Tuesday, 30 December 2003

Back in London

The tube is full of foreigners getting on at Green Park going to Russell Square and Kings Cross. Europeans in autumnal colours, stylish puffer jackets, camper-style shoes and good glasses. Cords, barber jackets and umbrellas. Someone holds a digital camera aloft and flashes the carriage. They've been to Gap and Hard Rock Cafe and... They've been walking around town, shopping and eating and sight seeing. I'm a Londoner here on the epic journey across town from the airport - a full-time inhabitant - the only person with a suitcase!

With my week-away-eyes I feel like a stranger in my own city. It feels harsher, harder and edgier than when I left. A gang of yoots are hanging out behind the bus stop outside the new internet cafe. A week of constant company, being ferried around by car has softened me and leaves me feeling vulnerable and exposed like a belly-up insect. I'll be glad to get home to be able to ditch the visible baggage.

And I worry about when the next time will be that I'll see my sister and niece and brother-in-law. Little family unit living a family life far away.

Monday, 29 December 2003

Dundee Blogs

While I was in Dundee I spent a little time researching blogs from Dundee (as much time as I thought would be fair on someone elses internet connection). I was looking for something that was very Scottish. That gave me a sense of place.

Firstly, none of the blog listings sites goes as far as listing by city, apart from one which did put spots on a map (can't re-find it to link to it sadly. Then found a short listing by David Dundee. Also checked the Scottish Webring.

The Dundee Blog - a sort of local newspaper-esq blog. Home of the human interest story. Devoid of opinion.

Ali Colville - he's a techie student. Its a sort of boysy site if you know what I mean. It does have a brief about Dundee section, and an around Dundee photo section - I don't think they are largely his photos though. They come mostly from the photogallery of Skypilot (by a man named Donald). So although the posts were not particularly of Dundee there was lots of Dundee stuff around.

Blethers - a Dundonian living in Paris. Linky and techie.

Duck Dodgers - I really liked the post on 30-12-2003. Its a slightly confusing layout - I can't seem to find a way to display all the postings at once so you have to click through the dates to read the posts.

Liz Moser - very personal journal in the style of a diary. One of those under the bed sticker laiden ones. Does have a section of links about Dundee.

Allan McIntyre - dance student from Dundee who is now studying at the Laban in Deptford. Gushy, enthusiastic dance student.

Did find one blog that I really liked, but it isn't from Dundee. But I really did like it. Yeah but is it art?
Homeward Bound

And finally at the end of the day I found myself at the airport. Sis drove me. She lost her card in the cashpoint machine, and decided she hated Edinburgh Airport, so I don't know if anyone will be picked up from there again.

We said goodbye over the knives and scissors and anything sharp deposit box which wasn't too full but had been used enough to suggest that people evidently forget they are not allowed to take sharps onto the plane with them. One man was saying to his wife, "my god - what on earth (very important to hear this word in that scottish accent where the ea is a sort of gutteral eh followed by a rolling rrrr) would someone want on the plane with those huge orange handled scissors", and she was saying, "for doing their sewing".

The plane was late and I took this photo of the carpet which I discovered was exactly the same one as at Heathrow. It must be a design called Airport. Popular for a while all over the world in these places that are the starting or end point of a journey. Neither here nor there and aim to be as bland and characterless as possible.
The River Tay

On the last day of my trip my sis, niece and I walked along the river Tay. It was freezing. The puddles were ice but the sun shone low in the clear blue sky. Our noses went red and fingertips went numb.

Sunday, 28 December 2003

Top of the Hill

We went for a walk up Kinnoull Hill. Trying to get to the ruin at the top of one of the peaks. It was a forested hillside, rather steep and it was getting dark before we reached it. So we looked off across the Tay valley and then came back down. Saw the moon in the dusk sky. By the time we got back down it was dark.

Friday, 26 December 2003


In order to shake off yesterday's cabin fever my sis and I went for a walk in the rain, short drive to Anstruther to walk on the pebbly beach to look for beach finds.

When we got out of the car there was a large crowd of people on the quayside watching some brave bods go for a boxing day swim in the North Sea (not sure I'd ever go in the north sea, even if it was hot). They had to jump in, swim to the steps and get out. I'll bet they're still shivvering now.

Kinshaldy Beach

One of the things that you miss out on in life as a Londoner is a good walk in the countryside. On the first day after I arrived we went to the beach. It was bitter but beautiful. Love to see the sea, beautiful light, sand, trees and water. Huge sky. Weather (in the Ian McCaskell sense - we're having lots of weather).

