[Image: Airplane vapour trail madness over Stoke Newington. I love this city.]
* Hot in the city. Summer is here at last and it’s so so wonderful. I love everything about it. The daily shorts, sandals tapping against pavements, the stickiness inside your clothes, the sweat down your back on the underground, the open windows at night, the heat still on your skin after a whole day outside, all of it. Even when it’s clammy and gagging to rain, I still love it and won’t hear a word against it. If I never see snow again that’s fine with me; I’m a summer child.
* Gelateria 3Bis. While Gelupo knocks it out of the park with its coconut and chocolate sorbets, this newly opened gelateria by Borough Market has the best fruit sorbets I have ever tasted, hands down. Fruit sorbets tend to be watery, even from good places like Gelupo, but when I went there with Tina I found that 3Bis have strawberry sorbet that tastes like frozen jam, and peach sorbet that’s like icy fruits straight off the tree. Incredible.
* Mien Tay. Everybody has their favourite Vietnamese restaurant on Kingsland Road, and this one’s my new one. Mike and I went there last week, and they do this satay curry thing that’s so good it’s indecent. Viet Hoa has served me well, including at least three new years eve meals, and it’s still a star. But the future belongs to Mien Tay.
* Chocolate almonds, and my mother. They say all the girls turn into their mothers eventually, but I’ve always been the spitting image of my father. So now, on the north side of 30, I’m surprised and reassured that she is creeping onto my face, subtly but surely as I catch myself from unusual angles in the mirror. Then there’s the other things about my mother that I’m also getting, like developing a thing for chocolate-covered almonds, her favourite. I got these fantastic caramelised dark chocolate ones from Hotel Chocolat the other day, and as I crunched through the first one I could practically feel her DNA, creaking around inside my own.
* The internet IS real life. “The internet to us is not something external to reality but a part of it: an invisible yet constantly present layer intertwined with the physical environment. We do not use the internet, we live on the internet and along it. If we were to tell our bildungsroman to you, the analog, we could say there was a natural internet aspect to every single experience that has shaped us. We made friends and enemies online, we prepared cribs for tests online, we planned parties and studying sessions online, we fell in love and broke up online. The web to us is not a technology which we had to learn and which we managed to get a grip of. The web is a process, happening continuously and continuously transforming before our eyes; with us and through us.” [Peter Czerski in The Atlantic, via Nextness]
Five things, Summer Lovin’ edition
“Life is short. Break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” [Mark Twain]
* London in the summer. It’s back, that feeling where I’ll be walking along, across the river or under a pale blue sky, and I’ll stop for a moment and feel it in my guts, just how much I love this city.
* Fred & Fran, and the coffee shops of Stokey and Dalston. This is a somewhat uptight yet high-quality and adorable little breakfast café up the road, which reflects the general mood of Stokey. I live on the borderlands to Dalston, which provides a nice balance of general scruffiness, but also a fair helping of hipsters. Simon and I went to Rita’s the other night to try out the offal-and-waffles type menu, and found it is indeed possible to choke on an atmosphere entirely saturated with hipsters. But without them, who would keep all these great little cafés in business? Bless them and may they be very happy.
* Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present. Amazing documentary of an incredible artist. Mike and I went all the way to Clapham to see this, and for me that says some (it’s a North / South divide thing). But Marina. Wonderful. Everybody cried, and then we went home and re-considered our lives.
* Fleetwood Mac: Rumours. I’m a tad late to this party, yes, but what a party is it! I have to say, this album may well be flawless. Stevie Nicks! And lots of happy lyrics: “All I want is to see you smile,” that sort of thing. Perfection.
* Life is good. Here are some things that are making me happy right now. Cloudy apple juice, airplane vapour trails across the sky, YouTube, melons, the bench outside Look Mum No Hands, friends on the phone, sticky summer in the city, strawberries with sugar, Maud the Cat, halfpints, the Overground, sandals, Kingsland Road, avocados, stars in the garden, late nights at Gelupo, green parks, and Mike, the boy who came along because I am a lucky, lucky girl.
