Friday, 31 March 2006


The bus takes a spin around Parliament Square outside the Palace of Westminster. Past the Brian Haw with his banners and signs. Past Lady Margaret's Church and Westminster Abbey. Two male mallards roost (what is it that ducks do?) on the grass. Oddly out of place in the absence of water and in the middle of a major city roundabout.

Thursday, 30 March 2006

Man about Knightsbridge

Yesterday was spring-like, sunny, April showers and warmer by far for ages. Man boards the bus - older, glasses, wearing a cricket jumper which has rainbow stripes around the bottom and cut-off jeans the length of hot-pants. Long pasty hairy legs. When he got off I noticed he was wearing a bagpuss badge. I used to love bagpuss.

Monday, 27 March 2006


I met a woman called Helen today. I used to work in an office full of H girls, there was Heather, Hannah, Hazel and me (Harriet). We never had a Helen though. I currently work with a Hilary. I wonder if H has the most different girls names.

Warmer than for ages but a great bracing wind. Birds thrown around by strong gusts. Bright sky. Occassional sun. Pigeon strolling nonchalantly on the train tracks gets his feathers ruffled as the wind changes direction. This is thrilling weather. Hair whipped about the face, coat blown about your legs, not too cold.

Sunday, 26 March 2006

Spring Forward >>

I've spent all day trying to catch up the hour that I lost by not turning the clocks forward before I went to bed last night. And Sunday's are supposed to be relaxing. One of these days I'm not going to have anything to do on the weekend. Its too soon to go back to work, and its too early to go to bed (in my body's clock anyway).

Friday, 24 March 2006


Its menacing when men in suits without coats wear black leather gloves on the tube. I followed him down the escalator, he had a big hard briefcase and red watery eyes.

Maybe he was just cold, or had a cold.

Thursday, 23 March 2006


The day began badly. I woke up with poor attitude. Couldn't be bothered to wash my hair. And I really haven't been to work with third-day unwashed hair in probably a decade.

On the London news they announced that WAGN trains were suspended between Finsbury Park and Moorgate, so I had to chance the tube instead. Frequent but packed. Kings Cross Northern line was heaving. Couldn't get on the first train, but got into pole position for the following one. Carriage was full but still one man decided he couldn't wait and bundled on, with rucksack, crushing forward until the doors shut. If we were a crate of fruit we'd've been bruised and ruined. Man with rucksack decided to read the paper which meant that he couldn't hold on. Wedging himself between me and someone else to hold himself up. Behind me a short man was holding the overhead bar and leaning against me for additional support. I felt like a leaning post. Men on the tube are rocks. Solid. Unbending. Heavy.

So I arrived at the council-run training session, pleased to be doing recruitment and selection for the third time (3rd company), but happy to be out of the office and given some recognition for prior experience (1 day only as opposed to the longer 2 days). The trainer sat chatting to his assistant while we waited for the rest of the participants. The time ticked slowly by, past the start time of 9:30. Eventually I asked how many we were expecting. The man in the red shirt who I had taken for the trainer said he didn't know but having counted the stack of packs next to him he'd hazard a guess at 11. So you're not the trainer? We'd sat like dutiful lemons for quite long enough, so I went downstairs to enquire after our trainer. It transpired she was home in bed with the flu but had failed to call in. A sappy chap came up to apologize promising to rearrange as soon as possible. I got back to the office for 10:05.

Oh joy, more time to spend on preparing for my performance management interview. Sapped of the will to live by 5.00pm I left. Glad of the extra daylight. Saw a blossom tree on the way home in full bloom. Yearning for spring, as promised by the weatherman on the weekend, I might take out a greivance against him if he's wrong.

Monday, 20 March 2006


While we wait for a delayed train the man near me rolls a joint with very pungent marijuana. He sits down heavily rocking the bench. Stands up again, walks away, comes back slumps back against the bench. Wafts of ganga drift over.

On the bus the woman in the seat ahead of me is repacking her shopping, transfering rustly lettuce bags, salmon steaks, mushrooms from one crinkly plastic bag to another. Eventually with it all sorted she pulls a pen from her pocket and noisily folds the crossword in the newspaper open.

I turn up the ipod and stare out the window.
Evening Light

Its 6.00pm and its light. The crazy man with the resonant raspy voice who's normally outside the cafe round the corner from my office window is talking to a naked mannequin in the window of the hairdressers. The women inside stare out at him frowning.
Early London (2)

I had an idea that if I looked at old photos I'd find something of the old london I remembered. A little dowdy but definitely london.

