Not in London Anymore, Toto

After 12 years and 26 days of living the London life, I took a deep breath and moved outside the M25.


The commute is longer, but though I loved living in East Dulwich for the last 5 years, this feels better. The sky is bigger, the grass is greener (and there's a lot more of it, almost everywhere I look) and we're weeks away from having a home to call our own.

We're beginning to put down roots and I can feel my wings beginning to uncurl.

There In Spirit

Chairs in the Sunlight at Casino el Camino, Austin, Texas In March 2000 I finally got around to setting up a blog on Blogger and made my first couple of tentative posts. The next day, the entire blog community (or so it seemed) upped and left for Austin, Texas to attend SXSW 2000, and so began a multi-year cycle of envy and avid blog watching, wishing I could be there.

I made it there, finally, in 2007 and without exaggeration, it changed my life. My time there passed in a blur of learning and laughter. Something shifted in me that week and I didn't-couldn't-process at the time just exactly how much. I'm still not sure I can. I basked in the warmth of friends old and new and tried not to make too much of an arse of myself in front of people whose work I'd admired for many years.

From the woman who sat down next to me and started chatting when I grabbed a sandwich in the airport just as I arrived, to breakfast burritos and diet coke, to the yarn shop ladies who offered to take me to the airport if my friends couldn't because of family issues I was overwhelmed with the friendliness and positive of absolutely everyone I met.

I remember amazing salsas with handmade tortilla chips, pizzas the size of the moon and margaritas the size of my head. Chicken-fried Steak eaten outside in the balmy night air at the down-home restaurant with gingham tablecloths, trailers as restrooms and Sweet Home Alabama playing as we arrived. Chilli-fries that blew my mind (and cleared my sinuses) eaten while hiding in the patchy shade from the midday sun. The amazing steak I almost couldn't eat because I thought I might choke or spit it out because I was laughing so much.

I remember staggering back to my room every night, exhausted and overstimulated and almost too excited to sleep. Feeling like I was missing out because of my wimpish need to sleep. I remember having to obtain an additional suitcase to stow all the yarn related stuff I'd bought while there (and the comedy of the juxtaposition of said accoutrements and a US Army issue foam grenade in my suitcase).

When I read a tweet about breakfast on the balcony of the Hampton or frozen margaritas at the Iron Cactus, I'm there. If I close my eyes I can feel the warmth of the sun on my skin and hear the babble of conversation around me.

Eleven years after first following the yearly pilgrimage to SXSW, I'm yet again at home, wishing I was there. This year though, it's for a great reason. I'm pregnant, and pregnancy nausea is absolutely kicking my arse. Much as the part of my soul I left in Austin in 2007 is calling to me, I know it's better to be here at home, resting, putting all my energies into my growing child (and not throwing up).

So this year again, I watch and live SXSW vicariously through the tweets of others, there in spirit if not in body, but this year, I wouldn't have it any other way.


It's oh so quiet. Shh.


It's oh… so still…

The mud-coloured sea rolls ever inward.

Above the treeline the gulls swoop and wheel, dancing on the wind.

In the mist beyond the tree, a P&O Ferry appears, moving inexorably toward harbour.

It's cold here. The chill's cold fingers sneak between and beneath the layers intended to keep them at bay. I contemplate yet another trip up the stairs for yet another woolly item.

Instead, my eyes dart around, alighting on details like a hummingbird on an exotic flower.

Pause for a second.

Drink their nectar, then gone. On to the next thing.

The bright white of the kinked cable against the wood of the floor.

The rain-soaked picnic table and the tree reflected in its wetness.

The fake hydrangeas in their Delft-blue pots on the windowsill.

A discarded book, open on the rug.

The neon green and purple of my slippers, almost offensive against a landscape of muted neutrals.

The devil is in the details, they say.

There's something about being near water that makes me want to wax lyrical.

Travel too, especialy by train. There's a feeling of being apart from the world. In a kind of limbo - neither here nor there - that offers a freedom from the daily rhythmn of life. For a time, I march to a different beat.

The sound of the sea washes over me, and I am calm.

The words flow through my fingers and onto the page. I need them to. I want them to. They've been stuck in my head too long. Trapped there by a lack of time and space.

Life is busy. Sometimes too busy. Hours roll into days. Days roll into weeks. Weeks give way to weekends. A social life has appeared - fully-fledged - from nowhere obvious and is packed with occasions and/or obligations.

For the most part, I don't mind. It's nice to have things to do. People to see. To feel like a weekend has been had. But time alone is in short supply and I need it to recharge my batteries.

Not that I'm alone here. But with this company, this band of literary brothers and sisters, comes with the space to be in my alone in my head.

I came to write, and I do.


In 2011, I will:

  • Get more sleep.
  • Find better work/life balance.
  • Do more exercise.
  • Make better choices about food.
  • Listen more.
  • Talk less.
  • Do more "one minute" chores immediately.
  • Learn new things.
  • Be less critical.
  • Be more supportive.
  • Create more.
  • Fail more.
  • Worry less.
  • Enjoy myself, because life is too short not to.


Ten years ago I sat at a computer, signed up for blogger, typed some stuff and hit the publish button. Tonight I'm typing this on an iPhone from bed before dropping off to sleep.

Ten years ago I lived in Scotland and couldn't walk the length of myself.

Tonight I live in London and I'm fitter and healthier than I've been in years.

