Words in cardboard and neon, the people just hurrying by

I had a lovely afternoon of catch ups with a couple of my girls yesterday, absolutely what the doctor ordered.  I felt so much more cheerful and normal afterwards.

But before I saw the lovely Li and Bella I had to accomplish some challenges in London and I discovered that I muchly out of practice.  I walked much further than I needed to because I’d forgotten where useful shops were.  Plus my decisive faculties were seriously impaired by trying to work out where I was and what I was doing so even when I got into sales emporiums I struggled with making purchases.  But I got everything ticked off the list, in a fashion.

What’s more, turning the wrong way out of Bond street led me to Selfridges and it’s funky windows, which were full of words.  People were walking by in a bustle, paying little attention, but I snuck in some photos to share with you.

and finally, from Soho – some strangely life appropriate neon


The turning leaves

This is Unter den Linden in the festival of lights, the avenue looked fantastic (literally) with so much uplighting.  It made me really look forward to Christmas lights.

avenue of lights

As you can see, the trees still had most of their leaves when Dad was here, but they were beginning to turn.  Since then the city has been slowly turning into gold.  I do have more pictures for you but my internet at home is kaput and so I can’t edit at home. I don’t want to be silent for too long, so I’m just going to share this with you now, and promise you more trees and other pictures before too long.

I’m experiencing serious backlog at the moment.  After a succession of wonderful visits (such a good time was had with the girls!) I have lots of pictures and words for you, but I haven’t had time to sort through either and give you the good ones.  Soon soon, I hope, but not this weekend because the boy is visiting (yay).  Auf wiedersehen, bis bald.

p.s. Mr Murray, fancing coming back in to look after the place?  It’s going to rack and ruin since you left me…

Like marmite?

Good evening folks.  I’m back in Berlin now with sunshine and chocolate (melted malteasers from epic Sunday journey) and a rather superb guest post to follow up on.  I need to think about adding a glossary page for all you Engles to translate the tricky words like schadenfreude und so weiter, plus I clearly need to do some housekeeping since the punctuation problem, particularly the exlamation proliferation, is getting out of hand.

This might take some time, so in the meantime I invite you to admire this graffito from the streets of Islington.

A bit like marmite?  I don’t know, I quite like Wills and Kate but I don’t think I love them.  I certainly hate marmite though.  That’s a fact.



These Idle Thumbs

As promised, an utterly brilliant guest post from Mr Murray, who will be welcome back any time. Enjoy


In the absence of our fearless leader, who’s traipsing around doing her bit for Anglo-German-Oirish relations, I have been parachuted in to commandeer the squeakosphere and keep this blog ticking over. Think of me as something of a caretaker, a janitor, if you will. Though instead of fetching balls from the school roof, confiscating d!rty mags and bustin’ smokers in the bike shed, I’m more just popping in to check the windows are shut and run the taps for a bit. Turns out the theme of this blog, as the heading above points out and stops me dead in my typing tracks, is Berlin – of which I know a big, fat, clinically obese zero about. Clutching at straws, I recall seeing a movie called Munich, once, many moons ago, but that’s as geographically and as culturally close as I come to firsthand experience. My only knowledge of Berlin is what I have read on here: there’s an awful graffiti problem (called street-art in Germany, presumably the handiwork of the above-mentioned bike-shed dwelling delinquents), there’s a ‘Dom’, and there’s a suspicious sounding place called the Sausage Palace. I think I’ve seen it in one of the d!rty mags I confiscated. So while she’s teaching folk in Berlin, she’s simultaneously educating corn-chewing, petrol-sucking country bumpkins like me back in Blighty.

Anyway; the blog. She’s left behind a bit of a mess here, if I’m to be honest. There’s a bucket of exclamation marks spilt all over the floor, a drawer marked ‘punktuation’ lying wide open, coffee-cup marks on the log-in page and an assortment of German words scattered over the keyboard. I wouldn’t mind tidying up, it’s no bother really, but I’m only here in caretaker capacity. Check the windows. Run the taps. Plus I wouldn’t know where to put words like schadenfreude – which could be anything from a hilarious insult to some continental breakfasty thingy eaten in Germany. Like a croissant with a sausage in it. Dipped in beer.

