Sunday, 9 May 2010

cats and dogs

I have been rather concerened about Jeeves lately because he keeps disappearing (nothing to do with Vanishing Day Cream, if you've read my last post). Then, at midday, he'll turn up, blase as you please, as if nothing is wrong, covered in leaves from rolling in the garden and demanding his breakfast. Jeeves is my cat by the way, not my husband.

This errant behaviour in the feline species got me thinking about the difference between cats and dogs, which in certain respects parallels the difference between women and men. (As in, cats are vain, elegant and aloof; dogs are subservient yet lovable, if a bit stupid - you can make your own mind up which describes men and which women)

And then it occurred to me: dogs are like children, cats are like teenagers...

Dogs do as they are told without question, ask before they go out and turn up for meals on time...whereas cats are moody, recalcitrant creatures who never do as you ask and are always awkward, in their case usually with doorways or windows. You close the window/door, so the cat immediately wants it open again so it can go out. So you open it, and it's changed its mind and wants to stay in...

When Jeeeves rolled up, after asking him where he'd been all night, I found myself tutting and coming out with, 'I don't know, you turn up when you feel like it, you treat this place like a hotel and then you hide in the bedroom all day and I never see you...'

Of course I've given him the pep talk about the dangers of catnip, about how he must Say No and how, if he does stay out all night he musn't get into fights...

I'm sure I'm far too young to have a teenager...

Monday, 3 May 2010

Everything's Peachy

Reading several articles about Botox lately has got me thinking about the subject, added to which (gasp!) I'm forty-two this year.

A character in an Oscar Wilde play once confessed that she admits to being 'thirty nine when there are pink lampshades, forty when there are none.'

What is it about the dreaded Four-O that has us women making a bee-line for the serum counter at Boots and queing around the block for N07's Protect and Perfect beauty range, in the belief that a few drops of snake oil will magic away all our blemishes?

My favourite is the Day Vanishing Cream, a name that has infinately comic possibilities and could prove useful in awkward social situations, as in, you make an embarrasing faux pas at a party, but never mind, you have remembered to bring your Day Vanishing Cream with you.

Rub it on and you just disappear for twenty-four hours... Or more more long-lasting results, use daily for several years , by which time everyone will have forgotten who you are, never mind

the faux pas...Problem solved.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Adventures in th Big Smoke, Part 2.

After the entertaining bath incident - I managed to turn the tap off eventually, just before I had to call for boats to get everyone out two-by-two...I realised I had forgotten to bring the appropriate bra to wear with my purple velvet strapless ball gown, meaning I had to wear my other one, with the straps tucked into the top.

Why is this starting to sound like a Bridget Jones adventure?...And, no I didn't wear Magic Pants. No need, since I've been on the gluten-free diet. I no longer blow up in the middle like one of those sheep in Thomas Hardy novels and have to be punctured with a knitting needle to get me back down to a size ten...

Thus, when I arrived downstairs I spent the first part of the evening not daring to move in case I had a mammary mishap. Luckily, I dress in Edwardian style so everyone just assumed I had been brought in from Madame Tussuad's because the Oscar waxwork was busy doing a television show standing in for Jonathon Ross...

There were, however, no mammary mishaps or absconding bosom moments. My talk - which was about Oscar Wilde's impact upon contemporary culture - went well and afterwards I was interviewed by an Italian television channel, web address, The interview will be on youtube after May 12th

Just one more quirky thing. On the train, on the way home I managed to sit next to a man who was humping a very large bag onto the table. He caught my eye, chuckled, then said, 'It's all right, I've got the body of my wife in there.'

Then he proceeded to read 'Introverts' Monthly', AKA The People's Friend. (Isn't it always the quiet ones you have to watch?...)

The interview will be broadcast on youtube under

adventures in the big smoke, part one

I was in London on Thursday night for the 115th anniversary of Oscar Wilde's trials/arrest. As an author of a book on Wilde, I had been invited to speak at the event, hosted by The Cadogan Hotel, scene of my horse-and-carriage-arrival book launch.

Getting there was interesting, however. I had a close encounter with the barrier at St.Pancreas station, which decided it didn't like me and was going to let everyone through except me - not that I have a persecution complex or anything...

After several attempts to put my ticket through whilst holding up a long queue of people I decided to try and dive through after the person in front of me, but it slammed back, nearly knocking me off my feet. I promptly burst out laughing hysterically and the crowds, by now, were all staring at me as if I had clearly gone mad.

At this point an official approached me and explained that I was using the wrong ticket, my reservation ticket instead of my actual ticket. If there is anyone I would like to put a curse on it is people who decide these things:

As in, 'I know, let's create a system where you have two tickets that look identical just to confuse you, and to give the innocent bystander some entertainment when you spend twenty minutes trying to work this out and get yourself smacked in the duodenum by an agitated barrier.' (perhaps that should be pancreas...)

Whoever you are, may you simply stop breathing. Inexplicably.

