The Clock Is Ticking

Andy Warhol had a theory that in the future everyone would be famous for 15 minutes.

Which, considering he said it in the 60s, before the advent of the internet, reality TV or blogging, was pretty prescient of  him.

But, it begs the question – does that include makeup and wardrobe time?

My tiny brush with the furthest reaches of fame came this week, when the Daily Mail decided to run an article about me because of my soon-to-be-launched book. That was extraordinarily exciting news. For me, if not for the readers of the Daily Mail.

Unfortunately, they wanted to send someone over the next morning to take photos.

Now, I may have mentioned this before, but I don’t do photos. The difference between what I see in a photograph and what I see in my head is just too wide, too distressing, and too difficult to ignore. It’s better not to put myself in that position because, in this circumstance at least, ignorance really is bliss.

But, even I understood that since newspapers frequently carry photographs of people, it was probably going to be hard to get out of this. Worse yet, they hadn’t given me enough time to prepare – no trip to the hairdresser, or the clothes shop, or the place where you can hire body doubles.

And so, with a sinking heart and a shaking voice I said ‘Tomorrow morning? Of course. No problem’, while trying to figure out whether books on cognitive behaviour therapy had a chapter on how to cope with this.

Until, that is, the very nice Pictures Editor added…’The makeup and wardrobe people will be with you at 9′.

What? Makeup and wardrobe people?

Yes, that’s what he said. And at 9 on the dot a lovely young woman arrived at my front door wheeling in a bag that would have been hard to get into the hold on Easy Jet, much less the overhead locker. She proceeded to lay the contents out on my dining room table and, before she was a tenth of the way through, displayed more cosmetic products in that one place than I have ever owned in my entire life. Put together.

DM photo

She rolled out her creams, rolled up her sleeves and started to work. And, to her credit, didn’t sigh. Not one single time. She was, after all, a pro.

Meanwhile, the photographer turned up, with a bag of equipment that made the makeup artist look like a rank amateur, and wandered around the house looking for ‘light’. She found it in the front room, which she proceeded to completely empty so she could start ‘setting up’.

And, then the van arrived. The wardrobe van. I know, how amazing is that?

An hour later, wearing so much makeup it was hard to keep my head up straight, a maroon and black lacy cocktail dress, and six-inch heels, I was casually standing in front of my bookcase, with dogs at my feet. As one does.

Quite some time after that, and dressed in very posh ‘outdoor wear’, the dogs and I were up on the Common. Wandering around. Casually. With the photographer leaping about for shots, and the makeup artist on hand for ‘touch ups’.

At least that made sense, if it weren’t for the posh outfit, of course. And, I suppose, the photographer and makeup artist.

All in all, it took hours. Hours. And, was a very strange experience. But, I have to admit, it was enormous fun. Who could have seen that coming?

I suppose it was so enjoyable for a photophobe such as myself because it wasn’t really me. After all, it wasn’t my makeup, clothes, poses, or even dogs. Total responsibility taken off my shoulders and put on to those of people who knew what they were doing. And, if it turns out that the image between what they see in the photo and what they imagined in their head is too large…there’s always airbrushing. What a wonderful world we live in.

I wonder what Andy Warhol would make of it?

Not Leo Tolstoy (aka Eileen Riley)

Posted in About Me, Dogs, Humour | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Not Tired

I’m getting the tiniest bit restless. I don’t know why. But, it’s a feeling that has been hovering around on the fringes of my consciousness for a little while now and it’s getting harder to ignore.

A bit like all those floaty things in your eyes – not quite there, not quite not there. Annoying, but not really a problem. At least, not yet.

When I think about it rationally, and count off the things I have on the fingers and toes of all my extremities, I realise how lucky I am: loving family, good friends, interesting job, house that hasn’t completely fallen down yet, an adoration of dogs, an up-and-coming trip to Barcelona to see my boy, etc, etc, etc.

I have to admit that it doesn’t sound too bad. In fact, if I were to go on Wife Swap, the other woman might not give me my life back at the end of it.