This new list thing hasn’t been going so well. I miss my old reading lists but I don’t read enough at the moment to make them. [Go to Jessica Stanley’s reading lists instead, they are the cat’s pyjamas.] On the ‘things’ side there’s been plenty, but I’m feeling a bit too precious about it to share, for now at least. But I guess the fact is that things are changing very much right now, and it takes time to unfold and then for me to digest. So when I have a moment to myself, all I want to do is lie on my bed with my head on the windowsill (it’s a fantastic set-up) and look at the sky - in silence. In the meantime, here’s a list of sorts. Suffice to say, I’m enjoying the hell out of everything.
* You have only your emotions to sell. F Scott Fitzgerald sets out the price of admission for being a writer. [From The Paris Review on Tumblr, which is generally an excellent read.]
* Stoya! Porn star; smart pussy. “I also eat cheeseburgers, milkshakes, pizza, fried food, and have a bizarre life-long obsession with Cheez-It crackers dipped in suburban-grocery-store-spreadable-fancy-cheese. Goldfish will do in a pinch but just aren’t the same. Fun Fact: I am absolutely horrified by mayonnaise. Food is really important. Sometimes I get busy during a weekend of appearances and forget to eat all day. I get really irritable and bitchy. My brain gets fuzzy, it takes a few seconds to find the right word for something or I can’t locate my wallet when it’s sitting right in front of me. Then I have to make up for the missed meals by downing two containers of ice cream in a single sitting (insert ‘my life is so tragic’ sarcasm here). I have to make up for it so I can think properly, and because bony is not sexy. It is my job to be sexy.”
* On an advantage. “No, officer, It’s not a disturbance. Just a shitty IKEA cot that I am sleeping on because I do not have the advantage of a boyfriend.” [Jean Hannah Edelstein]
* Katie West is back on form. “Sometimes it’s hard to believe ourselves when so many things happening in our lives are pointing to a conclusion that is completely opposite to everything we’ve worked so hard to believe. We have the odds stacked against us: ad agencies trying to define our ideals for us, movie producers trying to tell us what love looks like, fashion designers trying to convince us what beautiful is, total strangers trying to shame us for our bodies, our choices, and our desires. Working within this framework, it’s hard to remember we are amazing. It is hard for everyone, and it takes work and sometimes we get tired. […] We get worn down and exhausted and we start to think that life might be easier if we lost 30 pounds, or dyed our hair back to a natural colour, or covered up our tattoos, or took out our piercings, or stopped telling people about our girlfriend, or if we stopped wearing sheer shirts, or if we got a regular job, or if we weren’t poor or black or women, or if we just tried to be normal. Fuck the people who make us feel that way.”
* Do right, be happy. Lately I’ve been eating too much takeaway, but then I made a sandwich of avocado, pepper, spinach and hummus and it was amazing. I’ve been drinking more nights than not lately, but then I went back to yoga and it felt like a promise, tugging on my limbs to let me know it’s always within reach. For many years now I’ve thought my mother and I had so little in common that we would never have a real conversation, but then something happened that I can’t explain; I think it was me getting older. … I haven’t been working much over the past couple of weeks, just dossing in the sunshine; I want to go back to work now because it’s not just what I do but also, it’s what I am.
“The most interesting thing about writing is the way that it obliterates time. Three hours seem like three minutes. Then there is the business of surprise. I never know what is coming next. The phrase that sounds in the head changes when it appears on the page. Then I start probing it with a pen, finding new meanings. Sometimes I burst out laughing at what is happening as I twist and turn sentences. Strange business, all in all. One never gets to the end of it. That’s why I go on, I suppose. To see what the next sentences I write will be.” [Gore Vidal]
Lots of sky. [Image: San Francisco Bay, 6:24am, from Eric Cahan’s Sky Series]
How should a person be? Excerpt from Sheila Heti’s intriguing-sounding new book on N+1 (via Jessica Stanley)
I am the laziest ambitious person I know: “It’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what it might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again.” Tim Kreider
All your fears are well-founded: “Descending into the subway I was terrified, nauseated, sweaty, white-knuckling it the whole way to 34th street. But as soon as I started doing the things I had been so scared to do I wasn’t scared anymore, which is usually the way.” Emily Gould
Real talk: A change of venue for Katie West.
Ideas matter more: This how-to guide to journalism by Ann Friedman is probably the best I’ve ever read on this topic. Go get it.