When I arrived at the hotel I decided to have a bath, so I put the plug in. It was one of those high tech bathrooms where there are lots of knobs everywhere and no instructions (a bit like St Pancreas really...) Thus,I spent fifteen minutes trying to work out how to turn the tap on. What is it they say in the film 'Titanic' - 'women and machinery do not mix?'

After I had finished running my bath I realised I couldn't remember how to turn the tap off, or take the plug out (it wasn't a manual one). The water level was getting higher and every time I turned the tap function off the shower function came on, and vice versa.

I had visions of drowning in my hotel room, in a Biblical style tragedy. I thought of calling the maintenance man but I was only wearing a towel and wouldn't have time to dress...The Cadogan is a five-star hotel, so service is fast.

Still, it wouldn't have been the first time I gave the maintenance man an eyeful. I once answered the door in my room at The Grand in Brighton having forgotten to put my top on, (the room was very warm). Let's just say I have never seen a man turn so red or run so fast...I thought it was hilarious.

And all this was before the evening had even begun. To be continued in Part 2...

Saturday, 3 April 2010

No More Ghosts, Not even for ready Money

People throughout the ages have turned to spirit mediums and sages in times of crisis. Oscar Wilde, in which I have a keen interest, consulted many mediums throughout his life, always whenever he needed advice and guidance. Indeed, one of them, a renowned palmist of the day, even forecast Oscar's disastrous downfall, declaring that his left hand - which in palmistry, represents the past - was 'the hand of a king,' but that Oscar's right hand - his future - 'was the hand of a king who will send himself into exile.'

Mediumship in Oscar's time, the 1890s, was as popular then as it seems to be today. There was the famous Madame Blavatsky and her talking bazoomas - well actually, it was a baboon, but photographs of her ample bosom do lead one to speculate...

Madam Blavatsky led the then growing spiritualist movement in late Victorian England, which attracted the attentions of many famous faces, Oscar Wilde being a case in point. However, the skills of these people seem to be on the wane, if my recent experiences are anything to go by.

Perhaps humanity has become so dehumanised by the information age that it has lost touch with its spiritual side, or is suffering from a severe case of myopia of the third eye. Perhaps all those dimly-lit rooms, with their flickering shadows and stuttering oil-lamps - to say nothing of the London smogs - were just bettter at attracting manifestations from the Other Side.

In the modern age, however, the quality of mediumship seems to be on the decline. Like Oscar Wilde, I confess to having an unfortunate tendency to consult psychics during times of crisis or uncertainty. My recent experiences, however, may have succeeded in putting me off this particular habit.

Of the two mediums who came to my house, both were bordering on certifiable. The first one was a lady - who shall remain nameless in case she decides to make use of her sparse talents and send her ethereal friends to haunt me. This lady insisted on sitting on a book because she said it helped her make contact with the other side.

After being late due a public transport malfunction she spent the best part of an hour muttering strange and incomprehensible words that sounded like a cross between Ancient Egyptian and the lyrics to Agadoo. Every now and then she would stop, stare at me and say, 'do you know a woman called Doreen?'

By the end of the session she had established nothing except that, a) the number 27 bus didn't go through the town centre - and b) I didn't know a woman called Doreen. Oh, and she charged me twenty pounds for the priviledge.

The second one, a man, walked into my Victorian flat, which is bedecked with antiques, declared with enthusiasm, 'I can feel something coming through,' looked around my house and said, 'hmm, I'm getting "oldy", and I'm getting "worldy."' He spent most of the session telling me I needed to take a vitamin supplement for my energies - which he had decided must be low, in spite of my attempts to get rid of him by dashing around the room like a mayfly on an acid trip, dusting.

During this uninformative visit he gave me numerous Tarot readings in which we kept getting The Fool. I'm not sure if this was supposed to be me, or him. He stayed for nearly two hours and I was beginning to think I'd never get rid of him.

The whole time he was here he did not stop talking and I couldn't help thinking that the reason the spirits were not coming through was because they couldn't get a word in edge ways. As he was leaving he threatened to return ,and give me another free reading, to which I muttered something about being otherwise engaged until Judgement Day and slammed the door.

Such experiences prompted a chain of thought that led from the world being full of blarney-spouting devious con-merchants to the idea that maybe there are no ghosts anymore. After all, the modern living room has the wrong atmosphere for a seance, in spite of the efforts of Laurence Llewellyn Bowen. Gone are the dimly-lit rooms and the stuttering oil-lamps flickering oh-so-evocatively across darkly painted walls.

The modern spiritualist holds hands while sitting on a 'Harvey's the Furniture Store, Sponsors of Coronation Street' sofa, by the light of a metal 100 watt lamp from Ikea , utters the immortal words, 'is anybody there?' and wonders why there is no reply.

Maybe, after all, it isn't the mediums who are to blame but the atrocious state of contemporary decor? (That said, they didn't make an appearance in my house either and mine definitely looks the part).

Of course it could simply be that the world is so over-populated that there are no dead people left because all the souls have migrated to this side... Whatever the reason, it seems there are no ghosts, not even for ready money...