So, why am I getting restless?

I’ve thought about it a lot, and talked it over with Tom. A lot.

He thought about it, a bit, and said:

You need a challenge or a hobby or something (that you can do quietly somewhere else and leave me alone). Ok, he didn’t actually say that last bit, but you could tell he was thinking it.

So I pondered, and examined, and reflected… and decided that he was right. What with the children grown up, and my book finally finished, and my diet dead, there actually is time for something else in my life. A door is opening.

But, on to what?

It could have been cycling, but some creep has stolen the tires off my bicycle. Both of them. Again.

Or it could have been wine tasting, but I don’t like the fact that you have to spit it out.

Or it could even have been bridge, if Tom wasn’t so annoying to play bridge with.

I toyed with the idea of joining a flute choir, and after some serious research, found one that rehearses nearby.

‘What do you think about me joining this’, I asked my flute teacher as I played him a clip from their last concert. After he stopped laughing, I’m really not sure at what, he mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like ‘in your dreams’. He has a point.

Ok, so perhaps that’s one for the future.

Professional cat feeding? I don’t mind cats. They aren’t dogs, but that’s not their fault. I would get to poke around lots of houses in the neighbourhood, which would be really good fun. The problem is that after you had poked, you would have to keep turning up to feed the cat. Hmmm…that could get tiresome after a while.

Tai ‘chi? Choral singing? Wood carving? Glass blowing? Marathon running?

Uhm…no, no, no, no and…definitely no.

And then a recently-moved-to-the-country-friend said: ‘Why would anyone live in this big, noisy, dirty city when they could live in peaceful bliss out in the countryside?’ Or words to that effect.

No mud, for one thing, I thought. Plus, shop windows to look at, and neighbours to talk to, and pizza places to frequent. Not to mention the occasional Art Trails, and major sporting events and festivals, and historic walks and…

…and then I remembered Samuel Johnson.

Yes, that Sam Johnson – English poet, essayist and lexicographer who once famously said:

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”

His London, of course, was a bit different from ours, being in the 18th century as it was, but the basic sentiment still applies. I suppose. At least that’s what the London Tourist Board never tires of telling us.

And, he gave me an idea.

Try to do one thing a week for the next 52 weeks that can only be done in London.

That could be an amazing way to spend my newly-opened-up time. The more I thought about it, the more excited I became. I don’t want to just stick to my little bit of London, I want to explore all those parts of it I have never even heard of. Yes, lots to learn. Lots to plan. Lots to do.

It certainly beats cleaning the house.

Tom’s up for the challenge. In fact, he has been thinking along those very same lines for quite a while now and thinks that we should turn our findings into a book. He wants to call it something mundane like: 52 Things To Do In London.

Whereas, I already know what it’s called…Not Tired.

Any suggestions for fun, interesting, unusual, exciting, wonderful things to do in London anyone?

Not Leo Tolstoy (aka Eileen Riley)

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What cable?

I should probably warn you right now – this is not going to be my best effort. No, that’s not true. It will be my best effort, it just won’t be my best result.

Because, my heart really isn’t in it. I have, after all, already written this. And it turned out ok. At least, I was happy enough with it to push the Publish button. But, between a last reread and another post making its way out into the universe, something happened.

My internet died.

And my phone.

And my iPad. Well, Kimberly’s iPad. But, I was using it.

The same thing happened to my neighbours. I know this because we were all standing outside our doors, looking up and down the street, to see what was going on. I have absolutely no idea what we thought we would see, but we were out there nonetheless. It was kind of nice, to tell you the truth.

Anyway, it turns out that someone had tried to steal a cable. Or “the cable” as we all kept calling it. I have no idea what cable this is, or where it is located, or what anyone would do with it once they had stolen it, but it was gone and so was everything I spent the past several hours writing.

But, you know what? It’s a beautiful day outside. The sky is blue. The sun is shining. It’s early October and warm enough to eat in the garden. This is England. You can’t take these days for granted. They are gifts, and ones not frequently given at that.