Christmas Shopping

Since being in Dundee I have partaken in several shopping trips.

First we crossed the Tay to go buy a christmas tree from a country estate outside Cuper, Fife, from a man who chopped them from his tree farm specially.

Then I have seen the inside of three different tescos supermarkets (didn't realise that Dundee was really big enough to sport three but obviously it is - it does have two football teams after all).

  • Kinsway Tescos - crowded but lots of cashiers, don't know why but I couldn't go the right way round whatever I did - I was always in the way. And they had trolley traffic jams at the meat counter and again at the corner of chocolate and alcohol. Complete standstill. Nobody was going to give way. More people just kept piling up and up.

  • Lochee Tescos - small but less crowded

  • Riverside Tescos - more upmarket (supposedly) but more crowded.
I also visited Anstruther Co-op - much less upmarket, much smaller and almost completely empty (being as it was boxing day when we went). My sister really shows me a good shopping time!

Tuesday, 23 December 2003

Christmas Travels

I set off before dawn, rushing cos I overslept by 10 minutes leaving 20 mins to get up, dressed and out the door without leaving anything behind. Ran down the road, foolishly having spent my last change last night and forgetting to get any money out on the way home because I'll get some tomorrow from the cashpoint. The cashpoint was closed. It was monday morning. This is a common occurance. I had too much to carry. By the time I got on the bus to take me up the road to the tube station my arms were aching. I paid for a single to Heathrow by switch!!! Yah! I lurve plastic. I was on the tube at 6.45. It was relatively crowded. Where were all these people going? (I know I know, work, travelling etc etc). I saw the sun starting to come up around Hounslow West.

Amazingly I arrived in what seemed like plenty of time at 8.00am for a domestic trip. The airport was packed. There were queues everywhere, confusion. I eventually found the end of the UK domestic flights queue snaking through the queuing system and off along past the shops. A helpful sign over the checking in-desk said if it is less than 30 minutes until your flight takes off contact a member of staff. I stood waiting, it was freezing outside, the funny thing about airports is that you can't really tell by looking at the customers what time of year it is - there were people in shorts and beach sandals, other people with snowboards. There were people travelling heavy - one family of four and six large suitcases, and others travelling light - nothing but a briefcase. By 8.30 I had not even reached the cordoned off queuing system section. So they jumped me to the front of the queue.

Airbus. Not a bad plane really, quite comfortable. Apart from the really weird noise coming from the wing that the air hostesses had to assess very casually walking past listening without a flicker in the over-stretched plastic smile.

I had a vegetarian meal (I'm a vegetarian). It was breakfast. It was some kind of egg thing like quiche but without the pastry. Full of mushrooms. I hate mushrooms. Slimy things when cooked badly - they are often cooked badly. I can eat them if they are cut up small. I took a couple of bites. And the third had a huge rubbery thing. I had to spit it out (discretely - I was sitting between two people). I don't know why I ever ask for a vegetarian meal really, they always do it so badly. The worst was a piece of cooked aubergine. Cooked until it looked like a piece of really really old yellow sponge.

So an hour and fifteen minutes later (can't believe that Edinburgh is really that far from London) I arrived. And then a car trip to Dundee, where I'm spending christmas.

Saturday, 20 December 2003

So, Let's Go Again

Friday night was office party mark 2. Yesterday was the party with the people in the physical office I work in. Today was the party with the people who employ me (complicated situation - I do project work, I work off-site).

We went for the obligatory meal - but this year we had pizza! Every kid's favourite. We were in La Porchetta on Upper Street. The one unique aspect of this restaurant is their traditional celebration of birthdays. The waiters all grab 2 metal trays and clang them together to the worst rendition of happy birthday that could be found on any recording and slap a pizza dough on the unfortunate's head who thought it would be fun to come here for their birthday. I don't know why exactly but every time you come to La Porchetta there is always at least one birthday.

We had to do Secret Santa. For £3.

