Saturday, 31 December 2011


Seeing as everyone else is waxing wise about things they learned this year, I thought I'd pass on what I have learned:

1.  You are never too old.  Well maybe to become an Olympic gymnast but most other things you can wing it.  Stand up straight, tits out, and jump.

2.  If you move furniture you will always find a dead mouse.  And 26p in mixed coinage.

3.  You can always find a good home for a pretty cat.

4.  If you hurt your back, everyone will tell you to roll on a tennis ball.

5.  Take every opportunity to get your clothes off.  One day they'll stop asking so get 'em off while you can.

6.  Everyone, at least once in their life, should walk out on everything. 

Friday, 30 December 2011

Passing Time

Yesterday I got a bus from Richmond to Putney.  Yes, I'm a seasoned traveller.  It wasn't till I was on the bus that I realised it was a sort of This Is Your Life tour of my past.  I worked in Richmond on three separate occasions over the course of ten years.

And there was the Waitrose in East Sheen we used to go to when I was a child, and where we saw Roy Kinnear in the car park.  There was Sheen Lane where my doctor's surgery was, twenty five years ago.  My dad said it was on the site of an old gypsy camp and that Sheen Lane used to be dead rough.  There was the dodgy car dealers who sold me my first car with a broken gearbox - still in business!  There was Priests' Bridge where my parents almost lived before they inherited the Saville Road house.  There was the Lennox Estate, my first flat up on the sixth floor where my daughter and I lived for three years.  During the hurricane of 1987 a large bit of tree smashed my sitting room window and didn't even wake us.

It wasn't sad, it just felt like a quiet ritual.  Today I went to my doctor for migraine medication enough to tide me over till I figure out the Belgian system.  He said "See you in 20 years then."  Oh, I enquired, will you still be here?  "Not fucking likely", he replied and I laughed so hard I had a coughing fit.

I have taped up the cat flap to stop Bobbie disappearing.  He needs to be here when his new family come to pick him up.  For tea I am having instant mashed potato with dairylea and green olives bought in Waitrose.  I might miss Waitrose. 


Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Santander Guide to Customer Service

1.  It is of paramount importance that when Mrs Customer walks in, you have someone on the front desk who is both vastly inexperienced and texting her mates under the desk.  This gives a good first impression.

2.  If Mrs Customer has some quite specific questions, the Vastly Inexperienced person should keep popping back to confer with a colleague, and then return to the desk to repeat the last sentence of what her colleague said.  Ensure that Mrs Customer can actually see the colleague, and overhear most of the conversation, but not talk to that colleague, because he is busy.

3.  Vastly Inexperienced person should ideally have no clue what she is repeating to you, and should receive further questions in the manner of a frightened stuffed toy.

4. At no point should it be suggested that Mrs Customer might make an appointment.  If in doubt, just say "come back tomorrow" or "go and talk to someone at the counter", even if they don't do international transfers at the counter.

5.  Only if Mrs Customer is looking like really digging her fucking heels in, make her an appointment for later in the afternoon.  But don't give in too easily or they will all want an appointment and you know where that will lead.

And that, friends, sums up just about every visit to my bank in the last couple of years for anything more complicated than straight dosh.  Oh Santander, how I will miss you.

Station to Station

I've never been a gypsy, a rover, someone with itchy feet, or any other of those vaguely romantic things.  But this is my last few days in the city in which I was born and in which I have always lived.  And I'm ready - in spirit if not in boxes.

Also tired, post-viral, post-Eurostar.  I thank whatever small gods that have dominion over Paris-Nord that I won't have to exit via that terminal again.  If something works, why not change it?  It used to be possible to drift into check-in, drift through security, drift into the departure lounge.  They have now instituted a queuing system which starts in the main concourse of Paris-Nord, stretching right across the main doors of the station.  Passengers are allowed up the escalator in small bites.  To join another queue in front of locked doors.  I looked somewhat longingly down at the "normal" Thalys train to Brux.