So, I think I will go find out what this Artists Open House is all about. The neighbours were talking about it, while looking in vain for the missing cable.  Apparently local artists are inviting the public in to see what they have been up to. They’ve created a trail, from one house to the other, and it runs right down our street and all around the Common.

Following that on a sunny day just has to be a better idea than sitting here trying to remember what I was talking about before breakfast. Doesn’t it?

So, I’m off. See you next week. Cable Guy willing…

Not Leo Tolstoy (aka Eileen Riley)

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Dorney Lake finish


 3 hours, 2 minutes, 40 seconds – a triumph!

(disregard all the blood, he only cut his finger)

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Go, Tom, Go

This is going to be a very short post this week. I’m just out the door to go cheer Tom on as he swims, cycles and runs to raise money for Heroes for Harrison.

The group was set up to help our great-nephew, who had surgery in March to remove a malignant brain tumour and is currently undergoing chemo. He was only 15 months old when diagnosed, which is why the treatment is taking so long. There’s only so much such a little person can take at any one time.


On the bright side, he’s doing brilliantly and will probably never remember this period of his life. The same can’t be said for the rest of his family.

And so, being too far away to be able to help in any practical way, we’re doing the next best thing, putting in a lot of effort and raising a bit of money. When I say ‘we’, I actually mean Tom, but that’s a mere detail.

Yes, he (a 64 year old, fat, bald man with one eye and a leg brace) is going to conquer the Dorney Lake Triathlon.


Dorney Lake, for those of you who watched the Olympics, was the venue for all the rowing events. But those displays of athletic prowess, determination and sheer courage will pale into insignificance later today as Tom swims a mile, cycles 20 and runs (ok, jogs, as fast as a man in a leg brace can go…I’m bringing a book, and perhaps something for dinner) five.

It won’t be pretty. But it will be from the heart.

I’m just hoping that I can cheer for the required amount of time. And, that we aren’t raising money this time next year to thank the people who fished him out of the lake. Apparently he should have been practicing in that wetsuit…oh well, too late now.

Wish ‘us’ luck!

Not Leo Tolstoy (aka Eileen Riley)

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Impending Disaster

Help me.

My house is shrinking.

I’m not kidding. The walls are actually closing in. Like in that scene from Star Wars where our heroes are stuck in a galactic rubbish compactor.

It’s just like that. Only, we’re in London. And there’s no director to yell ‘cut’.

That can’t be good.

I suspect this has been happening, gradually, for years. The house getting slowly smaller, inch by inch, foot by foot. If I’m honest, the signs have been around for awhile, I just didn’t recognise them for what they were.

Or understand the seriousness of the situation.

You do, after all, learn tricks to compensate. How to pile kitchen utensils up on shelves that used to be empty, or at least empty enough to put the mixer down so that it was actually touching a shelf. And to walk around the boxes, where once you could walk in straight lines. Boxes which have apparently sprouted spontaneously from the floor, all over the place, because no one remembers them arriving, or being put down in such inconvenient spots, or even what’s in them.

book tower

You figure out how to arrange the books so that they lean into the corner, thus enabling the pile by your bed to get large enough to kill the dog, if the dog should be unlucky enough to be walking nearby, around something on the floor, when the inevitable avalanche sets off.

And, you find inventive uses for things, things that otherwise would just be clutter. Suitcases, for example, can be stuffed with clothes a size or two too small, but which will fit again once the diet works, and the fashion returns. Unfortunately, they are then so wide that there’s nowhere to put them, other than next to the boxes. On the floor.

Of course.

Tracy Ermin has helped. If her unmade bed can be art, then the two bicycles which are in the front room because there’s no space for them in the shed can be…I’m not sure yet, but I’m certain it will come to me sooner or later. As will the reason why I keep a giant inflated ball, last seen chasing The Prisoner, next to them. At all times.

Houston, as they say, we have a problem.