From top: Myddleton Square, looking over to the Embankment, Coram's Fields, a telephone box, caff sign (toast 8p, and remember Tab?), view off Waterloo Bridge (no Gherkin, Natwest Tower or Lloyds building, amongst others), Covent Garden hordings.

Saturday, 18 March 2006

Early London

A reader's email reminded me of some early London memories. The particular memory was as a kid in the 70s cycling with my sister and dad to Dunkin Donuts (for at least two decades I thought it was Duncan Donuts) on Farringdon Road on Sunday mornings to collect 8 donuts - two each a white iced one and a brown iced one - to take back for breakfast. The streets would be deserted, not a soul around, just the buildngs, the sunlight and a very occassional car.

We would sometimes pass Smithfield meat market, stopping to peer inside at the men carting big slabs of beef around on wooden trolleys or over their shoulders. Sawdust and the smell of raw meat.

We would also walk around Covent Garden which at the time had many open spaces, where buildings had been demolished, that were turned into public gardens - sunken, below street level, full of hippies. Covent Garden is claustrophobic now by comparison.

I remember riding routemaster buses down Pentonville Road from the stop by the reservoir on the corner of Amwell Street. One time there was a man with one leg - his trouser folded up where the other leg was missing (caused much embarrassement asking my mother why he only had one leg). I also remember a man in a sheepskin coat who got up from the bench seat to stand when it got crowded, his coat being too thick for 4 to sit comfortably.

We used to go to Regent's Park for picnics in the summer. I wanted to live in one of those cream coloured houses with two columns outside. In the summer of 76 mum's flip flop got stuck to the melted tarmac and broke. Which I expect was funny, although I don't quite remember.

Our local grocer was Mr Lloyds (commonly known to everyone except me as Fatty Lloyd on account of his rotund figure). A large man who wore a navy blue and white stripped apron. The counter was wooden (I think) and they stacked the goods in triangular configurations. We also bought 10p mix bags of sweets from the sweet shop. You'd get fried eggs, spaceships, liquorish, buttons with sprinkles, coca cola bottles, bubblegum, marshmallow banana thingys amongst other things. My sister was always fond of a sherbert dip.
Tiger Lilly Love

2 people in white jackets and white straw hats come onto a large balck stage and twiddle with synths making musical sound while we watch the tops of their heads, since their faces are down to the deck. Large screen images don't enhance the music or catch the interest. This is music for movement. It feels very odd sitting silently watching when this is a much more kinetic feeling sound. Those making it seem rather disinterested in it and their audience who in all likelihood are here for the Tiger Lillies.

The sound of a cigarette lighter (the stroke and the flame) is similar to a motorbike's roar but on a synthetic level. Other sounds used were mic feedback, white noise and synthetic drips. Sort of decided you needed drugs to really get into this music. After half an hour that was that.

Its hard to watch the Tiger Lillies in a concert hall - their roots in the two-penny street opera and their early days in the Kings Head competing against the hubbub of a crowded bar and an audience who danced their own version of the waltz whilst drinking and screaming felt closer to the filth, debauchery and desperate-slum-ecstacy that the music evokes. Much harder to feel that in the comfort and quiet of the Queen Elizabeth Hall where the stage, lighting and conventions of the concert divide the musicians from the audience and decree that those listening sit still. However, Alexander Hacke's sound effects, horror voiceover and general demeanour worked very well against Martin's falsetto and the sound of the band. So while I miss the riotous early gigs its still a treat to see them.

Friday, 17 March 2006


While I love not having to get up rush out the house cram onto a crowded train fight for a handrail change to the tube fight to get onto the train rush the escalator run up to platform 15 to catch the train for the final leg stomp along the chilly road to the office, I resent having to take a day off to wait for the washing machine repair man. Be here between 8 and 10 she told me. I joked to the boyfiend about betting it'd be 09.55. Its 09.55 now and he hasn't shown up yet.

Wednesday, 15 March 2006

Of Order and Curly Hair

After class we sat drinking cheap beer in the student union. The group divided into two conversations. A muslim, a jew and a christian (two thirds of whom weren't drinking) discussed religion. The rest of us discovered that we all had a propensity for perpetual motion. I control my itchy feet by changing jobs when it ceases to be a challenge, thus enabling me to maintain stability in the personal and home life. The others had different degrees of flux and stability with home, work and personal balanced in different ratios. We also found that we preferred spontaneous arrangements rather than plans, and being organised was saved for work.