I have a huge problem with Secret Santa. I think too much. Some people know that they are going to buy something stupid and ridiculous and laugh. I try to find something good for the money. Last year I bought a wind-up Santa toy old-style. I did that because a. I liked it and b. at least it was christmassy. The person who got it left it on the table of the place we were celebrating. This year I thought, it'll have to be less my taste and maybe more useful, thinking unisex. I bought a calander from Muji, in the sale. I did this thinking a. its actually more expensive usually but as its on sale it qualifies at the price, b. its useful for the office, c. its really inoffensive. This year the woman who got it would have preferred something tastelessly chinz and was bitterly disappointed because a. it was a calander and b. it was very plain. Next year I'm going to a joke shop and I'm going to buy something stupid, ridiculously unnecessary and I'm going to laugh.

Last year for secret santa I received a stress-relief puzzle which had a piece of string on a hoop wound round a wooden hexagon with holes in. I still haven't solved that damn puzzle. This year I recieved a video. Of Dancing with the Teletubbies. I don't know why but I was disappointed. I would rather have had my calander back. (I do know someone who will love it though).

Friday, 19 December 2003

Office Party

Well, its that time of year. They always promise so much and provide so little. We had the obligatory overly-pissed can't handle the alcohol type. We had the grumpy drunk at the end of the evening demanding a cab home. I was at the heart of an incident where one fellow accused me a trying to grab his balls (he should be so lucky, and if I had really been trying to do so, don't you think I'd would actually have done it?) and then he made me laugh just as I took a mouthfull of drink which was sadly sprayed all over some poor unfortunate who took it very well. And I wasn't even drunk (honestly I wasn't).

HS was telling a story about her plumber and how he had asked her on a date. It was a close call due to the joy of having hot water from the basin tap but she turned him down when she found out that actually he didn't have a van - he used a people carrier (she took it as a sign that he was probably married with several kids).

The most embarrassing office do I was ever on was at a Mexican restaurant in Greenwich where we had had a brilliant deal of £15 per head for a 3 course meal and a tequila slammer thrown in at the beginning. We had to teach the boss how to do a slammer - when everybody else tossed it back she took a dainty sip and screwed up her face (doesn't actually taste that nice sipped). Later a man who was sitting at the bar sent me over a glass of sparkling white wine with his phone number (and in front of all the people I worked with, many of them terrible teasers, it was majorly hard to live down. And I had done nothing to court this kind of thing. Really I hadn't).

But I've never worked in a place big enough to have people snogging in corners and meeting their life's love or behaving so badly as to be dismissed. Perhaps thats a good thing. A mark of restraint. And I would really hate to work in The Office. Really I would.

Monday, 15 December 2003

In Tinderbox, Contemplating the World

There are two sorts of people - front of the bus and back of the bus people. I am a front of the bus person because I like to see where I am going. But I harbour secret desires to be a back of the bus person - somehow its always been cooler to be at the back - school, buses, cinema - there always seems to be more going on there. I find I prefer to be at the front in all cases.

A couple stand outside the huge plate glass window and debate whether or not to come in. They are both wearing berets. He is smoking and kicking up a fuss. She is wearing long white leather gloves and a diamonte sprig on her lapel. He wins. They don't come in.

A couple with lidded coffee cups come in and ask if they can use the internet. They are turned away with their competitor's coffee.

Coffee lids are funny - they didn't exist until recently and now we all use them. They remind me of my orange double-handled beaker from when I was getting weaned - the sort with a lid with a mouth piece on it. Same principle I suppose - designed to help us not spill the drink.

Robert Smith of the Cure is singing friday I'm in love, tuesday wednesday stay in bed....
Monday's Life Class

Last life class of the year.

Candid Arts Trust: open access sessions and more formal taught courses in both life drawing and painting. Behind Angel tube, Islington - first left down City Road. Contact: The Candid Arts Trust, 3 Torrens Street, London EC1V 1NQ, Tel: 020 7837 4237.
Oh Woe!

They did a rebuild of the commenting system and some data was lost. ALL my lovely comments for the last 8 months are gone. SOB. Its a tragedy. The comments are an integral part of the work. I can hardly bare it!

Who has a stable and consistent comments system that they can recommend to me? Since I'm beginning over I may as well begin over with something that won't do this to me again.

Sunday, 14 December 2003

Atmospheric Sunday Night

I had bought tickets to see the Klezmer Swingers at the Purcell Room for my Dad and me. He was too sick to come.

As I got off the bus on Waterloo Bridge I was sprayed in the face with water, like you are when the wind catches water from the sea at the beach. It was damp out but not raining - so this was suprising, it was hard to believe that the wind was strong enough to be catching water from the Thames and carrying it so high.

