Tag Archives: Los Angeles

Did you know…

…that dogs can die if they eat grapes (or raisins)? Cue minor panic this morning when one piggy mutt scoffed a stray box of Sunmaid. I think he’s OK though.

This is Wilkie the smiling dog. People say he’s fat but he’s just got a really
small head.

I can’t remember if I’ve shared the story of how we came to have Wilkie. We were living in LA and, heavily pregnant and hormonal, I happened to pass a dog-adoption stall at Larchmont Village farmer’s market, where they were looking for volunteers to foster dogs. At that time I was doing a lot of walking – or hiking, as they melodramatically call it over there – up at Runyon Canyon, and everyone else had a dog, so goddamn it I wanted one too.

I’d expected a lot of background checks, suitability questionnaires and stuff like that, but I guess it was a sign of their desperation that the process consisted of me picking the cutest-looking dog, taking him home and christening him Jason.

Jason was pretty cute. And devoted, too. Although he did have some issues, like snarling if my husband came near me, and having random panic attacks in the street. He also had a problem with lifts.

Every Sunday morning I’d have to return him to the farmer’s market and call late afternoon to see if he’d been adopted. This made Sundays something of an emotional ordeal. Jason was so adorable, I knew it was only a matter of time before he’d be adopted, and sure enough one Sunday I called as usual, at around three, and they said he’d gone home with another family. I didn’t even *sob* get to say goodbye. I decided then that dog fostering was far too heartbreaking and I’d never do it again.

Later that week I got a call from the head of the charity saying they had a dog they’d no room for and could I please consider fostering it? ‘Only they kill strays in California,’ she reminded me. So I found myself driving to pick up this dog, having forgotten to ask a single question about it. For all I knew it could have been a 12-stone pitbull.

So I was relieved when it was only a little chihuahua/Jack Russell hybrid, albeit a stinky and revolting one. His legs were covered with open sores, his fur was scabby and missing in parts, and did I mention the smell? I vowed I wasn’t going to get attached to this one, but was simply going to provide basic care. Food, water, walks. That was it. I didn’t even give him a name.

But Californians are quite big on talking, in queues, on escalators, etc, and passers by would regularly exclaim, ‘Oh, he’s so cuuuuuuuuuuuuute! What’s his name?’ (They were lying. He wasn’t cute. He smelt like an abattoir. And looked like I’d been maltreating him for years, which someone obviously had.) Anyway, it turns out you look a right bitch if you say, ‘He hasn’t got one.’ So I had to think quickly. I remembered that one of the many books I’ve never read is No Name by Wilkie Collins. It seemed apt. ‘His name’s Wilkie,’ I said. And it stuck.

Invariably I grew attached, and took to phoning the charity and making up elaborate lies as to why I couldn’t bring him to the farmer’s market that Sunday. ‘We’re out of town and our car’s broken down,’ I’d say, ‘so we can’t possibly get back in time.’ There was also the small matter of what the hell I was going to do with him when the time came for us to return to England, but I dealt with that in the same way I deal with all problems, which is to say I ignored it.

When I went into labour I left him in the care of some friends. That night I had my son, and at 7am the following morning got a phone call from our landlady, who said, ‘Why is your dog sitting outside the house?’ I texted my friend, ‘If you’re worried about Wilkie, don’t be – he’s gone home.’ Somehow he’d walked the three or so miles from our friend’s house to ours, over six-lane freeways and traffic-choked junctions, without ever having done the journey on foot. Our poor friends were up all night, shitting themselves that they’d lost our dog.

I know, it’s like the Incredible Journey. Well, you can’t get rid of a dog like that, can you? Cue an absolute mountain of paperwork and bureaucracy, vaccinations, frantic phone calls to DEFRA and I can’t even admit how much in airline charges, vets’ fees and bullshit charges they add on because they know you’re a sentimental retard, and Wilkie is here with us, shiny furred, scab free and only marginally stinky.


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Filed under The bits I can't think of a category for

Back in London

So we’re back from LA, and having taken a toddler to Sea World, the zoo, Travel Town and 55 other places designed to keep carping kids amused, I’ve learned that for him there is no greater entertainment than standing beside a toilet and watching it flush.

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Filed under Kids, parenting... Non-mums may want to move along

Coping with Californian friendliness

So I’m in line at a cafe in Studio City and the old guy standing behind says to me, ‘You look cute. I love your outfit – it’s really funky.’ (I’m assuming he means this in the English sense, Modern and stylish in an unconventional or striking way, rather than the American, Having a strong, offensive, unwashed odour.) In any case, my immediate thought is, ‘Ugh, get the fuck away from me, you geriatric, perverted freak.’

