Month: May 2014

My love affair with office furniture.

The van came and took away so much junk. I have gained a whole room’s worth of space.

My house is in disarray. When you pack up for removal 20% of the contents of a small flat that has no outside storage space such as a shed or basement, the other 80% of those contents is going to get thoroughly moved around as well. You have to play Tetris with it in order for there to even be any space to physically manoeuvre things into boxes, and then you have to find somewhere to put the boxes that is not in the room you are still trying to sweep and clear. Now that the van has been and gone, I have one room that’s almost completely empty and the entire rest of my flat, it seems like, is crammed into the living room so it is even more crowded in here than usual. Change does not come overnight.

That said, I can see how in the fullness of time it will be really good. I did a bit of last minute changing my mind re furniture and the result is that I now have an amount of desk space and work space in the living room that previously I could only have dreamed of. I am writing this post on my laptop which is on my large dining table and I am flanked on either side by not one but two desks. I have a big director’s office chair that’s on wheels so I can roll around on the hard floor and scoot between my three main work areas. It’s great. It’s going to be the office I’ve always wanted. Three large work surfaces, right next to each other. I love it. Plus, there’s one more equally large table that’s going to live in the presently empty room, which will be my second office, and that’s how much like an office my house is becoming. We don’t have sofas and TVs and dining areas around here, we have massive desks and loads of technology for business purposes and video gaming. God damn. I love being single. I’m going to make it look like the control deck of the Starship Enterprise. Plus I’m going to have one whole entire desk that’s dedicated to Chinese and let’s see how fast that helps me get back to scoring some points in that area. Should be a lot easier when I have a whole desk dedicated to it and all my stuff is right there, I don’t have to pull it all out.

The next step in achieving this state of  nirvana is cleaning up that empty room. As much as I would like to move a bunch of furniture and stuff in there right this minute, first it needs serious deep cleaning, there are holes in the walls that need to be plastered and it needs painting. And at some point my building is getting all its windows replaced. So there’s all that to come first.

I didn’t really know all this was coming, otherwise I would have scheduled a Home Repairs themed season. Maybe we can still have one. At the end of this process I want to have not only a big, clean, well-organised home/office work space but I also want to end up with a bunch of new shelves and a new bed and a wardrobe that isn’t falling apart as we speak. And I desperately need a new cooker because the Crime finally killed it, and I need a new blind in the kitchen and blah blah blah blah blah. I should be ready for guests by about Christmas.

The Honcho showed signs of life and it was appreciated.

1 Home point for yesterday’s efforts.

 

Packing.

Seriously packing now. Would like to sit down and play Warcraft this evening but tonight is the deadline for my radical de-cluttering project. A van is coming tomorrow morning to take away about 20% of the contents of my flat. That’s the equivalent of one whole room. Seemingly I already got rid of the large table that I wanted from the warehouse, which is a shame, but I am getting a bigger desk and two much better chairs and some shelves so my home office environment is going to greatly benefit, and as we all know, work reigns supreme, work is what keeps this whole project up and running.

I don’t think I have any more news. I am seriously overweight and the Honcho is not inclined to flirt with me. I don’t think these two things are connected, as he can’t see what I look like, which has always been one of his best features, the other one being that he has simply been around for a long time, like your grumpy old dad. 1 Home point.

Lipps Inc: Funky Town

Book Reviews: Filth & Enduring Love

I am radically de-cluttering the house this weekend, as planned. I also have office work to do this weekend but that’s okay, I like to be busy, I function a lot better when there is plenty going on. This round of de-cluttering and domestic organisation is quite a big project, it is on a par with when my ex moved out three years ago, at the start of this blog. My living room is full of boxes that I have packed with things to go out the door. When those are gone, there are furniture items to be dispatched off separately. Also I have a couple of items of furniture in a warehouse that are better than the items I’m using in my house, like my cheap, rickety dining table, for example, so this is my chance to sort it all out. Summer has suddenly arrived in London and it is a bit late in the day for radical spring-cleaning but never mind. The results will be good. I can combine it with emptying some expensive warehouse space at work and my business partner will be happy.

Perhaps surprisingly, I’ve managed to get some reading done. Crime was on my mind, I guess, so that’s what I read about. Here a couple of reviews.

