the only way is up

23, i lie on the floor

#23 of 30. Occasionally I lie on the floor, just to look up. It’s comfy down there. The only way is up. But I’ll tell you what, drawing while lying on the floor and looking up is bloody hard. An unusual one this.


bravely ran away, away

22, athletics

When I was in my teens, I learned to run. My mate Terry was really into running at the time and so he always wanted to run around the park after school. My dad, and I don’t quite know why, got a running machine at home, put it in the living room, and I used it to practice. And I got quite quick. Not as quick as Terry, but pretty quick. At sports day I would usually do pretty well, in the 100 metres anyway – I didn’t have the stamina for much else, except 200m. Oh, and the javelin. I tended to get lucky in that I’d race against really slow people too. I obviously won enough races that the sports teacher picked me for the athletics team one time, to race at Copthall in the 100 metres sprint. I think Terry may have had something to do with it. I was about 14. Everyone I was racing against was at least 16. Even though I was just as tall as most of them, I felt tiny. You never know, I told myself. Maybe the Force will be with me. And then they bolted. Sure, I gave it my best shot, but contrary to lying cartoons the tortoise does not beat the hare, came a woeful last. Oh well. I went back to the art class, and never raced again.

I don’t run any more, don’t exercise much at all.

#22 of 30. Incidentally, I have decided to name this series “I hold my pen in an unusual way”, after the first (and most appropriate) entry.

all we are saying is give peas a chance

21, I do not eat peas

#21 of 30. No peas for me. Don’t even try to convince me because I will not eat them. End of. Frozen, they are good for nursing scrapes and bruises. Give me baked beans any day. Beans on Toast, the staple of growing up. Gotta be on toast. Noodles too, as you know, my favourite food. A funny thing, this week my wife was looking in a recipe book for toddlers and it suggested sardines, on toast. “Who’d eat that?” she asked. “Me!!!” I said in excitement. The book was obviously British. I loved Sardines on Toast, especially sardines in those little tins of tomato sauce. They don’t really do the “___-on-toast” dinner choice here in America like we do back home. I grew up on it of course. But I’ll tell you one thing, you don’t put peas on toast, and that may be why I don’t like them. No, the reasons are listed above. It was those school mushy peas, alongside the domes of pure white ‘potato’, tasteless and dehydrating, that swung it for me. And I’ve not looked back. I will not give peas a chance.

he’s had a dream for a year or two

20, ossie

#20 in a series of 30. The cobalt copic fineliner pens are still holding out!

So this one is very appropriate, because right now Spurs are sitting at the top of the English Premier League, albeit after only two games. This new season has been very unusual – so far we have had no draws at all, and all of the London teams have been winning. But Spurs are top, and I’ll enjoy it while it lasts (that’ll be Saturday, then). It’s a nice change after last year, when we had to wait nine matches for our first win – and had to sack the manager to get it. Interestingly enough, the last time we won our first two matches was in 1994, when of all people Ossie Ardiles was manager! And he was sacked by November. Well, that’s Tottenham Hotspur for you.

Or “Tottingham” as Ossie used to call it. I was dumbstruck when I met him, outside the old Spurs training ground in Mill Hill, shortly before those two victories in ’94. I had met Klinsmann too of course, who had just arrived at the club, plus Sheringham, Anderton, Barmby, Mabbutt, all of those guys. After getting their autographs on a Spurs shirt (which I still have) and a few polaroids, I sat on the hood of a car to pack up my bag. And then Osvaldo CésarArdiles comes up and opens the car door! He was really nice, posed for a photo, said hello to my little sister, shook my shaking hand, and we left. He drove past as we walked down Bunn’s Lane, and actually waved. I know, it is incredible that a World-Cup winning footballer can actually say a few civil words and wave from a moving vehicle, but when you were the kid who wanted to actually be Ossie Ardiles, that is in fact a big deal. My knees were even trembly.

who washes the washmen

19, baths

Number 19 of 30. This is the bathroom. I do only ever take showers, and showers are very nice. Especially when it is hot, there’s nothing like the energy of a shower. But I love baths. Or, rather, used to love them, when I could actually be bothered to take them. It’s probably because I grew up with a bath, and showers were something you only saw at swimming pools. Plus, when I was a kid, I hated washing my hair, because I hated water getting in my eyes. It was the absolute worst part of the day, for all involved. I could not bear it. They may as well have been pouring hydrochloric acid, rather than warm water and shampoo. And conditioner! Hah, I never understood why I needed conditioner, I kept my hair short. They did get me one of those things that go on your head to stop the water getting in your eyes, a foam circle that made me look like the planet Saturn. Hey, it worked. But even as I got older and washed my hair myself, I developed ways to avoid the shower head. I would fill the sink with water and dunk my head into it to wash my hair. Yes I’d bang my ears on the taps from time to time, and yes I’d have to refill the sink a couple of times, and yes I’d splash water onto the floor, but I got my hair clean, and on my terms. So it may be all of this that explains why, though I’m totally fine with the shower, I’ll always be a bath person. A bath person who only ever takes showers. So I’m a bit contrary, nothing new there.

god only nose

18, crayon up nose

Number 18 of 30. What was I thinking? Well, can you remember how rational your thoughts were at age six? It was pretty silly, even for me.  I don’t recall exactly but I think I told me friend Hartman, or it might have been Mark, that I could put the crayon in my nose, but then it got stuck. The crayon was fairly small, and yes it was green. I remember that I tried to get it out, but ended up pushing it further in. I didn’t want to tell the teacher at first, Miss Welsh I think it was. When I did, they took me to the little medical room, which consisted of a hammock type bed and a strong smell of Dettol, where Mrs Lyons I think it was said I’d need to go to the hospital, so the headmaster himself, Mr Grist, drove me there. The doctors got it out with tweezers; I think about this incident every time I see a pair of tweezers now. Mr Grist drove me back to school in time for hometime, and my worried looking older brother was there to collect me from the main office. Silly boy. But I never did it again.

medieval on your ass

17, medieval english

I enjoyed doing my MA. It was at King’s College London, so I got to spend hours every day in the incredible Maughan library in Chancery Lane, as well as the indispensable Senate House. Among other things (such as an excellent course in the literature of Medieval London), I studied Germanic Philology: specifically Old Saxon, Old High German and Gothic, as well as Old English. I travelled to Switzerland, where I actually held in my hands the oldest surviving text in the German language, the twelve-hundred year old ‘Abrogans‘ manuscript. In terms of ‘which medieval’ I studied – Anglo-Saxon or Middle English, early medieval or late, I preferred to look at the middle ground, at the supposed boundary areas where one period becomes another. How language was affected by the way its speakers chose to convert to Christianity, in Germany at least, and in England, the way French imposed itself upon English in its transition to what we call Middle English. I argued against the supposition that cross-Channel antagonism in the Hundred Year’s War led to the downfall of spoken French in England. It was all very interesting, and I learnt a massive amount, mostly about how to conduct academic research; however, I have not done quite as much research since, just bits here and there. I moved to America a week after handing in my dissertation and have lived here ever since.