When I got down onto the middle level I found that the trees had been dressed with lights that were flicking and flashing highlighting branches back and forth. Eerie movie soundtrack music was playing intertwined with a dinking piano (not quite tinkling, a bit more scratchy, if you know what I mean). And then a shuuuuuush sound happened and a fine mist came out from the branches and blew off in the wind. This is what I had been hit in the face by when I was on the bridge. It was marvelous and totally captivating. Until it got too cold to stand watching and getting wetted by the misty wind.

Saturday, 13 December 2003

On a Lighter Note...

I braced myself and braved the centre of town and got all my christmas shopping done. Phew. No more bag bashing people crushes for me!
Clissold Park

Its weird and eerie to see the park closed. Empty completely, no jogging, no dog walking, no football games. Police officers are guarding the gates, plastic tape cordoning the crime scene and areas of specific interest. They're sending frogmen into the lake to look for the attack weapon. There's a tent over a particular part of the path where the woman was presumably stabbed. A small group of specialised officers are overseeing the dredging of the drains along the path. A lone man jogs along the pavement outside the park.

The yellow Can You Help signs are asking for witnesses for an attempted murder. The words are chilling. Every once in a while a crime frightens me - partly due to its proximity to home, the area I work in and the familiarity of the scene but also in this case due to its seemingly motiveless nature - you can't protect yourself from this in any way.

I hadn't realised the man who stabbed and murdered the artist jogging in Victoria Park hadn't been caught.

Although Victoria Park and Clissold Park are less than two miles apart it feels much further - the areas are distinctly different, not joined by any direct transport links. Its a trip to Victoria Park from my house and it feels like over there, east, distant. Clissold Park is walking distance.

Its a dark dreary London day - grey and damp. As the bus drives past the railings on the park we pass a place where bunches of flowers have been tied to the railings - some time ago judging by the dead blooms - the symbol, usually, of a traffic accident fatality. Sadness wilting.

As the bus moves on from the park I see the evidence of other crimes - a large plate glass shop window has been smashed to get something out of the display of an antiques shop, the Istanbul barbers' window has a gunshot hole in it. Inside the barbers a man reads the Hurriyet while he waits and the caged parrot looks at himself in the hanging mirror - the parrot used to have a mate and he used to have a beautiful long red tail plumage. I wonder if the RSPCA know about this poor bird.

We live in a dangerous world. On days like today its more like the dark films of New York than I care to remember. We are regularly the victims of terrorist threats and victims of crimes (although I personally, thankfully, to date never have been - my house, yes, my office, yes, but me, no). I often see people shoplifting, stealing from other's bags, fighting, being threatening. I have warned many women of the danger their bags are in, shouted at pick pockets and worried later about any consquences. I don't know if this is because I have my eyes open or its happening more regularly. I'm wary but try not to be afraid.

And finally I think about the woman who was stabbed. Recovering in hospital. But how long will it take her to recover? How many cuts will have to heal, muscles rebuild? What is the impact of such a penetrating crime?

Its nothing like it but it reminds me of the interviews with Monica Seles when she was returning to the tennis circuit after the crazed Stephi Graff fan stabbed her in the back - fear, not wanting to put yourself out there, lacking motivation and desire.

I suspect the mental scars remain forever, along with heightened fear.

Guardian newstory
BBC news

Thursday, 11 December 2003

Umbrella Protocols

As I woke up this morning I could hear it was raining by the sound of it on the canal and the tree outside my window. The weather forcast said it had been raining but had stopped for the moment. I left the house while it had stopped, therefore I didn't take an umbrella. By the time I got off the bus on the way to work it had started to rain again. It got me thinking about why I always do this - instead of planning ahead I take an umbrella or not depending on what is happening outside at the time I step out of the front door. Which in turn got me thinking about the following:

When is it heavy enough to put up an umbrella?
Age old problem: when is it really raining? When the drops are light enough that they sort of float about on the wind without coming straight down they are usually not big enough to wet the umbrella, and light enough to float up underneath its edge - this is when it is probably not heavy enough to open the umbrella - it will do little good and the rain will not wet you anyway. Anytime when as you walk along you are actually getting wet you should use an umbrella.

