Monday, 17 December 2012

Welcome to the Future

I was sat on a Victoria line tube train a little while ago, I think it may have been a return journey after a pretty messy night out, and my head was forming a load of half-jumbled half-conscious thoughts about life and the future and other such incomprehensible topics. I thought about Marty McFly and his hoverboard, and how we're way off on whatever his predicted targets would've been about hoverboard production in the 21st century, and considered what technological milestones would have to be reached to move us forward to a hoverboard-using technologically-advanced future.

We pulled into a station, and I was vaguely aware of being told to keep my belongings with me at all times, and that CCTV was in use throughout the train for my safety and security.
Image courtesy of ScoutLondon - thank you!
And, for whatever reason, it suddenly hit me that I was miles under London's surface, travelling through underground tunnels on this electrical transit system with digitalised displays and a disembodied voice announcing where I was, and where I would next be, and where I'd end up if I dared to fall asleep and miss my stop, and that yes, I was being watched, my every move being scrutinised, for safety and security purposes, much like George Orwell had predicted some 63 years ago.

And I realised that, despite the absence of hoverboards, I am very much in The Future.

(Or, you know, The Present, as we now like to call it.)

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The Chumbawamba Challenge Game

1. You drink a whiskey drink
2. You drink a vodka drink
3. You drink a lager drink
4. You drink a cider drink

You sing the song that remind you of the good times
You sing the songs that remind you of the better times

*repeat ad nauseam*

You heard it here first, ladies and gentlemen!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Night Life

I am on a 43 bus from London Bridge (Monument, in fact) going to Holloway to change for the N29. I've already travelled about a half hour on the 133. I figured, given some past experience falling asleep on night busses, it would be prudent to write a blog post - mainly as a means of keeping myself awake, so that I don't fall asleep and wake up in Friern Barnet!

Photo found here - thanks!

I was mistaken in my belief that the 141 bus was a 24-hour service.

I should have just stayed in Brixton.

When I travel through London on night buses, by myself, I'm always battling a deeply-hidden "desire" to explore the streets of London, on foot, at night. The 133 took me over London Bridge, from which I gazed in wonder and awe at Tower Bridge and picked out other London landmarks on the horizon.

Tonight I am lucky that I haven't lost any of my possessions. In fact, I am travelling home wearing someone else's jacket (which has a lovely sea shell in the left side pocket), and my favourite blue jumper draped across my shoulders - a jumper which, a mere two hours ago, I had fancied lost in the night, in a dingy, badly-lit pub in Brixton.

Unrelated to all of this, in 3 days I officially will become a student - again!

I seem to recall writing a blog post, maybe 18 months ago, lamenting the fact that I probably wouldn't be able to take on Masters course in an exceptionally long amount of time - mainly due to the high price of tuition fees - but I suspect also because I did not hold out much hope for being accepted onto a course given my 2:ii ranking at BSc-level. I have been fortunate enough to stumble upon a brilliant employer and a brilliant opportunity which has blown all this out the window.

So, what do I know about Economics? Admittedly, at 5am on a Saturday morning - probably not a lot!

Tell you what though, I'm pretty sure I'm contributing to every single globalisation stereotype you can think of, having just got myself a pancake & tea breakfast from McDonalds!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Magic Moments

I thought I'd share the following story because god knows we could all do with a laugh from time to time. 

Last Thursday I got up and started getting ready for work...unfortunately, it wasn't one of my more leisurely starts, but those are few and far between anyway that I hardly even notice any more. I brushed my teeth, got dressed, packed my bag, probably spent ten minutes fretting that I only had ten minutes left before I had to leave, and then subsequently left ten minutes after that. Walked down the road to the tube station, changed at Finsbury Park, got the Victoria line from there all the way down to Vauxhall and, as I was getting off the tube, swung my bag onto my shoulder thinking I'd seen something dart across the carriage from the corner of my eye - but dismissed it merely as an optical illusion, and went up the escalators to the railway bit of Vauxhall station. 

