To Hel and Back :: Edit your Template To Hel and Back: May 2006

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Working girls

Typical day: my alarm goes off, I creep out of bed, and draw the curtains, hoping the natural light wakes The Boss. It doesn't. I have a shower and think it might wake The Boss. It doesn't. I come out and bang my stuff around to wake up The Boss. She moves not.

Two girls, one bathroom; we could become logistics co-ordinators after this. We struggle down our hill, the lizards scampering into the bushes at the sound of out footfall. The male hotel staff flirt - well, we think it's flirty - and the females glare. Breakfast is essential it could be our only meal for the day. Cippolata, five different cheeses, eggs, tomatoes you get the idea...

And then to work, our stomach shifting uneasily as we career across the off ramps, roundabouts and other traffic anomalies of Olbia. We take the back row in the press centre; isn't that where the bad kids sat in school?! It's hot and glary. Our laptops radiate so much heat they burn to touch. We live on tap water and the contents of my hangbag: Sardinian crisps, melted Kinder chocolate and tic tacs.

If we move too much we got hot, if we don't move we get hot. Ear plugs are firmly in place, we listen to live radio feed via the internet, watch GPRS tracking dots and split times and write. And write. The Boss checks my spelling. If things go wrong she runs to get information from the PRs. Or I make random phone calls to people in the service park that I don't even know. Sometimes they're not even the right person.

We do this for eight to ten hours. And then, after all that, we reckon we deserve a little R and R! Here we are at the end of a working day, for once in a state when we can be bothered going out.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Sleepless in Sardinia

It's siesta in the Sardinian town of Olbia. The rest of the town is behind closed doors. What do they do? Sleep? Eat? I recall a cheesy movie... "siesta is for making love... ". Whatever the case, I am doing none of it. It's the only free time we have so we prowl the streets, pressing sweaty faces to the glass of expensive clothes shops that won't open for hours. The bars and cafes are quietly empty, waiting staff sip on coloured bitters, aperol, campari, wiping their hands instinctively on their aprons before serving us fresh glasses of Spumante.

Down side streets, restaurant signs hang beckoning, geraniums cram window boxes, old Fiats line the street nose to bumper.

We find gelati and like children lick traditional chocolate, unknown Malaga, decadent stracciatella, and unusual Kinder cereal flavours. It runs down our hands, onto clothes, stains the corners of our lips. We don't care. There's no one here to see it.

Finding the closed shop doors too much to bear, we find solace from the heat in a restaurant offering baskets of pane carasau, a Sardinian flat bread that we drown in olive oil, fingers licked for the second time today. Pasta is served, and we bite into it, appreciating al dente distinct from foreign pasta so often overcooked. Stomachs loaded with food, legs heavy with Spumante, we stumble over the cobbled streets to home. Now we need siesta...

Sardinia rocks

Photos of Sardinia streets and beaches now online. Words to follow when I stop having to report banal reports about cars on loose gravel...

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Lobster red

For someone who reads the ingredients on her moisturiser, shuns microwaves and attempts to find deoderant without aluminium all in bid to keep cancer at bay, it was pretty stupid of me to head down to the beach without any suncream for four hours. Emerging red faced and rosy limbed ready for my birthday night out, I bumped into a Finn, who said I looked just like a Finnish girl on summer holiday.

Speaking of which, I need to leave this internet cafe, for a night of Bellinis and mozzarella beckons.

I'm a day behind in photos (and the internet cut out without warning last night, dumping half my upload) but you can catch a little sun yourself here...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A little browner and greasier

If I could have rolled myself in olive oil today and then baked myself to a golden bronze then I would have.

I came fairly close - Over lunch I managed to pour olive oil over my bread, hands, table cloth, table, bread basket, napkin (you get the picture) so that the proprietor came out, made a lot of tutting noises and presented me with a plate (which I think should have been standard anyway... )

I also copped a bit of sun tan by wrapping myself in my cheap and easy pink sun dress, which managed to fall open whenever I sat down to gelati, aperol, campari and particularly came undone when I leapt out of the taxi in front of the Junior World Rally Champion...