I don’t really have anything of interest to report, promote or even convincingly rant about. But I promised I’d put these idle thumbs to use and contribute something. Anything to look forward to? Um, not really. The summer I suppose. Ah, the summer. Here it comes – galloping into town, flanked by a legion of cheap crappy barbeques, shirtless middle-aged monkey-men with their red-raw mansacks on display, and refined, chic ‘ladies’ in floral frocks peeing in public-park bushes.

Yup, the summer.

I’ve waded through seven dense, dark murky months of misery to arrive at this point, the onset of the sunshine season, so I intend to make it last and stretch every last shimmering sunbeam out of it, hence why I’ve been sporting shorts, shades and sun-block since Mid-March, and lying face-down drunk in the park since early April. Summer clothing has issues though. Shorts don’t suit me/I don’t suit shorts; my legs are so white I look like I’ve spent the majority of my life as a Shawshank’s inmate. Whiter than an episode of Midsomer Murders, these pins. Can’t understand, nor stand, flip-flops. Not because I don’t suit them – you can’t really not suit flip-flops – but because they are the single most impractical, uncomfortable, pointless brain-fart mankind has ever let rip. You don’t wear them; your toes carry them. The pages of history are littered with reasons against them. The Greeks and Romans famously marched on them, and their empires collapsed because going into battle in flip-flops was simply asking for trouble. The ill-fated folk of Pompeii perished because running in flip-flops was/is virtually impossible. Big JC of Nazareth wore ‘sandals’ (early flip-flops) and he ended up with a nail through his foot. I choose to learn from history and stick with solid, practical German innovation; Adidas.

 Anyway I best shoot, I’m starting to moan, and Her Right Royal Squeakiness will be back soon to commence keyboard battle and resume normal service. In parting, I left a little present of a mixtape for her when she gets back, but the copyright police at soundcloud.com busted me for using a track without permission. So I need to run, the net is closing in and sirens are coming into earshot.

That is all.

Have a wonderful summer. See you around.


Why don’t you do it in drag instead?

Well, that was the week that was.  I’m exhausted.  I’ve had good teaching and not so good teaching, and I felt like I’ve spent my entire week in and around the school so I’m more than ready for the weekend.  I’m actually at the stage where I almost feel dismayed when people invite me out to do fun things because

  1. it means I need to organise the invitations in my mind and work out which I can do and which I can’t do
  2. I’m going to have to talk to people and I’ve lost all the words so it’s looking challenging
  3. it reduces the time I have available for sorting my head and my life out, and since I’m feeling organisationally challenged that’s a worry
  4. it possibly reduces sleeping hours

Yes I do realise that this is ridiculous, and underneath all that I’m dead chuffed to be invited to things but I am feeling a bit frazzled.  On the other hand, there’s a cherry tree which cheers me up every day on my way to and from work because it’s so beautiful and so beautifully incongruous.

Which reminds me incidentally of something which annoyed me this week.  The potential US Government shutdown or whatever it’s called was threatening to halt all kinds of government type stuff and cost the economy billions of dollars, which I can’t bring myself to care much about.  But it was also threatening to stop the Cherry Blossom Parade, which is unacceptable.  Since I first heard about the gift of the cherry trees from Tokyo to Washington D.C. as a symbol of the friendship between Japan and the USA (full history here) I’ve considered it one to be of the most beautiful political symbols that I’ve heard of and I definitely want to go and see it in full flower one day.  To get in the way of celebrating something so lovely seems just plain wrong.  The good news is that I’ve just checked the Festival website and found that it’s going to go ahead regardless, thanks to the Met police.  Three cheers for them!

So, anything to report from the week?  I had a delicious and full of good company pizza and wine night yesterday with Margarethe and Claire which was my treat for the week.  Looking forward to putting some more dates in the diary to share more chat and Berlin highlights (cupcake place, gardens, abandoned theme park tour here we come, although the last will inevitably be annoying because I won’t produce such good pictures as the set on flickr from the guy who produced this one).  On the work side I staggered through, among other things, my first C1 classes as an official teacher, my first (pseudo)exam class, and my first mistakes made in writing a test – that was today – embarrassing and best learnt from and put out of mind I think.