Check-in was like a milling crowd of sheep at an abattoir.  And thence to another queue, and another, and another.  Soon, people were panic-queuing and there was a long line to board the train in the lounge.  So early was the line that boarding was never even announced, we just went.

A strange kind of passenger seemed to be on board - the sort that would move one's suitcase, not just to another shelf, but about 10 feet away.  I wasn't best pleased when I couldn't find it.  The panic-queuing formed again in the train aisle after Ebbsfleet.  I looked out the window at Rainham as if to disassociate myself.  My aloofness was rather spoiled by the racking cough.

I am having a breakfast picnic of olive bread and hummus.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Generally Stricken

Then it all went a bit downhill.  A general strike in Brussels meant that I could not get to Brussels from Paris as planned on 22 December.  I had meetings set up all over the place that needed rapid cancellation/rescheduling.  Fortunately, I was just outside the minimum cancellation period for the hotel so wasn't charged for that.

Never mind.  I made it safely to the Paris train.  And then got ill.  I never get ill.  It is full-blown tubercular coughing disease fever and has lasted over the entire festive period.  A cocktail of nurofen and Cremant de Borgogne or Bailey's has helped me through.  The coughing is of the variety designed to empty one's body of spare organs.  I think my spleen is still attached. 

I'm not sure if it's the fever or the drink but last night I dreamed that Beyoncé gave birth to an elephant.  Only it wasn't actually her - she had a surrogate elephant birthgiver.  All very suspicious.

We have been playing a lot of games when I haven't been too feverish - and the phrase of the week has been "If you get this right, I'll show my tits to your neighbours".  My daughter has a large window, you see, overlooking many flats.  So far I have not had to do it.  They have witnessed me dancing like Tom Jones though, so nothing will probably surprise them.

Now, is it too early for fizzy booze?

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


It is easy to see patterns where patterns do not exist, if one is in that frame of mind.  Having failed to prove my identity this morning, I thought I would go and spend the nicely hoarded £40 I had on my Nectar card, buying goodies to take to Paris.  I checked my balance last night online.

The girl on Sainsbury's checkout said in a pale but decisive voice "Your card is invalid".  No amount of explaining that there was £40 on it penetrated this.  "Your card is invalid.  Talk to Nectar."

At the moment I am permanently on the edge of a wobble.  And I have to remind myself it isn't the fault of the person reading from a screen in front of me that this is beginning to feel like the opening chapters of The Handmaid's Tale.

I'm wondering if a memo has gone out and I have actually been cancelled.

There was almost a very unladylike tantrum, and then some hand-waving and sulking.  "Throw it away, go on, throw it away!  I'm leaving the country and don't have time..."  Ah, where's my BAFTA.

Identity; proof of being you - it's a strange thing.  I have in the past week or two stripped myself of everything that signifies security to me, and defines where and who I am.  So what is left is irrationally precious, I suppose. 

Today has officially been a pile of cunt. 

And you can't really find a worksafe picture of that.

I Am Who I Am

Last night, I finally opened the folder with the title "The Plan".  Amazingly, I've done most of the things in it.  Also, most of the things in my pink-paged filofax and on odd scraps of paper.  I'm not sure how this happened.  A sort of efficiency borne of complete chaos.

And then I tried to redirect my mail, online.  It seemed quite straightforward until it said my payment was unsuccessful.  Twice.  My bank has been known to freeze my card on a whim so I called them.  No, everything was fine and they had authorised payment to Royal Mail.

This morning I speak to what is amusingly called Royal Mail Customer Services and am told that I failed an identity check.  A what, now?  At no point did the online form ask for anything that could be verified - like my passport number, my NI number, my driving licence number.  No.  They used Experian for checking identity.  And clearly I'm not me.

I managed to contain my rage just enough that I did not blister the poor girl with acres of swearing.  Which meant that I just went very English and said "THIS IS RIDICULOUS" a lot and demanded to lodge a complaint.  "Over 50% of online applications are successful", she reassured me.  I advised that this was not much comfort when I was being treated like a criminal.