… These are all articles, but I did lots of other things I could add here too. But for some reason I’m not in a sharing mood … I’m sure it will pass. But I have met some great people. I had my picture taken in an abandoned warehouse. I drank lots of rum, plus a bottle of red on Hampstead Heath. I finally went to Abney Cemetery (no, not for cottaging, thanks for asking). I watched the new Spiderman film and was surprised to find it was funny and clever and all-round excellent. I went on London’s new Air Line, which provides soaring views as it takes you across the river, uselessly between two points in the middle of nowhere. I got eaten by mosquitoes. I discovered a fantastic little pub just up the road from my house. I woke up smiling.
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” [TS Eliot] … I have my eyes on you, London. And I am working on my pitches, and working out in Downward Dog, and looking ahead.
* Hiding out with Fiona Apple: Really, really amazing article by Dan Lee of Vulture / New York Magazine. It goes on and it builds, this piece; I’d pick out a quote but that would defy the point. Oh and in the New Yorker, Lena Dunham on Nora Ephron, who said to her: “You can’t possibly meet someone right now. When I met Nick, I was already totally notorious and he understood exactly what he was getting into. You can’t meet someone until you’ve become what you’re becoming.”
* Mad Men. The final episode of season five is done (and I’ve finally been able to see it) and it has only confirmed that this is one of the best TV show of all times. It’s so subtle. As much as I love a bust-up episode, the best ones are possibly where not much happens at all. Just the looks, the silences, my jaw as it drops.
* Back to basics: I ended up at a iyengar yoga class again despite the fact that I was so bored the last time I did it I swore to steer well clear. But it was Sunday and I had a twice-a-week promise to live up to … So I was very surprised to find it was the one of best yoga classes I’d ever been to. I’m putting this down to the teacher, Helen Stylianou, who had us work our asses off to break down these poses we rush through in the flow classes, in order to get it right. I may have to go back; Helen will make me a better person.
* Jack White. Yes again, and this time it’s the words. The man is a fantastic lyricist and even his average ones are very, very good. Look at this - the second half more so than the first, granted, but this pretty much sums it up for me right now: “Icky thump, handcuffed to a bunk, robbed blind, looked around and there was nobody else / Left alone, I hit myself with a stone, went home and learned how to clean up after myself.”
I haven’t done a reading list of articles in a while because I haven’t read many, but I’m still inclined to make lists. There’s something compelling about cataloguing things, be it as a memory aid, a reference tool (as with the articles) or as a smell-the-roses sort of thing. So I’ll be experimenting with a new type of regular list, where there will be articles too but probably mainly other things that I’ve seen / done / liked. I hope to find a nifty name for this eventually, but I never managed to come up with anything better than “reading list” for the last one, so my expectations on that are only moderate.
1. Art about the Unseen. I went to see the new exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, which I’ll write a proper piece about later. I’ve never actually been to the Hayward before and it’s a really beautiful space. Art about the Unseen is unusually engaging and slightly hippie-ish and quirky, meaning I loved it. Not being able to see the art somehow forces you to engage with it even more … the mind is very powerful.
2. Look Mum No Hands. This coffee shop in Clerkenwell is the site for my weekly meet-ups with my best friend from university, Karima. We used to see each other every single day for three years, and while we don’t do that anymore there are some things that never change. LMNH is also brimming with bike messengers, which is allright with us.
3. Jivamukti yoga. I was told about this by Ely in San Francisco, and I discovered they have it at the Life Centre in Islington. I’m still in the process of trying out the different yoga centres around my area, but I may have to make this class a regular. To sing “so ham, so ham” in unison with a bunch of flower children made the hippie at my core happy as a lark.
4. Bumblebees. I thought they were endangered, but if that’s so, Stoke Newington is one of the last bastions. They are everywhere, and my garden is so green. I think this is my favourite of all the places I’ve lived in this city.
5. Ambition is great but without a plan it’s just torture. “The idea of having limitless potential with which many of us were indoctrinated from an early age means that you can be anything you want when you grow up. It also means that, by its very nature, it’s impossible to fulfill. You can’t reach the limit of limitless, but damned if I (we) don’t try. Ambition is an excellent quality to have, but ambition without focus, without perspective, without self-care will grind you into the ground.” Maureen Henderson wrote this. I then sat down and wrote myself a morning schedule. The list shall set me free.