Summary of the day's observations:
  • Kinder Surprise makes a fabulous gelati flavour
  • My boss is terrified of lizards and bats so I make a good body guard, because our hotel is populated by both.
  • Intimissi, home of fabulous low cut underwear, has a store in Olbia
  • Poppy seeds make a great addition to ricotta ravioli, even if you do spend the rest of the day picking them out of your teeth...
  • I'm pretty lousy wielding an olive oil bottle but my boss makes more of a mess with Malaga and chocolate flavoured gelati
  • Four star hotels aren't always functional and don't always care about it
  • Olbian taxi drivers make a small fortune - they charge 20+ euro to take you five kms. But if you order a cab and do a runner on them with another before waiting for your booked cab to arrive, then they'll call your mobile incessantly to abuse you.
  • Our hotel door doesn't close so we'll probably be mauled in the night as our villa is lonely-perched atop a hill and no one will hear us scream
  • You should never eat a McD's sausage and egg McMuffin before a flight no matter how hungry you are...
More un-fascinating stuff tomorrow after I baste my underside.


I am here
but the view is lovely...


Sunday, May 14, 2006

When you wish...

I gracefully gain another year in a couple of days, in case anyone hadn't worked out the significance of my Finnish phone number. In anticipation, someone asked if the Wishlist on my blogger profile was still current. I checked, it is, but it had me rolling on the floor with laughter as I think of what people might think based on the range of books and music in it: Love and Death in the Balkans, Emergency Sex and other tales from the front line. What would an amateur psych have to say about me!? And then I thought blog readers are amateur psychs and I would throw an invitation open to any anonymous reader, or passing friend, based on the macabre selection of books on my Wish list.

Here's my pop:
WISHLIST PROFILE: Harding would like to think of herself as the smart, sassy and sexy heroine in the front line of the world's lesser known and quickly forgotten warzones. A frustrated conflict chaser, the real conflict seems to be in her heart as she struggles to decide between touring with Mr and Mrs Holt's Guide to the Somme, or settling down with a cat to enjoy good, simple, well-cooked food. Her music tastes are either spiritually inspired or come from her gothic-leaning days, indicating at best a woman searching for faith, or at worst, a woman harking back to her black-lipstick wearing youth.

Not sure if that's true ... so over to you...

Shelly made me wish on a double-yolk the other day (it's a strange Chernobyl egg tradition thing). I noticed as I get older, my wishes get more simple, more abstract - no car, house, man, money, not even happiness, on this wishlist. I simply wished "I wish I knew what I was doing"...

Can't ask for anything more...

Mama if that’s moving up then I’m moving out…

Left: Me, stretching out in the Isle of Dogs...

I’m moving house this week (I’m also going to Italy this week – if you haven’t noticed, I don’t’ do things by halves). So now that the bags are backed and blocking my exit from the room, it’s the right time to talk at length about my current flat (i.e. where I am now) before I move into the next one (where I will be tomorrow)

I live in an area called Mudchute, which is pronounced pretty much as it looks and childishly reminds me of poopchute or some other juvenile name for anus. It’s on the peninsula of north London, but feels distinctly south London – you’ll have to watch the start of East Enders for the aerial view of London to understand what I mean, but basically, I am on the south end of the peninsula that cuts into the southern part of London, even though I am on the north side… God I should never give a blind man directions…

As a result, Greenwich is a short stroll underwater away, and the sleek towers of Canary Wharf can be viewed from chez moi. It’s a historic area, where the docks of London once bustled with the spices of the far east and the cries of east end dock-workers, it now hums with the sound of new white collar workers too dumb to realize this isn’t a good place to buy real estate. Naturally space is at a premium on the peninsula and everyone who wears pink shirts with white collars wants to be able to stroll in their pin stripe to work at the wharf. As not everyone can afford the new 50 story condo with a cocktail bar on top, cheaply-built expensive shoe boxes like mine are all over the southern part of the peninsula to house those who think they’re living the high life but whose bathrooms fall apart after six months.

Where I live is a little more down at heel, with a mix of Muslims from all over – the local mosque has signs in Arabic, English, and badly spelt Turkish (jammee), some hairless British chavs, and the Mudchute farm surrounding.