And, while I may not know what to do about this situation, I do know how it happened.

A million years ago, my future husband and I both had our own places. Our own fully furnished, and decorated places. With pots and pans.

After some time, we merged his two bedroom flat, with my two bedroom flat, and got…a two bedroom flat. One now complete with his grandad’s souvenirs of a lifetime spent in China with my Papua New Guinean tribal masks. And to his things, and my things, we began to add our things.

As one does.

Eventually, the children started arriving, with their accoutrements, and so we moved to a house.

And spread out.

And Out.

And OUT.

From time to time, I realised that something had to be done and so I would gather together some possessions, usually somebody else’s possessions, and take them off to the charity shop, or the local tip, or to the child next door. And the extra space felt great.

For a while.

But, it never lasted. Nature abhors a vacuum. And so, apparently, do I. The floor, once again, began to shrink. The walls inched in.

I did the only thing possible. I bought a book about how to get organised. Ok, I bought three books. They are all now, ironically, near the bottom of the pile and can no longer be accessed. But I remember the gist of what they said:

If you haven’t used it in a year, throw it out.

If it doesn’t fit, throw it out.

If you don’t know it to be either useful or beautiful, throw it out.

Which, you have to admit, all makes sense. But, it doesn’t take into account what happens when both children move back home – temporarily – bringing with them most of the things they had in their last flats, and will need in the next ones.

Or, when you sell the company and move the entire contents of a very large office back into your house. In preparation, for moving it back out to another office. Eventually.

Or, when everything you look at is a memory. Ok, maybe not the two monitors on the floor to one side of me, or the collection of old pillows that I’m gearing up to dispose of on the other, but almost everything else in this room is. The broken carriage clock that sat on my mother’s mantle for as long as I can remember. The miniatures of George Washington and Marie Antoinette that hung in her entry hall. I know, very odd, but she thought Marie was Martha and I never had the heart to tell her it wasn’t so. The totally-surplus-to-requirements desk that an elderly friend asked us to take care of when she downsized and which now, years later, always reminds me of her. The family of ducks, or swans, or some other type of bird, that my boy bought for me from a jumble sale. With his very own money. The macramé plant holder that may just look wonky to the rest of the world but which I can still vividly remember making, half a lifetime ago and half a world away.

I could go on.

In fact, I have been going on, for a long time, which is why I am now in the position where I can’t walk from my chair to the window without plotting a course more elaborate than the one Napoleon had for marching into Russia.

I can not be the only person in this position. So, how come the books don’t tell you what to do with the really important things:

Stuff that will be useful in the future.

Stuff that reminds you of the past.

Perhaps it would have helped if we hadn’t converted the loft into a bedroom. Or the garage into a spare sitting room. That last one could have been a mistake.

A big mistake.

Because we have now reached critical mass. The house is about to implode.

The neighbours won’t be happy.

Neither will I, come to that.

Which brings me back to my first sentence…HELP ME.

…but not too soon. I’ve just heard that it’s London Open Day and that the iconic Battersea Power Station is on the list of usually-closed places that are throwing open their doors, for one day only. I’ve always wondered what it looks like in there.

I just hope that souvenirs are NOT available.

Not Leo Tolstoy (aka Eileen Riley)

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I really hate to say this, but Tom may have been right.

I suppose, statistically speaking, that it has to happen every now and again but, even so, the possibility still comes as a surprise.

Last week we were sitting around the table, toying with our final lunch and pretending that we were not all keeping an eye on the clock. Our boy Christopher was off to Barcelona that afternoon, for a year’s study at the university there. And time was ticking away.

I was already missing him, and trying to pretend that I wasn’t upset that he was leaving. I was not succeeding, but at least I was trying.

He was getting increasingly nervous about going, and trying to pretend that he wasn’t. He had just come back from a summer in New York and wasn’t really ready to leave home again quite so soon. He didn’t know anyone in Spain, or too much Spanish come to that,  and, worst of all, everyone who had ever been anywhere near Barcelona was telling him how much he was going to love it. Absolutely love it.

