The Queen Bee Years

The Delusionoir Series


He walked into the kitchen as I was helping myself to R’s last special ‘mum’ tea bag, which he had left in the box just for me. With a pleased and slightly teasing smile G slowly and demonstratively started unpacking a large Woolworths plastic bag.  One by one he unwrapped them, until six of my favourite kind of glasses were neatly lined up on the kitchen counter before me. ‘Now you don’t have to wash so much anymore’, he said pointing at the four glasses lined with the dry remnants of coffee in the sink. The glasses in the sink were identical to the new ones he had just unwrapped. Pleased as I was about the glasses, I knew it was trouble. When she entered the kitchen and stopped pulling the brush through her long black hair midway as she spotted the glasses, the look in her eyes was unmistakable. She knew that I knew, and she was furious. And who can blame her? How would you feel if your boyfriend spent his meager student resources on buying your female housemate a brand new set of her favourite glasses.

In a gesture of reconciliation, I poured the tea from my cup in one of the new glasses, looked at her with my most earnest smile and said that she was welcome to use them anytime as long as she washed them straight after. As I finished speaking she started slowly to move the brush down her hair again. I could sense she was not over it though. Sipping on the ‘mum’ tea I decided to retreat to let them work it out among themselves.

A special relationship

Sitting in the sofa, as I’m writing, to protect my legs from heat, my laptop is cushioned on the FT weekend magazine and FT life and Arts. And what a fine weekend FT it is!

One of the many things I like about the FT weekend is its sometimes uncanny ability to explore exactly those topics which I have been pondering or made brief comments about to my friends during the week. To give you an example, a few days ago, walking down Broadway market with my partner, I mentioned to him that yet another friend of mine had sent me a link to a TED talk. I’m sure the talk is interesting since the friend that sent it to me is (I haven’t had time to watch it) but for some reason I got slightly irritated to see a reference to TED talk and particularly to note that it had gotten my friend excited to the point of wanting to share it with me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but there is something about the popularity of TED and the increasing amount of references to TED talks as a piece of enlightenment that got me enough worked up last week, to keep punctuating conversations on different occasions with half coherent statements about the weirdness of the TED talk phenomenon.

So, Saturday morning I buy the FT and there it is on the cover of Life and Arts: The new age of reason: Part Glastonbury and part Davos, the TED conferences are billed as a talking shop for the world’s most brilliant and dynamic thinkers. Peter Aspen attends to discover if these gatherings really can find new solutions to the planet’s problems.

Imagine my excitement! If you can’t,  here is a brief re-count of it: There I am in the sofa, eating a piece of bread with butter and honey. I open the paper a bit ungraciously as I have only one free hand. On the front page of the Life and Arts section, I immediately spot the all too familiar red TED logo. I try to read to verify that the article bellow the photograph REALLY is about what I think it is but by now I am too excited to focus my eyes. All I manage to do is to start shouting “SEE!! I TOLD YOU! REMEMBER I TALKED ABOUT IT!! HAVE YOU SEEN??” Luckily, my partner, to whom I was directing myself, had already seen the article and (as this is not the first time I shout similar things when I open the FT magazine on weekends) anticipated my reaction. Just as I was about to start hyperventilating, he said ‘I know! nice!’ with just enough excitement to confirm, in my mind, that I could safely claim this coincidence as yet another proof of my ‘special’ almost telepathic relationship to the FT’s editorial team.

Although I did not anticipate Tyler Brûlé’s column, The Fast Lane, to be almost a parody of his own writing, nor did I have a hunch about Lunch with the FT being with the BBC director-general Mark Thompson for whom I harbor a cautious admiration and, to be honest, I hadn’t mentioned Western Sahara and its people for some time now, I was extremely pleased to see all of this and so much more included in this weekend’s FT.

So this weekend, you really don’t need to bother reading any other papers, know that you can just walk over to your local newsagent and pick up the outrageously expensive FT weekend.

Happy Sunday!

Go East! Life is peaceful there

Having spent some three months in London’s East End, the bbp would like to share with you some snippets of wisdom about life in the hood. So here are some words of advice that we feel you may want to take on board for a happy visit to this wonderful part of town.

1. Bring a hip flask or get a job in a bar.

The young people  you find standing behind bars in this area (for the uninitiated,  the region superimposed anywhere east of Hoxton square, south of Stoke Newington Rail and west of Bow church, sort of) are not actually there to serve you. They are there to have fun. In this area working in a bar/cafe is a lifestyle. As bar staff you are ambassadors of East End coolness. Your job is to demonstrate to clients desperate for a drink how they should dress, what hairdo  and facial hair they should grow and, most importantly, how they should party.  If the clients would actually be able to get some drinks, that is. Expect the average waiting time to get served to be around 20 minutes. Note, this is just the time to get to place your order. Add to that some 20 more minutes (during which the bartender will have a shot, pinch the other bartender’s nipple, cheek kiss some four people over the bar and hand his friend a free margarita). So for a fun day out, the bbp recommends getting a hip flask or a job in bar. (Notable exceptions are ‘Off Broadway’ in Broadway Market and Nelson’s Head on 32 Horatio Street, just off Colombia Road.)

2.  Do not pet dogs.

You will see a lot of people walking around  with what the bbp casually refers to as   baby killer dogs. The dogs usually walk way in front of the owner, who with a mix of pride and desperation holds on to the leash struggling to keep up with the animal. The bbp can not stress enough: Do not attempt to pet these dogs.

3. Wear a checkered shirt

You will feel awkward wearing anything else. Think uniform.

