Fridge Handle
Blog

Hello, well it’s been ages- so let’s have a quick catch up!

June 21st, 2017

Hello, well it’s been ages- so lets have a quick catch up! My new collection of short stories, ‘Listening In’  is out right now, complete with wonky illustrations by the author. No newspaper reviews so far but some lovely comments on Amazon, which is always reassuring.

‘Listening In’ is an offshoot of the radio 4 series I’ve been doing over the past few years called ‘Little lifetimes’,  they’re basically first person stories from the mouths of many different (mostly furious) middle aged women – writing these, it’s surprised me how oddly satisfying and easy it can be to disappear under the skin of someone else.

All the stories are about ten pages long, so just right for a bath time soak or a literary night- cap.

Cover of Listening In

Illustration from Listening In

Other work stuff has been pretty varied, bits of radio, bits of book festivals, a few gigs dotted here and there ( ‘How to be’ continues to be the best touring show I’ve ever written) and of course the BBC pilot.

‘Mind the Gap’ was a panel game idea me and Judith holder (who I write the Grumpy live shows with) first came up with in 2008! We’ve been batting it about and shoving it in peoples faces ever since – some projects are slow burners and it wasn’t until about six months ago when we had another bash, changed the format, saw someone who actually ‘got it’ and were given an non broadcast pilot, which means you do the show – film it to show the Beeb bosses, but it isn’t transmitted. All this is done, now all we have to do is wait and see if the BBC want it- as long as that doesn’t take another nine years – I don’t mind. Fact is, if we don’t succeed, I shall be gutted, a small team of really dedicated people worked so very hard on this, so everything is firmly crossed.

Travel wise, the old man and I went to the Cote D’Azure for three nights in May –staying at a new boutique hotel called Roche Rouges – red rocks – anyway, the weather was a bit crap which was a shame and the hotel was so new, it didn’t really know what it was doing (eggs were a big problem) and it was terribly expensive and I left dinner feeling hungry one night because it was all so eenie meenie. There were some lovely touches, great heated outdoor pool, free to borrow straw hats, but its in the middle of nowhere and a cab to St Tropez cost over two hundred quid, so we got a coach and it took hours and may I just say now, St Tropez is a horrible little shit hole.

Of course, now we wish we’d gone to Cannes but we didn’t and I doubt either of us will ever set foot in the French Riviera again, because from our experience it was a bit of a rip off dump. Hey ho, lessons learnt.

In Cote D’Azur – Good

In Cote D’Azur – bad

Talking of lessons, I’ve started a water-colour painting course, Tuesday mornings just a couple of hours a week. So far, I am furious at how bad I am, I’ve got absolutely no precision and everything I do is scrappy and out of kilter.

Art gives me such joy, it’s just a shame that I can never really feel any true satisfaction with the outcome.

Painting from art class

Anyway, you lot, I don’t want to sound like a miserable old bitch, slagging off France and my painting- so on a positive note

Things I’ve really enjoyed since the last blog

Shappi Khorsandi’s novel ‘Nina is not Ok’, just totally engaging from the beginning. All teens and parents of teens should read it, I listened to it on audible, Shappi reads it beautifully, it’s hilarious and heartbreaking, wise and sad.

‘Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour’  at The Duke of York’s Theatre, 100 minutes of fabulously filthy language, with some of the best singing in the West End. All the girls are phenomenal, it’s proper shock your aged maiden aunts to the tits stuff, gorgeous.

Grayson Perry at The Serpentine Gallery, Perry puts the nation on vases and tapestries, the results are important, moving, hilarious and slightly perturbing! A must see.

Tapestry from Grayson Perry’s new exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery

Vase from Grayson Perry’s new exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery

Laters gang

Love jenny x

Hello! We’re back… back from the other side of the world

April 27th, 2017

Hello! We’re back… back from the other side of the world (yes me and the old man had a 3 and ½ week adventure – which started off quite disastrously and then got loads better).

Thing is I had to fly with some virus, which totally wiped out my sense of smell and taste. This was one of the most hideous side effects to a flu type bug I’ve ever had, never mind taste the difference in a Sainsbury’s fish, I couldn’t event taste that it was fish, everything tasted of flannel. I couldn’t even smell Vicks ointment, never mind my best and very expensive Frederick Malle ‘Portrait of a Lady’ perfume.