There is nothing more likely to bring out shrill indignance than having one's identity questioned.  I would not have minded if the process had been a little more sensible and transparent - but the online system told me payment had failed and it had not.  Clearly this is code for "You lying little shit, you're not Jane Capon."

Well I am.  You twatfaced sons of horsemongers.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Carry on Camping

My house smells like a swimming pool.  I still find that smell exciting in a Pavlovian way - it reminds me of pushing through the slow-clanking turnstiles at Chiswick Outdoor Pools.  Those pools were rank - there were always dead wasps and fag-butts floating in them.  They chalked up the temperature of the water near the entrance but it was always bollock-numbingly cold.  Not that I had bollocks, of course, being a girl.  Capons never do, you know.

Oh, yes, it smells of bleach in here because I've been giving the fridge a makeover.  I believe other people just call it "cleaning".  I have made a temporary fridge by hoisting a plastic bag on a nail in the wall outside.  Foxes won't be able to get up there.  Squirrels might, but they are a bit put off by the foxes.

I am making by dinner by steeping rice in boiling water till it's cooked and then mixing it with stuff.  Later I will be whittling sex toys from pieces of abandoned garden furniture.  OK, that bit isn't true.

It's rather like camping, this.  Except indoors.  And I'm going to Paris in two days so the novelty won't have time to wear off before then.  I'm still somewhat confused as to why I had five unopened bags of Aunt Bessie's Bubble and Squeak in the freezer.

Cooker Man Oh Where Can You Be

Cooker Man arrives half an hour before the scheduled "morning call between 9 and 12" and I'm still in bed. 

Hauling on some clothes, I run to open the door and find next-door's mute builders pointing down the street.  So I hallooo and hallooooo until Cooker Man comes back.  He's wearing so much freshly-applied cologne I start coughing.

Still it's done now.  I am without fire.  Picnics all the way from now.  I broke out the Argos Value Range kettle and you know what?  This tea doesn't taste right.  New kettle, bah.  It needs to build up a bit more limescale.  I like my tea with some bite.

A confession:  I cannot yet bring myself to switch off the fridge.  I love a really cold chocolate Hobnob.  I like my milk uncurdled.  Call me old-fashioned but I like cold juice.  I could just leave it all outside the back door I suppose.  Woe betide any fox who nibbles my Hobnobs.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

There Aren't Enough Lifeboats By Half!

Sorry, just having a Titanic moment.

We are reaching that point where it all starts to look serious now.  I, on the other hand, will continue to point and laugh, because that's what I do.  Tonight I'm going to cook the last of the broccoli and then switch the fridge off.  What I really need for the defrost is some of those big sand-filled tampons you get in leaky tube stations.  I may have to improvise with Lil-lets.  The fridge is going on freecycle but - to be honest - it isn't very attractive.  I accidentally didn't buy a white one and it's sort of boring grey.  I may have to market it as "would be good as a second fridge in the garage for all your loads of booze".  It certainly isn't presentable enough for a kitchen.  Poor ugly fridge.  Its only feature is ice-cube trays.

My room is looking less like a jumble sale now.  More like some very nosy and picky burglars have been in.

I'm actually starting to get a bit excited.  It's peering out from under the mute horror and controlled panic.  Tonight I'm going to roll up the big rug in the front room.  Oh yes.

Five Things I Have Thrown Out Today

1.  My yoga mat.  I mean, yoga - come on.  What was I thinking?  I spent my last class feeling sick and on the verge of tears.  This body was not designed to be upside down.

2. Red silk parasol.  Oh it was a lovely idea.  But -

                      a) I would look a tosser, and
                      b) I don't even go out when it's sunny

3.  All but the least skanky pillow.  Pillows are foul.  I'm sure you can hear things in them.

4. That old blanket with a hole in it.  I'm sure it had some sentimental value but I'm buggered if I can remember what it is.