I got the distinct impression that there were more pairs of eyes on me than usual, but I assumed it was me just being more observant or slightly more awake, so took no notice.

Feeling pretty pleased with myself for being a good eight minutes early for my train, I decided to go and get some cash out, but started getting really confused because they seem to have moved the cash machines from where they used to be located. So I went over to a row of seats to get my purse out of my bag, swung my rucksack over my shoulder and - OHMYGOD - stood there in silent mortification having realised that I'd had a bra dangling from my bag straps for the entire length of my journey into work thus far. Literally, from north to south London. 

Needless to say I've kept my room far tidier in the last week.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Wood Green Looting

Coming home to Wood Green in the early hours of the morning is rarely dull. There's always a flurry of activity on the main road: kebab shops serving food 'til all are fed, Mr Bagels providing bagels 24 hours a day, the random club on the high street that people still seem to be queuing for at 4am... One might think the constant bustle would be intimidating, but I've rarely felt safer wondering the streets of London at night as I have done during the last 12 months, where I've lived on a road just off Wood Green High Street. Far from finding other people's presence alarming, I tend to think I'm far less likely to be unpleasantly accosted while there's still life on the streets. 

Yesterday afternoon, perhaps 10 hours before all the reported (and unreported?) looting had taken place, I walked out of the back of the Morrisons store to the sound of the Banjo Busker Man - a somewhat regular feature during weekend shopping trips - playing Pretty Woman, his banjo bag a collection of tips, his demeanour clearly reflecting his desire to offer nothing more than some simple musical pleasures to passers-by. I found myself feeling an almost anticipatory sense of nostalgia at the thought of my impending move away from Wood Green, and away from all the weird and wonderful people that shape this community - from the Banjo Busker Man, to the man who stands outside Morrisons talking to everyone as they pass by, and the guy with the crazy eyes who always asks me if I "have any spare change, brother?", the whole hordes of unrelenting charity volunteers with their collection buckets [some of which I'm not quite convinced are actually working on behalf of a registered charity!] and, of course, the countless mothers and their children who try to convince me every week with brightly -coloured leaflets that the God-shaped hole in my life - which apparently I've been trying to fill with sex, drugs & money - can only be filled by God and his love.

Tonight, as I reflect on the last 24 hours and listen to the screaming sirens of what I assume to be the police on their way to Enfield, I mourn for this community and for the damage that last night’s looting of the High Street has done. The smashed shop windows will be fixed, and new stock will again sit on the shelves of Argos and JD Sports, but people in Wood Green are largely shocked and hurt that this has happened on their doorstep. The lootings of retailers like HMV may be understandable in terms of the high price of items on sale, but mindless smashing of places like Brook Street recruitment agency and Vision Express is something altogether different. Amongst the various independent shops that were hit, the worst-off ones were those selling suitcases - since looters were more than happy to use these cases to cart their stuff to and from their parked cars. The road that I live on was basically a car park for looters all through the night, and even into the morning. I spoke to the neighbours at 6am, whilst two helicopters circled overhead, and a guy in his 20s walked past looking right at us, carrying two skateboards under each arm. Some looters had obviously made multiple trips to and from the shops, and then subsequently to and from wherever they were dropping off their goods.

There is widespread condemnation of Saturday night’s looting and rioting - and rightly so. But I can’t help but wonder how many steps away I or one of my friends could be from indulging in that behaviour. If I didn’t have a job, and if I hadn’t gone to university or a decent school, if I wasn’t brought up with a set of boundaries and a level of respect for others around me, perhaps it would be a different story and perhaps I wouldn’t think it such a big deal to wander off the street into a newly-broken shop window and walk out with an Xbox. It’s easy to sit here and think to myself that I don’t have the capacity for such destruction, and it’s easy to paint the looters and rioters in a demonic light, but I really struggle to believe that everyone who walked away with a pair of trainers from JD Sports is an evil person. Many people believe that the actions of the rioters and looters are not representative of the hard-working individuals and businesses that form the fabric of our communities. And whilst that is invariably true, it is equally true to say that the troublemakers themselves are also part of our communities and wander down the same streets that we do.

