a sparkling water

Anyway, the seats were comfy and we had our first forward facing seats of all our bookings (all requested that way but none except this delivered) Toilet is still disgusting. I think they must use a septic tank method. Not sure. Even the plugs were accessible and working. I watched two movies and then my battery died. Both fluffy and forgettable.

Oh and the scenery was gorgeous. Low and higher mountains (the Alps) usually draped with clouds at several levels, and snow covered (see the videos at the bottom). None of my photos do it justice, with the reflecting train lights etc. I thought, as I sat on that train, if I couldn’t have a sea or river view, I’d choose mountains.

I loved how the clouds floated across the mountains like they were draped
I loved how the clouds floated across the mountains like they were draped
Not much water but this big lake
Not much water but this big lake
And the scenery kept delivering
And the scenery kept delivering

Paris was another story. Arrival was on time and it was looking good until we tried to get down to the RER level so that we could get to Gare du Nord. The down escalator was broken. I suppose they opted to keep the only working one as the up, and I get that but when you have two heavy suitcases and a carry on, even down is a real challenge.

First I, then Krish, tried to find an elevator – no luck. It was a long way down with a landing in the middle. No choice but for Krish to bring each large case down in turn, me carrying the not-so-light carry on plus my CPAP and bags. Once down there we then had to get into the metro for the RER and again, there was no working escalator and no elevator anywhere. This time Krish had to bring each case down three levels. How the very elderly or disabled would manage it I have no idea. Never anyone around to ask questions of either. This seems common all over Italy and France, no station staff…

On the Paris RER - Krish waited with the cases on the platform level car
On the Paris RER – Krish (off camera) waited with the cases on the platform level car

After that, all went well. Krish and I took turns popping out of the station to look around. I didn’t go far. I thought about crossing the road and venturing further but the traffic was terrifying and the area around the station isn’t inviting.  Instead I found a Five Guys and got some Cajun fries – 3.50 for a small one. It was nice to have something hot and spicy after two months of under-seasoned food. We also had a messy but satisfying cherry clafouti for our evening Eurostar snack.

Paris, Gare du Nord
Paris, Gare du Nord
Outside the station, a familiar view by now
Outside the station, a familiar view by now
Rainy and dark in Paris too
Rainy and dark in Paris too
Cajun fries at Five Boys
Cajun fries at Five Boys
Two tiny children had fun rolling their family suitcase along at the Eurostar waiting area
Two small children had fun rolling their family suitcase along at the Eurostar waiting area

Paris still wins no prizes with me. They cleaned the station up but the streets around it still smelled like a toilet. So we waited for the Eurostar train and then had a swift journey towards London in the dark.

At St Pancras I ordered a mini cab and we had another swift and pleasant ride to Hackney.

Always weird to come home after being away, staying in somewhat more luxurious places. Still, it looked tidy and familiar – bigger than I remembered – and very cold! On with the heat, cup of tea and some soup and sausage rolls (that I picked up at M&S at the station) and eventually to bed.

Sunday we unpacked. Everything is out of the cases but the bits and pieces aren’t all put away yet. That will take some Krish Tetris skill since the cupboard looks quite full already and a food order on its way this morning from Ocado. We had booked to go for Sunday roast but Krish asked if we could put it off. Instead I got a little steak pie (for one but split between us) and some cole slaw for lunch and we got some Indian food that was dinner and then lunch yesterday.

Some reflections are in order. I love Hackney. Krish says he misses the view of Superga and the Alps (when we could see them) and the market and the people. And, of course, I do too really. But then there are so many things that are good about here. The light is different, and the weather, the people, the transport, the language, the attitudes, the food, the architecture… but I sense a lot of freedom and opportunity. And I suppose that’s what brings the Italians to countries like this anyway. Italy again next year? Who knows but for now, this picture says it.

* Krish said I should coin this. I’m sure someone already has!

The rest

Saturday, 3 November, 2018

The last week in Torino the rains started and it was hard to find a day when it felt OK to be out. It rains in London, of course, but it’s a manageable rain – with few exceptions. In Turin the rain is incessant and heavy, with only short breaks.  We did wander, when we weren’t indoors keeping dry and slowly filling cases.

The streets of central Torino – Centro – can be grand but in between these wide boulevards are the quiet narrow streets.  Imagine this in central London – even in the back streets and alleys!

I’m also fascinated by the inner courtyards. Just off via Garibaldi there’s a courtyard that leads into other courtyards, each with its own shops and apartments and little cafes. It was raining this day and things were very quiet. It’s like a hidden oasis from the mad shoppers, who are never stopped by rain.

The Piazza San Carlo is a very grand square. Krish was amused by the statue since his favourite crisps are the San Carlo brand. He said that every time he saw the statue he needed to thank the man (is it even San Carlo?) for this taste treat. The square is used a lot for events. In this case they are getting ready for the Chocolate Festival that was taking place the week after we left. Bad timing!

The annual festival of artists’ lights was starting to take shape. We saw a few as we left. This one had projections of lacy patterns over the paving stones. It looked so pretty. In fact, Piazza Carignano is the prettiest square in Centro. If I return, I want to explore it better.


Continue reading “The rest”