4. Cuprinol woodstain for the outdoor furniture.  Yeah, that was never going to happen was it?

5. Various half-used tins of paint.  Don't tell the council.  Rubbish collection day may resemble a Jackson Pollock when they sling the bag in the truck.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Pizza My Heart

So, Nelson Mandela's head.  It's where S and K and I always meet.  Unless we are going to Borough Market to spend inflated amounts on fancy bread and cheese and sloe gin.  We linked arms and walked three abreast singing and laughing.  Really annoying, I should imagine, but who cares.  Went to Pizza Express, where I pointed out the pretty Terence Trent D'Arby-on-steroids waiter.  Then K wanted to buy Christmas lights made out of leaf skeletons.

After this she drew S and I to the river's edge, for a moment.  To have a moment.  I said it was fucking cold.  K asked if anyone was going to say something profound.  I said it was a bit Richard Curtis, told them I loved them, and then we all concluded it was fucking cold and went to the bar. 

Unfortunately, our favourite bar was full of goddamn people all over our sofas drinking our drinks.  So we went somewhere S said was a bit musty and we would definitely get a seat.  It had a marvellous view of the 77 bus in repose.

Oh I forgot the bit where they bought me loads of fudge.  And then we did not say goodbye to each other because that just wouldn't be right.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Tempus Fuckit

Although in theory there are still almost three weeks to go, one of those is going to be in Paris.  I have 11 actual days left in the UK, of which five are working days.  I have five days to get everything done.  A part of me is distantly panicking and screaming rather like a Munch painting in another room.  The rest of me has her feet up with a cup of tea. And as the furniture departs, so my methods of living become more improvised. 

My feet are actually up on the pc tower, with the keyboad on my lap.  The monitor is balanced on a chair, and my knee is a rather effective mouse-mat.  The rest of the room looks like a vomited jumble-sale. But in my personal space, order remains.

Except it's anything but ordered.  I am passing from hug to hug.  The small lake of bodily fluid in my head still hasn't broken but it will soon.  Today I nearly wept in the Hard Rock Café.  Mind you, that could have been the booze.  I went to Wimbledon to meet the girls and was given a glass of Hungarian spirits on arrival.  I don't know what it was but I think it doubles as descaler.  This was chased down with a glass of wine, so by 1pm I was what is known as arseholed.  We were not supposed to go to the Hard Rock Café but it's a long story involving a power surge.

Tomorrow it's S and K by Nelson Mandela's head on the South Bank and I fear the seal will be broken. I have 12 handypacks of Kleenex.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Three Weeks

As we approach the day of departure, I have been practising my sobbing.

I seem to be experiencing all manner of emotion.  Concentrated by that departure date,  my laughter is bigger, my tears snottier, my mawkishness mawking like a fucking Saturday afternoon weepy on BBC2.  Christ I'm going.  At the risk of sounding incredibly pretentious, it feels like birth and like death.  Where I'm going I can only go alone, and I leave behind everything I have ever known.  Oh, how fucking twatty that sounds.

Tomorrow I am really having my leaving do at work.  There will be hectares of snot.  And then I'm seeing my good friend L for cocktails and food and probably further snot.

If Europe ever lacked a snot lake I could probably provide one in the next few weeks.

I know it's a beginning.  But right now it feels like the end of everything.  I'll be really pissed off if the world does end in 2012.  All that moving and expense for nothing.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Elephant in the Room

Nothing compares to the Elephant and Castle.  Really, nothing.  My last few days of tenure I am spending in the icy built-canyons of the Elephant, doing very little.  We seemed to be the repository for random phone enquiries today.  No, I don't know when next summer's graduation is.  No, I don't know if the library is open.  No, I don't know when the information office is open.  What, do I look like Google?

Still it's been quite cosy.  If it weren't for the phone occasionally ringing I might have caught a nap behind our twinkly fairy lights.

Lunchtime I avoided the 99p shop because frankly I have enough shit and I just know I'd buy more.  I got a £2 pair of gloves off the market for which my cold knuckles were very grateful.  Some people find the E&C market a bit scary but I think I must be very common at heart because I like it.  I am not so keen on the shopping centre because it smells of fried chicken and I'm not that common.

