Friday, 28 July 2006

Actors are people too

Waiting at a stop just after Parliament Square, tapping my foot irritatedly having been chucked off a number 12 that prematurely terminated on command of some inspector in an illuminous yellow vest (3rd time in 3 weeks that I've ridden a number 12 and everytime the bus was going to Oxford Circus and then changed its mind after stopping at the inspection point on the Wally Road), I saw Alun Armstrong getting off a number 87 bus. He was doing that thing that known faces do when they are blending in - never pay any attention to anything other than where they are heading, never catch anyone's eye, and largely they get left alone that way to get on with their everyday lives, just like anyone else.

Thursday, 27 July 2006


Everything is still below the leaden sky. Pigeons and crows stand in anticipation on the ridges of roofs. Tower blocks and gasometers stark against the grey clouds. Aeroplanes illuminously white flying across the sky.

The yellow greyness builds threateningly towards thunder storms. One fork of lightning. Many seconds later the low roll of thunder reaches us.

On the train a second very yellow fork flashed down as we came into London Bridge. Tower Bridge and the Gherkin against a blackening sky. Expectantly waiting for the heavy drops that everyone is praying for.

" you get that tingly feeling when some stranger who's good looking comes up the stairs and sits by you. You can feel his hard body, firm legs and arms, not pressing but touching, gently rocking against you with the swaying of the bus, y'know?..."

The air is cooler. North London has wet streets even though I've seen no rain yet. Then, stepping off the bus the rain starts. Cold heavy drops blister onto hot skin. They hit my chest and roll down inside my shirt. As I walk it gets heavier, thunder rolls across the sky. I shelter under a tree waiting for it to lighten up. Wet feet.

Wednesday, 26 July 2006

Brief Interlude

* dumbing down warning *

Glen and Pete are the incarnation of Beavis and Butthead, talking to Big Brother (referring to herself as the Guv'nor) on the prison phone, "Can I speak to Ivor Biggun?" titter titter.

If I believed in such things I'm sure my stars this week would say something like: as the moon of misfortune passes through your sign this week be wary of any large financial deals you may be undertaking, patience is a virtue, perhaps save big decisions for next week when the moon will have passed.

Nothing is quite so horrible as when you loose faith in mankind because everyone seems to be intent on getting one over on you. Money - its the root of all evil.

Tuesday, 25 July 2006

Visitor Explosion

I'm riding the crest of a popularity wave (well actually I believe I'm on the downward slope back to normality). I've had a couple of sudden surges in the lifetime of In the Aquarium when I've managed to post something topical (not tropical, you understand, although I did have a rather marvelous watermelon vodka cocktail at Mash yesterday).

First was the David Blane thing, that even though it wasn't popular amongst fellow bloggers was actually quite a hit with DB's massive out in the real world. Second was the London bombings - a surreal time when all news, even the secondhand kind was devoured. Interest died down when actual survivors started blogging the real pain of what happened. And now its because of the Dreamspace tragedy.

I have that feeling of strangers swarming through the archives, many of whom are unlikely to find what they are looking for in these pages. People bent on the search for information. And if there's one thing this blog doesn't do well its providing information! An ambiance maybe but not really information.

Anyway, hey there!

Friday, 21 July 2006


The only way to cool down after travelling in the glasshouse train, tube or bus is to eat ice-cream. Sitting with a not-quite-cold-enough magnum (the UK's no.1 hand held) next to the Golden Hinde I watch too-hot-after-work londoners mingle with tourists.

The tourists wear shorts, bikini tops, teeshirts and suntans. The londoners have hot feet, red faces and sweaty backed shirts. Women in wedge high heels struggle on the cobbled street. A man in a distressed pirate outfit leads a group of teenaged tourists round a london walk, stopping next to me (ahhaarrr me hearties, gather round) to talk about Sir Francis Drake's three year voyage round the world pilfering off the Spanish.

Lots of couples come by. A square-jawed blond rugby player type with his square-jawed horsey companion. A man with a body-morphing hobby (all neck, arms and back muscles sculpted to weightlifter proportions, covered in tattoos) with his woman in white. A white haired man in a wheelchair exchanges pleasantries with me because I'm enjoying an ice-cream, his wife walking along after him shouting back at me as she disappears round the corner, "if you wait there long enough you'll see the actors arriving. We're going to the Globe this evening, the both of us..."

Piano and singing seep out of the event on the Golden Hinde. Gilbert and Sullivan.

Wednesday, 19 July 2006

Sweat in the City

So its predicted to be a blistering 36C today. Already the tubes are unbearably hot, train lines are buckling, buses are glasshouses. Londoners are melting by 8.30am. I'm tempted to get a washing up bowl and fill it with water for under my desk. Glorious as the weather is, its horrid when you can't be outside and are instead trapped in a non-airconditioned old building with a pedistal fan doing its best but failing miserably. Roll on the weekend!