I was quite distraught and threw up on the plane, which, because we were in business and therefore had access to free booze, everyone put down to drunkenness.

The saving grace of the 22 odd hours in the air was that Jason Donovan was on the same flight and told me he was on antibiotics too, in fact we had a lovely chat about both of us being allergic to penicillin. Anyway because Jason was on the flight, I knew we couldn’t crash, he is an emblem of Oz, a national treasure and much cuter than those hideous chlamydia riddled Koala bears that people bang on about.

Once safely landed in Oz we stayed in an apartment on the 17th very close to the city centre – where the views looked variously like these.

Real view from apartment

One of Geof’s aerial drawings

Another Geof aerial drawing

A sketch I did

During any down time we both did quite a lot of sketching – heres my painting of a Melbourne breakfast

A sketch I did of breakfast

Not that there was much downtime – I gigged more or less every  night and every night after the gig we went out for dinner.

If you’re ever in Melbourne and you want somewhere really quiet, may we recommend Self Preservation on Bourk St- we were very happy here.

Other recommendations include their burger chain Grill’d which does a splendid Wagyu burger and Oter for posh on Flinders Lane.

To be honest, we both found most menus a bit bewildering, there is a lot of Asian fusion around and we kept having to ask what things were – the dining scene is top notch but Australia is terrifyingly expensive for us Brits and I have to say a silly amount of cash went down our throats.

Also top notch was the art on offer, there aren’t many galleries compared to London – but there were some great exhibitions for us to gawp at, my favourite was a photography exhibition by the American William Eggleston.

Photograph from William Eggleston exhibition

Another photograph from William Eggleston exhibition

We also trecked out to Heide, which is one of the prettiest art galleries in the world and in addition to fine art, gives great lunch.

The shows at the Arts Centre went down really well and I sold a healthy amount of tickets, plus my appearance at the televised Gala was a small personal triumph, so if you fancy a butchers, here’s a five minute extract from the show…

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE

Weather wise we started well with temps around 22 degrees but as the weeks went on and the nights drew in it got colder, although we had one last sunny day at the zoo before we flew back.

Melbourne zoo

Other sunny day highlights included the Botanical gardens which are ace…

Photo from Melbourne Royal Botanical gardens

Photo from Melbourne Royal Botanical gardens

Photo from Melbourne Royal Botanical gardens

.. and a hot day at St kilda with the ever fabulous photo opportunity of Luna Park

Entrance to Luna Park

Ride in Luna Park

Carousel in Luna Park

Back in London now and pleased to be home but very glad we went and had such a happy time… thank you Melbourne.

I always mean to do a blog a month, but this year has run away with me…

March 21st, 2017

I always mean to do a blog a month, but this year has run away with me, it’s knocking on the end of March and I’ve got cystitis for the third time since December.

Yay – fortunately I’ve got the magic pills because I’ve got a long haul flight coming up – I am Australia bound to perform at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. This will be my fourth time, sometimes I forget how lucky I am, although packing is a nightmare as Melbourne temps are ricocheting all over the place and anyway once I’ve got my massive swimming costume and all my prescription drugs and drawing stuff in the suitcase, there’s not much room for anything else.

Ah Melbourne, where the eggs are eggy and the sourdough is heavy and the avocados fit to burst. I want to be a lot more experimental when it comes to eating out this time, the trouble with getting nervous is I inevitably turn to my cure all which is the bog standard bacon sandwich, which is a shame when Melbourne is choc full with exciting places to eat.

I’m doing a truncated version of How to Be A middle Aged Woman – for almost 3 weeks at the arts centre, not a venue I’ve played before and cutting the show down from 90 mins to an hour has been tough, but I think Ive managed all the trims – though it’s still going to be interesting to see how much of it lands with the Ozzie ladies (and men – most welcome).

In other work news, the book of short stories ‘Listening In’ is coming out in June, complete with the authors own (mostly quite shit) illustrations. Anyway there are 24 short stories, so a nice mix of women behaving like women do, for whatever reasons and with whatever consequences.

I wish I could say I was deeply in novel number five but I stalled very badly at the beginning of the year and have decided to walk away until it stops hurting and concentrate on other stuff.

There is the possibility of a Grumpy 4 in the pipe line, a new series of Little Lifetimes and a hush, hush pilot project with the BBC, which is at such a delicate stage at the moment that I can’t really breathe a word on it.

In between these bits and bobs and gigging, I’m painting and mooching round galleries and keeping the tapestries going and just generally enjoying spring coming out.

This is a real weird side affect to being 57, I really care about seeing nature. I never used to notice but the fact is magnolia is really extraordinary and this year our Iron wattle (Ozzie plant) outside the house has gone mad.

Iron Wattle tree  outside our house


Hobbies, I’ve decided, are the solution to whatever the problem might be. I’m making sure I get the odd afternoon sketching time.

My sketches

And I’m still missing my Monday morning art classes at Dulwich Gallery where for two hours for five weeks, me and a load of other ladies (and one man) got to grips with our life model and some acrylics, anyway here’s my result.

Picture I painted at the art classes in Dulwich Gallery


Doesn’t bother me if anyone thinks its rubbish, for a couple of hours every Monday I was like a pig in shit – with a paintbrush.

I’ve been listening to a few books on audio recently and really enjoyed Emma Flints ‘Little Deaths’ which is a very classily written, if upsetting story of the death of two children based on real life events back in New York in the 60’s.

Far shlockier, but horribly enjoyable too, is JP Devlins ’The Girl Before’ which is a tricksy little psychological thriller that bends in all kinds of directions.

And for sheer quality, I also really enjoyed listening to Helen Dunmore’s ‘Exposure’.

Just wish I was enjoying wading through Zadie Smiths ‘Swing Time’ with my eyes, as much as I enjoyed listening to the above.

Telly wise, I have been adoring the pottery throw down and I’m sad the Painting challenge is over, but The People Vs OJ Simpson on Netflix, which runs at 9 hours, is filling any void!

Exhibition wise, my top picks this month are the Vanessa bell at Dulwich and Hockney at Tate Britain.

Talking of Vanessa bell, I spent my 57th birthday at Charleston (delightful) before making sure I was home for fish pie and chardonnay in front of the Great Pottery throw down – bliss. I was also given gifts of speciality cheese by a couple of my mates – I think this perfectly sums up being 57.

Charleston


Anyway, I have a date with an afternoon nap, so excuse me.

I’ll do you a nice big catch up once I’m back from Oz.

x

Hello 2017, hello stinking cold, hello new year paranoia…

January 4th, 2017

Hello 2017, hello stinking cold, hello new year paranoia and feelings of hopelessness and defeat.

God knows why I cant just ride this tide of familiar doubt – but every year it knocks me sideways, basically I should never stop working, because whenever I do, getting back in the saddle feels incredibly hard.

I finished my Autumn tour of How To be a Middle Aged Woman (Without Going Insane) on December 5th and to be honest I had a complete ball on that last leg, culminating in a wonderful night at the Royal Festival Hall at the end of November. God what a glorious space to play and how gratifying and what a relief it was to see so many people turn out on what was such a filthy night- so thanks to everyone who came, including lots of friends and family (plus the old man who sat in the bar for the duration, nervously drinking gin).

Royal Festival Hall

Anyway, I shall be back out on the road with the show from the end of January and will be taking a shortened version of it over to the Melbourne comedy festival for three weeks in March/April- so that’s exciting- I love Melbourne and even though I will be gigging every night, I’ve got a nice early evening time slot so I should be able to catch some other shows and have dinner out and be a bit la di da – the old man shall be escorting me and he is already looking forward to the breakfasts (they serve ‘em big in Oz).

I should also be writing another novel this year, I say ‘should’ because so far, I’m finding it tough and even thinking about it makes me feel weepy, I’ve had four novels published so far, so you’d think it would get easier, but genuinely I have no idea how they happen, its like accidentally pulling off a magic trick and desperately trying to remember how you might have done it.

I’ve also got four more Little Lifetimes to record for radio 4 in addition to the book version, ‘Listening In’ which comes out in the summer. This is a collection of all the Little Lifetimes pieces broadcast so far (17 of them) plus seven brand spanking new monologues – so 24 short stories in all, all of which I’ve been allowed to illustrate- so look out for some very wonky drawings and an even wonkier hand painted front cover!

Painting and tapestry were a big part of getting me through 2016, I’m a great front seat passenger needle woman and I intend to do a lot more this year, much to the disgust of my brother – God you should have seen his face when he got my hand woven sea shells cushion cover for Xmas.

The woven sea shell tapestry I gave my brother for Xmas

I’m also going to tackle the oil paints which I got for Xmas, but at the moment I’m a bit scared of them, basically I daren’t have a go in case I’m completely rubbish, I think there’s a lot of technique to oils and I’ve been confused by various YouTube tutorials – maybe I’d be better off just diving in.

And that’s another thing I need to do more of – once upon a time when I was pretty and pert I did a lot of yoga and a lot of swimming, well me and the girl did a yoga class between Xmas and new year and it was so hard core that the next day I couldn’t lift my arms above my head, this felt weirdly good and once I’ve got rid of this cold I’m going to try and get back into going a lot more regularly – SO I SAY… God it’s hard isn’t it, to do the right thing, even when you know what the right thing is.

Anyway, just to bring us up to date, I had a lovely family Xmas – and I actually mean this – my mother came to stay for five nights which turned out to be really lovely, my mother is 87, great company and one of the least daft women I know – if that makes sense and she was incredibly game and up for stuff, including cards against humanity! ( look it up) She also makes the best German red cabbage in the land.

Unfortunately my mother has mobility issues, so thanks to Tate Britain for lending us a wheelchair so that she could see the Nash and the Turner prize in comfort, let’s face it, my Mum’s brain is in great nick – she pronounced the Turner prize contenders as ‘dreary’ (have to agree) but sadly her legs are too weak to schlepp from floor to floor, the wheelchair made the trip so much easier and was done with absolutely no fuss or bother.

My mother learns to photobomb

So Xmas came and went in a whirls of cheese and presents and as per usual new year feels like a crashing come down so cheers to the Horniman in South London for chasing away the 2nd of January blues, with its hilarious collection of taxidermy and lovely little £4 entrance fee aquarium – also enjoyed the Rauschenberg at Tate Modern, just the Gavin Turk and the Anselm Kiefer to tick off in the next couple of weeks. Ooh yes and me and the old man had a lovely pre Xmas ballet treat when we went to a Sunday afternoon matinee of Mathew Bournes’ The Red Shoes’- god I love a Sunday afternoon matinee.

Horseman Aquarium

I love living in London, I love the fact that all this stuff is on my doorstep and yes the place stinks and I’m increasingly scared of terrorism and how much everything costs but I love it and I’m lucky to live here.

That said I do want to visit japan this year – the aim is the spend a couple of weeks in Autumn having an adventure, let’s see if this actually happens, I’m a bit cowardly when it comes to travel and at the moment just getting out of my pyjamas is a bit of an ordeal, so while I go and dose myself up, here’s to a happy and safe 2017, fingers crossed it’ll be ok.

Oh btw – I learnt to cook some new things in 2016, not only have my soup skills improved but I can now do a beef bourgingnon and a chicken curry and I’m only 56.

I have been holidaying, basically all summer long…

September 19th, 2016

I have been holidaying, basically all summer long, since we finished Grumpy. I have been away four times, to France- to the ile de Re, Scotland – Edinburgh to be precise, Greece to the Island of Follengandros and Sicily – to PAINT with Flavours Holidays.

I shall deal with these hols in chronological order!! And at the end of the blog there will be a quiz to see if you’ve been paying attention. There won’t be really but WARNING, this blog will contain art work and holiday snaps.

Actually I mentioned Ile de Re in my last blog and posted a pic of donkeys in pyjamas, so there’s not much more to tell you as we only popped over for four nights. But if you do go, hire an electric bike and spend your time whizzing past teenagers who cant understand how a fat middle aged woman and her even more ancient partner can overtake at 90 kph, hahaha.

Also, the beaches are great, but the sea is very far out and there are no facilities, which is odd. Although the French are supposedly very food orientated, they don’t line their beaches with snack bars and take-aways. They don’t serve enough veg either – they like their meat unaccompanied, whereas I like loads of veg and a salad on the side and some mayonnaise, but then I’m a savage.

Whilst in Ile de Re I was very taken by a mimosa tree in the hotel garden, so I did a painting.

Mimosa painting

Beach in Ille de Re

Painting flowers makes me feel like a Victorian lady and I tend to do it with a very straight back and a small squirrel – hair brush
(sable actually, but squirrel brushes used to be popular- God I’d love to do a quiz).

Anyway, my next summer jaunt was to Edinburgh where the playwright daughter had two shows at the festival, ‘Epic Love and Pop Songs’ and ‘Torch’. Epic love is published by Nick Hern books and will be at the Pleasance in Islington during the first week of October. Both shows made me laugh and cry, Torch is a one woman show performed with such glory by Jess Mabel Jones who is an utter star, the ultimate quadruple threat, can sing, dance, act and she’s funny- beat that – I know I can’t.

Me and Phoebe stayed in a well known bog standard chain hotel, which charged £350 for one night – with complimentary mould in the bathroom and two Tetley tea bags- honestly what a fucking racket – still we had a good trip, saw some great stuff ( ‘Joan’ by a company called Milk is wonderful), some ok stuff and one dreadful dance show (Guardian recommended) from which we crawled out on our knees. We also saw some good art and I ate a kebab at 2 o’clock in the morning – so that was good.

In the old days I used to perform up at Edinburgh for almost a month – one night this year almost killed me and I was horribly hungover on the train coming home.


Alice Neel painting

Phoebe and a lovely rug exhibition

Fortunately I had sufficient time to recover before the old man and I jetted off to Greece for a week of doing sod all on a very remote island called Follengandros – no, I’d never heard of it either- it’s a very barren little place with one gorgeous tiny town and really nothing else! Which meant we could slob out and read books and generally loll about in a very nice hotel indeed.

The Harbour

Choros Town

Choros Town

Hotel in Follengandros

I had a lovely time but after a week I needed to come home and see some culture and feel some connection with the real world. Also me and the old man caught colds – I blame the air conditioning, so we came back in a worse state than we left- and no it wasn’t the booze!

However we managed to rally in time for our last holiday, a week of water colour painting with Flavours Holidays in Sicily – now this was great, we’ve done a Flavour’s Holiday before a couple of years ago in Italy, so we kind of know what we’re getting
Basically a mixed bunch of people are put together in a smart farmhouse for a week and in this instance seven were learning to cook and seven were learning to paint. Well six really, the old man is a bit advanced to be a learner so he went off and did his own thing, whilst me and the other ‘improvers’ had lessons in the morning and free time in the afternoon. There were trips out and sights to see and Flavours organise everything – there’s also no single supplement charge- so it’s the ideal choice for people who want to holiday on their own without paying through the nose for it.

Ok, so it’s not rock and roll, it’s a middle-aged kind of thing and we ranged from a gorgeous 43 year old Café Nero manager to an almost 80 year old widow. There were couples and widowers and those you didn’t like to ask – but it was all very jolly and there was a lot of free wine and because it was completely catered, there was none of that boring supermarket shopping to do.

So anyway, I cant recommend it highly enough – if you’re the sort of person who has been thinking about this kind of holiday, check them out, in the meantime- check out my ART.

Cactus wax and watercolour

Pomegranate wax and water colour

Vegetable wax and watercolour

Sketch of buildings

Sketch of Church

Sketch of a man

Sicly’s countryside is not madly beautiful particularly when everything has dried out in September but the towns built into the sides of cliffs are incredible and evens mall places have some remarkable architecture.

Here’s a lovely selection for you…

Sicily town

Sicily building

Sicily building

We were also very comfortable in the Flavours villa, which looks like this and has a donkey in the field next door.

Flavours Villa

Flavours Villa

And that’s your lot for now, because I need to crack on, I’ve a tour to get back to and a book of short stories to edit and right now I’m meeting Ms Susie Blake as we have both have completed tapestries to take to Fine Cellwork where they will be turned into cushions.

Tapestry

YAY,
Laters