Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Happy Birthday - Not to Me!

Nothing comforts me more than friends joining me in my current age. One week after turning the tender age of 35, my best friend J has her birthday -- today! We met in Grade Ten biology class and forged a friendship through the gruesome dissection of worms, mussels and Herman the Crayfish.

J and me in Berlin, a trip infamous for Italian dentists, cigarillos and grumpy Polish taxi drivers.

J on her trip to visit me in Wroclaw, Poland.

Despite the fact that we've never lived in the same city for longer than four years since Grade Ten, we've somehow managed to stay friends across continents and through boyfriends who have come and gone.

Our empty glasses at Tate Modern during J's recent visit to London.

I feel blessed to have such an awesome friend in my life.

S0 -- Happy 35th Birthday, J! (And yes, I had to put the age in!)

WAG #5: Life in Motion

The assignment:
Sometimes it’s good to approach writing like taking a photograph with words. On the other hand, it’s important to remember that a scene is always in transition. For this week’s adventure, sit in a good observation spot and notice how the scene in front of you changes from one minute to the next. Has the light changed? The sounds? The people? What’s different now compared to when you first arrived? Is there anything you can see (or hear, smell, etc) that is changing right in front of you? Be creative and break the rules! This week is all about change!

My attempt:

For once, the street is empty. No cars, no buses -- no people, even. Is the whole city sleeping? Have Londoners succumbed to smog sickness? The eerie emptiness makes me uneasy.

I stare. Nothing moves. Even the clouds are fixed in the grey sky. The leaves are immobile, hanging limply in the heavy air.

A gust of wind. A plastic bag takes flight. It wheels and dances in a bird-like parody before crashing to the pavement.

The street regains its cement-fixed stillness.

Weekend in Oxfordshire!

One of the colleges, Oxford University.

After two blissful days skipping through the fields of the English countryside, I'm back in London and swamped with things to do. Novels to finish, novels to revise, projects to outline... It's all good, though -- I actually like a little bit of stress to spur me along. All that to apologise for my lack of bloggery yesterday!

The Man and I had a great weekend. The weather held out (for the most part -- the only time it rained was when we were in the car driving to the B&B). The last time we were in Oxford it poured all day, so we were pleasantly surprised to see some blue sky on our walking tour around the city.

Oxford University Press Bookstore.

The Man dances a happy jig in the sun (on the way to the pub).

Our bed and breakfast, Brook Barn, was spectacular. A converted barn, it was cozy and inviting.

Mezzanine level, Brook Barn.

The Stable, our bedroom.

After a full English breakfast (I won't get into the merits -- or lack thereof -- of black pudding), we took advantage of the sunny morning to play croquet (I won). Then, we headed off to Uffington to see the legendary White Horse. Drawn on the side of a hill by the Iron Age people, the horse was created by digging trenches and filling in the trenches with white chalk. Yes, they were just that crazy. Even crazier (and totally unknown to us) is the fact that you can only really see the silly thing from the air. We spent hours of fun climbing the side of the steep hill to see where the whole horse might actually be visible. The answer: it's not. Ah well, at least we burned off the breakfast!

Unidentified horse part.

White Horse Hill.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Leaving London - For the Weekend, Anyway

London has a way of sucking you in, like a giant Hoover whose grip you can't break. With everything so readily available, you tend to forget there's a world outside the greater London area - a world with trees! Cows! Sheep! People who don't need to wear make-up to go to the delicatessen where they'll pay £10 for some organic bread!

This weekend, the Man and I have decided to flee the city and head for rural Oxfordshire - about an hour's drive away (however, as The Man is from Cairo and drives like it, for 'normal' drivers, it may take twice as long). We are both firmly city dwellers, but with my semi-rural roots, I often long for open spaces and greenery that isn't cultivated to within an inch of its life.

We'll spend the day in Oxford and then head to our luxury bed and breakfast. If the weather holds, we want to do a cycling route around the Ridgeway, an old Iron-Age trek used during ancient times.

