Saturday, 28 December 2013


I drive an old car. It's a retro golf gti. But that is sort of irrelevant to the story. The bad thing about old cars is that they are liable to breakdown. 

Driving to pick up my sister and her kids from kings cross station passing St Pancras it stalled and didn't have any power left. I was stuck in the middle lane of three lanes of solid traffic. Hazards on. Unsure how to proceed. A cab stopped and asked what was wrong and suggested I get to the side of the road and call my breakdown cover. A man on the pavement came over and pushed me into the drive of the St Pancras Hotel. We stopped when he couldn't shove it uphill on his own anymore. Relieved and very grateful. 

The doorman from the hotel sidled down and asked what was wrong. I broke down and it has no power. Well you can't stay here it's private property. I'm only going to be here while I call the breakdown company. His colleague came. Have you got a permit? No. Well these spaces are paid for by the residents of the building. I'm broken down, I don't want to park here. Well you can't leave it here. What do you suggest I do then? We will help you to push it back onto the street. 

I look at the Euston Road, there are three solid lanes, a bus lane, double red lines. It's a ridiculous suggestion. I laugh at him. I can't wait here for the breakdown company? No madam. You don't have a permit. There are two wedding buses coming shortly and they need to get past. I cast my eye over the 30 empty parking spaces. 

At which point my sister came round the corner from Kings Cross with her children. Overhearing this she started on him - you cannot push this car onto that road - it's dangerous. Look at how many spaces you have, it not like we are going to be here for ages. She called the local police. He told her they have no jurisdiction here it's private property. 

Two staff from the wedding venue came down. One very reasonably said - we are going to push the car out of the way - up to there. While you wait for the breakdown company. Thank you. The four of them pushed the car up the hill and backed it up in front of a lovely clean Mercedes. Individually they each asked how long we were going to be. I will let you know, I said. 

They all went back to their jobs. The buses arrived and decanted guests into the reception. We waited. And finally an hour later I tried the car again and it started. We crossed our fingers and went on our way after cancelling the breakdown people. 

Thursday, 26 December 2013


The aftermath is a kitchen where almost every pot, plate, glass and implement in the house is waiting to be washed and the dishwasher has been going solidly since yesterday. Good food and good fun though. 

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Christmas dinner

By Christmas, how many Christmas dinners will you have had? Today In our staff canteen they are doing roast with lamb. That's roasted potatoes and parsnips, over-boiled sprouts and lamb slices, with a side of pigs in blankets. It looks and smells most unappetising. Last week on our works do you had a choice of roast turkey dinner or something else. I chose the something else because turkey can be so dry. I was right. That time the portions were on the extreme stingy side. It was like Noah's ark - 2 sprouts, 2 roasted potatoes, 2 parsnips, 2 carrots (pieces not whole parsnips or carrots). A well roasted dinner can be a delight but it can also be dreary and unappealling. Particularly when it comes in long metal trays in bulk! I prefer to wait for the real deal. 

Friday, 13 December 2013


"Have you ever pretended to be a monkey for five hours?"

My sentiments exactly after five hours on the train. Actually I was itching to get off after fifty minutes. Shorter attention span than usual. Much like a monkey. 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

I've been thinking about Nelson Mandela a lot but haven't known what to say.  He was very influential in my youth. And I think back fondly on those politicised and active times. I spent over a year picketing outside South Africa House in Trafalgar Square for his release in the late 80s. My designated time was from 11-1 on a Saturday although I ended up staying for much of the afternoon generally until we slopped off to the pub. We collected petition signatures, sang songs, chanted and felt like we were doing a good thing. There was comraderie there. And some genuine communists. I met Archbishop Desmond Tutu once when he came over to show his solidarity with the non-stop picket while he was in London on some greater business. 

I was 17. It felt like we could change the world if enough of us joined in. We individually sanctioned South African produce refusing to buy Rowntrees, bank with Barclays or buy South African fruit and veg. Persuaded the adults in the family to do the same as far as we could. We hated Mrs Thatcher for her refusal to sanction South Africa. And all the bands and artists who played Sun City (stand up Elton John, Queen, Rod Stewart, to name a few).

And then in 1990 he was released. It was a jubilant time. Like grass roots political activism was a powerful and important mechanism. This older, smiling, strong, amazing individual walked free and seemed to change the world. 

It was heartwarming across the world. To people who were not directly under his power. But were inspired and amazed and awed by him. He had a long, important, influential life.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Arsy day

Today has been an arsy day (irritating with annoying people and their demands - and the predictive text doesn't believe in cussing and keeps wanting to sanitise my words into something that doesn't make any sense). Finally on my way home. Sitting on a bus at some traffic lights. Next to us a cab driver smokes a fag slowly out of his open window. Behind him a bus has pulled up and honks at him. He leans out of his window with an angry scowl and gestures wanker at him. Bus driver honks again. Taxi driver mouths into his mirror fuck off. And when the light goes green he sits there smoking until he is good and ready to move off. The epitome of what an arsy day makes you do.