Ten years ago I was (probably) going to wind up a crazy old spinster lady with lots of cats.

Tonight I'm engaged to be married and have no cats.

Life moves on. People change. The world turns.

It comforts me to know that whatever happens in my life, there's a text box I can fill (or not) with my thoughts on it. Whether anyone wants to read them or not.

Ain't technology grand?

Sleepless in Singapore

View from the 11th floor at 5am It's 5.19am local time and I should be asleep.

I've got a long day ahead of me and I need to be at my best.

However, my brain thinks it's 9.19pm yesterday and owing to my natural night-owl tendencies, isn't remotely tired yet.

It's not that the bed (one of two) isn't comfortable, because it is.

It's not that the room isn't quiet, because it is. I've heard barely any noise since stepping through the door, and the only noises I've heard have been people coming to my room to assist me: the lady who showed me to my room, the bellhop who brought up my suitcase, Butler #1 (I kid you not, this place has Butlers) who came to show me how to use all the features of the room and Butler #2 who brought me hot chocolate at 2am.

It's not that I haven't tried to get to sleep, because I have. I tried avoiding food when I got here, in case it woke me up. I tried having a hot bath. I tried lying down in the dark and closing my eyes. I tried not getting stressed about not being able to sleep. I tried phoning TFH because I miss him and feel very far away. I tried reading. I tried knitting. I tried phoning the lovely Butler people and asking for a hot chocolate. I tried eating something (because I was hungry and my stomach told me it was dinner time). I even tried doing some work.

Nothing has worked.

It's not that I'm hugely excited to see Singapore in the morning, because I doubt I'll see much of it between here and the office where I'll be spending two days working.

It's not that this room doesn't provide the perfect conditions to relax and rest (because it really, really does).

St Regis Singapore, Room Panorama

I wondered, when I found out I was coming here, whether I'd wind up in a kind of Lost in Translation-esque combination of jetlag and culture-shock, and it seems I was half right. So far, I haven't felt much culture-shock at all. Most of the signage is in English, as was the radio station playing in the taxi from the airport and most of the TV stations I've flicked through on the telly. Even the plug sockets are the same as back home.

The only real sense of culture-shock I'm experiencing is the luxury of my surroundings and the myriad of nice touches which are combining to make the experience of being here something special.

For example: there's a panel of light switches by the door, with pre-set lighting levels for the bathroom and foyer (I can't think of a better way to describe it) of the room, and one of the settings is "Welcome".

Hallway/Bathroom Lights

There's a pillow menu with fifteen kinds of pillow that you can request.

The tea menu has ten different kinds of speciality tea in addition to freshly brewed filter coffee, espresso, latte, cappuccino and hot chocolate, available with whole or low fat milk.

In addition to two leather bound notepad and pen sets, there's a stationery drawer, which contains writing paper, a pencil, a stapler and staples, a teeny post-it pad, eraser and sellotape dispenser.

In the bathroom, the toiletries are luxurious, and the amenities provided are way beyond those offered in any hotel I've ever been in (toothbrush and toothpaste, dental floss, shower cap, nail file, q-tips, cleansing pads, tissues as well as soap and lotion) and that's not even getting into the joy that is the deep, free-standing tub and wall-integrated television. That said, I am a little freaked out by the telephone mounted on the wall next to the toilet pan.

It's lovely, and I can't think of any need I have that hasn't been catered for.

I could really get used to this, but I really hope that I never get jaded by it.

Going to Singapore

Somewhat unexpectedly, I find myself going to Singapore for a business trip this week. I had no expectations of a lot of (or any) business travel for the near future, so it caught me by surprise when it was mooted, and I refused to believe that it was happening until it was confirmed.

I don't know much about Singapore, other than lots of people saying that it's pretty sterile and not as much fun as Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bangkok or Tokyo so it never really touched the top ten of my list of "Places I Want To Visit", at least until it got a spot on the Formula 1 calendar and decided to make it a night race.

Then it got my attention. Because, really, how impressive is this:

Singapore F1 Track at night from's Big Picture

(as an aside, if you're not regularly looking at The Big Picture, you're definitely missing out)

Unfortunately, I'm only going to be in Singapore for about 54 hours, so I won't get much time to explore, and the Grand Prix Calendar is done for this year, but I'm looking forward to the new experience (even if I suspect it'll be more than a little Lost In Translation-esque due to jetlag and general tiredness).

So here's to new experiences, opportunities and challenges… and to laughing in the face of jetlag.

Making up for lost time

I decided, somewhat at the last minute, to try and blog every day in November. Then I got an amazing job which took over my brain before I even knew I definitely had it, and so posting every day became not so much difficult, but less of a priority amongst the hustle and bustle of getting back to the discipline of the daily commute.

I still want to get back to posting here more regularly. I've really missed blogging properly (as opposed to the micro or nano blogging I do on twitter), so I've back-filled a wee bit with some of the photos which have been piling up on my hard disk.

It's been a funny old year, this one, and there is too much that's gone unsaid. There's a fair amount which will have to remain unsaid, and — for reasons of client confidentiality — go unsaid in future, but I'm hoping that I can write (and post photographs) more and more frequently in future. I've got out of the habit of writing regularly and that's something I'd like to remedy.

So forgive me if things go in fits and starts a little bit around here in the coming days, weeks and months. There's a lot (been) going on and I'm trying to make up for lost time.