But why don’t I do it in drag instead?  A very good point.  That was without a doubt the most outstanding question I’ve heard in the last 7 days.  I wish I could say it was a question from a student in a class but in fact it was credited to me while I was chatting with a wine obsessed friend of Alex’s.  And I didn’t even say it, I’d made a far more banal suggestion that the Dragon’s Den might be a suitable source of financing for the nascent wine importation/distribution business we were riffing on.   Goodness know’s how he made that out of it, but I couldn’t stop giggling and I decided there and then that it’s a question that can and should be applied to all walks of life.  Most walks would look better if you were wearing kinky boots after all!

Thanks should go to Alex for hosting me in his totally gorgeous flat and cooking me utterly scrumptious lamb.  He also produced charming and intelligent friends, who came with more than usually tasty wine and whiskey, so I was treated to a very convivial evening.  And there was reggae.

In fact the weekend was characterised by meeting great people and getting out of my depth in random chats on such diverse topics as design, stockings and suspenders, poetry, the signifiers/signifieds of hipsters (no I didn’t understand either), the dying art of writing letters and the characters of wines.   Oh and I stole a jumper from a guy from Bracknell when the weather tricked me by being super sunny for two days and then perfidiously getting all cold and raining.  ‘Sokay tho, we’d bonded over memories of the anaconda at Coral Reef, and I’ll get it back to him at some point I’m sure.

On which note, I’ll leave you for now, before my ramblings get even more erratic….but I’ll say before I go that if you decide not to go with drag (boys) then you could do worse than model yourself on these chaps.  As the Sartorialist points out, they look like gentlemen who would definitely have interesting stuff to say in a most excellently beautiful way.

p.s. the red elephant is just there because I found him on a wander, and I like him.  I couldn’t let the flickrman have all the elephant glory now could I?

This is the ultimate showdown

Not really guys.  I’m currently considering a state of war with wordpress because I wrote the majority of a rather funky post for you last night and it’s EATEN it, but the ultimate showdown will doubtless come later.

In the meantime, I must apologise for my recent silence.  I was actually doing some of the out and about nonsense at the weekend and it left me a little bit sleep deprived, which has made the start of my busy week tougher than it otherwise needed to be.  Thusly the squeaks have had to take a back seat, and now that the techfail has occurred I find myself without the time or the brain to rewrite it.  Bed is sending out a siren call and I’ll be making like a dormouse before the clock strikes ten.

To compensate I offer this fun video of a tune which always makes me smile….

p.s. just finished the Girl with a Dragon Tattoo and quite liked it.  Should I bother reading the others?

To illustrate a point

Over the weekend I spent a fair time poking round odd corners of the internet and got onto a bit of an illustration roll.  It all starts with the Byczek blog which showcased this absorbing video of title sequences.

You probably all know by now how much I love watching films, even if they are quite ridiculously squeak inducing in some cases.   Well the style of different pictures is a huge part of the allure for me – including title sequences.  Of course the Bond films are justifiably famous in this arena, but as you can see there’s much more gold out there than just Goldfinger.

Berlin, by the way, is a fairly hipster filled city.  I can’t quite work out if there are more here than in Londontown, some of the identifying features are muddled, but spotting them is a fun game to play.  On a hipster note, check out Japecake’s hipster crayons for a giggle.  Stay inside the lines people.

Wordle: Squeaks

Oooooh, and today I found this totally genius website for making pictures from words. My words. Pictures made of words = Happiness on the internet for nickys-that-squeak.  I can already see that I’ll play with this many times over, but for my first attempt
– in monochrome –
here is a wordle of my squeaks to date. Love…

Also, while we’re on the topic of cool things, I’m a little bit smitten by Moo.  Firstly, they’re called Moo, which is such a genius name for a company that I can’t work out why no-snaffled it before.  Secondly they have a simply brilliant idea – they print cunning business cards and things in that line, with the magic selling point being that you don’t have to have just one design, you can have many. So for creative types of people with short attention spans (me) it’s a godsend.  Plus their products look positively edible in their design gorgeousness.  Honestly I haven’t been this impressed with a company website since I fell head over heels with Getty Images in London. The website is slick and the business idea is perfectly formed in every way.  Currently I’m trying to dream up an excuse, and therefore the pictures to use, to create one of their shiny shiny stickerbooks.

But to finish where I began, I’ll come back to illustration.  While reading freshly pressed I accidentally fell over the rather wonderful Doodlemum and had a fun time wandering round her blog. I was particularly pleased with this post of this gorgeous pic because she references another squeaky little person. So I’ll leave you with a mermaid combing out her hair. Happy Monday folks.