When did it become the fashion to have fruit and veg displayed in identical plastic bowls?  This trend seems to have spread across all London - they even do it outside my Post Office.  Maybe there is a special bit in Greengrocer Weekly where you can buy these bowls in bulk.  Do you get the bowl with the fruit?  I've never worked it out. 

I'd quite like a new bowl.  Mine is an orange one from Chrisp Street Market that my Aunt Lil bought my mum about 40 years ago.  I suppose it's an heirloom now.

And all this talk is to distract from the fact that I have two days left.  Thursday will end in tears.  It could get very messy.  And then, like some overblown school-leaver, that's it.  I'm set free on the world - but it's not a world I know.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Bobbie-Big-Bollocks Goes North

Thanks to my lovely niece S (does everyone I know have a name that starts with S?) Bobbie now has a new home in trendy Islington.  I expect this means he will be dining out nightly on Filet de Souris at the hottest new eateries in Upper Street.

He hasn't missed his sister one bit, which makes me feel less guilty about casting them to opposite sides of London.  Cats are quite simple, at heart.  As long as he's got his Felix pouches and a nice bed to sleep on Bobbie is fine. His new mum and dad sound absolutely lovely and I'm sure he will be very happy.

The goodbyes in earnest have begun.  Today I handed in my notice on my flat and on my job.  That's some goodbye.  And I did that thing of standing staring at colleagues I won't see again before giving them an awkward but sincerely-felt hug.  No tears yet; not yet.

Saturday, 10 December 2011


My daughter is here from Paris, so the computer has been commandeered mainly for the purpose of watching DVDs and old stuff on 4OD.  At the moment she is snugly asleep while I wait for the overpriced gas-un-fitter to come and dislocate the gas cooker.

I'm going to have to buy an Argos Value Range electric kettle today so that I can do fake cooking over the next three weeks or have a nice cup of tea at least.

The good news is that after a bottle of wine we got the enormo-sofa out the front room window on Thursday night, with much giggling. 

We are readying Betty the cat for her departure although she does not know this.  It feels like a sad story out of Bunty for Girls.  Last night the two of us held her and tried to worm her.  She did fake swallowing and everything and then gobbed the pill out before running away.  At this rate she'll be delighted to go to Nunhead.  Oh well, she'll have to go with any worms intact.  Not that I think she has worms.  It just seemed polite to eliminate the possibility.

Bobbie doesn't know he's going either and, to be honest, neither do I.  He doesn't have a home yet.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Winter Drawers

Things discovered in my drawers at Wimbledon:
  • a drum of low-salt bouillon that went out of date in 2006
  • several extremely ancient oatcakes that probably don't taste much different despite their antiquity
  • a counterpart driving licence which was handed in to me several years ago, never reclaimed
  • a Czech national ID card, similarly handed in to me several years ago, never reclaimed
  • a rather amazing set of screwdrivers, handed in several years ago, never reclaimed
More goodbyes today.  L brought me flowers and was a bit teary.  I told her "None of that". I've been very good about not getting upset and there is deep seam of Englishness in me that just wants to do a cheery wave and go "Teddah then".  No tears, not yet, eh.

Now does anyone want about three thousand staples?  I could join them all back together if you really insist.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Just Looking Around

Today was my final day at Chelsea, and full of bathos.  There are going to be so many "final" things over these coming weeks that not each can be accompanied by high drama.  Can you imagine the exhaustion.

I went for lunch with my friend S (different friend S) had half a bottle of wine and forgot I had a two o'clock appointment.  Cue that careful slightly over-elegant bit-drunk behaviour when you really don't want to be found out.  I think I got away with it.  Fortunately my brain can still wrestle with the intricacies of UK Border Agency rules even after Pinot Grigio and a fish pie. 

At 6pm I switched things off and ordered the desk with that mild obsessiveness I can just about tolerate.   Every movement and action for the last time.  There was nobody around to mock my melodrama as I threw my gaze round the reception area one last time (like Captain von Trapp fleeing the Nazis), swiped my card and left. 