4. Stay gentrified, respect the locals.

This is an area which has been undergoing a sometimes aggressive gentrification process for quite some years now. There still however some drinking establishments that have bravely resisted the yuppie invasion and still cater only to the old school ‘locals’. These are really rather friendly places with good people enjoying a pint after a hard day’s work and might seem attractive to the first time visitor to the area. A word of caution, though! The sometimes rather violent gentrification has created some  hard feelings among the indigenous population, the gentrifees, who are not entirely pleased with the fact that their old local pub is now a French delicatessen or a combined bar-bike shop-vintage dress establishment.  These local natives usually gather in a few pubs in the area. The Bbp understands their grievance and would kindly ask you to respect these havens of authenticity and only  enter if you are a guest of a regular customer.  This humble request shouldn’t be too hard to comply with, as these establishments are easy to identify. They usually have part of their façade draped in the English flag, the windows are covered up so you can’t see in and if you do manage to get a glimpse you can spot some twinkling gambling machines and a tv. If you’re still in doubt, check for the number of bikes outside. If you can spot three bikes or more (see picture at the top of this post) you can assume it’s been gentrified enough for you to step in and have a go at getting yourself a drink.

The brownbookproject brings you the best…..

This week we would like to share a list of the best places in the world for some of the simple pleasures in life.

Best bus ride:

Mexico City pesero (ice cream, radio romatico, stops everywhere, nice people that pass on your ticket fare to the bus driver)

Best taxi ride:

Mexico City:best taxi and bus rides

Mexico city

Best cappuccino:

Torino Barman covers your cup to make sure it doesn’t get cold

Best retreat not too far away:

The Pyrenees (the Spanish/Catalan side)

Best place with a view:

Nadia’s grandmother’s, Poschiavo in Switzerland

Best night walk:


Best hotel:

Emiliano in Sao Paolo

Best fish & chips:

Jackson Bay, New Zealand

Best shopping:


Best lemonade:

Taganga, Colombia

Best couscous:

Roof terrace in old Fez, Morocco (ha!)

Best shoe shine:

Leticia airport, Colombia

Best place for beer:

Boipeba, Brasil and Pacific Coast (state of Guerrero), Mexico

Best Irish Coffee

Santa Maria del Sur, Battersea

Best Margarita:

City of Oaxaca, Mexico

Best train ride:

Unconfirmed as there are so great train journeys and many more to discover. Suggestions welcome.

Best fish & chips: Jackson Bay, South Island

Why Tyler Brûlé and I are luddites



1. Any of a group of British workers who between 1811 and 1816 rioted and destroyed laborsaving textile machinery in the belief that such machinery would diminish employment.

2. One who opposes technical or technological change.

A few days ago, on the Eurostar from London to Paris, for the first time in months, I had the pleasure of reading the print version of the FT weekend. My eyes were filled  with tears of joy when I saw the black ink on my fingers (and I feared on my face) which had rubbed off as I slowly made my way through the paper during the 2,5 h ride. I had forgotten how much I love the feeling of holding the actual (tastefully pink) paper in my hands, flickering through the over-sized pages, and hearing that particular rustle of the thin paper as I struggle to turn them.

I am extremely grateful for the online versions of papers which allow me to get news from all over the world regardless of the quality of the closest news stand, but  when I can choose, I choose the print over the online version any day.

Does this make me “One who opposes technical or technological change'”. Perhaps. What I can say with certainty however is that technological advancements do change our experience of things. And some of those experiences which technological advancement offers an alternative to, I just prefer to keep. Such as the sound and ink of a newspaper, heating the milk for my coffee in a tiny pot on the stove rather than  heating it in the microwave, reading ‘real books’ rather than e-books, receiving long letters from my friends rather than long e-mails, and after an article in the FT last weekend, I am contemplating whether I like black cabs more than Addison Lee cabs, keeping my photographs in ‘real’ photo albums rather than on Facebook – both for my sake and for future generations.

Why Tyler Brûlé is a luddite too, you can read in his latest column where he with more emotion than usual asks things like:

What’s going to jog our memories in the future? What will bring back warm fragments from experiences and journeys past? I ask this because proper card boarding passes are disappearing, replaced by receipts on thermal paper. And worse still, who’s seriously printing all those nice photos stored in digital cameras that shoot awful pictures that suck the blood out of all subjects they capture?

Happy Sunday!

Alright, so we said next week and meant next month but the important thing is that we’re here now.

And we shall never leave you alone on weekends again (unless we’re too busy with other things).

So what is new? Well, one thing that is great for us and that we’ll try to also turn into a good thing for the BBP readers, is that the BBP is now entirely based in London. Indeed! With the whole team (read two people) in the same city we will finally be able to put some of our BBP plans into action. These include the breakfast or coffee or lunch or just a quick hello with the BBP where we will have a chat with people who are nice to chat with on a Sunday (inspired by the lunch with the FT), and the  Neighbourhood Watch with the BBP (working title and not inspired by Neighbourhood Watch) where we take a closer look at a neighbourhood in London and try to lift out what makes it special.

What else is new? We have decided that the BBP blog will be strictly a weekend blog. This means that posts will only be published Friday to Sunday but will of course carry the wisdom of the whole week. We have however introduced a Twitter function which will allow us to update you during the week when we find something worthwhile reading and which we can then perhaps follow up in a post on the weekend. We still have our doubts about the Twitter function so we’ll try it out first in these coming weeks before we make it a permanent function.

That’s all really. So welcome to the new and improved Brown Book Project and Happy Weekend!