Hairy House

Hairy House

Thursday, 26 November 2015


A few weeks ago, I took Lydia into London for a pair of new Pointe shoes. After spending an hour in Freeds trying on fifty pairs of shoes (apparently she has the perfect feet for a dancer, which means that only about one pair in a thousand actually give her the support she needs....go figure...) I thought I would treat her to the wonderful sights of the Harrods Christmas department. This was a place that had lived on in my memories from childhood, as a wonderland of sparkling ingenuity and craftsmanship, a real old fashioned fantasyland of naievety and glitter, and I wanted to share this with my baby girl (who is now taller than me by an inch) whilst she still lets me call her my baby girl.
We sweated through the underground (me offending a large lady along the way, by offering her my seat, thinking she was pregnant) and eventually arrived, along with a cast of thousands, at Harrods. Battling our way through the doors, we navigated the bright, sterile interior, eventually found our way to an escalator which churned its way upwards through the mausoleum, and, after more baffled wandering and quite by chance, came upon the Christmas department.
We gazed around at the rows of shining baubles, the dancers and nutcrackers and robins, all dangling, as though from the gallows and staring back, with haunted eyes, at us, and at the white shelves, the bright lights, the colour coded rows of decorations. "Oh," we said. And then: "Well, let's try Libertys."
Libertys, for those who don't know it, is a department store in Soho - a huge, mock Elizabethan building of white and black carved timbers, bursting with the famous Liberty print fabrics, Liberty print stationary, Liberty print umbrellas and soft toys and chocolates and soaps and lavender bags.  I discovered it in my student days and remembered it as a place that was touched by Bohemia, a place that was a little bit different to Harvey Nicks, John Lewis etc. Oh well. 
Enter the Christmas department and what do you find? The same decorations that are sold in Harrods, the same decorations that are sold in Myers and David Jones in Brisbane, the same decorations we can get in our local (and, it has to be said, rather crappy) Tescos in Buckingham. All made, funnily enough, in China.
But of course it's not just on the subject of Christmas decorations that I came here to bore you with today. There's very little here that you can't get in Brisbane and vice versa, though sometimes - just rarely enough to make it catch me out and consequently get rather grumpy - the prices render them too exotic to buy. Sushi sheets, for instance, are a luxury item here, as is dessicated coconut, whereas bananas and marmite are cheaper! Unfortunately, Vegemite is easily and cheaply available.
Though things you wouldn't expect - like a trip to the cinema - are a different ball game here, though of course they show all the same films, written to the same formula. But, whereas we thought it was expensive to go to the cinema in Indooroopilly, the prices there are nothing to the prices here - if you have a family, a trip to the cinema is a Big Treat outing in England, though why, I don't know. When we took Juliette to see Mockingjay the other day, the only thing that seemed more swany was the fact that, along with the buckets of popcorn and sacks of chocolates, you can also buy a bottle of wine and take it with you into the cinema. "Well, this is a bit of alright," we thought - until we tried to open it and found that the bottle was plastic and the contents were sticky sugar syrup with added alcohol. Yes, I know I'm a snob.
Sometimes I yearn for the days when, on visiting another country, a trip to the local supermarket was a journey of discovery rather than a comparison of prices. And I wonder whether it is partly this homogenisation of the world, the feeling that you can get anything from anywhere in any Tescos (except Timtams - apparently you have to go to Sainsburys to get them) that makes it so hard for people to remember, or indeed, to believe in the horrors that are happening elsewhere. Here I am, writing on a lap top made in China, drinking coffee grown in Brazil (bought in Buckingham,) at a table made in Sweden (bought in Australia,) covered in a cloth made and printed in India (bought in Brisbane). I was going to write something deep and meaningful about how hard it is to equate such homogenisation in "stuff" with the disparity in human rights around the world, in our abilities to feed our families, or guarantee their safety and education, but I feel too depressed and ashamed to do so, so I won't. I will drink more coffee instead and go and teach the violin to lots of children who want to play the Harry Potter Theme Tune, inspte of the fact that they haven't learnt how to play d sharp yet.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Why we feel so bad for France. Or why I do, anyway.

Up to now I haven't done much ranting here, but feeling frustrated with comments I have seen in social media and heard and hey, that's the privilige of having a blog isn't it? 
The latest horror stories from Paris and Beirut have left many of us with conflicted feelings.  There is, of course, the disgust and pity that any human feels at such horrendous, pointless violence directed at innocent people. But there is also the question of who really is to blame, and, something that worries many of us here in the UK - why has Paris eclipsed other atrocities like the ones in Beirut, Africa, Palestine? Many people are critical of those of us who have changed our profile pictures on facebook to the colours of the French flag (though I would like to point out that it was easy - whereas I couldn't work out how to change my picture to that of the Lebanese flag or any other) Anyone who knows me, knows that I am instinctively drawn to the underdog, (which is why I support the English team in rugby and soccer) but to be honest, this time, I can't help feeling that it would do us all good to lighten up and not beat ourselves and others up for feeling maybe a little more sympathy for the French than we should and this is why:

I for one, know what it's like to live through war. I know what it's like to lie under a table and listen to the whistling of the bombs as they hurtle downwards, not knowing if they will land on your own house or not. I know what it's like to feel the ground shake and heave and to be engulfed in relief that you are safe, this time, but also with the guilt of knowing that someone else is not. I know what it's like to listen to the media and have them belittle your situation; as in reports on the BBC "We have just seen a scud land in the ***** area of Riyadh....oh, no, apparently the scud was hit by a patriot missile whilst still in the air....oh no, apparently it was hit before it came anywhere near Riyadh...oh no, apparently there was no scud missile, this is just another night in the capital...." I know what it's like to watch armed soldiers walk the streets outside, jaws set, eyes glittering with madness. But let's face it, my war in the gulf only lasted ten days and I was only a child, not understanding what was going on in Liberia.
 I don't know what it's like to live a war like that, day in, day out for decades. I can't even begin to imagine what it must feel like to pack up my family and climb into a tiny, crowded boat and take to an unruly, unpredictable sea, not knowing what I will find on the other side, but knowing that anything must be better than the life I am living.
However, I can imagine what it is like to walk the streets of Paris. Though I haven't been to Paris itself, I have been to many other cities in France and Europe, my parents live in France and my parents-in-law spend a great deal of time there, one of my brothers-in-law is French. So I can imagine only too well, the people sitting in cafes, chatting, arguing, flirting, full of TGIF and wine and laughter. And that is why, in some ways, the bombing of Paris is more real to me. I rather suspect that to many in the Middle East, the bombing of Beirut is more real to them, than Paris. I doubt many people will read this and I am sure that many will be violently disagreeing with everything I'm saying, but I just wish that, with all the other things we have to be depressed about at the moment, criticism against those who have responded so strongly to the problems in Paris as opposed to other parts of the world, could be taken out of the equation. Whilst I think that, as humans, one of the most important things we can do is to try and imagine, to put ourselves in other people's shoes, to remember that, if it wasn't for the grace of luck, or chance, or fate, or God, or whatever you want to call it, any of us could be Jews, or Palestinians or Syrians or members of Isis etc, I think sometimes we need to remember that we are all human, after all.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015


The last few weeks have been somewhat chaotic, due to computer failures, sewage failures and organisational failures – but hey, that's life, eh?

I did want to write something about Autumn, however, before it is blown away by the icy gusts of approaching Winter.
Continuing my thread of being surprised by the seasons, I have, yet again, been surprised by the English Autumn. Not that I didn't know it was coming, of course, but by the fact that a lot of my preconceived ideas of Autumn have proved not to be true. What I can't understand is that I DID live in England before, believe it or not – for nine whole years! Are the seasons in London really so different to those in Buckinghamshire? Or did I walk around blindfold when I was younger?
Of course, we have had all the mainstays of Autumn; stunning foliage, the trees lit by purple and orange and red light, pathways and roads strewn with shiny, fat conkers; hedges strung with blackberries, sloe berries, rosehips and hawthorn berries. The air is full of the smell of smoke and leaf rot, creosote and wet mud. But what I hadn't realised before was that this also seems to be a time for growth.
When the fields were reduced to scenes of devastation back in the summer, I had imagined that they would remain that way until Spring, so it has been a delight to see the furring of electric green grass and the sprouting of other crops appearing in the surrounding fields. I had also remembered flowers as being a strictly Spring and Summer event, but though it is now November, there are still many flowers to be seen, roses and primroses and what we used to call pansies-but-now-I-think-that's-not-politically-correct-or-something- even our water-lilies are blooming in the pond.
And I am sure that the days are getting shorter at a much faster rate than they lengthened, however much science might like to argue with me. By the time school finishes around three, the sky is already glooming.
When I take the dog for a walk in the morning, it is often pitch black. Luckily, there is a lane at the end of the village where we only get one car every twenty minutes, so in the mornings it is busy with people walking their dogs in the dark, dogs and people alike, stumbling along in the light of head-torches - though my Bonnie still wants me to throw balls for her and can run and catch them no problem. The lane leads up a hill to some farmhouses which look out over the fields and, at the moment, by the time I get up there, the sun is coming up and the air is turning rosy, rabbits fleeing, fluffy bottomed from the dog's snuffling noses. So far we have had only one frosty morning and though I HATE being cold, with every fibre of my being, even I couldn't help but be enchanted by the silvering grass in the dawn light, though I have decided that I need to find some shoes that don't leak if I am going to come out of this winter toes intact.

Today is the first anniversary of the day we left our house – the one we built (or at least, the one we paid someone else vast amounts of money to build for us) and lived in for ten years. I feel I should be writing about that, but to be honest I feel a bit sick at the thought, so I won't. But for anyone who might be reading this in Brisbane – miss you guys!!!!!!!!!