I think its to do with having curly hair. Particularly in times when most people are controlling their waves with straightening irons.

Tuesday, 14 March 2006

Death and the Pigeon

Walking to a morning meeting I spied a pigeon landing oddly on the street, he instantly tried to flap away but somehow had broken his wings or legs. His flapping had him dragging his body across the street with his outstretched wings. I couldn't bring myself to put him out of his misery, but I suspect he wouldn't last long.

Wednesday, 8 March 2006


There's a bloke on the train, checked shirt, cream cotton jacket, black cap, squashed nose. He's pacing between the doors, shouting into his mobile, "ello darlin, where are ya then? You aht & abaht? ... Na, your phone sarnds terrible. yer indoors. You want me to drop the stuff raund then? ... I'm on the train, I'll be 10 minutes ... I'll sell em on," he threatens, "ok ... I'll leave em ahtside your front door", the call ends, fuckin slag he mutters to himself, storming down the aisle.

He gets off at South Bermondsey. Home of Millwall Football Club and a station entrance commonly known as muggers alley due to the fact there's nowhere to run and its a bit like being caged prey. A real life Del boy only nasty.
Wet Wednesday

So its lunchtime in London and I'm walking from the Downside Fischer Boys Club along Tooley Street past the building sites next to the London Assembly Buildings, through crowds of builders standing around in hard hats and waterproofs, past cafes full of smart suits power lunching, cursing that I failed to take heed of the weather forecast and left the umbrella at the office becuase it was only spitting when I left. My hair is wet through, not really a problem, apart from the fact that it is dyed red at the front with a non-permanent dye that I am now worried is running down my face in red streaks. How come I'm the least cool fool to get caught in the rain? I duck into a Cafe Nero and order a panini and a cup of tea. The strains of MC Solaar are playing and the server pretends not to notice my rain spattered glasses, dripping hair and sodden coat, or the smell of wet wool that I'm emitting, or the fact that I am mopping red dye off my brow on a number of paper napkins.

Monday, 6 March 2006

Religion and Oxford Street

Oxford Street seems to have recently become a magnet for religious fervour. Gone are the days of an occassional procession with wild dancing and drums by the salmon-pink robed Krishnas and the somber old man with his placard urging us to have less lust from less protein (eat less fish, meat, eggs, cheese.... the list was very long, and if you did eat less of these things you probably would indeed have less lust but also less energy and less will).

These have been replaced by an altogether more intrusive approach which has gathered steam since megaphone man first starting preaching the need to end our consuming ways and open our hearts to Jesus whilst standing outside Top Shop or Nike Town. This weekend there was a different set of preachers at Oxford Circus. And I rode the number 12 from Peckham Rye with a couple of United Church of the Kingdom of God-ers on their way to distribute leaflets to the shopping throng. And a woman giving out Seventh Day adventist pamphlets on the 73 and loudly announcing that she wanted to bring the gospel to us, particularly some part of John (but I wasn't listening properly).

I get that urge to shrink into my coat in an attempt to ignore the righteous. However Bails decided she ought to start standing up to share her aetheism publicly as an antedote to all this religious piety, but on thinking about it wasn't sure of her wording so thought she'd start tomorrow.

Saturday, 4 March 2006


A man slowly and deliberately checks under a white delivery van using a round mirror mounted on a stick, before it goes down the back of Downing Street.

Thronging with tourists, pounding up and down between Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament. A horseguard stands guard without his horse, looking short and overwhelmed by his red coat and helmet, perhaps because we're seeing him from a strangely human angle.

2 men try to frame a photo of their friend so it looks like he is holding the statue behind him in his outstretched hand.

A man take pictures of his wife and baby standing in front of a white building. His camera equipment would appear to be over-qualified for the job.

Wednesday, 1 March 2006

Russell Square

Today in Russell Square, after drinking tea in the cafe, I noticed a colourful something hanging from a tree. Thought it was a scarf that someone had lost but it turned out to be many colourful origami cranes linked together hanging from an oak tree planted in memory of those who died in the 07/07 bombings.

Snow Flurries

As I travel north I can see the snow fuzzing up the edges of the dark clouds. Cold snap for the start of spring.