Far from wishing to sound empathetic, I’m only trying to make the point that there are obviously some very disenfranchised people in our communities. I recognise that the looting and rioting of this weekend is in no way some significant response to actual political issues, but surely rather than calling for the ‘scum of the earth to be shot’ (or some other similar phraseology that some Tweeters are employing), we should be focusing on rebuilding our communities and working out how to better integrate those who feel themselves standing on the edges. If it’s true that some of the looters were as young as seven [apologies to a link from The Sun, but scroll down half a page to just above the picture of Comet], then maybe we really do have some deeper issue on our hands.

As a closing note, I’d just like to add that I’m finding politicians’ reactions to this weekend particularly irksome. Kit Malthouse (London’s deputy mayor) seriously thinking that Boris’ coming back from holiday would somehow legitimise the disturbances and be “kind of rewarding” to the criminals says more about how out of touch he (and Boris) is(/are) with Londoners than anything else.

The Guardian has a great live feed about current goings-on here.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Glastonbury 2011

Now that the dust has settled back onto my wellies for another couple of years, and I have finally managed to finish hydrating myself, let me just say that Glastonbury Festival 2011 was probably one of the best experiences of my life!

To be fair, I had two hopes for this year - 1) that no one would die and 2) that I wouldn't (accidentally) smoke a crack pipe. Neither of those things happened so, just by virtue of their absence, this turned out to be a pretty good week!

Unlike (Glasto and non-Glasto) festivals of previous years, I had no real agenda of bands to watch or things to see. I was quite keen to catch a bit of U2 and Beyonce, and I would've gone to see Coldplay too if I hadn't been on shift, but the music this year didn't appeal to me as it had done before. (Ray Davies are you reading this, please come back for 2013!) In any case, come Friday night I was roaming round the Pyramid stage crowds trying to find my friend before U2 so that I had someone to lean on in my drunken stupor. I seem to recall going to and from the 'cider bus' carrying pints of a delicious hot and spiced refreshing beverage and being positively overjoyed upon seeing a sign that said 'Baby Spice - hot cider + shot of Brandy £4.50'. I couldn't at the time understand why they were calling it Baby Spice, but thinking back, I think the sign had two more Spice Girls' nicknames on it and two other shots of liquor... No, I'm still failing to make the 'Spice Girls + Spiced Cider' connection.

So, due to my inebriation for U2's performance, coupled with the fact that I left about a half hour before their set ended, I cannot possibly provide a critique of their performance. I think, standing in the rain with a belly full of warmth next to my friend on one side and a really hot (Jake Gyllenhaal-lookalike) guy on the other, mixing lyrics up at the tops of our voices, was probably the best way to have spent that Friday night. Without it, I probably would not have been able to get through the mammoth 1am-6am stewarding shift...I spent most of those 5 hours shivering and spotting smokers lighting up in the 'bar' we'd been assigned to, and asking them to leave the comforting cover of the gazebo and please stand outside, since this was a no smoking area, even though it was covered on top, because the sides were open. It was a bit like Minority Report, only I didn't make any arrests - but I did time my walk over to the perpetrators for precisely the right moment when they'd just lit their cigarette and were taking the first drag. That is some mad skillz, right there!

The stewarding was mostly uneventful ... in fact, one of the more entertaining aspects of the shifts was talking to one of the security guys who, as I put it at the time, was probably one of those people who 'hadn't quite evolved with the rest of the human race yet'. A bit harsh, perhaps, but here are some snippets of conversation:

Security Guard 1: Are you religion?
Security Guard 2: ...what?
Security Guard 1: Are you religion?
Security Guard 2: ...I am religious, yes. I am Christian.
Security Guard 1: Oh. Are you religion?
Me: Am I religious? No, not really.
Security Guard 1: What, never?!
Me: Well, my grandma's Catholic, does that count?
Security Guard 1: What type of Catholic? There's different types, ain't there... Catholic... Roman Catholic... Help me out, man!

