Wednesday, 30 November 2005

Christmas Shopping

I decided I was going to be early this year. Not for me the dashing round on Christmas Eve. Did very well in the bargain basement of Liberties during their Christmas shopping evening. 75% off. One of the gentlemen behind me in the mother of all queues, purchasing lilaq bed linen, complained that they were missing Desperate Housewives. His companion said just look around. I laughed, pretty desperate I thought (at least I thought I thought, it turned out I said because he came back with a very saucy retort about the decanter I was clutching).

Sunday, 27 November 2005

We Witnessed

15.40 341 Bus. Harringay.

An Eastern European woman got on the bus ahead of us with her daughter and sat down on the front left seat (top deck).

A middle-teenaged girl was sitting in the right front seat, and her friend came up from the back of the bus somewhere saying excuse me I was sitting there, addressing the Eastern European woman gruffly.

"Did you buy the whole bus?" was her retort.

The two girls sat across the aisle from the woman and her daughter bitching loudly about her - the cheek of it, they don't deserve to be in the country, bet they don't even have a passport, wait til they get deported back to where they came from.

Finally the woman said something back, which started a slanging match which suddenly erupted, on the girls behalf, to the point where one of them stood up and took her belt off and threatened to hit the woman's daughter with it. And the woman herself. All the while thwacking the belt on the side of the bus.

The woman said if she did that she would call the police.

And the girl said, "yeah and if they come I'll just tell them what you did."

Shamefully we sat there silent witnesses to the extreme overreaction and threatening behaviour, not quite believing what we were seeing and not quite sure what to do about it. I wish I was certain of my voice and that I could use it to tell the girls to calm down, without causing their wrath to be turned against me. I wish there was a number to call and report these kinds of things. These kinds of things and other things like pickpocketing and stuff. But its difficult to know what to do when if you call the police the perpetrators will be long gone before they arrive.

Friday, 25 November 2005

Homeward Bound

"If I had to pick the ultimate cute guy I've met since September, its got to be Theo."
"Too cute, just too cute, yeah."

There's a man on the platform who's wearing geoffy trousers. His bum is small and his front pockets bulge out on both sides from being stuffed too full. Geoff used to dart about, always late, his pocket bulges rolling over his legs from side to side.

"I love the way Matt gets his hand when he laughs and sort of hides his mouth, like he's embarrassed."
"Yes, I love that!"

Two boys bet on. Baggy jeans, cap with graffiti-style writing which still has the label handing off it in the middle. Drinking stella in tins. Their pitbull shivering in the corner.

"The whole situations with Eric. I don't know what's going to happen. I just wish we could be friends but perhaps that's not possible."

The man wiht geoffy trousers has detailed plans to be in, eating curry and watching Damon Albarn (the one out of the Gorillaz that should be a watch) on Jonathan Ross.

"Patrick..God yes, he looks hot every day."

Two men discuss the train trouble this week, leaves and cold frost slicks. Unbelievable. The trains can't run in any adverse conditions.

"I don't know where I'm going to stay that night. Maybe Nick's house, or Fyn's. Dunno. Maybe if Sara's parents are going away we could all go and stay there..."

Arriving at London Bridge, the doors open and I leave behind the school girl's discussion. Sixth formers I reckon. Probably Dulwich Conseratoire, or something. Last of South London for another week and head off for my weekend in North London.

Wednesday, 23 November 2005

The freeFALL of George Bush

So this lands in my inbox today and ends up being quite compulsive so I had to stop from watching it for hours. Give him a little yank if he gets stuck - he'll fit through any gap. I've yet to find the bottom, if indeed there is one.

Tuesday, 22 November 2005


On the tube to Kings Cross with me today were (in direct line of vision):
  • pimple guy
  • pock mark guy
  • winter sports suntan guy
  • hat guy
  • big beardy guy
  • long leather coat guy who needs to get more zinc in his diet
  • pale green eyeshadow girl
  • pale eye-skin guy
  • "that tirade this morning" woman and her chuckling male companion
  • catching-my-eye guy
  • and security checked backpack guy
It was really quite a crush. Glad to get off.

Monday, 21 November 2005

How to Build a Crane

Not so long ago I was wondering how they build a crane when it would seem they would need one to build one. A suggestion was made which seemed plausible and was bound in fact (witnessing said crane being build counts as primary evidence I reckon). But on Saturday I think I saw another option. In order to build a crane you have a telescopic mobile crane like this:

It's attached to the back of a lorry and has feet which extend out the sides and stand on the ground like stabilizers. So that's that question tied up.