Filth, Irvine Welsh (1998), Cape/Norton & Enduring Love, Ian McEwan (1997), Cape.

You don’t need me to introduce these authors. Welsh is of course most famous for the desperate Scottish junkies of Trainspotting, Ian McEwan wrote Atonement, which I haven’t read, and The Cement Garden, On Chesil Beach and Solar, which I have. There is no doubt that they can both write and are among Britain’s most celebrated authors. If we want to contrast these novels, and having read them back-to-back it’s impossible not to, the differences are rooted in the British class system.

Enduring Love, in McEwanish style, see Chesil Beach and Solar, concerns well-behaved, middle-class people who are having a frightfully difficult time. Joe is a successful but whiny science journalist who wishes he could get back into proper science but can’t quite manage it. Clarissa is his self-righteous wife. They love each other, although it is not obvious why. They do middle-class things such as go on picnics (a rather self-righteously masochistic hobby in the British weather), the kind where people bring fruit and expensive cheese and a bottle of wine that they know the pedigree of, and consume them in a field that’s devoid of beach or any point of visual interest. Then there’s an accident involving a hot-air balloon, and Joe acquires a stalker. A religious nutcase called Jed Parry, who becomes erotically obsessed with Joe and follows him around for the rest of the book, while Joe repeatedly complains about him to the police, his wife and anyone who will listen, until he leads them to doubt his own sanity.

McEwan is interested in telling stories in which people’s lives change suddenly as a result of some random event; a balloon accident, for example. These kinds of events and sequences give McEwan a chance to showcase his well-drawn characters, by showing them confronting remarkable situations. In this respect, Enduring Love delivers satisfaction. Joe’s growing obsession with, and amateur diagnosis of, his stalker, is convincing and gives the novel direction, pace and suspense. There are funny moments, too, such as Joe’s frustrated efforts to be taken seriously at his local police station. This will keep you with Joe for the duration of the book. At the same time, as none of the characters are especially likeable, it will leave you feeling that you just spent some time rubbernecking the neighbours. People whose lives are superficially familiar to you but who you don’t really care about. You are just rubbernecking because a truck drove into the front of their house. It’s not what you’d call a morally uplifting experience.

I shouldnae be complaining about ‘morally uplifting’, mind, when I’ve just been dragged through the mud and pish of Edinburgh’s winter streets by Irvine Welsh, author of Filth and therefore of Detective Bruce Robertson. Robertson is a horrifying man, a monster. The Patrick Bateman of the Scottish police force. He is violent, exploitative and scheming, marinating in his own rage, addicted to sex and drugs, full of hate and contempt for his fellow man. And women. Especially women, because what else would anyone feel for them. They are all hoors. This is not a novel about well-behaved, middle class people having a difficult time. This is about an insanely angry man from a poor Scottish mining community who spends his life inserted into the same dank, festering world of casual violence, prostitution, amateur porn and street drugs of varying quality as the depraved and degenerate local criminals whose lives he is employed to follow. Welsh paints these scenes more accurately than anyone else. This is the other side of British life, the side that McEwan’s characters are successfully pretending isn’t there.

Filth is too long. This is the second time I’ve read it and both times I found that I was rushing through the last hundred pages, which makes it easy to miss important plot points. It just gets a bit repetitive near the end. Bruce continues to be the worst person you’ve ever met and it becomes more of an effort to give detailed attention to Welsh’s dense prose as it carries on. It would have benefited from being edited down. I actually went on to watch the film version, starring James McAvoy as Bruce Robertson and also featuring John Sessions and Jim Broadbent, which tells you everything you need to know about the acting. It’s all pitch-perfect and the plot is, in my opinion, better expressed through a visual medium. It is also funnier than the novel which is mostly too hellish and too accurate to be amusing. That said, I have no further word of criticism of Filth. It is a portrait of a man who is a terrifying monster, contrast this against the characters of Enduring Love, who are merely irritating. Robertson is not someone you want to meet, he is someone to avoid. But once he has your attention, the things he says will make your jaw drop. He has … a point of view. A certain way with words. Here are a couple of Robertson bon mots. You will see what I mean.