No pressure, then.

Tom, meanwhile, was warding off any silences, or meaningful last-minute conversation, by conducting a monologue on his new favourite topic – the perfidy of budget airlines.

He has been talking about this at every opportunity, legitimate or manufactured, since we went to France in July. Early July.

He had done some research for the trip and discovered the airline that was offering, by far, the best deal. He searched, for a very long time, for a phone number so he could discuss our journey with a sales rep. I had no idea why he needed to talk to a sales rep about it. We were going to France, not Tibet, but I was busy so I left him to it.

His search was in vain and so, after a considerable amount of sighing, tut-tutting and complaining about the state of the modern world, he broke down and bought the tickets online.

That, as it turned out, was a mistake.

The day arrived and so did we, at Gatwick, with our e-tickets, confirmation number and…bags.

The very nice lady at the check in desk looked at our passports, looked up our confirmation number and…looked at our bags.

She studied our information on her computer. Carefully. She stared at the bags, making sure she hadn’t been imagining them. And then she looked at Tom.

And asked why he hadn’t purchased a luggage allowance when he booked the tickets.

“What, bags aren’t included? That’s outrageous’…or words to that effect, he said. And then began informing her, in glorious detail, about his complete astonishment at, and total disgust with, this policy.

A policy, he added, that was only in place to trick people.

He elaborated more about this theory to the equally nice woman who was taking his credit card and charging him £100 for adding two bags, at the airport. An amount which more than tripled the cost of the ticket.

And he has pretty much been talking about it ever since.

Christopher, who it must be said is normally a very polite individual but who was, at this point, rather on-edge, what with the imminent move into the unknown and all that, could take it no longer and suddenly shouted that everyone on the planet knew that you had to buy baggage allowance on budget airlines and that you couldn’t blame them if you didn’t read the terms and conditions properly. Or words to that effect.

We left for the airport.

And, without too much drama or delay, arrived.

At the check-in desk, where the very nice lady looked at his passport, and at his ticket reservations and at his two bags. She smiled, and chatted, and told him how much he was going to love Barcelona, and then she asked him to put his bags on the scale.

Together, they weighed 38kgs.

She looked back at his details on her screen. She looked at the number on the scale. She looked at Christopher and said…you’re 18kgs over.

Christopher explained, politely, that he wasn’t because he had booked, and paid for, two bags so he was 2kgs under.

She regarded him, a little sadly I thought, and explained that their new policy was that you could buy additional baggage but that it did not come with an additional weight allowance. That cost more. Apparently this was explained on the website, if you clicked on a link to a link to a page to a paragraph on ‘excess baggage’.

So, basically, the new policy is that you can take as many bags as you want, provided you paid for them, as long as you did not exceed the weight limit for one bag. In theory, you could bring 10 bags but, once you take into account the weight of the bag itself, they would all have to be completely empty.

“Why”, Christopher asked, “would anyone do this?” “How”, he went on, “did this policy make any sense at all?” “And”, he continued, “why wasn’t it obvious when he booked his ticket?”

Or words to that effect.

And so, after much sighing, and tut-tutting and complaining, he paid an excess baggage charge, purchased at the airport, that would have left him gasping if he wasn’t now in such serious danger of missing the flight entirely.

Christo and Tom
Father and son, in complete agreement

We waved him through Departures and, after a moment or two spent staring at the spot where he was last seen, started on the journey home without him.

Tom, I suspect, used the time to expand upon his theme of unscrupulous business practices as pertaining to air travel, while pausing every now and then to gloat about how he had been proven right.

But, I don’t really know. I wasn’t listening. I was too busy trying to figure out how many days it was until my boy would be back. Speaking Spanish. And having loved Barcelona.

Perfidy…or a question of the buyer at fault for not sufficiently bewaring?

You decide.

Not Leo Tolstoy (aka Eileen Riley)

Posted in About Me, Children, Humour | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments