Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 8 March 2011

Just because the sun is out doesn't make it warm. This morning whilst walking to Clapham Junction my breathe hung in the air like little clouds of white crystals. It was cold.

Actually it was very cold. The sun shone through the flats like very weak orange cordial.

Commuters past me wearing hats, gloves, scarves and that early morning look that only the bemused traveller has. That look that says if I want to eat I have to go to work. If I have half a mind to go on holiday I have to do a job that requires me to walk to the station at God knows what hour, shuffling along with God knows how many to do a job that God knows I don't want to do.

This morning I was one of the travellers.

I kept waking in the night. All alone in my Countess size bed. The heating on the heating off. The duvet over me, round me, off me, on his empty side, on the floor, under me.

By the time I gathered my consciousness together it was 6.30 so I thought I might as well get up.

I went into the bathroom. My short haircut, after a fit-full night, gives me the look of an Eastern European Annette Bening, my sallowsagging skin gives me the look of an Eastern European, under the bright lights of my bathroom its all I could do not to take the old gits razor and do myself some damage, although its hard to inflict pain with an electric razor, unless I dropped it on my toe.

I had a shower, the water intermittently warm. I flossed and brushed I scrubbed and towelled. I looked at the clothes I had put out the night before and laughed at my lunacy. They were spring clothes. I needed to dress warmly as winters chill was still hanging in the air.

I worked bottom up. The white socks under the fawn suede boots. Hard to get on, breathing heavily as I tried to slide my socked foot into the wierd shoe hole. Then a pair of trousers that slipped nicely into the fawn suede boots.

Then a flamboyant bra that had been sent to me as a pubicity stunt, over which I put an orange strappy t-shirt and a sequined orange cardigan, looks better than it sounds.

Then a pair of vintage brown gloves, a very nice appliqued coat with orange patterns on and a huge scarf that wrapped around my head and neck.

It looked ok.

Off with the outer garments so I could apply my make up. Blemish cover, mascara, red lipstick on top orange lippy to highlight. A smidgen of blusher on my finger tip - which was rubbed on my cheeks silly - and I was good to go, well I was as good as it gets...

I left the flat fully rewinded at 7.30, having meditated in my coat since I'd finished my toillette earlier than I had anticipated.

I walked in the freezing morning. tripped once on the pavement and twice on the grass. Slowed down to a sensible pace. I had been walking fiercely to warm myself up. I rewound the scarf, I rubbed my fingers together, I hid my hands in my sleeves, I jammed my fingers in my trousers pockets. I had chosen the wrong outfit for the morning of March 8th, although perfect for the breakafast at the Festival Hall where I was heading for International Womens Day and it's 100th anniversary.

I japed with the ticket guard about buying a ticket since our 'mature' card didn't come into operation until after 9.30 which was a lifetime away.

2.60, through the barriers and onwards to platform 10.

One train came in. I may as well have been in Tokyo. People were jammed into the carriage shoulder to fly, knee to groin.

I stood on the platform, behind the yellow line, although most of the seasoned travellers did not, watched the train chunter off and patiently waited for the next.

By this time my nose had turned to a frozen pea.

Along came the 7.58 so crowded even regular commuters looked forlorn. A hold up with the engineering works at Waterloo had resulted in a back log of trains. Only eight carriages a piece. Londons work force facing yet more disruption to their already less than perfect day.

I walked one end of the platform to the other assessing the collection of commuters who knew where the doors would stop. Like in the supermarket trying to intuit which line would go down the fastest. I walked to the other end of the platform and stood in the weak sunlight, shivering when the train to Shepperton got between me and the rays. When the next train arrived, an individualistic young woman, who had grown up under the Thatcherite paradigm of 'I'm Alright Jaqueline' barged in front of me. An Australian woman looked at me, I to her. She as a young, laid back Ozzie me as a bitter and twisted old Brit.

'Not worth wasting your energy on.' She said with a smile.

When the train stopped I looked at the barger-inner.

' I WAS HERE FIRST' I said in clipped English.