Tuesday, 18 July 2006

Save the Pigeon

Having spotted him some weeks ago in next doors garden dragging his broken wing, he finally turned up on our backdoor threshold in a stance that I figured was demanding food (pops has begun a bird food fast with the aim of stopping the pigeon invasion). I was amazed he had survived this long in a fox-heavy neighbourhood. A wily pigeon, he must have hidden well.

So I gave him some seed and then started fretting about the fox. Fox vs pigeon doesn't end well for the pigeon. Generally nothing left but a few feathers.

He seemed to be wanting to get up high (kept trying to hop up but failing miserably). Plucking up much courage and overcoming the fear of manky London pigeons I crept in and grabbed him with both hands and put him on the wall mounted bird table, provided more seed, and decided I'd call animal welfare to see what could be done with him in the morning if he was still alive. Thoughts of him throwing himself off, then being at the mercy of Mr Fox.

In the morning he was no longer on his shelf. There was no trace of his remains. I found him standing on a drain hidden by an overhanging fern frond.

It was with a suprising sense of relief that I went to find a box, put him in it and delivered him to animal welfare. They took him in lovingly but were unsure whether the vet would be able to fix him (not a fresh break) or would condemn him. And there I left him.

Saturday, 15 July 2006

London Alphabet
B is for Bridges

London exists because of the river. And also because of the river it is a divided city. Cut in two. You're either a southside or northside Londoner. Having managed with only one bridge for many centuries we now have lots. Increasingly hi-tech and modern. I like the way bridges span. I like being able to stand in the middle of them and look at the big dirty green water flowing past beneath. I like the painted iron and the algae covered concrete. The amazing size. The way they are flat on the top and arched underneath. I love the fact that the Millenium Bridge wobbled and for many months had bails of straw hanging underneath it. I love the fact they bought London Bridge thinking it was the gorgeous one (or at least thats how the urban myth goes). I wish we still had bridges with shops on them, crammed floating streets.

With time I have grown used to crossing the river - I go from one side (sleep) to the other side (to work). Mostly I don't notice my journey on the way (being underground and all) but on the way back there's frequently the opportunity to take in the view from the bus on the bridge. Sudden opening of space and light made possible by the river, and a view of the banks from the bridges.

There are other bridges in London but I haven't got any pictures of them. Bridges that take roads over one another or link tall hills, or blasted gaps. Footbridges over roads, between blocks of flats and over roundabouts. Train bridges that take a path over the heads of those on the street. Different levels give different perspectives.

Central London Bridges, with some panoramic views
London bridges - interactive visualisation - 3D section includes pictures of the millenium bridge in construction
London's bridges basic facts
London Bridge
CGI reconstruction of London Bridge 1500

Friday, 14 July 2006


Next door are a bunch of students. MA students. Coming to the end of their year. They're having another party. Its Friday. Its expected. This week its also been Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I look out feeling jealous of their hedonism and freedom. They sit on banged up old armchairs in the garden during the day, writing essays on laptops. By night people come round and they have rowdy conversations long into the night accompanied by music that is very reminiscent of the days when I did it - Clash's london's calling, the who, jam, reggae, guitary and noisy, with lyrics. The garden is full of chatter as the night drags on. Its excited. I lie in bed thinking of the next day at work, or like today feeling thrilled that it isn't a day at work tomorrow. Its been a long time since I was at a really good house party, talking until the sun rises, or dancing and dancing lost in the music, watching couples pair off, or having heated drunken debates. Mostly these days we go out and eat, that's the 30s' equivalent of the party - eating in good restaurants, drinking in organic gastro pubs, talking about house prices and work. What a big yawn.

Thursday, 13 July 2006

Three Things

  1. The no.12 drove over a discarded Stella can, it popped loudly and sprayed beer foam on my new birkenstocks.

  2. A lady with a big 'fro spoke to police in the doorway of the butchers that were selling giant African snails, I think someone had stolen her bag.

  3. A P13 did a three point turn on Rye Lane having missed his turning earlier down the street.

Monday, 10 July 2006

Staff Forum

Bails reminded me today that I used to be on the staff forum (she is now representing her department on this body). I had completely forgotten. But I was there at its inception. With its mission to give staff a voice and a forum to raise their greatest concerns, influence management and fight for their rights.

Reps from every department met termly to discuss, well mostly, the toilets. Big feature. Every meeting. For over half the meeting. Great swathes of paid staff time. Discussion centred as to their modernity, suitability, cleanliness, number of cubicles, type of lavatory paper, whether there should be separate provision for staff or just sharing with students (who were incidentally all adults). Pity the poor minute taker - never has so much hot air been gassed on such minutiae of detail, outside a toilet design factory.

I was a little embarrassed feeding back to my department colleagues. It became quite a running joke. Over time I sat by the same chap each meeting (creatures of habit these staff forum reps) and made bets as to the length of the debate. We made a pact that should the toilets not come up one of us would throw in a toilet-based issue, we never had to induce the pact.