And then I remember. This is what Californians do: they are friendly and nice, with a demeanour as sunny as their climate, and I must override my natural inclination to assume that pleasant overtures from strangers must signal a conman, rapist or psychopath. I’ve got to ditch my Londoner’s tendency to treat everyone with squinty-eyed suspicion until I’ve met them 47 times. Because here people just, y’know, chat. To strangers. To anybody.

In queues, lifts, shops – people of every age, race and background will have frank and open conversations with whoever happens to be standing next to them at the time. I admit it’s the aspect of American culture I find hardest to deal with, since I’ve been in London long enough to have it ingrained into my soul that any stranger who talks to you on the Tube is either mad or foreign – probably both – and generally we Londoners like to extend this assessment to all public places.

But I appreciate that this is my shortcoming, and being genial and courteous is obviously A Good Thing. Spread a little happiness, and all that.

So I’ve tried, I really have. And I think these efforts have paid off. After a year of living in Los Angeles, my standard reaction to someone starting a conversation had progressed from a pained grin, accompanied by a huhuhuh-please-leave-me-alone false laugh, to (in response to a request that I have a good day now) a cheery, ‘You too!!’

Which is a definite improvement, no?

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Filed under General rants and moans

Beverly Hills chihuahuas

Los Angelenos have a weird relationship with dogs. They’re either feeding them organic, raw-food diets and wheeling them around in specially designed pet-buggies:

I spotted this one in Nordstrom this afternoon.

Or dressing them up as crabs:

(Although that is pretty cute.)

Or they’re dumping them in the street. At farmer’s markets you’ll see cages full of these abandoned animals, often wearing little bandanas that read, ‘Adopt Me.’

Which is pretty cunning marketing, huh? Who could resist a homeless puppy in a bandana? Certainly not me. Which is how come I ended up spending in excess of God-knows-how-much on flying one of these mutts back to London with me.

Say hello to Wilkie:

He’s the Jack Russell/Chihuahua cross we picked up at Larchmont farmers’ market two years ago this August. No, I wouldn’t have chosen those breeds either, but he’s lovely.

So what I want to know is why UK dog shelters don’t do something similar, and set up stalls at UK farmers’ markets. It clearly works. You’re missing a trick, Battersea…

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Only in LA…

…do the menus come ‘personal-trainer endorsed’.

(As spotted at Aroma in Studio City.)

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Filed under Yum... Food

LA food

This is the wholewheat crepe with fake bacon and homefries at Local in Silver Lake. It tasted better than it looks. Mind you, I’ve clearly no talent for food porn because here it looks disgusting. And check out the size of it! There’s half an avocado there as garnish. Thankfully, for once we remembered to order only one meal and share it.

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Filed under Yum... Food

Back in LA…

So here we are, back in LA, a trip that cost nada. I got the flights on air miles through my Virgin American Express card (worth getting if you can trust yourself to pay off the balance every month, although a friend who has both tells me BA’s card is better, with fewer restrictions).

As for accommodation, we ended up doing the home exchange. I don’t want to put the gob on it, as they say in the Black Country, but it’s great. We’re in Silver Lake*, which is basically Shoreditch with sunshine, full of hilariously self-conscious trendster types obsessing about coffee. I love the house we’re in, with its shiny wooden floors, beadboard panelling and friendly resident cat.

The couple we’ve swapped with have no TV, but terribly serious bookshelves full of Nabokov and Don DeLillo. I’m now fretting about what they’ll make of mine, which boast titles like ‘Practical Princess Perfect Wardrobe: Declutter and Rejig Your Wardrobe To Transform Your Life!’ (This is the downside of the exchange – you’ve basically invited another couple to come into your home and judge.)

The whole thing involved a fair amount of organisation but still, several Skype calls and a furious bout of oven-cleaning strikes me as a fair price to pay for a free house in LA for two-and-a-half weeks. I dread to think how much an equivalent hotel room (with kitchen facilities, study, garden, etc) would cost.

I flew out yesterday and am picking up husband and baby from the airport later today. I was pathetically excited about flying alone (this is what kids do to you – the prospect of an 11-hour economy flight on your own sounds like fun), but actually it was crap, as I was bumped, and then not bumped, and then pulled into a scary side room at immigration (who were suspicious of my WAG visa, got when we came over in 2009 for husband’s work). Funny, when you’re with a volatile 20-month-old, immigration are just so much nicer to you.

So I’m picking up husband and baby this afternoon, from which husband is going straight to dinner with Rose Byrne (better known as the pretty one from Bridesmaids) to talk about a potential project, while I get to stay at home with the baby and look grumpy. Hurrah! Love holidays.

*Silver Lake – you’ve never heard of it, have you? I’ve a theory about why so many visiting Brits hate LA. I reckon it’s because they head straight to the places they’ve heard of – Beverly Hills, Hollywood, etc – all of which are horrible, meaning they miss the good spots, such as Silver Lake, Los Feliz and Franklin Village.

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Filed under General rants and moans