I live with two very nice South Africans who aren’t from Durban and don’t drink at the Springbok bar but are here to save money. They’re a very good influence on me as I have since learned just how far a pound can get you at Asda, and I’ve even taken to walking around slapping my arse as per the Asda adverts. I did at first think they were so nice and so neat when I moved in that I thought perhaps they were aliens a la third rock from the sun. But in my final weeks, I have seen them in leisure wear, know where they keep their toothbrushes and basically learnt more about them. I am yet to confront them over the Richard Marx and Genesis CDs in their collection though. God knows what they thought or think about me, having spent only one weekend not working, traveled for most of the time I was here, brought home an array of strange men, and stayed awake till the small hours of the morning…

This is my first time ever living with strangers or basically anyone that hasn’t seen me naked so it’s been a little odd but it has only been six weeks so it has been bearable rather than claustrophobic. I’ve figured out a way to change that though… I just need to let my new flat mates see me naked right from the beginning…

More (newer) pics from the Peninsula

Saturday, May 13, 2006


I admire people who are brilliant friends. One of the Partridge family takes text messages and phone calls at all hours of the night for a friend of hers who is going through a crisis. She is there for everyone and never stops comforting however much it wears her down. She also takes a good deal of text messages from me and phone calls about a range of inane things.

I on the other hand, drop my friends far too quickly by assuming that no news is good news. Scattered across the globe and removed by distance, time and experience, I use this as an excuse and offer them this blog to keep in touch. But it's a one way medium. Even last year, when my phone scrolled awkwardly past the names of more and more deceased, I failed at my vow to tell people how much they mean to me more regularly and to be a better friend.

So I was disappointed in myself and distraught to hear the voice of a much loved friend, who is a shadow of her gorgeous self, who I left to carry her own load, whose silence I took as "no news good news" but from my own experience know means "too busy too tired too fraught".

Myself, I have taken time out to arrange my life a little better, to balance out the various jobs I am juggling, to re-prioritise, to fit in time to exercise and those little treats like movies alone, walks alone... but I realised I didn't fit in time for my friends in that... At the start of my thirties, I've only just come to realise the importance and value of romantic relationships. Having wild and romantic crushes from age seven, I've at least had motivation to work on the importance of relationships. But living in three countries in the first three years of my life, travelling and schooling on the road and moving house at least every 18 months has built in the ability to not "need" play companions from an early age. But as an adult, I love and would die for my friends. I'm just a bit shit at showing them that on a daily basis.

Love you all arkadas, ystavan, amis, uma.

Who says I'm not good with kids

Alyssa and I huddle together for the sadder moments of the Lion King.


"Would you like me to levitate to make more space for you?" a dyed-redhead mutters sarcastically underbreath to a tough-maybe-an-extra-in-Bad Girls-Jamaican woman .

Even though we're packed in the tube carriage jowl-to-jowl, BadGirl finds enough space to turn around and stare down Red.

Being England, being London, being commuters, we all look away, and stare into space, close our eyes in pretense of sleep, or for the really determined, pretend to read a folded corner of the paper.

I'm very tempted to make a comment about how only people working in emergency services need to push their way onto the tube in the first place when there is another along in three minutes but I resist Black Girl is looking at us all, eager for a challenge and I've seen commuters step over a prostrate body on the platform before.

And you get to pay eight pounds a month for this pleasure. Cheaper than a ticket to the amusement park...

Friday, May 12, 2006

The muse returns

It has been a long time between posts where I've been interesting (assuming of course I ever was) and then suddenly the muse returns. Perhaps because I've finally got a night free of obligations but I do have another theory.

I have been carrying a camera around deep in the bottom of my handbag nestled amongst the wet wipes and super size nougat. I've been using it a lot as smumug testifies, snapping at every aspect of Spring in the City from every angle. But today my memory card ran out. And it's as if one creative instinct kicks in as the other is stifled - the urge to write strikes.

Of course, this happens when I have no pen - perhaps there's one stuck between the pages of yesterday's newspaper or deep in the bottom of my bag past the nougat - and no paper, forcing me to run into Canary Wharf to seek both.