Wednesday, 16 November 2005

343 3:30

Me and a bus load of crazed school girls are riding the 343 from Nunhead to New Cross Gate. I'm downstairs with the olds and their shopping trolleys. They're upstairs going wild on the top deck, throwing each other's bags around and screaming out the window at the passing talent. Particularly a slightly older boy (probably a sixth former) in a black uniform with a natty (to steal a word from my ma's old lingo) spiked hoxton fin do. "OI sexy, love your hair" screeched from the gap in the window, squeals of laughter. Boy turns and looks up at the horde and smiles, more squeals of laughter. Me, I'm glad to get out of there with my eardrums intact.

Tuesday, 15 November 2005

Happy Birthday

To my namesake, Harriet the Tortoise, 175 today.

In the aisle on the bottom deck of the bus is a teabag, escaped from someone's shopping. It's lying flattened from being stepped on and looks like a white kite against a black sky, diamond with its string curled and its tab divided like the ribbons on a long tail.

Saturday, 12 November 2005

Spot the Difference

If anyone has the Guardian today, they might be interested in an article in the Weekend called I am a camera which is spreading the word about moblogs. If you look closely at the pictures they have printed, selected I assume from moblogs across the blogosphere, there's a picture which seemed awfully familiar to me of Rachel Whiteread's installation at the Tate Modern. Compare the picture in your paper with the picture that appeared on my moblog. Its a bit cropped from the top, but I think its the same. Can't check that though because they fail to credit, which I think is somewhat naughty and not in the spirit of blogging.

Here's a link found by Diamond Geezer (I'm trying to stop being so link-shy) about the article. And then because the middle column has been left out I've photographed it myself:

And here's the picture I took:

Wednesday, 9 November 2005

The Coldest Spots in London

Its like a venn diagram - they are either related to work, or to waiting, or to both.
  • London Bridge bus station at the stand for the 141 or 43, when closest to the actual bus stop post. The wind rustles up under your coat from below and whips your face from around St Thomas'. Very exposed because you are sort of on a platform raised above the lower street level.

  • Warren Street, well not Warren Street exactly. I used to work on Longford Street and would arrive at Warren Street tube station and have to cross Euston Road towards what was Capital Radio through a wind tunnel created by the tall buildings on either side of that long straight road. Sometimes felt like you had to cling to a lamppost waiting for the lights to change for fear of being blown away. One of the places where people had to lean at almost 45 degrees against the wind. And then on turning the corner of a building it was suddenly completely still.

  • Junction Road at Archway has some bus stops just before the lights that sit in the shadow of a huge office block with miserable shops half derelict underneath. I expect its the wind tunnel effect again but even in summer its sometimes cold here.


In the dark, carriages filled with muted yellow light hurtle along the train lines. Tower blocks with dimly lit balconies rise up of the gloom. A shadow walks along. A net curtain twitches.

Sky scrapers in Docklands bright, neon signs. Empty offices bleeding light into the night.

Ghostly pale Tower Bridge, an appartition between warehouse buildings, appears and disappears, its gold catching the moonlight.

Framed window of all-bar one. Crowded inside. A man sits drinking a beer, smoking. A woman leaning in, talks intently to his ear. He rests his forehead on the fingers of the hand holding the cigarette. Bright orange heat. My eyes readjust to the perspective - the woman belongs to a group sitting behind him. The man sits alone. In a crowded bar. Bathed in yellow light that seeps into the street. Reminds me of an Edward Hopper painting. Lonely in a crowded place.

Sunday, 6 November 2005

Favourite London Escalators

My favourite London escalators, in no particular order:
  • Level 0 to Level 2, Tate Modern. One day a boy on the first floor stood silently banging on the glass with great verve failing to attract the attention of some of his party on the up escalator, as we sailed down past him from 2 to 0.

  • Angel Tube, the long one. Because its just so long.

  • Canary Wharf. Futuristic and concrete. Feels like being in the set of a sci-fi movie.

  • Tottenham Court Road. On the one up to the ticket hall, where you travel through the arches which are mosaic'd by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi.

  • Lloyds Building. On a visit during Open House one year, we got to go up to the 5th floor and look down into their atrium. The escalators were those sort which have see-throught underneaths - I'd never seen those before.