So, in time, I left that workplace and went on to pastures new, left behind the memory of the staff forum and its endless toilet-based debate. Bails says its still the same. Most energy is expended on the, obviously, never-ending concern over facilities. Still I think the staff there are happier than in my current workplace - they have longer service and better benefits. We have one toilet for ladies (2 cubicles), one for the gents (no idea whats inside) and a disabled facility on the ground floor. Maybe if workplaces could crack the toilet issue they would pave the way for the happy, engaged and content workforce that they ought to be aspiring to.

I was sitting enjoying the view from the top deck of a No.1 when a scream of school girls invaded. The screeches and hoots of laughter beat against my eardrums, the smell of hot school-uniformed bodies assaulted my nostrils (never understand why uniform schools haven't kept up the tradition of swapping to a summer version to try to get teenagers out of blazers and jumpers in July). Play fighting after a day trapped in class. Excitable as the term comes to an end. By the Elephant the numbers thinned and the decibels came down. By Waterloo I was alone once more.

Friday, 7 July 2006

London Alphabet

I went to the shop to buy a new moleskin notebook. They were all wrapped in celophane. I could see the ribbon coming out from the centre, folded neatly under the closed pages. The elastic tight against the hard covers - never been stretched. I bought it. Took it home. Opened it. Ruffled its pages. Noticed it was an alphabetised address book. Couldn't be bothered to take it back, so decided to make use of the alphabet and write an A-Z of London instead. It may take me some time. And the entries may not be proper essays!


I sometimes feel my affinity with London happens because it keeps my chaotic brain interested. The clash of architectural styles, eras, colours, materials, shapes and sizes reminds us of the nature of an evolving city. Things that were prominent at one time, sink into the background when something new is built. Thats what I love about London's architecture. Its eclectic, historic, spontaneous. Almost unplanned (seemingly). New stuff reflects the old stuff in its walls. Mimickry of older styles. Adornment that is so high up only the neighbours will notice it. Towers and low rise. The painfully modern and trendy. Monstrosities from the 60s and 70s. Contemporary identikit office blocks built of green glass (desitined to be the hated monstrosities of a decade hence). Naturally not all of it is good, indeed many would say most of it isn't. But it does make for an interesting skyline. So I applaud the good, the bad and the ugly.

Architecutre in London (Wikipedia)
Architecture of London, England
Aidan O'Rourke, photos of modern buildings in London
Medieval architecture in London
Residential architecture in London (Wikipedia)
2006: Airspace - panoramas - possible future development in London - what do you want the skyline to look like.
Greater London Assembly architecture pages

What's your A?

Its the anniversary of a terrifying day. The tube was eerily quiet today, not the crush and rush of usual friday mornings, many people appear to have chosen to stay away.

Thursday, 6 July 2006


I was reading the Guardian online today and decided that since blogging has become mainstream it has lost some of its in-the-club appeal. I liked it when I had one but other people hadn't really cottoned onto the fact that blogs existed unless they also had one. It felt sort of alternative. I've introduced many non-bloggers to the concept - community, somewhat cliquy, referential. I liked the fact that it took quite some time to be discovered by anyone but eventually I had this group of regular contacts who I had never met but I sort of felt I knew. Many have long since stopped blogging. There used to be activities to take part in which got you more in the gang - not just memes or blog quizzes but sort of themes or linked posts.

Proper bloggers ... let me clarify, perhaps. I'm not a superblogger, what used to be called an A lister (massive readership, daily posts, huge numbers of comments), I'm not a political blogger who is quoted all over the place by others, I haven't a proper theme (guardian blogging awards always seem to think you need a proper single defined theme to be any good), I'm not a journalist, I don't get paid for blogging. Proper bloggers have become altogether too serious. Its less about the community now. And I miss that. I don't find it easy to fill the gaps left by those who have stopped. I don't feel like I know my fellow bloggers as well anymore. Maybe there are too many of us now. Or maybe I don't make enough of an effort. It feels like specific blogs don't last as long anymore either.

Someone should think of a community-based team building activity that can take place on multiple blogs so we can get to know each other again. Get your thinking caps on! (I'm a bit brain dead at present so I'm relying on others).

The sky is not just blue, it is intensely blue and grey and yellow and white and bright. It has depth and form and structure.

Wednesday, 5 July 2006

Peckham Rye Drinkers

Travelling by train at 8.50am a boy grabs his girlfriend's waist as they wait for the train to stop. He has a can of beer in a brown paper bag. She looks double his age, but in his beer haze she looks gorgeous. He's in a great mood. Helps a mother get her monster-buggy down the stairs and then disappears out into the wet streets of Peckham. Despite the short sharp shower the air is still humid, the puddles of water are not evaporating.

Tuesday, 4 July 2006


Just to point out the obvious we're having a heatwave here. Stepping out of the house this morning the heat was physical, a force through which you have to manoeuver your body. Its like being abroad. Outside is no fresher than inside. There is no respite, no way to sleep, no cool air.

My office has a fan which is blasting as hard as possible but only wafts hot air around. My hands are hot and sticky.

In south right now the thunder is rumbling loudly across the sky. Cracks of thunder roll round, never really stopping, occassional low level flash of lightning.

Storm is brewing.