Bruce on relationships:

What I usually do with a new bird is hole up with them for a weekend and spoil them with loads of foreplay, champagne, takeaways and undivided attention to all the preposterous shite they drivel. That usually does the trick for getting into them on a casual basis for months. The best thing to do is to give a new bird the very best possible time, and then she knows you have the capacity to do that again and she’s always looking inwards blaming herself for not being able to reactivate that passion in you. The best lovers ken that you only need tae be a good lover once with one bird. Get it right the first time and then ye can basically dae what ye like. Eventually they tipple that you’re just a selfish cunt, usually eftir a few years a fruitless self-analysis, but by that time you’ve generally had your fill and are firing into somebody else.
 

Bruce on morality:

A standing prick hath no conscience. And if that standing prick is attached to Bruce Robertson then it hath less than no conscience. You can’t afford a conscience in this life, that has become a luxury for the rich and a social ball and chain for the rest of us. 
 

Bruce doesn’t only hate women. He is a racist and hates everyone. Bruce on his regular newspaper:

They should call that paper the ‘Coon, Poof, Silly Wee Lassie, Schemie and Communist News’. I only read it for the fitba and Andrew Wilson. He’s the only one that talks any sense on that fuckin paper, even if he is a Hibby Leith bastard.
 

Bruce’s career choices:

Why did I join the force? I repeat, – Oh I’d have to say that it was due to police oppression. I’d witnessed it within my own community and decided that it was something I wanted to be part of, I smile.
 

Right, I’d better get back on with my packing. I’m claiming 2 Books point and 1 Home point.

Tower Bridge

I am not scoring billions of points here, I am just coping with some stuff. Life continues to be quite hectic and there’s always lots of work on. I have in mind that I will do some radical de-cluttering around the house this weekend, last time I loved it and strongly benefited from it, so that would score some Home points.

I went to a business meeting yesterday near Tower Bridge, perhaps my favourite of the bridges over the Thames. built 1886, architects  Horace Jones, George D Stephenson.

20140523-113355-41635027.jpg

Across the river, the Tower of London. I like the guy taking a selfie in the foreground. This is what London looks like. People grinning for Facebook in front of buildings that date from the 11th century.

20140523-113355-41635444.jpg

The Honcho says moving to France is a stupid idea.

Housework, Honcho, and the small seed of a big idea.

I didn’t feel exactly bursting with health today, but I didn’t feel like I was going to fall over, which is good by the standards of the last month, so I did housework all day. The living room is tidy and the hall is tidier than it’s been for quite a while.

Last night, instead of reading my book, I talked to Le Head Honcho. I know, I know. No-one is going to approve of this, I don’t expect you to approve after all he’s put me through. But it was not a conversation about Our Relationship, for once, nor was it sexy chat. It was a conversation about moving to France. I am thinking of moving to France because that crime that I recently experienced has really fucked with my head and I would feel a lot safer there than I do here in London, where I feel like a sitting target. I really need to feel safe. It’s kind of essential to my quality of life.

Of everyone I know, there is no-one more qualified than the Honcho to talk to me about the tax and business implications. He really knows his way around business relocation issues and he is obviously French. It is not definite or anything. It is just an idea. One that’s been on my mind for a few days. I would have to become fluent in French, not just tourist French but proper, live-there French. I would have to seriously think about how much it will cost (ouch ouch ouch) and what to do about my London flat and what kind of impact it would have on my career. It would be a big thing, non, a huge thing. It would not be a temporary thing. It would be a case of selling all my stuff and moving there permanently and doing all of the years of bureaucracy and paperwork necessary to becoming a French national. On the other hand, even though it seems like an enormous undertaking at this moment, other people do it. Nurse Moody has gone to Budapest. The Head Honcho and Young Klaus moved here from France and Germany, respectively. They relocated. I could do it too. It’s not easy but it’s a very long way from impossible.

1 Home point. About time I started collecting some points. Perhaps in due course I will start collecting Relocation points. We will see. There is a lot to consider. Wish me bonne chance. Maybe, just maybe, if I could actually make it happen, it would be the most amazing thing by far in the history of TLYW and possibly in my whole life.