Hair types and umbrellas
It sometimes amazes me which friends of mine are umbrella-users and which are not. HS who is a hiking in the hills and camping kinda girl, uses an umbrella even when the slightest drops are floating around in the air - this suprises me greatly. Until I thought about her hair type - very curly, prone to frizzing. Bails on the other hand (with dreadlocks), uses an umbrella only to keep shoulders dry and to stop that wet-wool-smell-thing happening and frequently finds she is without one. The most shocking thing I discovered recently was that shaven-headed and bald blokes are really big users of umbrellas. Where I think that umbrellas are a bit of a nuisance and would rather go without apart from the fact that having done the hair it would be really annoying if it should get ruined by the rain, I find that if I actually had no hair at all I would use one because the feeling of drops falling directly on the head is not very nice. So, that dispells the myth that I grew up with that the biggest umbrella fans are the hairdressed ladies.

Kids and umbrellas
Wouldn't they be better off with a waterproof coat with a hood and wellingtons?

Up or Down Under Railway Bridges?
Tricky, everytime I am on the way to work in the rain with the umbrella I think of this. As I walk from Seven Sisters up Stroud Green Road I have to pass under 6 railway bridges in row. I spend the walk thinking about maybe I should put the umbrella down because it isn't raining under this bit, and then pass under a huge drip or a thin open space where rain is coming down. As I passed this way this morning another woman was debating the same thing - you could tell because she was doing that thing where you wave it over your head and then down in front of you to check how drippy the drips are. Still unsure of the answer. So for now, up I think - at least you know then that the pigeons won't shit on you (the other thing I deliberate about on the way under these bridges - best route to avoid being pooped upon).

Covered but Outside
I know the answer to this one - when walking through spaces which are large and definitely feel like outside but have a roof on them - bus stations, malls, petrol stations, etc umbrellas can be brought down.

Who Raises to Enable Smooth Flow?
Pedestrian road sense - who should raise their umbrella over the top so two umbrella users can pass in the street without getting tangled up or crashing? Generally I would say the tallest person should raise their umbrella, however when a short person has a large umbrella (e.g. a golf umbrella) they should be aware that they should be raising it the highest because it will be the hardest to navigate around (if this is not going to be possible they should be the one to move out of the way). It is important in this case to know what you are going to do so that it is obvious to all involved what your movements are going to be - this will help avoid the umbrella equivalent of both stepping right and both stepping left when trying to avoid bumping into coming pedestrians (both raise and crash, both lower and tangle).

Folding vs Straight
This is a personal preference thing entirely. For some its the convenience of the folding umbrella that is key. The smaller the better. To be able to carry the umbrella in ones bag or pocket is paramount. I, however, hate these types of umbrellas - they have no style or panache, they come in disgusting patterns, and they don't hold up against a wind. So naturally I never carry umbrellas around just in case it rains (hence getting caught in the rain). I do have a couple of folding umbrellas at the office for emergencies. But my umbrella of choice is a black ladies umbrella from John Lewis, edged with a white trim and shaped in a manner that it curves to a point in the middle - it is not too heavy or too long to carry over the arm (unlike my father's gentlemen's umbrellas), and is wider than a folding umbrella. I was even once walking along towards a couple of chaps and one of them said to the other, "what a lovely brolly", which is exactly what I thought when I bought it.

Which Leads on Nicely to When Blown Inside Out
Try to get the umbrella back the right way as quickly and with as little fuss as possible. Don't swear or throw a tantrum. This happens to those folding types. The worst sort are the ones with two fold points. If you can't handle it get a straight one.

Golf Umbrellas
These are about as useful in the city as four wheel drive vehicles. Yes they are big in that overblown I've got a lot of money to throw around self important kind of a way. But they take up too much space, they are heavy, they don't have a hook and they are often adorned with advertising. However, if you are going to have one, be citizenly - encourage others to stand under it with you when waiting to cross at junctions or at bus stops.

Umbrellas are like shopping trolleys - they end up on the side of the road like dead animals, in canals, on rubbish tips etc. Personally I've never had an umbrella until it breaks - they always get lost first. But make sure you try to get it in the bin properly.

So whatever you do, where ever you are - take care of yourself and each other - try not to have anybody's eye out.

Wednesday, 10 December 2003

I've Caught the Office Cold

I feel: stingy, snotty, heady, and drippy. What a fabulous combination. Fortunately it isn't reflecting that badly on my mood.

I'd rather we had a office cat.

Tuesday, 9 December 2003


On my way back to the office I saw a man rescuing a whole stack of the largest men in the world magazines from the newspaper recycling bins outside Tesco Metro on Stoud Green Road (or at least this is what I could see on the spine of them as I passed by).