Friend S, after several years nagging, has finally given me one of her meerkat paintings.  He is beautiful and will not be packed away.   Whenever I need to smile I will just look at this:


Monday, 5 December 2011

Sing When You're Whining

I am sitting in my freezing bedroom, where everything that stands still long enough develops a rash of mildew, wearing a long jumper and a long cardigan.  This is currently the hub of the house because the TV is gone, and my books are packed.  Life is channelled to and from me through this monitor.  I may need gloves.  I lost the Lost Property ones last winter.  I pray to the patron saint of Eurostar that it does not snow over the next month. 

The more I get rid of, the more this looks like a squat that Pete Doherty would scorn.  The more I pack, the more I wonder if I actually need any of it.  Right now I'd be quite happy to leave with my duvet and the computer.  And some spare pants and socks.  That makes me sound like a boy.  Beyoncé certainly didn't mention that in her song.

As it gets exquisitely colder and I get nearer check-in and check-out there are so many feelings.  One day I might be able to talk about it, or I might just forget it.  For now it's a knot and will have to stay a knot.  One day soon I might be too distracted by karaoke with a bunch of new chums to remember.  

Sunday, 4 December 2011

A Room Somewhere

Exactly one month today, round about now, I'll be on my way.  So rather than lay in bed rehearsing slightly tearful and implausible station farewells, I need to get my arse in gear.

Arse is a wonderful word; far better than the half-arsed ass of our US chums.  I can remember it being said of my sister "She took her arse in her 'ands and went".  A wonderful expression of umbrage and disdain.

The English arse is somehow much more emphatic.  Audrey Hepburn yelling "Move your bloomin' arse" in My Fair Lady was quite a moment.  Lovely Audrey, all done up in Cecil Beaton, shouting rude words.   Coincidentally, Audrey Hepburn was born in Brussels.  Audrey would have got her arse in gear, I'm sure, even though it was tiny.   

So, enough of this.  There will be no emotional farewells; just a large Americano and an overpriced ham and cheese baguette.  Onwards.

Saturday, 3 December 2011


Clambering slowly back to normal service after a rather unwell day yesterday.  I'm not terribly good at drinking.  Quite good at being sick, though.  Hangover brought with it some ghosts of mawkish nature so I am exorcising them with practical tasks such as arranging the disconnection of the cooker.  £99 plus VAT?  I'm sure I could do it myself, damn it...

By next weekend, I'll have no sofa, no TV, no cooker.  Thank god for the internet.  And picnic-style food.

The mawkishness may take a while to lift.  Ghosts of things that never were, if that makes sense.  I shall go and do something sensible and worthy with pieces of paper while waiting for the courier to collect Christ, who is now a confection of bubble wrap, large split-open envelopes, and packing tape. 

Thursday, 1 December 2011

First Catch Your Hare

I had what I think was my leaving do tonight.  My boss kept saying it wasn't, although I'm not quite sure how he knows, seeing as he doesn't have access to my achingly full diary.

It was simple, and it was wonderful.  We met in the Royal Festival Hall and, like the perfect ingredients of a recipe, there was no need for fanfare.  It was simply good.  It tasted well.  These are people I will miss and whom I love.  These are people it pains me to leave.  It pains me.

Hive Mind

December.  Month of...baubles and credit maxing.

In my head this has been the month allocated to getting things done.  The luxurious dawdle of November has gone.  I have lists.  Several lists.  I have a folder.  I do not open it.  The folder has "The Plan" written importantly on the front, and I do not even look inside it.  My head is full of bees bumping into each other and giving conflicting instructions.  The bees have left their lists at home.

I just know I'll be on the train to Brux and I'll suddenly remember that I didn't take a meter reading.  Or board up the cat flap.  Or get my mail forwarded.  Or return the keys to my flat.  Or hand my notice in at work.    

But what's the worst that can happen?  As long as I get myself and my old cock linnet across the sea, I'm laughing.  Maybe a little too loud.