Book Review: The Scent of Lemon Leaves

I haven’t done a particularly brilliant job on the house today. Sure, I tidied up my bookshelves in the hall but as for the living room, it is a worse mess than when I got up this morning. Now it’s after 9 pm and I’m tired. I am even too tired to knit, which is saying something. So I give up. There’s still one-half of the weekend left for cleaning the house. I am going to make some tea, nicely, in a teapot, and take it on a tray into the bedroom with a pile of books and camp in there until morning. If you can’t conquer the housework, just retire into the least bad room where you don’t have to look at it. That’s my thoughts, anyway.

While I was in Chile I read The Scent of Lemon Leaves by Clara Sanchez (2010), and it was fascinating. I keep thinking about it, which is always a sign of a good book. It is about ageing. Most of the characters are in their 80s. It concerns a former concentration-camp inmate, Julian, who has returned from Argentina to Europe to track down some elderly Nazi war criminals who are living lives of brittle luxury in a Spanish coastal town. He forms an unlikely alliance with a rather immature young Spanish woman, Sandra, who is pregnant and running away from her problems. She has befriended a couple of the Nazis, Karin and Frederik, without understanding who they are, and they have rather eagerly stepped into the role of substitute grandparents for her, in exchange for which she provides them with some company and a sense of the future. Sandra isn’t the brightest lamp in the street and it takes a while for Julian to persuade her that she’s mixing in a social circle that she might find difficult to leave. Eventually, at the last minute, she successfully escapes and Julian confronts his former captors.

It’s an interesting book because on the one hand it is a quite exciting and page-turning thriller. Sandra grows more and more pregnant and hence vulnerable, as the web of Karin, Frederik and their Nazi friends wraps itself around her. Will Julian be able to rescue her? Will he himself make it out of town and ultimately out of their house alive? These people are ruthless killers. On the other hand, nobody is in a position to act in a great hurry. Sandra dawdles. Karin is in poor health and needs to be driven back and forth to doctor’s appointments and physiotherapy. Julian is frail and his days of Nazi-hunting adventures are necessarily punctuated by naps and worries about his dwindling financial resources and regular breaks in which to eat and take a cocktail of pills. His final conversation with Frederik, in which he confronts this fearsome and vicious torturer – there’s quite a lot of detail about the concentration camps and the important figures therein, that seems to be historically accurate, by the way – is on the one hand quite nail-biting and on the other hand as measured, quiet and free from shouting and histrionics as you would expect of a conversation between two men of advanced years.

I read some reviews of this book and some readers didn’t like it because they felt that justice wasn’t served in the end and there wasn’t a big dramatic show-down. Karin and Frederik aren’t handed over to the police or dramatically unmasked in a public way. There’s just this conversation between Frederik and Julian, Frederik lets Julian out alive and Julian in turn leaves them to spin out the last years of their lives. I had the impression that some people felt cheated by this. The ‘bad guys’ don’t get their come-uppance. Julian’s nail-biting quest seems to have resulted in … nothing. But I feel that such a complaint misses the point of the book. Frederik and Julian do face each other, they do meet once again, outside of the concentration camp, after the war. Frederik is made to realise that he hasn’t hidden himself successfully, he hasn’t escaped his past. Julian has his moment – to look Frederik in the eyes, to have a conversation with him that has a new dynamic, with Frederik no longer a man of great power and Julian no longer a prisoner. Julian has done what he needed to do. He doesn’t need dramatic explosions and police chases. Those are the expectations of a younger man. Julian and Frederik confront the shape and status of their lives, near the end of their lives. It isn’t inappropriate or unconvincing. It is handled in the way that Julian decides to handle it.

The least convincing character is Sandra. She seems almost implausibly dim and forms an emotional attachment to a young hanger-on of the gang of old Nazis that has no obvious cause, unless it is that she is overwhelmed by pregnancy and the prospect of being a single mother. Julian, Karin and Frederik, though, are beautifully written. Julian, melancholic, cautious. Karin, whiny, brittle, a shadow of the hard-faced, hard-hearted ‘nurse’ who assisted with gruesome murders five decades earlier. Frederik, proud, erect, still a dangerous man but also one who knows better than to act upon impulse.

It’s both exciting and thoughtful, quite an accomplishment, to be both at once. Recommended. 1 Books point.

lemon