Monday, 8 December 2003

Monday's Life Class

So today as we began class my two class companions and I were joking about how we thought the model should pose up a step ladder that in the corner of the room. And Ann agreed. So after our initial drawing he was duly sent up said ladder to drape himself in uncomfortable positions over the hand rail. And boy was a different angle ever difficult to capture. (No more flippant jibes at the beginning of class for us...)

Candid Arts Trust: open access sessions and more formal taught courses in both life drawing and painting. Behind Angel tube, Islington - first left down City Road. Contact: The Candid Arts Trust, 3 Torrens Street, London EC1V 1NQ, Tel: 020 7837 4237.

Saturday, 6 December 2003

The Opticians

Today we were mostly accompanying bails to the optician. I like to do this partly because the opticians is actually a great place (I'll explain) and partly because she is so shortsighted that when she tries on a new frame she can't see herself in the mirror to tell what they look like and she needs a second opinion.

The optician of choice is 20/20 Optical Store on Tottenham Court Road. I've been a client of theirs since before they moved from Picadilly. I like them for loads of reasons: they often can see you at the drop of a hat; they stay open late on Thursdays; they are very friendly and welcoming; they have a fantastic selection of glasses; they have world-class equipment; they do the best eye sight test I have found; they buy the papers so that while you wait you can read the news; they have a cafe which serves hot chocolate in the french style that is thick like custard.

So a couple of years ago I was getting an eye test and the optician turned my eyelid inside out (much to my horror and lots of whimpering) asked me if I wanted to go blind and told me I had to stop wearing my contact lenses apart from perhaps a couple of times a week for maximum of four hours at a time. He struck fear into me. I decided to give up contacts for the meantime and in order to make sure I did I invested heavily in glasses. This was the trip that I discovered Alain Mikli - french, tres stylish. Sadly usually the most expensive frames in the shop. But when you've worn great glasses, it really is damn hard to go back. They have sprung arms, so they never slide down. They are wide, so you get a good range of vision. They come in colours, so you don't have to look severe, unless of course you want to. I can match them to the colour of my highlights and vice versa (as I do with my current ones).

Its now 2 years later and the tracemarks of capilliaries in my eyes are fading (due to no wearing of contact lenses). Which is good. I am also the proud owner of 2 pairs of mikli glasses.
Simile of the Night

DP was talking about the sofa he was thinking of buying. "Its not one of those leatherette ones with sagging stuffed cushions all over the place that look like breasts in an ill-fitting bra". I'm thinking of World of Leather, white, where the arms and the back cushions sort of sag, and you sink into them slowly as you sit in them.

Thursday, 4 December 2003

Another Two for One

We're getting really blase about this sneaking into the cinema thing now. We only intended to go for one this afternoon, really we did, but hell before we knew it we'd popped in to see a little bit of Finding Nemo and forgot to leave until it finished. I feel like a naughty schoolkid. Perhaps its really dishonest and uncitizenly but I just can't get over the joy it brings to pay for one film and see another for free. And it is at over-half-empty screens. I think that the cinema is rife with people doing the same. Several people joined both our films halfway through.

Wednesday, 3 December 2003

The Crouch End Street Sweeper

Tonight, the end of a puzzle was found. Everytime we came to Crouch End we would see this street sweeper. He was sweeping the streets at about 7.30pm. I didn't think they worked late shifts apart from in town (by this expression I mean the West End - its habit that I call it town - I learned it off my mother and I can't seem to shake it). Anyway, he is very industrious and energetic in his sweeping. He uses a narrow stiff bristled brush which isn't very many bristle-rows thick and manages to sweep up fag ends that have been squished into the road by cars and everything. I don't think I've ever witnessed a sweeper this thorough. We thought he was an oddball, perhaps an obsessive who felt it was his calling to keep Crouch End clean. Partly because he did lots of sweeping but I hadn't ever seen him with a trolley or bag to put the sweepings into and partly because of his manner of sweeping.

So tonight as we stood outside Budgens waiting for the W5 we watched him, in the gutters making nice neat piles at regular intervals. Maticulously sweeping. Getting every single little bit. And lo! he had a trolley and bags and gloves and regulation gear and picked all the bits up and... Our fertile imaginations had got the better of us. He was a regular sweeper. He did get paid for his work. And most remarkably - he was excellent at his job. And Crouch End does look cleaner for it.