Sunday, 28 March 2010

No Light Please, We're British

Having suffered from depression on and off all my life, I decided to visit my GP, who is not so much mad as a box of frogs as a few frogs short of the full box. He prescribed anti-depressants - but not before he suggested that my melancholia might be due to Seasonal Affective Disorder and suggested a Light Box would do the trick.

Okay, I thought. This is one of his more sensible suggestions. (As opposed to telling me when I complained of bloating once that it was because the roof of my mouth was too high and I was swallowing too much air. 'You could go into hospital,' he told me, 'and have your hard palate smashed and rebuilt...' I rest my case).

However, I have to admit that, nuisance though it can sometimes be, I am, admittedly, quite attached to my bouts of melancholia. They are, alas, part of my identity as an artist. When I explained this ambivalence to my GP he replied, 'but it's just lack of serotonin. Now,' he continued,shuffling through mountains of paperwork, 'you can pretend you're on a beach.'

'Oh no!' I replied. 'It's not going to give me a suntan is it?' (I have always prided myself upon being pale and interesting. It goes with the melancholy disposition...)
'No,' he said. 'It won't. But it will take the misery away.'

This got me thinking: has all the angst of the poets in generations past simply been a result of chemical imbalance? And that's not even the ones who took drugs....

Keats' 'When the melancholy fit shall fall, sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud'? Was that the lack of serotonin talking? Hamlet's famous 'antic disposition: 'to be or not to be'. Would the Serotonin version be: 'to be. No question. I'm loving it...'

Then there's the wonderfully rich tradition of English folk music, with its minor chords and melancholy lyrics, generations of it. The Smiths, who I have always considered to be quite folky sounding in their more pensive moments - were, according to Morrissey - only formed one dark and rainy night and because it rained too much.

Imagine if he had been treated by the Light Box when he wrote 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now'. ' I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour and heaven knows I'm...happy now.' It's just not right.
Inevitably, I never did pursue the light box. Misery suits me. I am British, after all, a product of this dark and rainy climate, maybe - but that's the way I like it. Without lack of serotonin, the world would be a poorer place, without the dark musings of the Romantics and the listless but beautiful musical meanderings of artists such as the Smiths...It really is a case of, 'no light please, I'm British...'

Saturday, 27 March 2010

I suppose I'd better introduce myself. I'm Julia Wood, AKA Edwardian Spice, the nickname given to me by the glorious Leicester Market traders, who have a superb sense of humour.
I'm a philosophy postgraduate from Warwick University, who has retained an interest in The Big Questions - such as, why do women love shoes so much? has Victoria Beckham auctioned her buttocks on eBay to help make sofas for the developing world? Does God exist, or has the age of materialism finally given way to a culture in which Hermes, the God of Handbags, rules supreme?

Then, along came the marvellous Internet and I thought, hey, I'm too old to be thrashing out the Big Questions into the early hours at parties -which is the only use possible for a philosophy degree, apart from teaching other people how to pontificate in the kitchen after a bottle of Julio Gallo. So I thought, hey, why not get a blog instead? So here I am.
Throughout this blog I will be talking about any subject that catches my eye that is topical/controversial. I read lots of papers and magazines, and like to talk about the things I read. Here goes...

Reveal Magazine last week published an article about the inhabitants of Huntingdon in West Virginia and their eating habits. Apparently they have been treated to a visit from Jamie Oliver - brave man - who went accompanied by a camera crew for a new six part television series and bearing news from afar : that eating the Big Bad Double Wide Meatburger with 30 slices of cheese and a pound of pickles on a daily basis is seriously bad for your cholesterol. The burger - which would be like eating thirty Big Macs, 'contains enough calories to keep the average man going for a fortnight,' the article claims. If cholesterol were brain cells these people would be in Mensa.

Huntington has been dubbed the fattest place in the USA, with 34 percent of it's population clinically obese and the local funeral service frequently having to order coffins that are the width of a double bed.

Unsurprisingly Huntington is one of the poorest places in the country and where people once used to work in the steel and coal industries, since their closure people have continued with their poor dietary habits, leading to generations of clinically obese people.

Obesity is a serious health issue and is a problem in the UK as well. You only have to walk down the street of any English town and every other person you see is bordering on clinically obese. Jamie Oliver has a tough fight on his hands to change people's eating habits because it is not just a simple matter of re-educating people, but of redefining their culture and identity.

Fast food and fizzy drinks is as much a part of working class - or, dare I say, underclass - identity as health food such as asparagus and herbal tea is to middle class identity.

Because of this, the poorer classes regard the health boom with suspicion, seeing in it the Bourgeoisification - and thus potential erosion - of their culture. So telling overweight people to eat their five a day and to swap fizzy drinks for a cup of herbal tea is like saying you're going to send in the developers to bulldoze their council houses, or ban the wearing of hooped earrings and ponytails.

Perhaps what we need is to sneak healthy options into the fast food industry without declaring them as such. After all, this works in reverse in five star restaurants. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen fish and chips described as pommes de terres et poisson, or some such euphemism.

Cheeseburger anyone? (By the way, that's a cheese-free, wheat-free, meat-free burger on a rush matting, aka, wholemeal bun...)