It fell on deaf ears as they were stuffed with the ubiquitous headphones so favoured by the majority.


Unless she was a lip reader it made no never mind and anyway I was part of the superfluous generation that would be better off in a bath chair in a care home, obsolete stock that was So not part of her brave new world.

I helped a man off the train reminding him to 'Mind The Gap' and squeezed into the carriage.


Most of the people in the carriage were not.

I sighed and heard my ancient voice exclaim


Nobody acknowledged me, moved, budged, cared.

So I settled into the small of the back of a South African who was reading a book about Rands and British Citizenship. I resisted telling him he would be better off staying in Mbabane herding cattle rather than travelling in a truck herded like cattle.

By the time we got to Vauxhall all the oxygen had seeped out through the sliding doors. I let myself fall into the thigh of the man with the beany hat and closed my eyes. I actually slept for four minutes standing up in between the Great British unwashed. Although to be fair nobody hummed, it surprised me that people read under such cramped conditions though.

By the time I got to Waterloo I was refreshed. I nearly tripped up the earphoned girl but decided against it. Got to The Festival Hall and entered a world of space, grace and mace flavoured croissants.

The breakfast do was just beginning.

Hot tea, luke warm coffee and the THE most perfect sausage rolls. I hugged Kathy Lette, and her crutch, she had had a knee operation on account of all her jogging, and Lynne Parker the mother of all 'Funny Women'. I sat in the front row and listened to Jude Kelly talk about the need for an International Womens Day. I talked to Katherine Whitehorn, a legend and one of my heroines, who I discovered had the same birthday as my daughter, she is witty and clever and superbly old.

I hugged Sandy Toksvig who was not surprised to learn of my departure from LBC but was utterly delighted with my return to The Beeb, as indeed am I.

I positively drooled at Lisa Robson who told her Welsh story of standing on the train track - not electric - to stop the train from leaving the station, until policemen arrived to deal with rowdy men in her carriage. The ensembled audience applauded spontaneously.

I enjoyed being a girl and spent a further half an hour with two splendid women, one funny one and the other a social entrepreneur.

'The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world' is okay until that hand gets blamed for everything from abortion to knife crime. But in the main I enjoy the fact that I am an old crone with sixty years of womanising behind me.

I then took lunch with my new agent, Louise, who will be representing me for acting, time to take to the boards again only I really want it to be oncellulite or is that cellulose.

And then The brigand Barry turned up and we plotted over rhubarb tart. It was short train ride back to the flat, on with the pj's and off with the makeup.

It's now nearly 6.00 and the air is cooling down. The sun is sinking and I face an evening of finally getting down to some proper writing.

Get to the SOUTH BANK if you can. FRIDAY 11 until SUNDAY 13th. for WOW 'Women Of the World'.

Whether you think women have come a long way or not, there are good debates and some wonderful performers. Whether you think we need to still be having the debate about feminism is neither here nor there. All of us need to be heard, whatever the gender, it just so happened that I was born a bird so I have a vested interest. The women on the South Bank this weekend are clued up and sassy and if you like clued up sassy women get on down.

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes


1. At March 8, 2011 9:25 PM Joanna wrote:

What has happened to your new adventure " The Knackers Yard " with Barry? You blogged about this a few months ago.

Any news?

2. At March 8, 2011 9:36 PM Marmite wrote:

Hey Jeni

I went to school with Lisa Robinson (Evans then) sorry haven't stopped by for a while I have been reading them, but busy doing 2 plays, looking after Mum, and Dad in hospital following a heart attack, things settled down now thank goodmess, hope you and the rest pf the lovely blog framily are happy and healthy
Love ya all Marmite xx

3. At March 10, 2011 8:18 AM Rhianon wrote:

Sorry to hear about your problems, Marmite. Hope everything improves and all is well again very soon. x

4. At March 21, 2011 11:38 PM minerva wrote:

The only reason people get lost in thought is because it's unfamiliar territory

Copyright 2007, Jeni Barnett. Website produced by Chopstix.