The only other street sweeper I know is a Finsbury Park sweeper. He on the other hand finds most pleasure in the social aspect of his job and spends much time outside the post office chatting to passers by. He does wear a very broad grin and a wooly hat however. But his work is more about the people and less about the cleanliness of the street. Its more of an arduous task in Finsbury Park as well, I believe. There is certainly more dirty water always hanging around there. It manages to look swept but not clean if you understand what I mean.

And just because I mentioned Finsbury Park postoffice I have to mention the tall black guy who is always outside the post office before it opens with his Elvis glasses on. He's a fixture of my daily journey to work, along with the Finsbury Park Street Sweeper.

Tuesday, 2 December 2003

On Why Hippies Should Not Organise Speed Dating Events

In the Slag & Lettuce we sat having a drink and were eyed by a man on a mission. He came over to give us a postcard about his upcoming speed dating event (we must have looked like two girls in need of swift intervention - looks can be deceiving, I have to say). I've never been on a speed date (which incidentally don't come in ones) but I do know a girl who has. Much merriment and fun to be had by all accounts but not many appropriate partners to be found.

Anyway, he was a young thing with a goatee beard and a group of friends drinking with him for moral support - his aim that evening was to pass out cards to as many people as possible, trying to get men involved because there are always too many women (which made me wonder if people were invited or were allowed to just turn up - what do you do if 75% of those who show up are women - do they do like in dances and just speed date with each other for practice until a male is available?) So he was a student earning some dosh on the side and we had quite a funny time finding out why he was doing this and how long for etc etc.

Which comes to why hippies should not do this kind of work. Think of the Tequila Girl - ballsy, tarty, talk to anyone types - you can see them drumming up trade for such an event and men will be persuaded by her short skirt, lipstick and straightened hair (if they all look like her it'll be a goer). Or think of the Ann Summer's Party Rep - a little bit more suburban and respectable, until the day of the do - good understanding and sympathetic ear types who can really get a girl talking. But a hippy bloke who's studying science and could just be dipping into the nerdy - not really enough bubble and oomph to drum up anything much apart from a good long chat to a couple of women who probably wouldn't go in for it even if they were single. So suddenly at 10.30 he realised he had the whole pub to get round with his advertising and went off to promote his event. Eventually made it back for the rest of his beer by last orders, complaining that he's crap at this and admitting that the whole time he had been away he had managed to chat to one whole other group only. I laughed so much my hair caught a spark from a candle on the table and we had to pat the flames out before my whole head went up (hate the smell of burning hair).
New London Extreme Sports

If you crave the excitement of snow-boarding or jumping off bridges hooked up to an elastic band you should join the new formed sport of Extreme Tube Racing. As described by a group of new-to-london 18 year old students:
You start in a pub, are given a route which involves stopping at named pubs to have a pint (nothing new in this yet) but each pub is at a different stop on the underground. The journey will require you to get around the route as quickly as possible and the route will be chosen for its line changes and long interchanges at stations. By any means necessary be the first - if this means sliding down escalator handrails, pushing people out of the way, charging down and up steps, so be it. Judges will reside in every venue to check the drinking aspect is adhered to.

And I knew I was getting old becuase I was thinking, oh but think of the health and safety - drunker and drunker and rushing around on the tube - someone will get hurt. Sigh. Oh to be that carefree again - the beginning of university not a care in the world, no responsibilities and the most difficult problem solving aspect of the week will be the logistics of such a sport. And then again I think because I grew up in London the underground never seemed such an amazing playground.

I'm adding it to the old favourite Bus Surfing - Everyone stands in a line in the aisle on the top deck of a bus. You must not hold on. Stand as if on a surfboard. Ride the bus as it swings round corners, passes other cars, stops suddenly etc. Aim is to stay standing. And its very important that at least one of the party hums the Hawai-5-O theme tune.
Monday's Life Class

We had to draw on newsprint because there wasn't enough cartridge paper to go round. Newsprint is difficult because it is shiny and the charcoal rubs off as easily a it goes on. The model was made to pose with a stick - a couple of different ones were used. He had strong muscles and was really good at exerting himself during the pose - sometimes to the point where his entire body was shaking with the effort.

Candid Arts Trust: open access sessions and more formal taught courses in both life drawing and painting. Behind Angel tube, Islington - first left down City Road. Contact: The Candid Arts Trust, 3 Torrens Street, London EC1V 1NQ, Tel: 020 7837 4237.