  • Trocadero - the SEGA escalator. They're boring and normal at the bottom when you get on, leaning over to watch the nutters on that death-drop ride, coming up and up and up and up into the ceiling of the building ready to be plunged back down at great speed, their screams withering away as they hurtle past you. And then you get onto the long one which takes you past all that, through neon blue hoops. Promises so much more than it actually delivers.

Saturday, 5 November 2005

Remember, Remember the 5th of November

Fireworks on the Thames. Boom from the rockets reverberating between St Pauls and the Tate Modern across the water and through your chest. Brief but marvellous. Didn't get a sparkler though.

Cafe Valerie

Bails and I sat outside Cafe Valerie (eating cake and drinking coffee) contemplating the purpose the man had for his packet of angel wings. Costume for later? Wearing them bare-chested in Heaven. OR, a present for his daughter's 4th birthday. OR, to fulfill his angel fantasy his girlfriend would wear them while naked, rouge her nipples and prance about the bedroom for his delight. Bails felt the latter.

Then an adoring but slightly alternative couple stopped in the doorway. "D'you want to go in?" she asked. "We can go here or somewhere else," he said. She stared adoringly into his eyes, held his hand and dragged him inside. "They've only just met," remarked Bails, "Those adoring looks last about a month when you're that young, and about a week when you're older. It goes with that touching thats all electric". Sweet, I thought, and how jaded we seem.

Thursday, 3 November 2005

South to North: a journey

In the dark on the exposed platform by the station master's door, a little girl no more than 2 feet tall does a shimmy to the music playing in her head. A bit of side to side head action and a little bit of twist going down. Her dad watches for the train.

An estate agent does his patter to a non-plussed man with a record bag over his shoulder in an empty first floor apartment of a newly built block.

A fat blond labrador tied to a bicycle rack outside a corner shop barks excitedly when he catches sight of his owner turning into an aisle inside.

Through a pub window the warm golden glow of light spills out into the dark. Framed in the light a man reads a paper spread out on the table in front of him, slowly smoking a cigarette. The most enourmous spiny cactus on the windowsill beside him.
Pumpkin Lantern

Yes, the pumpkin was a gift to my niece on her birthday. Yes, it sat around on the kitchen top for easily a week. Yes, we had it on Halloween. No, I didn't feel like doing it then. Today. Today I wanted to make a pumpkin lantern. So I did. And we enjoyed it on the kitchen windowsill, yes we did.

It is important when making a pumpkin lantern to make the preparations carefully. Cut the lid off the pumpkin. Scrape out the inside stringy bit. Then spend some time scraping away at the hard pulp with a sharp edged spoon. The thinner the walls the better the glow will be. I once made a pumpkin lantern where the grooves of the pumpkin glowed orange because the walls had been scraped so thin. That was something.

Tuesday, 1 November 2005

Remember, Remember...

Its an over excitable time of year for young people (she says trying hard not to sound like those old pink-rinsed grannies). It gets dark early, there's the build up to the 5th and between the time when fireworks go on sale and actually having a real cause to set them off is Halloween.

So for a while now we've had yoofs hanging around, often with bikes for a quick get away, letting off fireworks along the ground for a horizontal display aimed at scaring bystanders. Wood Green High Road is not the place to be if you scare easily. Neither was the Tate Modern when I was there on Thursday. I'm trying not to laugh at the yoofs (their over-sized baggy tracksuits hanging off the arse end on bmx's that are too small, knees all sticking out at odd angles) while they are armed with explosives.

The joy of Halloween is the little children dressed up as ghouls and ghosties trick or treating with their parents. Sadly now gatecrashed by marauding teenagers barely in costumes threatenly approaching pedestrians and demanding treats (preferring money). Not like the Halloween I was in Madison, Wisconsin, where trick or treating was strickly 5-7pm and only at houses with pumpkin lanterns. We dressed the clapboard house's porch in cobwebs and illuminous skeletons, played spooky music and I answered the door (long black skirt, red and black hair - I wasn't in costume you understand, its just we brits are more somberly dressed) and petrified the poor children while offering them treats.

Later this week I expect the yoofs to start wandering the streets with very poorly-made Guys asking for pennies but meaning pounds so they can buy more illicit fireworks to set off in the street. And finally on Saturday we'll have the official displays, a few oohs and aahhhs and it'll be over for another year. I'm glad its a little colder today, I was thinking that Guy Fawkes Night in teeshirts wasn't really fitting with the theme. It needs a big bonfire, gloves to burn with sparklers and freezing whilst huddling in a good vantage spot on some bridge waiting for the fireworks to start in order to be truly authentic.