Wish us weather luck! Have a great weekend - see you on Monday.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Go Boy! Obscure MEP Socks it to Gordon Brown

A member of the European Parliament takes Gordon Brown to task on the current state of the economy in crisp, clear Etonian style. I have to admit, I was slightly distracted by his very bad tie (yes, I know, think what you may of me!).

Hidden London: Kensington Church Walk

This fifty metre stretch is one of my favourites in London. And even better, it's in my neighbourhood! I always try to walk through there whenever can. With its old-school shops - miles away from the chain gang on High Street Kensington - you could almost believe you're back in the 1700s when Kensington was the 'royal village'.

The first part of Church Walk - off of Holland Street. Image courtesy of RduJour

Church Walk runs from Holland Street (just off of Kensington Church Street), behind St Mary Abbott's Church, through Alec Clifton Taylor Gardens and finally finishing at High Street Kensington.

Flowers in bloom last weekend in Alec Clifton Taylor Gardens. Yes, that is a tombstone.

St Mary Abbott's church and cloister.

St Mary Abbott's back door.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

WAG 4: The Results

Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes yesterday (yes, I take every opportunity I can to remind people of my birthday !). I'm feeling a bit fragile this morning after the celebrations, so without further ado, here is a round-up of this week's Writing Adventure Group:

This week’s theme was “Do You Hear What I Hear?”.

Don’t forget! The Writing Adventure Group is on Facebook. Join us there too, and get weekly reminders so you never miss an adventure.

How to Join the Writing Adventure Group
Cora Zane
Christine Kirchoff
Sharon Donovan
Iain Martin
Mickey Hoffman
Marsha Writes
Jesse Blair
Aunt Sally
Nancy Parra
Jon Strother

Next week’s Writing Adventure:

WAG #5: Life In Motion
Sometimes it’s good to approach writing like taking a photograph with words. On the other hand, it’s important to remember that a scene is always in transition. For this week’s adventure, sit in a good observation spot and notice how the scene in front of you changes from one minute to the next. Has the light changed? The sounds? The people? What’s different now compared to when you first arrived? Is there anything you can see (or hear, smell, etc) that is changing right in front of you? Be creative and break the rules! This week is all about change!

Deadline: next Tuesday, March 31st.

A big thank you (and a giant donut with extra sprinkles) to the Lovely Nixy Valentine for organising the group.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

WAG 4: Do you Hear What I Hear? Sadly, I Do

I'm ready to sleep. Come on, sleep! My book is down, the wardrobe door is closed against the dark shadows. The light is off, the door is shut. Sleep, I'm waiting.

What's that? My ear picks up the hum of a violin. BBC Radio 3, it must be. What's the song? La la la la... I know that tune. I worry at the song in my head, trying to place it. In comes another instrument -- that's a piano. La la la la... maybe it's Shostakovich. Yes, that's it.

I open my eyes and push the puffy goose-down-smelling duvet away. I wrench open the door. It scrapes the side of the wardrobe. Why have we never fixed that?

'Can you turn that down!' Without my contacts, The Man is lumpified.

'But it's Shostakovich. He wrote it when his wife was dying.'

'Yeah, well I'm dying to get some sleep,' I grumble.

I storm back into the room and scrape the door closed again.

La la la la... violin music finds a way under the door and straight to my ears.

Bloody wife. I wish she'd die already.

Happy Birthday - To Me!

I know it's in poor taste to wish yourself happy birthday. But I figure hey, it's my birthday and if ever there was a time to self-indulge, it should be now. So - Happy Birthday to Me!

Before you ask - I'm 35. It's hard to believe I'm (almost) on the wrong side of the thirties! Ten years ago, I was working in Montreal as an editor at a medical publishing company. Now, I'm trying my hand as a writer in London. In between, I worked in Ottawa in PR; moved to Poland to teach English; completed a Bachelor of Education; moved to London and fell in lurve; taught at a school near Heathrow... and recruited teachers to this lovely land of Hope and Glory. Busy years!

But as schmaltzy as it sounds, I've never been happier than right now: Struggling through the angst and frustration of trying to get published, and spending my days creating stories and characters. What could be better?

