Monday, 1 March 2021
Thinking Out of the Book podcasts from 20th March at Cambridge University Changemakers. Five questions for those who like to think laterally.
Thursday, 4 February 2021
Saturday, 7 November 2020
My head is about to explode. I've managed to study at Cambridge University and although its not a normal year I am told, I am eating up every moment of it. Richmond is wonderful and beautiful in many ways, but so much like ice cream. Sweet but too much of it, it makes you sick, and gives you brain freeze. And I have never enjoyed living in stasis which is how many or perhaps most like to live. With a happy ever after and a The End. Life is not like that. Any Buddhist will tell you that. And so I found myself this week reading about poetry. I do not read about poetry. I write poetry, occasionally read poetry but do not read about poetry. Its a bit like reading recipe books. You are not making the food or eating the food, just reading about making the food and potentially eating the food.
And I've had to re read childrens books. And identify the first book that wowed me. None really did. I read a lot. Loads and loads of stuff I wasn't meant to read like interviews in Sunday magazines - like the Observer and Sunday Times, when celebrities were even more dishonest about themselves than they are now.
Any way. poetry and children's books. I identified the book that I read a lot as a child, and then re read it. And bang. Did it hit home. I wrote two poems. Here they are.
The Alice Dance
Monday, 2 November 2020
Traditionally the beginning of November is the time of World Travel Market which greets in tens of thousands in the tourism industry and media meeting their like at the cavenous echoing space that is Excel. I would always lose my voice by the end of the week, having shouted my way through interviews outside stands which always banged on with musical or cookery events next door. Losing voice not good for a radio journalist, sounding like across between Minnie Mouse and Eva Gabor, with brief interludes of silence.
Saturday, 26 September 2020
So there I was. Richmond station by the card shop. 2pm on first grey Saturday of 2020, on the first date since over a year ago. Which seems like a decade ago. Lee from Hove sounded nice on the phone. Long way to come but he said he didn't mind. I haven't got a clue what the etiquette is now. But friends told me to dress glamorous - outside Richmond station. So looking as much like my photo as I could, I wore matching face mask to pink jumper. Boots, skinny jeans, I looked OK. I had been teaching yoga all morning so very flexible and chilled. A part from the (cleverly) masked cold sore that always arrives a few days before any date, or meeting of any importance whatsoever.
I wasn't sure to be fair, as I had another offer to meet a friend around Liverpool Street, and he's great but no, I thought, take a leap of faith. You know, like Leonardo di Caprio's wife did in Inception, and see what would come of it.
Ten minutes in. Card shop empty, so walked in, reading through little books of.... you are amazing, of life's journey... how not to give a fuck...peered out again in search of anyone who looked remotely like Lee in the photo. Who looked like a sort of adonis. But with gingerish hair. Profile. Good nose.
Walked into the station. Man standing by another card shop (WH Smiths which is sort of card shop), asked. "Are you Lee?" He smiled. "No". He didn't look disgusted or relieved or annoyed when he looked into my eyes. All good signs.
Lee looked six something, (in height not years), athletic. Said he had dated someone from Bognor Regis the week before. Hmm. Should I be here. I looked around. Twenty something, sixty somethings, and lots and lots of drug dealers. Wearing dark glasses on a grey day in September. No one offered me drugs. I no longer know if this is a good sign or not. I have never ever been offered drugs, so I either look square, like a policewoman or like no fun whatsoever. I think that is probably not so good.
Twenty past. Walked outside again. Very old man with pony tail and loads of tattoos. Fuck. Is that you Lee? No. Another man. Ginger-ish hair. "Are you Lee?" "No," he said smiling again. I returned to the card shop. Wandered in again, and looked at the cards, congratulating mums to be and birthdays for cats, and saying all classy people get plastered on Prosecco. I looked at the girl serving. She smiled. I smiled under my mask.
Out again, walked to the bus stop opposite and was just about to ask someone, but thought no. Thankfully his boyfriend arrived the very next minute.
Half past. Looked at mobile and the battery had gone dead. Should I recharge and return home or stay around. Wander staring into the eyes of every ginger haired man I met. Perhaps he had dyed his hair since the photo, or had taken ill on the train, or got CoVID or had hitched up again with the girl from Bognor.
At forty past I thought bugger it, and left to find that Marks and Spencer in the station is now open. Bought myself some nuts which will probably make the cold sore worse, and walked home to write more and finish book.
Friday, 11 September 2020
Everyone is moving out of town to the potting sheds of England - Bath, Cirencester, Winchester, anywhere in the Cotswolds, in preparation for hibernation of potential enforced lockdown where they will be left with their home grown organic beetroot, kale, spinach, carrots, manging almost tout and selling the rest to the local organic shop they've set up to sell to the locals who are a few generations local ahead of them. Oh please let there be a riot in Bath! Jane Austen would so find that funny.
With them go the tea and coffee shops but the clever ones are staying put. The big chains may be suffering but its because they are too big. Too inflexible. And its the ones who stay baby porridge - just right - who will survive and thrive, using lockdown to dig deep into creativity - morphing into something that builds upon the concept of coffee making and tea making to change perception and capture a market that is desperate for a wake up cool and a tea-se in the afternoon.
The first is Curious Roo, a chain of five shops set up by Edwin and Magda, formerly corporate folk who met in Australia, holidayed in Uganda as one does, and first of all found a buzz in making honey and then moved to coffee. They opened their first shop in Putney, a coffee pot if ever there was one, and then burst into East Sheen - cyclists on route to and from the race course that is Richmond Park - to Stanford Park - commuters - yes there are still people commuting - to Ealing, where they have an academy which is showing the punters how to set up their now coffee shop and if they have what it takes - more than just pouring water and stirring - to make a bonified barista. I spent a day learning about the process and it takes passion and precision. You will need both and also need to realise you need the vision to count the smiles each day rather than the pennies. The pennies will come but you need to count the smiles first. The pennies will follow. A good cup of coffee people will return. A bad cup, they will make sure its their life's work no one else does.
Next to the tea shop. Tease is stone's throw from South Kensington tube, opened by Cosmo and his dad - mid March just in time for lockdown. He was smiling when I went in today, so didn't make a storming teacup from a global pandemic - and I liked what he'd done with it. Glass front; brass palm tree as tall as Posh Spice out front, velvet teal and gold bar stools and neon green signs saying tease me, touch me and yellow and white striped paper cups resembling popcorn containers rather than something to hold tea. He talked me through the teas, which are interesting, unusual with things I've heard of and others I haven't. Straight out of Made In Chelsea there's a touch of Annabelles about it - he used to serve cocktails there - but it will work and was buzzing when I visited. Well priced, not over priced and well thought out snacks for the market - who know their seaweed crisps from their chia and mate cookies.
Both companies have built upon the concept of coffee and tea making and made it better. What De Bono would call sur/petition.