So here I am, writing, hoping it will become interesting, and hoping even more that I will be able to decipher my handwriting when I transcribe the notebook onto blog...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Something more spring

My daily sight on the way to work... I never thought I would appreciate London so much... it's nice to be a tourist again in some respects. It's not nice to do the daily commute again. But six more days and I can walk to work!

Wish I had more time to write but 2.5 jobs isn't leaving much spare time...

Monday, May 08, 2006

Like smurf... A little blue

I am slightly smurflike blue today... I had a second date on Friday that went neither good nor bad, depending on how you view being told he's having an affair with someone in the office already. (Why go to the trouble of a second date then?!) I spoke to the Man with a Van who has great news about potential to study and I think, but this might be an ill conceived presumption based on the sound of a cough in the background, that he might have at least met someone to spend the night with. KebMaf has two ladies that will sit and listen to him wax lyrical about all that he knows best about, DivaTwo has two new girls to runaround with until they all grow bored of each other...

I'd just like someone to hang out with...

Last night I went to see a great movie. The occassional sharing of popcorn would be nice. Smurf's not very good at movies, he's too small to see over the seat in front...

I have a large bar of Italian nougat with chocolate and rum to consume. It's just food, not love. And it will be stuck to Smurf's fur for ages...

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Twenty five degrees celcius

That's the temperature outside in London today.
Twenty five degrees celcius
Ice cream licking hot
Skirt wearing hot
Tube crippling hot (really, it's the front page of the evening paper)

It's due to rain on Saturday though...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Messing about on boats

Whoosh! Speeding out of Canary Wharf, I've just got enough time to fall over, get the hair out of my face and take a photo in the blinding sun and Thames spray...

It wasn't just Toad who loved messing about on boats. I think children and men love boats too. And then there's me...

I caught the boat into work the other day - just because I could. Purely decadent. 2.70 even with an Oyster card, but airline seats (the way they used to be) and smart hostesses. So I chose to hang out the back covered with a bit o rust and seagull poo!

The Thames Clipper goes like the clappers. It's like being in a speed boat. We raced police boats (I hummed the theme song to Water Rats as we did so).

I smiled at the memory of the historic Wapping pubs where Adrian and I got soo drunk that we drank all our money but thankfully had enough money for the boat back to mine.

I dreamt of the insides of warehouses that either were or are or will be cool converted apartments.

I went to work with messy hair and a bloody big smile on my face!

Pics of my ride here...

English and Instructions

But you're allowed to piss on the floor...

Perhaps because I am back in a country where I comprehend the aural and written language around me, but the English seem very big on instructions, particularly for the obvious.

On the coach down from Oxford, the bus driver told us twice in a half hour period at the beginning of the journey, that we should flush the toilet after use, and quite how to flush, and also why we should flush it...

Seeing as there was only one sign for a 1 km stretch of waterway, I'd amend that penultimate sentence to read "these signs are ineffective"...

Spring has sprung

It takes me half an hour longer to get to work because I stop to look at the flowers and watch the swans brood and marvel at the terns building nests...

I always think of the Pitajanmakis at moment like these because I know they would love to be here for the nature alone. Now who'd think of something like that being said about a pocket of London... ?!

A piece of spring for the Pitajanmakis!

Hyvaa Vappua

For the time that I was actually conscious on Mayday (having fallen in a heap from filing news every half an hour for 12 hours on 3 straight days), I heard Sharna's little song "Hyvva Vappua" in my head... and smiled.

Thanks to the lovely folk who called (yes called!) for May Day eve and texted from picnics in sober state. You made me feel like I was there. And happy Rowena-Sarita-Sami-Myy-Epsilon anniversary!

Can you spot me in the photo? No... Relive MayDay past here.

I hope someone I know went into the Sauna van in my memory... Who else is going to have a conversation with naked strangers?

I have a home!

It’s in London Bridge which means all my late night clubbing friends will remember me when they have run out of cash for a dodgy minicab at 4am.

I’m sharing with a Mexican and Chinese girl which should mean good contacts for traveling.

I have a balcony, a futon, a desk, wireless, room to swing several cats, and a deep red 1950s carpet from my room into and including the toilet.,.

I also have clothes to wear, dance, strut and work in, including little red kttien heels to wear on my thick red carpet.

Is there anything more to life?

Photos soon. Invites sooner. Come see now.