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Little Less (Online) Conversation

Sometimes modern technology can take over your life. As useful as mobile phones, Blackberrys and the like are, I don't always want to be connected to society. This past weekend, I made an effort to reduce the amount of time I spent reading blogs, Twittering and Facebooking. In fact, I went cold turkey.

And I waited for the world to come to an end.

Surprise! It didn't!

After I got over the shaking, the nervous sweats and the twitching, I actually enjoyed the outside world, tooling about in the weak spring sunshine. I sat on my sofa - sans computer - and read a book. I resisted checking Google Mail to see if any agents had written. I lived my life! And I enjoyed it!

Don't get me wrong - I was chomping at the bit to get back to my computer today. Lifting the lid of my laptop was magical. Logging onto Twitter was like devouring a football field of chocolate bars. But my weekend without the Internet reminded me that real life is just as good (minus the chocolate, though). And that's all too easily forgotten as we become immersed in online worlds. They're great for connecting us with others, but are they disconnecting us from ourselves?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Google Street View: Hours of Procrastination Fun!

As if I needed another time waster! Actually, though, I ran across this while researching a restaurant in Paris for the novel I'm currently writing. I use Google Maps a lot to refresh my memory, and yesterday I noticed the 'street view' option. I could see everything my characters would see if they were looking out from the restaurant - and I quickly became hooked!

Of course, I checked out my own London address to see if it was available on Street View - and there it was. As the day went on, I discovered Google had just launched Street View in the UK, enabling viewers to see twenty-odd cities across the country. With the predicted outcry about invasion of privacy, Google quicky responded that they've blurred all faces and car registration numbers - although Twitterers were able to find many examples where this was not so.

They also uncovered these hilarious photos that somehow made it onto Google Street View (a few were removed after users complained yesterday):

A warm welcome off of Commerical Road, East London.

Cleaning the pavement in Hackney. Gross.

A lesson for all fare-dodgers: Don't. Or you'll end up in Google.

(Thanks to Londonist for the photos.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hidden London: The King's Wardrobe

Blue plaque commemorating the original King's Wardrobe

I can't express how much I love this small, tucked-away gem just steps away from St Paul's. It's almost impossible to find. We certainly wouldn't have stumbled across it had it not been for yet another London Walk (and no, they're not paying me to endorse their service - yet, anyway!).

The small square is accessed via a gangway which cuts through a row of narrow houses. And to find the gangway, you need to navigate the maze-like streets of old London, passing by traditional pubs, decrepit passage-ways and ancient churches. If it wasn't for the screech of buses from nearby streets, you could almost believe you were back in Edwardian London.

Although the original building -- purchased by King Edward for all his ceremonial robes -- was destroyed in the great fire of 1666, a blue plaque marks the spot. Surrounded by old structures with shade-dappled flagstones, you may feel like you're in a different world -- but you're not alone. Like all good historical locations, the courtyard has a resident ghost: a lady in white who silently drifts from building to building.

The courtyard.

WAG the Dog (OK, it doesn't make sense, but I'm trying to be creative!)

This week's WAG participants:

How to Join the Writing Adventure Group
Iain Martin
Nancy J Parra
Lulu - People Watching and Saving Lives
Jesse Blair
Nixy Valentine

The Writing Adventure Group is on Facebook. Join us there too, and get weekly reminders delivered to your inbox so you never miss an adventure.

Next week’s Writing Adventure:

“WAG #4: Do You Hear What I Hear?” So often, our brain filters out the sounds we hear every day, but sounds can make a story so much more concrete and help your readers feel like they’re really there in a story. This week, go out, sit and listen. (Close your eyes if that helps!) Let your attention move from the obvious sounds to the subtle ones. Try to take in the sounds you usually filter out, whether it’s voices, traffic, children, the hum of overhead lights, or whatever. Write a short description of the sounds and your experience, especially anything unexpected.

Post the results on your blog, and read this post about the group for information on how to notify me so your post will be properly included in next week’s list. (Note, please include WAG #4 in the subject heading and tell me how you want your name to appear please!)

Deadline: next Tuesday, March 24th.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Wag #3: Friends? I Think Not

This week's WAG was to write about a stranger you encounter with whom you might like to be friends. I'm going to digress a bit, only because I'm can't resist writing about a man I ran across yesterday on Portobello Road.


I sip my strong coffee as the unfamiliar sun caresses my head. No gloves, no coat - it feels like freedom after the gloominess of a London winter. Lionel Richie floats through the mild air from a nearby old-school ghetto blaster. The street is slowly stretching its Sunday morning arms. Ahhhhhhh...

'Am I annoying you?'

Hunh? My eyes fly open. At the next table, a middle-aged posh-looking man has settled into the chair next to a complete stranger.

'No, you're alright, mate,' the stranger says, engrossed in his newspaper.

'I smoked seven grams of cocaine and had six hookers last night,' says Posh Man, swaying slightly in his chair.

Stranger barely looks up. 'Sounds like a messy night,' he says in a typically understated British way.

Posh Man looks offended. 'No, not messy. Not messy at all. I'm just coming down. I smoked seven grams of cocaine and had six hookers last night,' he repeats, louder, in case any of us have missed it.

Stranger continues with his newpaper. Silence falls.

'I'm the best film maker on this street. Too bad my wife has left me. Man, she was hot.' He points to Stranger. 'Now, if she was with you, I'd be impressed. You're rich. Not as rich as me. I have a Rolex that used to be owned by Frank Sinatra. I'm the best film maker on this street.'

Stranger folds his paper now, giving up. 'No, no, I'm not rich.'

'You are!' Posh Man protests. 'You have a Patek Philippe watch.'

At this, I have to steal a glance at Stranger's watch. I have only heard about Patek Philippe in Vogue, and even I know they're worth thousands of pounds.

Stranger doesn't deny it. He puts his paper under his arm and gets up. Silence descends again, until another couple nab the table where Posh Man is sitting. Posh Man looks their way.

'I smoked seven grams of cocaine and had six hookers last night,' he says, delighted to have a new audience.

And it goes on. The Man and I get up to leave, stifling our laughter.

'He's a nutter!' The Man says.

'But he looked so posh...'

'He's wearing a bow-tie,' The Man responds assuredly. 'The mad ones always wear bow-ties.'

Sunday, March 15, 2009

London Springwatch

Today is 14 C and sunny. It truly feels as if spring is on the way! The Man always makes fun of my enthusiasm for spring, but after you've lived through Canadian winters it's hard not to be excited at any hint of greenery. London trees flower much sooner than Canadian ones, and he's getting a little sick of my 'Look! The trees are coming out!' cries -- not that it stops me.

Flowering trees on the way to Portobello.

We woke up this morning to brilliant blue skies and decided to walk to Portobello Road, where The Man needed to pick up the finalized soundtrack for his upcoming film. It was still early and the stalls-owners were just starting to unpack their white vans. After picking up the DVD from the small mews where the studio was located, we grabbed a quick coffee (more later on an interesting character we encountered) and then meandered through Kensington Gardens on our way back home.

Kensington Gardens.

First lemonade of the year by the Serpentine Lake.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hidden London: St Christopher's Place

Image courtesy of The London Traveller

To help motivate me to get out and explore my adopted city, I'm starting a new feature: Hidden London. Once a week, I'll post places off the beaten tourist trail. This week: St Christopher's Place.

You couldn't have an area closer - yet further - from the adrenaline rush of Oxford Street. All you need to do is locate the clock, find the hidden passage, and thirty seconds later you're in a quiet square lined with cafes, restaurant and boutiques. Sound magical? It is, in a way. The square has a Continental feel to it and you almost feel like you've been transported out of London.

I first discovered St Christopher's Place on a London Walk. The Man and I have done almost all the walks now - covering everything from Dickens' London to the Jewish East End. This one, focusing on Marylebone, was one of our favourites. Following our tour guide, we scooted past Selfridges and turned into a narrow corridor. I was immediately intrigued, but we had no time to linger as we continued up to Marylebone High Street (where we ran into Alan Rickman outside of Waitrose).

A year or so later, I attempted to find St Christopher's Place with my friend J, who was visiting from Toronto. I could vaguely recall it was somewhere outside of Selfridges, but the multiple glasses of champagne at Selfridge's champagne bar didn't aid in the search. Vision blurred, I managed to track down the clock and we scoffed some divine Turkish food at Sofra.

If you need some respite after shopping - and you can find it - St Christopher's Place is worth the hunt.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mouse in the House!

Last night I headed down the stairs to the kitchen when I saw a dark shape streak across the floor and disappear behind the fridge. MOUSE! I screamed (internally), slamming the door to the lounge shut so it wouldn't retrace its steps. There's been nary a sign of the furry little guy since, thank goodness.

It's not the first time we've had visitors. Our terrace was built in the 1800s, and has loads of little nooks and crannies for critters to tunnel through. I first saw a mouse a few years ago, when The Man was away on a business trip. As soon as he got home, we called in council. Mice are such a problem in the borough that they actually have a service where someone comes to check out your flat - for free! Our guy assured us that while we did have a mouse intruding at some point, he was long gone. We joked that he probably took one look at our foodless kitchen and decided to go somewhere better!

We had two run-ins since then, but the mice don't seem to like our hospitality. They put in a quick appearance and duck out again. Let's hope it stays that way!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wag #2 - The Results!

Here's a round-up of all who participated in this week's WAG! Next week's is open to anyone and everyone - see the assignment below.

How to Join the Writing Adventure Group
Cora Zane
J Strother - Mad Utopia
Nancy Parra
Jackie Doss
Criss - Criss Writes
Iain Martin
Marsha - Marsha Writes
Lulu - Introspective Liar
Jesse Blair - SexFoodPlay
Nixy Valentine
Mickey Hoffman

Next week’s Writing Adventure:

“WAG #3: A New Friend”
Sit somewhere that you can watch strangers passing by. Choose someone that you don’t know, but you can imagine being friends with. Describe them in concrete terms, particularly whatever it is about them you find appealing (or unappealing!) Feel free to also write what you imagine that makes you warm to them, but don’t forget to describe reality as well!
Thank you Marsha for contributing this week’s adventure theme!

Post the results on your blog, and read this post about the group for information on how to notify me so your post will be properly included in next week’s list. (Note, please include WAG #3 in the subject heading!)

Deadline: next Tuesday, March 17th.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

WAG - The Sequel

I'm going to be pathetic and preface this by saying I'm a bit 'written out'. I've started working on a new novel and editing another, and I'm feeling brain-dead. So if the writing exercise doesn't make sense, then just go with it!

This exercise, set by the lovely Nixy Valentine, was to go outside and sit for a moment or two. Then, write about something you didn't notice at first. My observations come courtesy of the Central Line on the London Underground, where you're never short of something to feast your eyes upon.


She stares vacantly at her fingers. Short brown hair cropped close to her head, trendy hand-bag, cool (but not cute) pink trainers - there's nothing to distinguish her from the surrounding commuters. Her hands clutches a tiny metal object. I hear the 'click' as it slices through her nail. The nail arcs into the air, falling amidst the rest of the train's rubbish. Then, slowly, she draws her fingertip into her mouth. Her tongue moves across the skin.

One nail down, nine to go!

Monday, March 9, 2009

QueryFail? AgentFail

Last week, a group of agents participated in the now infamous 'QueryFail' on Twitter (search for #queryfail), generating an enormous amount of debate about the rights and wrongs of doing so. I intended to just go on my merry way and not wade into this debate, but I can't stop myself.

I realise the intent was to educate, not to mock. And I understand many of the snarky comments came not from agents themselves, but from others 'watching' the stream. My issue isn't with agents trying to educate potential clients on what or what not to do - that's actually a good thing, and there are lots of great blogs out there that do just that. My issue is with agents publicly trading samples of people's (ignorant or not) hard work - without their consent - and opening up a forum for them to be ridiculed.

In my previous life, I recruited teachers from Canada, the US, Australia and NZ to come teach in the UK. Every year, we visited job fairs all over those countries and fielded thousands of phone calls and questions. I answered at least 50 emails per day from potential teachers and made dozens of phone calls. I know what it's like to see your inbox go up with fruitless questions from ignorant people who could answer the questions themselves if they actually bothered to do a little research.

But at the forefront of my mind was this: as annoying as some of these people were, this was our potential client base. It was my job to respond to these questions, no matter how ill-informed I thought they might be, or how much I doubted their ability to teach 30 kids. Sure, my colleagues and I traded jokes and made snarky remarks sometimes. But all in the privacy of our office. We would never take examples of 'bad questions' and post them in a public forum. That would be like shooting ourselves in the foot. And very unprofessional.

QueryFail was well intended. But was it well thought out? I'd have to say no.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Life in the UK: The Test

Chatting with fellow expat Nixy Valentine about our immigration experiences, I was reminded of the sheer joy I felt upon learning I had to write a test on 'Life in the UK' in order to secure my permanent residency permit. Not only would I have the chance to show the Home Office the depth of my knowledge about 'life' in the Kingdom, but I'd also get to pay £40 for the privilege. On top of the £750 the permit was costing me. As I said, sheer joy.

Why was I so deliriously happy? Well, I figured that after two years of teaching the squirmy, squealing youth of Britain, I had such an insight into the collective psyche of the nation that I'd pass with flying colours. Not only that, but I'd also been recruiting overseas teachers to make up for all those Brits who didn't want to teach the squealing youth, constantly explaining everything from the NHS to the size of UK pillowcases (I kid you not - someone asked!). Surely the test would be a walk in the park. Oh what fun.

Vibrating with excitement, I purchased the Life in the UK book at my nearby Waterstones and confidently opened it, expecting to know everything inside. But horror of horrors, what met my eyes were facts I'd never heard -- nor likely would never need to know, be it for the fact that the Home Office thought it important for immigrants to know that Saint David's Day is on March 1. Or my favourite useless fact of all: If you're blind, you get 50 per cent off your TV license! What the...?

With the date of my test fast approaching, I spent hours studying the information in the booklet, even roping in The Man to quiz me. If I had to write the stupid test, I was determined to kill it. As I went off the nearby Kensington Library - the closest test centre - I was confident but nervous. Notes in hand, waiting for the test to start, I felt like I was back in university again. Finally, I was ushered to a computer (all the tests were multiple choice, done on a computer). Three minutes and 20 questions later, I was done. And slightly disappointed. That was it? That was what I'd spent hours studying for? What a letdown. My joy had given way to annoyance.

All sarcasm aside, I agree that immigrants do need to know about the country they are living in. They should be familiar with cultural practices and the history of the land. But why is it that the UK deems immigrants good enough to teach their children and heal their citizens, but when they want to settle in their adopted land, they have to jump through such silly hoops? And actually pay for the thrill of doing so?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Happy World Book Day!

I'm straining to remember the first real book I ever read (i.e., something with more than ten pages). But as nothing is coming to mind, I'm going to settle for the following.

Last book I read:

The Best a Man Can Get by John O'Farrell

Favourite Childhood Books:

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery (I had a crush on Gilbert)

The Island of Adventure by Enid Blyton (I had a crush on Phillip)

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George (no crush, but it was a damn good book!)

Sweet Valley High series (who couldn't love two blonde twins - one evil and one good?)

Favourite Adult Books:

The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

Almost French by Sarah Turnbull

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Care to share your favourites?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Is Your Week Getting Softer?

Spotted at Warwick Avenue Tube Station, Photo courtesy of Dan Hon.

Writing Adventure Group - The Results

Thanks to everyone who participated! Results and next week's assignment are below.

The assignment this week was to describe the sky. This was observational, so writers were encouraged to use descriptive words more than metaphors or emotive words.

For those who participated, please cut and paste the links below (and instructions for next week, if you wish) to your own blogs. This will help promote the group and give some linky love to each other, creating a fantastic cross-promotional network of WAGs!
Cora Zane - Stars Will Cry
Sharon Donovan
Adam Heine - Authors Echo
Nancy Parra - This Writer’s Life
Criss - Criss Writes
Carol - DMWCarol
Nixy Valentine
Marsha Moore - Write On!
Jesse Blair - SexFoodPlay
Jackie Doss - The Pegasus Journals

Next week’s Writing Adventure:
For next week, go outside, and sit for a minute. (This can be in your yard or garden, on a city street, in a park, in a shopping centre, where ever you choose!) Soak in everything you see, hear, smell, etc, for a moment, and then describe something that you did not notice at first. This can be anything! Just make it something that you overlooked when you first arrived. Keep your descriptions as concrete as possible!

Post the results on your blog, and read this post about the group for information on how to notify me so your post will be properly included in next week’s list.

Deadline: next Tuesday, March 10th.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Last week, we posted a call for all writers to get involved in WAG (it's not too late!). If you want to do this week's assignment, you still have time! The more, the merrier.

The challenge this week was to write about the sky, without using similes and metaphors. Doesn't sound that hard until you actually attempt to do it!

London is famous for grey. It's everywhere, from the faded, pollution-smeared buildings to the asphalt of the street. But the most unforgettable grey is that of the sky. So here it my take on this week's assignment:

Grey stretches across my sky, the red-brick chimneys barely visible through the thick haze. The ever-present airplanes are blotted out, leaving nothing except a bleached sky of paper-white to rat-grey. Sounds are muted under the heaviness of the shifting clouds -- even the screeching buses swoop by silently. Small drops of mist pool on a cast-iron fence, making the black shine wetly. I look up, hoping for rain, for anything, to break through. But the clouds continue their relentless smothering, and I flee inside.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Living Sculpture

If you ever wanted to create your own artwork -- but, like me, are totally useless at drawing -- now is your chance! And all you have to do is stand there.

Artist Antony Gormley is looking for 2,400 volunteers to occupy the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square this summer for his new artwork, 'One and Other'. Twenty-four hours a day, for 100 days, a member of the public will stand on a column at Trafalgar Square for one hour. You can bring anything you can carry up with you. And what you do when you're up there is totally up to you!

"The square has its history as a place of national identity," Gormley said in a recent Telegraph article, recalling the fact that the plinth was built in 1841 to display an equestrian statue for which funds were never raised. "My project is about trying to democratise this space of privilege, idealisation and control. This is about putting one of us in the place of a political or military hero. It's an opportunity to use this old instrument of hierarchical reinforcement for something a little bit more… Fun."

The Man and I registered our interest at http://www.oneandother.co.uk/ and we're awaiting our applications! True, standing in a deserted central London square at 3 a.m. in the rain (in all likelihood -- this is London after all) may not be your idea of a good time, but when else will you have the chance to look across the iconic Trafalgar Square from such a unique position? And to be part of such an interesting artwork?

I have to admit I'd never heard of Antony Gormley until a few years ago when we literally bumped into one of his sculptures. Parking on Waterloo Bridge, as we usually do when we go to the South Bank, we pulled up alongside a human-sized metal object on the pavement. It hadn't been there when we visited the previous week, and it looked as if it had dropped from the sky. There was nothing to identify what it was, even.

Looking around the horizon over the next few hours, we kept spotting more and more of the strange-looking figures perched on roof-tops around the river. The effect was oddly disconcerting, as if you were being observed by something otherworldly.

Jim Dyson/Getty Images

Further investigation revealed that these sculptures were actual casts of Gormley's body, and that 31 of them were dotted on buildings around Westminster for an artwork called Event Horizon.

On his website, Gormley said it was designed to "get under people's skin" and make them "feel slightly uncertain about what's going on in the world that you are living in". Mission accomplished!

This time, I want to be the one watching others from lofty heights!