No smoking!
And the classic

Security Guard 1: Where are you from, then?
Me: London
Security Guard 1: Your name though, that's not English.
Me: No, suppose not. I'm from Croatia.
Security Guard 1: Oh. Close to Brazil, innit.
Me: What is?
Security Guard 1: Your place. Costa Rica.
Me: No, Croatia - that's in Europe.
Security Guard 1: Same thing.

One does wholeheartedly despair, sometimes.

One did not, however, wholeheartedly despair at Beyonce's performance. She closed off the whole thing on Sunday as the headline act - the first female headliner in 40 years! I find that a little shocking! Starting off strong with Crazy In Love and Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It), the crowd were absolutely loving it! Upbeat, fun, firey (very literally, there were a lot of pyrotechnics set up on that stage - at one point the fireworks cleared and there was just a whole heap of smoke rising into the air that I did for a split second think something had caught fire). However, the middle section dragged on a bit, from where she sang Happy Birthday to her friend Steve (who's Steve anyway? What kind of a name is Steve?) and two relatively unknown numbers - Best Thing I Never Had and End Of Time, and the crowd did start getting a bit edgy. If I Were A Boy and Sweet Dreams provided a sort of temporary pacifier, but she lost us again after that and didn't fully command our attention until Irreplaceable and the subsequent Destiny's Child medley. Her performance would only be called 'solid' were she performing to a crowd of Beyonce Knowles fans who had turned out specifically to watch her in concert, but the majority of revelers at the Pyramid stage that night weren't die-hard Beyonce fans, and I think she failed to pick up on that fact, that not everyone would know every line to every song. It was, in essence, what one of my friends called 'over-indulgent in the American sense', and I did have a bit of a chuckle when B pronounced disbelief at playing to a crowd of 170,000 people - 'Er, love, they're not all here to see you, you know, some have gone to Queens of the Stone Age!' I don't think she heard me.

Having said that, maybe next time she's touring I may well be tempted to learn all her lyrics and go watch her down at the O2 because she really does put on a good show...but I'd also expect her to sing a fucking swear word if it's in the song she's performing (/written?!) - or otherwise not do it at all! I've spent an hour trying to work out which of the songs she sang had the word 'motherfucker' in it, because I found it really annoying that she would only say 'mother-----'. You can only go two ways on this really, you either use swear words or you don't. And if you do, then you have to actually sing them! Unless it's pre-watershed - but Glastonbury Festival is definitely a post-watershed type establishment, no wimping out of cursing here please! We are not a Presbyterian parish!

It's taken me two hours to write up this review, and I hardly feel like I've shared anything... which is probably just as well, because the residing motto - as discussed and agreed in the minibus back - of 2011 is: what happens at Glastonbury, stays at Glastonbury.

Testing, Part 2

Go on then, have an image.

Testing, testing

I'm just doing some experimental blogging using my iPhone - emailing my blogger 'Email Posting Address' from my normal email - as apparently this feeds right into my blog!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Waterloo Station

It's a Monday morning and what that typically means is that I'm on my way to work via Waterloo station.

There's nothing strange about that in itself - I do the Wood Green - Waterloo - Feltham thing at least once or twice a week, it's basically the only time I get any reading done.

What does amaze me, every time, is the particular smell Waterloo station has - specifically, the smell as one goes through the ticket barriers and through the ticket hall and up the stairs to the train platforms. It is so unique and hits you just as you set foot on the escalators. I wouldn't go so far as to call it acrid, but an increase in strength of about 35% would definitely put it into that boundary.
Waterloo escalator (from here - thank you!)

The only way I can think to describe it is by likening it to the smell one might get if one cooked a kilo of dust in a steamer per person to go through Waterloo, then sprinkled it with a generous helping of iron filings, and added some essence l'aluminium to boot.

It saddens me to think that the benefits I've gleamed through (just about) giving up smoking are probably outweighed by passing through Waterloo station a couple of times a week.