Watching Sister Wendy


Billy emptied Heidi last night then howled and roared for milk that wasn’t there. He is getting a fat head; he’d better watch himself before he starts looking like a rugby player.

I mention this as it put me in a very tense state of mind, when he and Heidi had finally drifted off I needed something to calm me down. I got out my recently acquired Sister Wendy DVD. I don’t know if you remember her, she was the art critic nun who was big around 1990. She also made an “American Collection” in the late nineties. Last night I popped on the American episode about the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I find the way she smacks her lips over her teeth whilst rapturously holding her hands together almost as fascinating as the art she describes, she looks supremely odd. She is able to totally relax me whilst demonstrating a state of mind I rarely achieve these days: contemplation. She must spend hours mulling over each work; she talks about them with such voracious enthusiasm you feel you must make seeing them your life’s sole purpose. This is life without sex and alcohol. (Hers I mean).

I’ve often thought I’d like to go to the MET on a regular basis but the suggested donation for entrance is $12. Heidi with her balls of steel puts down a quarter and boldly says ‘One please!’ Not thinking twice about what she is doing. I pull out $7, say ‘1 student’ and feel like I’m mugging a pensioner. I usually get a scornful look or a questioning ‘Student?’ Heidi gets a smile. This is simply the way of things; I am not bitter.

Heidi has pointed out that they are fabulously rich with countless benefactors, that we go all the time, and that we have paid our $12 once before. There are a hundred other very reasonable arguments as to why I shouldn’t feel guilty, but I still do. I can’t give them a quarter.

The MET is 5 minutes from where I work and I really should visit it more often. When my hours were recently increased my lunch break was increased too and I now have an hour twiddling my thumbs every afternoon. Sister Wendy has inspired me to get my arse in gear and get cultured up. I have become an official bona-fide member of the MET at the bargain price of $55 a year. No more standing outside plucking up the courage to go in; now I just wave my pass and I’m hurried past the plebian hordes, caps lifted in gratitude as the great benefactor enters their midst.

Heidi doesn’t know I’ve joined yet. She’ll find out either when she reads this or when she gets hold of the credit card bill. Yikes, I’m in for hiding.

So, like a tragic autodidact, a Leonard Bast for the 21st century, on these scorching summer lunchtimes you’ll find me skulking around the MET, attempting to enrich my tawdry little brain by means of fine masterpieces and cool dry air.

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Mum on the Rampage

Last night I took my mum to the Chip Shop for dinner. All went well and we had some nice fish and chips and a pie. After dinner my mum started craving a cigarette so she suggested we move to an outside table. I’m sure you are all aware of the smoking laws in New York, i.e., it isn’t allowed in restaurants and bars. I told the waiter our plan and he told us that it was illegal to smoke outside the restaurant too. He was a nice Australian guy; he said he felt ridiculous even telling us, but that didn’t change the fact that it was illegal.

My mum stormed out of the place in disgust, breaking open her packet of fags as she went. Thus ensued a litany of abuse regarding this great and free nation:

“How can you want to live here, it is bloody ridiculous, they treat everyone like kids?”

Quoting Christopher Hitchens she said: “You’re not even allowed to ride a bike with your feet off the pedals!”

“Why on earth would you want to do that?” I said.

“Ex-bloody-sactly!” she said, “and you can’t sit on the steps leading down to the subway, they have laws for everything, oooh, wait don’t cross the road! It is 10 feet wide and the light is on red! We don’t want to upset the police now do we? Why are there lights at every tiny crossing, are people stupid? They keep making more and more stupid bloody laws and people just accept them. They’re like sheep! Bloody nanny state!”

Soon she moved onto the level of care Heidi is receiving. This is something that has shocked my whole family, and angered me quite a lot too. Heidi gets only one doctor’s appointment (which she had to take herself too) in the first 5 weeks of Billy’s life. In England she would have had a midwife come to her home every day for the first 10 days. Not wanting to be a clever clogs, or end up with a clip round the ear, I didn’t point out that this sounds like ‘Nanny Statism’ in a very literal sense.

I think my mum is suffering from a bit of culture shock. When I first came here I became quite embittered. There were so many stupid things that enraged me. For example, the chocolate. The Belgians and French ridicule us English for our rubbish chocolate, but you’ve got to try the crap they sell here to believe it. I never thought I’d nibble on a Dairy Milk and feel classy; now I pay $3.50 for a bar in a posh Madison Avenue Deli. Millionaires in my office tell me how much they love Cadbury’s. The world’s gone mad.

When you’ve traveled a bit you soon realize that each country has its advantages and disadvantages, there are things about all the places I’ve lived that make me want to pull at my hair and scream like a maniac:

ENGLAND: CHAVS/YOBS/NEDS, or whatever they are called this year, I’d do anything to escape these mindless bastards. (Like live in the US).
SPAIN: MOTORCYCLES, Why, why, why? I wanted to grab one of these noisy buggers and throttle the life out of them.
KOREA: HOSPITALITY, Please just give me 5 goddam minutes with my own thoughts, I know you mean well but I NEED SOME SPACE!
USA: GUILT. I feel so guilty for being white in this country and I’m not even rich, I have the guilt without the rewards. Please, it isn’t my fault! I only just arrived! I can’t cope! Why is my brain doing this to me?

I considered listing the great things about each country I’ve lived in but I thought that’d just be dull.

To prove my mother was suffering little more than culture shock I leave you with her final rant of the evening: ‘There’s even almonds in the damned iced cream cones!’ Now there’s just no pleasing some people.

[Caveat – I am grossly misrepresenting my poor mother in manor and content. (Honest)]

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Only in America

Fancy a mobile treat? Forget ice-cream, how about a class action lawsuit? Don’t forget to ask for a wafer and sprinkles with that.


Spotted on Second Avenue, outside the Ruppert Towers complex.

(Credit for idea of taking pictures of random trucks and posting them on your blog given to Paul)

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