Thursday, June 23, 2005

MorphHands up, who wants to be shot first?

There's nothing quite like being rung up to find out the best way to get by train to Woodward Road in Dulwich simply because one's mother is on a train and is as usual controlling the lives of everybody in the carriage. Her reasoning: I've got an A-Z.

The logic of mothers, eh?

So breaking away from what I was doing (which was getting annoyed with Flickr), I look up Woodward Road in Dulwich. Google has helpfully adapted their map to include the rest of the world (it doesn't actually function, as it's purely for show) and somehow managed to turn off the auto-homing feature which used to notice I was in the UK. Now it shows me America, and every search leads to "We could not understand the location Woodward Road, Dulwich/Dulwich/London/UK". Ok, I'm exaggerating, as London does bring up the southwest corner of Parliament Square (surely it should be Hyde Park Corner?) and UK brings a cluster in some godforsaken corner of Kansas (aren't they all?).

Eventually, having confirmed that the nearest Woodward Road is in Dagenham, I abandon the epitome of technological advancement and reach for a book., no, no, nope, er, no.
Oh there's one with an E.
But where's SE22?
That's probably way out in Kent.
Page 104 6E.
North Dulwich.
I don't think the film director was spelt with an E, mother (and why does she expect me to know that anyway? All I know about him was there was some Tim Burton film about him, which I haven't seen, and which probably wouldn't have shown on MaterRadar).
Follow the line.
Page 87.
London Bridge.
Or to Waterloo if one changes in Peckham. Hmm, loitering in Peckham... Maybe not.
waterloo to north dulwich.
Who thought bright green on white was a good colourscheme for text boxes?
Yes, of course I mean the proper Waterloo.
I did. Look, you've already got 18:30 selected.
Hmm, changes: 2.
Waterloo East to London Bridge (or Jubilee, or just walk it), then North Dulwich.
London Bridge to North Dulwich.
Every ten minutes-ish.

Ring mother.
Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, click.
Welcome to the Orange answerphone.
Phone rings.
Battery died? People on carriage woken by your painfully loud phone? My, you do surprise me.
Ok, there's a Woodward with an E near North Dulwich. Trains are from London Bridge so either take the Jubilee or go cross over to Waterloo East.
No, there's not any other Woodwards. The nearest is Dagenham.
Yes, yes, no. North Dulwich, mother [Oh dear, using "mother"; I must be getting annoyed].
Not Dulwich Village, North Dulwich.
[I think the person my mother is repeating all this to is getting confused, by the accent on the faint voice I'd guess she was Chinese, and by the sounds of it has "Woodward Road, Dulwich Village" written on a bit of paper; so anything which isn't that is confusing her].
Either go from London Bridge, or from Waterloo, and change in Peckham; so go to London Bridge.
You know how. Jubilee or train from Waterloo East.
Got that?
Right. Bye.

Why didn't I just text her the number for National Rail Enquiries? (apart from the fact they make it up as they go along). And it's nice to know my mother thinks I haven't got anything better to do with my time.

Other stuff:
Why are ice cubes called that? They're not cubic. One cross section is oblong, the other two trapezoid.
What's the difference between being groped and being fondled? The aforethought or the malice?
So, just how many ways are there to spell Plasticine? Google says (results in Ghits):
Plastacine - 776
Plastecine - 1,640
Plasticine - 129,000
Plastocine - 71
Plastacene - 140
Plastecene - 78
Plasticene - 16,500
Plastocene - 106
And that's not even getting into Plastiscene (which does sound like it ought to be a latex fetish site) and its ilk.

So it's not just me who has problems knowing which is the TMed version?

Oh, and thank the Lord; one of my neighbours apparently has just taken possession of a drum kit.

Can anyone remember how you get the toluene bit?


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Icaronycteris indexHow's that for ill-informed? Yesterday I managed to comment on how long it stays light, and then today noticed the outbreak of nakedness on Flickr which signifies the passing of the solstice.

And the sky still wasn't completely dark at midnight last night (ok, so it was dark, but there was still colour to it).

Tonight, at half past ten BST, we have funkily green sky fringed by the red-grey-brown which I'll pretend is a cloud, and not just Heathrow, and various shades of blue. And the only thing showing in the sky is the flickering satellite which has just dropped over the horizon on a bearing of about 310 magnetic.

Oh, and did you know bats make a whi-whi noise as they fly. Except when they make a buzzing noise when they treat me as a roundabout, or when they make a thuck as they catch something big. Guess who has been standing outside wishing he had a couple of universal joints in his neck.

It's nice to know my propensity for not bothering to draw the curtains has some good effect (other than show people in the houses on the other side of the valley things they may not wish to see. Although if they could see it they'd probably have to be using binoculars which might not fit in with the not-wishing bit). Lights in beyond a window equals moths near said window, equals bat Tesco's.

But then standing outside equals warm potential foodsource equals many hovering insects equals anti-clockwise bats.

It's just a shame I've no idea which species they are (and I ought to know having been taught mammalogy by The Bat Woman). And helpfully the University of Bristol's site has a key. First question: Is there a horseshoe shaped nose leaf? Um, it was dark, in flight and an unknown distance away from me. There were at least two. I'd say they were fairly small, the smallest Robin or Bluetit size, the other a bit bigger, but probably still less than a Blackbird. Apparent ventral lightening. They had very rapid flight, with almost vibrating wings. The only gliding occurred when they had to turn sharply to catch prey. Minimum turning circle about 3 feet. They appeared to only catch prey in flight, although this cannot be stated definitively. They skirted along walls when not diving after prey. Habitat is suburban woodland edge. Present conditions are warm, with little wind and good visibility (sea state is slight, locally moderate).

So, was there a horseshoe shaped nose leaf? Yes or no.

You know, I forgot to ask.

But they probably, the thing that I thought they were they're unlikely to be. My back up suggestion is apparently even less likely. As all the sites which claim to help seem to be making it worse, I'll have to get back to this after I've dug out my notes.

Moving on, and I've just had the last photography ever. Well, that I'm likely to have with the same tutor. Unless something happens or doesn't happen, and not including the potential extra session which was suggested but not yet arrange. And it was, pretty much like most other times. I managed to cut some interesting shape test strips because I hadn't realised that the backboard in the guillotine was adjustable and that it had been adjusted (it was dark). I managed to make the same mistakes as normal. I managed to get things wrong because I was hurrying, and it was the last week of term, and what am I going to do with colour photographic paper and no lab? I managed to produce some not very good prints because the subject wasn't great, and the enlarged negative wasn't helping, and the wow just wasn't there. I managed to make another print too dark because setting something up exactly the same as you've done it before doesn't mean it's the same.

And it was just too hot.

It's still slightly annoying, as I've still got questions, but the tutor never has time. I got her at the end, and asked one set of questions, but I still have more I want to know. But then she was busy probing things about me (although I've spent the past two terms trying to figure out her, and tonight I eventually relented and asked outright. She answered but there's still more than she said. Yes, I'm nosey, but I'm only interested because I don't know, or more exactly I know bits).

Speaking of which, it turns out, or might have turned out, that the woman (demon/devil baby) who stopped coming might have been in a car crash, which makes sense as I haven't seen her car recently (I drive past where she lives on the way to photography, and used to use its presence as a gauge of whether I'm late or very late. Some people might suggest that it would make more sense if one of us gave the other a lift, but we're both not really organised enough for that); the woman who I have never been able to properly assess is apparently pregnant (hence the whole old and yet young thing), and one of those people who doesn't mind waiting till the birth to find out the sex (did she never shake the Lego?); the couple who are always making prints of flowery still lifes and their grandchildren had one of the grandchildren in tow - it was the girl and she'd written on her leg in PCWorld because she didn't have any paper; the motorbike smokers still haven't killed themselves by either means, though it's not from want of trying, are still ignoring everyone else; the Dutch girl is still going back to Germany, and has taken up just pointing to me whenever she can't think of the right word (e.g. ...benefit...example...trial...); the guy who wants to become a professional photographer, due to not liking his current job, is still planning to defect; the boring famous-nephew man still is; and the idiots didn't bother to turn up.

What else? I got my slides back from the London weekend. Apparently I could have collected them before last week's photography, but when I dropped them off I got the impression it would be more the 14-day side of 10-14 days, and not within the week. Unless I (or the shop) managed to lose some, which is unlikely as I'm fairly sure the last shot is the last shot, Kodak skimp on the film. Usually 36 films come out with 37 images, and still space to spare (damn my camera and its automatic initial triple-winding). But this one only has 35. No fair. I demand my extra frame.

Anyway, it's late; my shoulder doesn't like the cold air coming in; I've got moths bouncing off the monitor; and I haven't written about any of the things I was going to write about.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Thomas the Tank EngineAnd isn't it nice that there's still light at 10 pm?

Well, no; not if one has got other things which need to be done, having just spent many hours gardening, and is surprised to find it is so late.

Carrying on with the theme of 10 pm, the news (yes, I know I could have a theme of every single time known to mankind purely by sticking on BBC News 24*, but anyway) just had a story on proposed rail congestion charging. I'm not sure I've ever watched the news before while thinking "News story B is purely an attempt to gain support for newstory A by making A look good in comparison".

Or am I being far too cynical? Surely the occurrence of a lead-item story about rail congestion charging appearing shortly after a lead-item story about road congestion charging is complete coincidence. In fact, I'm sure the rail operators pay scant regard to the communications issued

Strange isn't it, how while the rail operators, for example Virgin or Sorry What Trains, are usually rather prominent in newstories, in this specific story, where apparently a whole bunch of rail operators co-operated [snorting is undignified] in producing this new charging plan, not one company is mentioned by name. I find it very noble how such ruthlessly commercial companies each passed up the opportunity of free publicity by attaching their name to the scheme. One might suggest that this is due to their unwillingness to be associated with something which could be perceived in a negative manner (perhaps having never heard that "all publicity is good publicity (except backing over the Pope - that's not always good)"); yet I ardently believe that the train operators would be highly unlikely to produce anything which might not be thought to be in the public interest.

I am also wondering if perhaps the rail operators so fully embody the spirit of free enterprise (or is that "herald"?) that they sought to save costs by using DoT notepaper.

And tut-tut; the BBC dares to use the name Department of Transport when the government calls it the Department for Transport (because if it's got a pro-active name then it's obviously a pro-active department [and no heckling about Flora Pro-Activ]).

*Obviously not including things like Early Pliocene (which is like a cheaper version of Plasticine), although that tie/woman/news-story... [insert favourite a-boom-boom-tisch here].


PS. Anyone wish to guess just how many different ways I found of spelling Plasticine before I found the TMed version?

Friday, June 17, 2005

CP - CF10 Contact sheetInfrared is pretty,
Infrared is good,
Seems that all they ever wanted was some photographing.

Apologies to the Foo Fighters, and to the person who I normally hear singing that even if he usually only sings a dispossessed "Fingernails are pretty". And what's the proper name for those bits in the core of an apple round the pips? I found myself calling them fingernails the other day, and whilst wondering if my cousin still calls them that, wondered what the real name for them is. And Braeburn; why bother? They're just not nice apples.

Anyway, I've had the infrared film back, and it's now on Flickr, so go on and check it out.

Who did that recent song with some part of the chorus as "...and check it out" do-di-diddily do-wa-wa? Northern band. Probably a "The...". Type of thing Channel 4 would use on a trailer for Teachers or Shameless. Standard Xfm fodder.

It's really bugging me now.

A short nearly-fruitless search later tells that "check it out" isn't really a unique lyric. Searching the Xfm site brought up The Zutons. Could it be? Maybe. And then searching Google for Zutons "it out" brought up mention of the Caesers' "Jerk it out". Jerk/Check; same thing.

All of which does rather suggest that somehow I managed to not recognise the tune from the iPod advert. Oh, and apparently they're so northern they're actually Swedish. Röv.

[Hear what I'm talking about].

And while I'm feeling all multilingual* I've added something else to Flickr. Bewilderingly packaging. It has more languages than I can identify; how about you lot?

* An arse and a du fickst kinder und essen ihren schiesse does not a polyglot make, especially not as the only German I've asked about it just looked blank [I only wanted him to check the grammar]. But then they also looked blank when asked about whether they'd ever heard of a Wellensittich. It's word we got taught at school and was in several different textbooks, but no German I've ever met knows what the word means. It's a budgie (or budgerigar), but Germans don't apparently know the concept (can't say I blame them).

Oh, and should anybody who speaks German, or happens to be currently residing in Germany, or both, happen to be passing could you kindly confirm the existence of such... hang on, there's Google isn't there?

Now... I wonder that could be? Adwords banner, dodgy colour scheme, Gott in Himmel graphics. Yep, they have them.

And hooray, hurrah and huzzah. Flickr have finally added something which allows one to edit dates en masse. They have to be in set, and it uses the Organizr (which has a half life of seven minutes), but given just how long it can take to do them individually (and I'm so obsessive it annoys me if the date's wrong), this is the best thing ever. Or maybe today. Or perhaps in those five minutes, as I've also found out how to turn off the really annoying autoselect option on the scanner (when it's on, it chooses what it thinks is the negative. Sometimes it decides to use half of one frame and a third of the next, and refuses to show anything outside that selection. I know I could have read the manual, but it's traditional not to, just like those End User Licence Agreements). Helpfully, the control is labelled something like thumbnail preview which doesn't really sound related.

Anyway, I'd better get back to annoying someone who's just bought a digital camera. At the moment I'm doing the perfect balance of Give it here, It's easy and Oh, yours doesn't do X (not that I have a digital camera, but there's a general sameness to them).


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Guildford - Holy Trinity Church - Verdigris angelI'm cheating a bit and sticking yesterday's date on this post as most of it was written yesterday. It would have been posted yesterday as well, had I realised at the time that the reason my computer was having fits was that someone had turned the router off. One of the perils of using aged equipment is that whenever something goes wrong it has to be the computer making a mistake.

And then of course I go and make it all better by wondering if Salam Pax has reappeared, discovered that he has, and is now podcasting. Given how frail this computer is, I do not attempt to download any of the, er, things (Ah oui, je suis completement au fait avec les nouvelles technologies). Instead I read his descriptions of the contents, and wonder what this Slow Angel thing is he's talking about.

It turns that it's some dashed cunning musical jiggery-pokery (I better stop this vocab before I hit "Gadzooks") which mixes Massive Attack and Kylie Minogue. And you can find it, and many others, at Smash's site.

Anyone else suddenly thinking of lumpy, yet curiously slushy, mashed potatoes?

He also links to various other musical interpreters, including Tim G, who has works such as Black Eyed Blondie (the main site has had direct access to many files suspended, but they can be found here. I'm aware he cites bandwidth as the reason for hiding the files, but he also says they'll be back in April, and the new traffic this blog generates isn't likely to cripple the site [I hope]).

And now onto old news...
Blithely ignoring comments elsewhere (what possible come back is there?), I'm going to do a quick romp round the blogs. Firstly, there's a couple of new additions to the sidebar: Stairs and Venial Sin. Both slightly too obviously liberated from In Actual Fact. Another liberated blog, Ryanstask, is currently giving the impression that any second now a voice will rise from the theme tune to say "That was the last episode in the current series. Ryanstask will return in the New Year".

Ok, so it's not quite he's-about-to-shoot-his-father, but still as incomplete stories go...
Oh, and does anyone have an mp3 version of that Rachmaninov thing? Amazon's samples don't quite give enough.

What happened? I've just watched the Money Programme on Eurotunnel. Freakish enough to watch the Money Programme on anything you may think, but oddly I already knew pretty much everything it said.

When did I get old? (Or maybe just informed).

And now it's Newsnight, featuring the joys of Europe and the Common Agricultural Policy. The UK are only harping on about it because it distracts from the UK's EU rebate (well, not only that, because it is the CAP with the missing R). Which France are only bringing up because their government has just informed its people to vote yes on the constitution, only to have them voting no, and they really would prefer it if no-one mentioned that, please. So I want to know what the Non vote distracted from? Surely the entire referendum was engineered to drown out the press release stating that de Villain (I'm sure there's a p in that somewhere) did something or other dubious involving oil/arms/bribery/prostitution/all of the above.

But then French politicians do seem to have been making heavy weather of rejecting anything which they proclaim as Anglo-Saxon (what was that thing they mentioned a while ago: l'elderflower cordiale?), and then looking a bit surprised when those who are notionally Anglo-Saxon don't seem too impressed, and are even less impressed by the suggestion that all Europe will converge on a French model.

It's now got David Frost interviewing Rumsfeld (I'm struggling to stay awake). He's already managed to use the phrase "Slaughter of the Innocents" in reference to [pre-the-most-recent-invasion] Iraq, so I'm now waiting to hear of Ayatollahs Herod and Goliath and mention of the USS Rapture.

Reverting to Euroey goodness, the stats reminded I hadn't been to A Fistful of Euros in a while. It's too late to be detailed, but AFOE's gone back to being good.


Monday, June 13, 2005

Blasted Blogger.

Please Miss, the Blogger ate my post.

The human thing; it's insects too, including a very iridescent dragonfly that pretended I was a pirate and it a parrot (or vice versa) for ages yesterday. I must smell like a plant. Oh, and now it's bats as well. Maybe they were attracted by the insects.

Watched 80s cold war film yesterday. Much on MAD and Russians not really. The film was War Games, so not very serious. Very young Matthew Broderick (wasn't he always?). A "Whatever happened to...?" revealed what has happened to... Basically married the woman out of Flight of the Navigator (and Sex and the City).

Anyway, in fillum they show tourists being shown round the main operations room at somewhere called NORAD (it's got capital letters; it must be important). They say "No pictures please" to a group where one tourist has a camera slung round her neck. I wonder if they still do that? Considering some BBC documentary crew [television on the background - multitasker that I am. It's something on Martha Stewart. Americans are Americans/I still don't get it] have just been told they are not allowed to film a shop (not inside it you understand, but they are not allowed to have it in shot) by some officious American policeman (presumably al Qaida are planning an assault on the irretrievably twee).

I wonder if they still have tours of the mountain lair? Apparently they do, but I'm not digging out the links again.

Anyway, pictures, forbidden places, officious security... Thanks to Flickr I've discovered a useful guide to one's rights as photographer in the UK. It seems to cover both professional and amateur. There was the US equivalent floating round on Flickr, but I can't find it now.

Anyway, Mr Yet-to-be-Bueller's film has at the end a message about the soundtrack. It's available on records AND tapes.

Oh, reverting to American quirks - that Jackson thing. Ignoring all the moral and legal stuff, viewers in the UK have just had most of the 10 o'clock news being bumped by livefeeds as we wait for something to happen (heck, the main other story was only the French are being French, and the UK are saying "yeah but, they're worse than us"). It happens. Then the guy in America comes on, and describes, live on air, what's just been described to him. So there's proper staid BBC guy solemnly intoning (what other type of intoning is there? Manically intoning?) as he goes on in detail about Michael Jackson's reactions. Other than the curious case of the brandname of the distinctly non-commercial BBC - he first used "tissue" then switched to "Kleenex" [Now in new quadruple-ply acquittal size], the reporter informed the nation how Jackson asked for a tissue, was handed one, wiped away a tear, and - the best bit's coming - "handed it back to an aide". He then apparently asked for another tissue (such profligacy!) although the fate of the second tissue is currently unknown.

And don't forget, all of this was second-hand. I think we know what they'll be showing at this guy's retirement party (if he hasn't somewhere along the way called the Queen Mother "he").

Anyway, it's late and I'm not too hopeful about Blogger working this time.


PS. Just remembered. The BBC have been doing A Picture of Britain. Usual Sunday evening stuff. BBC4 have been doing their own digital photography version afterwards, which is usually quite good, and the interactive bit has tips and viewer submissions (there's some comp). In amongst the endless black and white dead trees (if you're surname's not Adams don't try), misty trees, neverending sunsets, and mountain-loch combinations (or all of the above) was one shot taken down a stairwell at Tate Modern. Except I'm pretty damn sure I was standing just to the right of the frame, because coming down from the members' room on the Saturday, I met a guy with a digital camera who was taking ages to take a photograph - but I didn't mind waiting. The people in the shot match the couple who were at the bottom of the stairs when I got round the corner.

Sorry, it's just one of those things. It might not be the same shot, but I'm pretty sure it is. And yes, I had already noticed the cinematic potential of that staircase (and the building in general).

Actually, looking back at it (having found it), I think the position of the camera could have been better.

PS2. Stumbled across this odd test. 100%, 100%, 100%, 93%. I got two wrong; hung, because I panicked and changed my mine (animals are, people aren't), and I assumed common usage was equally as acceptable on the whom one.

And you'd never tell to read this would you?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

CF7 600 - People - 20 Saffron robeWhat is it about me?

Due to an administrative oversight (I forgot to do something, which messed up timings), on Wednesday I found myself loitering in the vicinity of a river. I'm sitting on a bench, pulling evils at the encroaching pigeons, when above the embankment wall a sunhat, with sunglasses perched on top, appears slowly levitating along. Through one of the gutter holes I catch sight of the face beneath. I'm thinking about the photographic potential, and my mind wanders to assessing the light on the willow trees elsewhere.

Suddenly I'm being hailed. The hat speaks. It's a man in a canoe, with a young son. I smile uncertainly. I'm told that as I look more trustworthy than some he's seen (is that a compliment or just faint praise, for the purposes of damning?) and as his son needs "a poo" (can anyone think of a suitable smalltalk reply to such information? Oh do you? And how long have you been doing that?, Did you learn that at school, or did Mummy and Daddy teach you? or Yes, I think Jerry - where is he? Over there. Jerry! - I think Jerry does that too) would I mind? Blank bewildered smile in return.

Fortunately he's not suggesting I accompany an unknown child into the loo, and instead wants me to hold the canoe. I ask if they have a painter. The question goes unanswered, as they don't appear to know what I mean. They clamber out, and for a while I think I'm going to be handed the paddle to hold her steady but it turns out the boy is sitting on a rope tied amidships. I kneel down to be passed it, and then hold it taut while they sort themselves out. He lifts the boy up the wall, and then struggles up himself (I'm glad there's a ledge I've never noticed there). They disappear towards a nearby pub.

And I'm left standing, holding a boat on a rope. I've done that before, but never in the middle of a largish town. Yes, Hi, Don't mind me, I'm just holding the end of a tatty bit of blue rope; as you can't see the canoe, there's not actually anything on the other end, and yes I'm just slightly deranged.

I stand, wondering if there's a camera loitering, with Dom Joly sniggering nearby (or worse still Jeremy Beadle, who's probably still doing his same old stuff, but on some godforsaken digital satellite channel (if he's not dead that is). I mean, how embarrassing would that be? Getting ensnared by some ghastly programme on a channel which one can't even receive?) but I hadn't seen any 6ft rabbits fighting yet, so I was probably safe.

Fairly soon I tire of standing, looking stupid, so using a drainage channel as a fairlead, I loop the rope round a tree and stick a couple of half hitches in it (why is it always so hard to do them the same way round first time? It's like bloody reef knots), as it's only a calm river on a windless day.

I stand waiting. Even when I'm not holding the rope I feel foolish. Eventually they reappear, shake hands (I hope he washed it), clamber down and get cast off.

I suppose it's not that odd, considering it is a river, with assorted boats on it, and young children do have an annoying habit of needing the loo, it's just, well, why me? It's as if there's some marker floating over my head, declaring to all that I'm an ideal candidate for daft questions and favours.

And then on Thursday, as I was walking up the bottom of a long, steep hill, a car pulled alongside (£1.29, but I only use my own handcuffs. Oh sorry wrong blog, I thought this was my publisher-seeking fictional-but-I'll-pretend-it-isn't Whored It On The Grapevine blog. I could do with the money, maybe I'll start one [heck, it's got to be more profitable than real prostitution]. Where's me thesaurus; let's see thrive, throat, thro...). The guy asks me the way to somewhere up the hill. I reply that I'm just going there, and it's up the hill and on the left. Car speeds off. Thanks would have been nice. A lift would have been better. But what can one expect from a man whose wherewithal strongly suggests he wants to be seen as richer than he probably is, and who is going to a place which has been referred to as the land of gilt and money (or maybe it was guilt and money, but I'm not sure they know the notion).

Although being a friendly, askable, unthreatening face does have its advantages. In the photography class (which was the reason I was hanging round killing time) we finally got round to comparing results for both the strangers and sporting sets. We'd postponed this last week because the Dutch girl (who is apparently going back Germany soon, and so might not actually be Dutch) hadn't done it, and other woman (known to the class as Demon Baby [and to the tutor as Devil Baby because she always gets names wrong] - one of her first prints was her enraged godson. His eyes are not a nice thing to have suddenly appear in the development tank. I'm not sure if she knows she's called this) wasn't there. This week, Dutch girl still hadn't done it, and Demon Baby still wasn't there.

Anyway, the remaining three descend on a table (outside, having moved on from several other places due to being drowned out by faltering Spanish or people discussing simpleton science). The tutor joins us. The other guy starts by laying down his sports pictures taken at Speedway. We make comments, well, mainly we wait for the tutor to say something and vaguely agree with it (or keep quiet if we don't. This probably annoys the tutor, but none of us are as confident as we ought to be). The main problem with his was the focussing, as his autofocus tended to take a fix and stay at that, so the dust behind the approaching bikes is in focus. The tutor also comments that as a whole they're a bit monotonous (er, bikes going round and round a circuit - it's always going to be fairly repetitive). The best (in my opinion, but it turned everyone else's as well) were one of the pack going round the bend, simply because of the light and the shadows in the rising dust; and one of a frustrated rider retiring, which isn't really a fast action shot, but communicates so much more.

Then it's my turn, with Goodwood [yet to be uploaded]. They're dead. The light wasn't great; it was high on a hill, so bright, with weak, scudding sunshine, but the film doesn't pick it up. Instead everything is washed out and slightly cool. The shots themselves aren't great either. There's only so much one can do with horses running along the far rail, and so most pictures are green and white, and greyer white. The shutter speed [1/500th or above] seems to have been ok, as there are some of horses hovering mid-gallop, but everything is so small and dull. Even on the shortest race, where I might have been able to get some better shots I mess things up. The horses thundered down the nearside, led by a horse which really wasn't happy with running past people (and this was when the course was near deserted). I get a far few shots, but because my camera is very manual I was doing the focusing, and overcompensated as they got nearer. So by the time it was back in focus, all that's visible is a neatly groomed arse.

My tutor's response to seeing them is to tell me to go back on a nicer day (but it was fairly nice), and to ask if I have considered getting a different camera. Yeah, but I can't afford one I'd want (and if I was going for a newer camera I'd probably go digital, and I like SLRs, and I wouldn't want to be limited by the output resolution, and then there's lenses to think about, and I know more now, and I think I'd need a mortgage for the one I want).

Which coincidentally reminds me that Stairs (who should be in the sidebar by now, but I'm lazy) has put a gallery of some of his work. The only way I can not become incredibly depressed when viewing it is to remind myself that my camera cost about a tenth of his. But I'm still in awe of the macroness of the macro on his Levis.

Which also vaguely reminds me (via slightly unusual heavenly phrases in emails, which says more about me than it does the respective writers, and I'm not including "you're a star" here, even though it is pretty unusual when applied to me. This makes no sense unless you happen to have written to me recently, in which case only part of it might make sense. But since when has sense been a tenet of this blog?) that the answer to Buzz's apostrophic* confusion is "[...] - oh Heavens! man, [...]"

* Which makes it sound like he doesn't eat, when really he was aspiring to be a grocer. Thus are the perils of inventing words.

And to really make Buzz feel better that quote was spoken by a character called Carruthers, in a book first published over a century ago.

Reverting to photography, and we moved on to the other guy's other pictures (I really must given him a blogname, but he doesn't exactly inspire any particular pithy name). It turns out he skipped the homework, and instead took some pictures when he went on holiday. The tutor is attentive, I scan them, and the Dutch girl doesn't even feign interest, but she has got industrial hayfever (and the pictures are in fairness someone else's holiday snaps. Oh look, it's the same girl who is in every shot. Ooh, she's wearing a different top - was this on a different day?). His shots do help demonstrate the disparity between different films. He compared the Agfa Ultra Color ISO 100 with the Fujicolor Portrait Film: Professional Color Negative Film 160 NPS. The comparison was not good.

On its own the Fuji would have been disappointing for a bog-standard film. Considering it is supposed to be all singing and all dancing (hence the "Professional" on the box), it's a bit pants. When I had used it previously I commented on the colour balance compared to other films, but the tutor protested that Fuji gives much truer colour than the brown and blue heavy Kodaks (which is why sunsets (and tanned people) look good on Kodak film).

However, on seeing parts of the Bosphorus reduced to Bognor in February, the tutor backpedalled a bit. Backpedalled as in denounced the Fuji as not at all what she expected or was used to, and as being "a bit shit" (hurrah, I can blame the dismal Goodwood set on the materials).

[For a comparison of the palette imbalance between the two click the following films: Fuji, Agfa]

She carries on being shocked by the anaemic Fuji, and then remembers that she's supposed be teaching us stuff. So then it's on to my other film. The complete randoms one.

I lay them out. I try commenting on them, and realise I'm simply pointing out mistakes and things which could be better. Once again rapid focussing comes up. The comments. The guy likes the girl giving me evils (his words, and tutor didn't understand the phrase, which makes her suddenly wonder if it's just specific to a narrow age range, although I'm not sure how old the tutor is, and I would have said there wasn't much difference between her and the guy). He likes the lamppost mirroring her thin black pillar. He also liked this shot, although he then managed to describe her hair as like rubber and say she looked like the dog.

The Dutch girl seemed to like this woman, but I didn't hear why.

He seemed quite popular, but it might just be because I've got him in focus.

The tutor liked him, and started talking about Buddhist monks (only to get confused by the Dutch girl's pronunciation of Shaolin. I stay out of it, not quite knowing what it is that defines Shaolin from other branches of Buddhism). The picture is very different from what I expected, simply because he blinked. She liked him as well because there's "character".

He was pounced upon when I first laid out the pictures, but nobody gives a reason for liking it.

These two got contrasted for the different reactions - one relaxed enough to be silly, the other just about managing civility.

The Dutch girl calls him a fisherman, and the others agree (am I to take it from the fact they were discussing the person not the image that the image isn't that bad [nor that great]?). Why is it that we all have such uniform reactions to people? Most of what I've written in the descriptions on Flickr got repeated by people without any prompting from me.

Most of the time I've been laying out pictures, one of the older set of students has been hovering nearby (I can't figure him out, but there's something odd in the way he reacts to different people. Maybe it's just me). He snorts when I lay down this image. I'm not sure why. It might be the poor composition. It might be the clichéd picture of a photographer. It might be the gaping blouse over the clashing top.

Oh, and some like this shot, and some don't. I do. Yes, there's certain reticence to her, but there's also curiosity (and possibly amusement).

And that's an awful lot of hims and [less] hers, but I was trying to present them as they were presented to the group, heightening (maybe) the sense of unilateral thought by not prompting you with my opinions. I'm not very good at this.

Why the sexual inequality? Because: A. More women wear sunglasses than men, and what's the point of photographing people without their eyes? B. Women see the camera earlier. They frown, they hunch up, they cross the street, or go into shops to escape. C. Women go shopping. Men get taken shopping. Men end up hanging around outside shops, while the women are inside hoping they can get into a 12. D. Young women, or those who still consider themselves young, think there is something a little perverse in a male with a camera taking photographs of young female strangers. Everyone else seems to find it a little odd, but what the hey...

Anyway, the tutor comments on the different reactions, or lack thereof, shown in the faces. She asks want I said to people, if I said anything. I tell her. She asks what I talked to them about. I struggle to reply, due to not really bothering to talk for the most part (I've just asked them waste some of their time by staying in front of my lens. Do you think I'm going to inflict strained discussion on top of that? If I did, I wouldn't have got half the shots).

Somewhere along the line I protest I can talk to people (yes, I said "I can't talk to to people". We're not going to analyse the logic of that statement now). The tutor calls me a typical male for my inability to do smalltalk. But then is surprised to discover that no-one said no (I told you; it's the hold-the-canoe vibe).

Then suddenly we've moved onto people giving reactions one doesn't expect. The tutor slips into some Once-upon-a-time tale. Basically she found herself at London Bridge Station with no money or phone (no idea who, when, why. No idea if this tale predates common mobile phones). Realising this might be a problem, she decided to see if she could borrow it from someone else. She decided to target the people who could easily afford it. She targeted people in Barbours (yes, I was holding my tongue her. Firstly people in Barbours at London Bridge Station? People wearing shagging-in-the-brambles coats in London? Where the most exposed one gets is the quick run from South Ken up to the Albert Hall? (Why is it always a run?) I know I've seen someone in green wellies waiting for the tube at Sloane Square, but still... A. They deserve to be shot for crimes against good taste, and inherent misguided snobbery. B. People in Barbours, lending money? People in Barbours either tend to be incredibly good at retaining money, or they happen to be mortgaged up to the hilt).

Needless to say, although I appear to be saying it, she failed miserably. The nearest she got was talking to one man whose wife then appeared and, astounded he was even entertaining the notion, dragged him off to the sound of "Come along dear!" (said in a voice which gave away our tutor's roots. Only a native can mock another native so well).

Eventually she got desperate and started asking everyone passing. One badly dressed guy, in need of a wash and shave, stopped and gave her £10 when all she was seeking was the cost of a phone call. She wanted details so she could pay him back, he refused.

And yet, if I was careering through London Bridge, I'd be in full London mode, either ignoring everyone else outright, or giving an apologetic look and dodging away (the apologetic look is only reserved for those who aren't forceful, a sort of "Thank you for not being rude, but the answer's still no"). I think the tutor realised as she was telling the tale, that she probably wouldn't stop.

All of which was an interesting and a mildly amusing diversion, but I do wonder just where it connected to photography. Oh, yes people are not what they seem. Well, we know that, but what we want to know is how to take good pictures of them.

And yet the discussion drifted. The other guy gets into easy stereotypes of nationalities. Something to with English people queuing because we're all so polite. I mention we also have sharp elbows. The Dutch girl's switched off, and I'm only half listening. The tutor seems intrigued by the comment about sharp elbows - not the concept, just the words. Where has she been?

Somehow the tutor gets back to her favourite mantra, which roughly paraphrased (as she never seems to have found an easy way of saying it) is "it's not what you take, it's how you take it". And then proceeds to demolish that theory, as it is what you take, but it's also taking it in a new and unusual way.

Then planning for next week. She's realised she made lots of promises about teaching us things, and giving out handouts, but she hasn't yet and the term is running out. When asked what we want to do, the other guy suggests revisiting depth of field, as well as doing composition, something else and filters. The Dutch girl seems to have succumbed to her hayfever, and I vaguely acquiesce. I do ask what other handouts the tutor does, and the tutor thinks I'm joking. How do I explain I came here to learn, and I want to learn more? Either teach me or point me in the right direction.

But the tutor's pointing out time constraints on the proposed theory for next week. What do we want to ditch? I reply depth of field, on the grounds that we've done it. I then check that's ok with other people, as I can see the tutor watching with amusement as this corner-lurker suddenly takes control. Sharp verbal elbows, or the conversational version of M25 driving; pull out, then thank them.

The tutor suggests there might not be time to do both other topics, and asks me what the group should do about that. I say bring the handouts, and we'll do what we can, and cover the rest at home, and ask questions next time if we need to. A quick flick of the head confirms neither of the other two are objecting.

I know it was a bit abrupt, but as I keep proving, people find it hard to say no. I think the Dutch girl had given everything up as a lost cause anyway, and the other guy I think was just looking for reassurance (and I'm not paying to sit through someone else taking babysteps when I know they can already walk, if not run).

I did check afterwards that he didn't mind, and was quite willing to run through the physics of depth of field with him (when the tutor originally covered it, I could mentally envisage better diagrams than those she used), but he backed off further than I was expecting.

I know I'm manipulative, and surprise people when I am, but it's like my competitive streak - it doesn't show until I think I can win (and then get out of my bloody way). I don't take control until I think something's going to do more harm than good. Revisiting what we already know, and use, is a waste of time, and the time is becoming rapidly scarcer. And for once I'm not going to apologise for having an opinion.

I wonder why some girl, way back when, described me, in particularly charming bit of graffiti, as "a nasty piece of work wrapped up in a wet blanket"? It's not true; she simply misunderstood what I said, and judged me on her theorised motives. And of course what I prophesised, and tried to avert, did come to pass, when she bewailed the lack of warning, and then in explaining the situation pretty much plagiarised what I'd told her (and how come of the nay-sayers, she picked me out?). She knew how to do dignified (said he who just excised most of the insults from that paragraph).

So how many other people have had graffiti written about them? What was it, and why?

Oh, remind me that I've managed to pay the tutor for developing the infrared film, but I haven't had change, but that might be because I was lending the other guy the money for development until the next session, but he declined, and the tutor might not have known he declined, although she'd have to pay for his film anyway, so one of us has to be lending money to him. Just don't let me forget. And I swear I lent the Dutch girl money last week, but I can't remember how much it was. But then I owe Demon Baby one large sheet of BW paper, and the other guy 5 smaller sheets (most of which I still have), and fifteen pence came into it somewhere.

So in summary, never lend me money, and never ask to be lent it, as I invariably forget.


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Complicity, by Iain BanksI know Buzz just sent me an email apologising for ignoring me recently (huh? You were? Oh right, yeah, you should feel bad then), but really this is too much. No, really.

Number of books I own:
How I am supposed to know? Am I meant to include those I don't own but which just so happen to be in my room? Yes, I borrow books, and yes, I occasionally forget to give them back (apparently giving someone [back] their own book for a birthday present doesn't quite count as a proper present). Fiction, other, chosen, given, gained, purloined, inherited, childhood, textbooks?


Last Book Bought:
Art Deco: 1910 - 1939 Edited by Charlotte Benton, Tim Benton and Christine Wood. V&A Publications 2003. Yes, I bought the book to accompany the exhibition. But then I'd got in free on an incorrectly valid student card (Exeter alumni get everywhere). Last book before that was either Mammalogy VIth Edition, Vaughan, Ryan and Czaplewski. Saunders College Publishing 2000. Or Insects and Flowers: The Biology of a Partnership, Friedrich G. Barth translated by M.A.Biederman-Thorson. Princeton University Press 1991.And I've probably got the details of both in proper references format somewhere on this computer. You can tell I borrow books.

Last book read:
The Riddle of the Sands, Erskine Childers. Still in progress.

Five books that mean a lot to me:
How Buildings Learn: What happens after they're built, Stewart Brand. Phoenix Illustrated 1997. I was given it having been avidly interested in television series. I've reread a silly number of times.

Complicity/The Crow Road, Iain Banks. I ought to choose one, but they're both good in different ways.

Gray's Anatomy, 15th Edition. Longmans, Green and Co. 1901. It was my grandmother's copy, but she bought it secondhand (and somewhere along the line it cost three pounds two and six). And very little of it is sniggerably old-fashioned.

Two to go? This is hard.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. The only one of the GCSE set texts I enjoyed reading.

The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins. I know Buzz cited the Blind Watchmaker, but I've never read it so I don't know if it's better. But this book made me think differently.

Five bloggers to tag:
Like that's likely. Even if I tag all 5 recip-ers, there won't be five new people. Buzz is done, Ryan's been bagsied, Dan won't ever get round to it (but if he's off taking photographs instead I'll forgive him. Heck I might even forgive him for writing his dissertation instead of blogging), Karma doesn't bother to read this any more, and Whateva Sista is from Middlesborough, so probably can't read.

And that appears to be it.

I'm off to Wangeroog.


Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Mediaeval ExeterCas-Av links to a BBC article on clone towns. Apparently Exeter tops the list for depressing chainstore-dom. Except, unless it's undergone radical change since I was last there (and bear in mind it is in Devon, so that's fairly unlikely) it's not true. Sure it could do with a Heal's (who incidentally seem to have lost their way a bit recently) and a Dyas's (and a SCATS, and a bigger House of Fraser), but it's not that bad.

Ah, I think I see the problem. The survey only examined the High Street. Now let's look at Exeter. Found the High Street? Good.

Now, notice how the same road continues in both directions under different names - Fore Street and Sidwell Street. Even looking at only this axis, it might become apparent that the High Street isn't the entire town. Uber-chain-department-store Debenhams is in Sidwell Street. What does that say about about the accuracy of the survey?

Now add in the surrounding streets, alleys, yards and shopping centres. Shopping in Exeter involves quite a lot of time not on the High Street. Want cards? Try Queen Street. Want skater clothes? Try South Street. Want really cheap stuff? Try Sidwell Street (or Fore Street, or North Street, or...). Want really expensive stuff? Ditto. Want odd hippy stuff? Try Gandy Street, and every single alley. Want maps? Try by the Cathedral. Want unidentifiable Indian vegetables? Try towards St James's. Want material to make a toga? Try Sidwell Street, or that odd market off South Street. Want mobile phones and coffee? Ok, maybe try the High Street.

And some of the High Street chains are West Country chains, so it's not like they're proper every-other-block chains.

Actually how did Oxford Street escape condemnation? Now let's see (thinking purely in terms of places I went to whilst looking for clothes): H&M, Bennetton, BHS [used solely as a short cut to] John Lewis, Next, Gap, Debenhams, House of Fraser, Burton. Chains, each and every one. I didn't get as far as Selfridges, but that's a chain now too.

So basically surveys aren't what they used to be. As further example I present a Torygraph survey from the weekend. The make a great play out of the answers to one question:

"How confident are you that, if governments and people in richer countries donate more money to Africa, the money will be spent wisely rather than either being wasted or finding its way into the pockets of criminals and corrupt governments?"

Is it me, or does this sound like a slightly leading question? Firstly asking How confident, not are you confident? This immediately suggests you ought not be completely confident. Then stressing the donations of the West, which includes you, poor survey taker, with your crippling mortgage, giving more money whether you choose to or not. This is followed by the abstract notion of spending (note spending, not using) money wisely, which is immediately countered with waste, criminal and corrupt illustrating the alternative (and, given this is YouGov, the strongly affliated with the Telegraph survey group, I wonder what the influence of the phrase corrupt goverment might be?).

Instead of asking Do you like A? it asks Do you not like A because A is bad?

Now all I need to do is find something in the Guardian to pull to pieces. Or we could just take it for granted that there's something completely spurious in the dyslexic's paper of choice.

On an entirely different subject, the results for the race the weekend before last are out. I, and my distinguished helm, came [ahem] out of [ahem]-five. We may not be very good. But the corrected time gets us within ten minutes of the leader (which, if one thinks of it in proportion to the total time, is quite a wide margin).

So I'd just like to say for the record, I don't do racing.


Monday, June 06, 2005

IKB - International Klein Blue[Trying to appear nonchalant whistling, ignoring the fact I can't do one, and I'm probably not good at the other]

You know that music meme thing? The one Buzz decreed I should do? The one I passed on to LondonDan and Ryan? The one I thought neither had responded to? (Ok, Dan manana-manana'd it, and Ryan's visits here have a lunar quality). Well, it turns out I haven't been doing my homework (but at least it's not just me).

But what makes this really embarrassing is the fact I linked to Ryan's response months ago. Not that I'm suggesting I have the memory of one of those whaddyacallits - orange, lives in water, has a mouth which opens and these sticky out bits - but you'd think I might have remembered, wouldn't you?

And still I've only heard of the Pet Shop Boys and Elgar from Ryan's list, although I heartily agree (can I ever heartily do anything?) with Sin's choice of Aqualung (but some I liked his stuff when he was in Ruth/The 45s).

Do you think he likes being called Buzz? It's unoriginal, but I get lost with his constantly shifting syllables and capitalisation (and I can never remember which I've used). Anyway, there are worse by-products of names.

Completely randomly (via the stats), I've just found out that Kubb are going to be on Later with Jools Holland this Friday. Kubb, in case you don't remember, are formed of former members of both Reef and Rootjoose.

Oooh, I've just found out someone commented on that and yet I never knew about it. Usually Blogger emails me, but obviously it decided not to for some reason. So if you've commented and I've ignored you, then sorry, but I don't normally check the site because it mucks up the stats (well, it very accurately tells me that someone from X ISP visited this site 93 times on Saturday, but that doesn't help me know who came and why they did).

I've also just managed to turn on the television while the BBC are doing their Spring Watch thing. They've just had a very informative piece demonstrating bird song. Most of which I couldn't make out against the cacophony from outside. And I thought London excelled in background noise.

Going back to Buzz, and he recently posted a link (cribbed from elsewhere) to a test designed to demonstrate the male or female-ness of a brain (autism being suggested as an example of an extremely male brain). I got 27 for my Empathy Quotient, which I think puts me safely in the sod-off zone (maybe ticking slightly disagree for every answer wasn't the best plan). I got 36 for the Systematising Quotient, which means I've never bothered putting my CDs in any order. Maybe taking tests when I'm tired and dehydrated isn't a good idea.

Combining their scores, and it would appear I'm borderline extreme male. Which probably sums me up - I can't even be bothered to have full-blown Asperger's (anyone else suddenly thinking of the boss in Stressed Eric?).

While on silly internet tests, I also did the BBC one which ties in with one of its art programmes (which I watched in part). It blithely informs me that Your favourite type of art is Abstract. Of the images it presented, yes. Generally, not necessarily. It's easier to like or dislike abstract art, as any attempt at representational art is always prone to rapid criticism.

It then moves on to: In the personality profile you had a high intellectualism score, which suggests you like to think about abstract ideas and have a creative imagination [Yay me]. People who are the same age and sex as you are most likely to prefer Impressionism. People who also score highly in your dominant personality trait are most likely to prefer Japanese ukiyo-e.

Which is one of saying I'm not normal. And yet...
More about your personality test results:
Average extraversion
Average agreeableness
Average conscientiousness
Average emotional stability
High intellectualism
Average emotional intelligence
Does rather imply I'm pretty average. Maybe that's what I get for sticking to 2-4 in a range of 1-5.

But enough of the tests.


Latvian FlagWhen exchanging keys in Waterloo, do plan beforehand where both parties aim to meet. Realising my brother was coming by tube, but having found on the last London expedition that the main escalators are blocked off, and knowing that he was going to a meeting somewhere in deepest Southwark I waited by the doors at the eastern end of the main concourse. And I kept waiting, with occasional abortive calls to his on-voicemail mobile. Eventually he rings me:

"Where are you?"
"At the eastern end of Waterloo."
"Eastern? Southern." He's his father's son, in that he always has to be right, correcting people even when he's not (ok, so he's not as bad as my father, but it's still annoying, especially when the end in question is roughly east-so'-east, and then south-east at the very end. If I was at the southern end, I'd be way down one of the platforms).
"It's by Waterloo East. I'm waiting at the top of the escalators down to the Jubilee line" I reply in full don't correct me, you've done it before over this and you're still not right mode.
"I'm at the entrance by the bottom."
"Oh. Bye" I said as I tried to cover up the fact I'd forgotten that there's a street beyond one set of doors, and yet there's also a street a few metres away, round 90 degrees and a storey down.
"Hello." He said, as I looked straight through him. He looks older (well, he would do, wouldn't he? Unless he's managed to make time ageing backwards). He needs a haircut and some sleep (as probably do I).

He gives me his keys. I put them safely away. We talk briefly, he leaves. I go to buy a three-day weekend travelcard. I discover they no longer do them. They don't do any weekend travelcards anymore. I'm told to buy a one day travelcard everyday. That's £4.70 each day. The 3 day one only used to be £8 something. So just under £15 instead of £8. Not impressed. I don't buy one, and peruse maps to consider the alternatives. Which are walk or get a bus. Walking whilst lugging, and then walking back, then walking further, and then walking back again. Not appealing. Bus. Or buses. £1 for every bus taken. And they're slow (and I hate buses because I can never tell that I need to get off when I see a brick wall with a growing buddleia growing out of the side of it, rather than one with a buddleia growing on top of it, and on only knows about the buddleia if one's been there beforehand, and to do which one would have to get a bus). But it's this whole charge for the number of changes, not the total journey business which annoys me. Why can't they work to the railway model where one buys a ticket from A to B and is allowed to use any reasonable route to get there, rather than buying a ticket for each of A to X, X to Y, Y to Z and Z to B?

But because I'm going to be moving around for the rest of the day, I go and buy a travelcard. And then I put it in the wrong pocket, and worry myself fleetingly when I can't find it. But then I do, but the temporary panic has unnerved me, and I worry about where I've put the keys. Which aren't where I thought they are.

About five minutes, and an incredibly high heartrate later, I realise that they are in the little pocket on my jeans which I normally put keys into, except I don't on this pair of jeans because my main set of keys won't fit. I sheepishly head towards the tube.

[Incidentally, I overhead someone complaining about hunt protestors being charged for frightening MPs. For some reason my brain wondered if charging them with sheep worrying might not be appropriate].

So then on to my brother's flat. Dump stuff. Get keys cut. Buy food (having smuggled in my secret supply of Weetabix. My brother doesn't do dairy, and usually has breakfast at work). Food in this case consisting of an uncut loaf of bread (price on shelf 73p, price on label 69p, price at till 73p. Legal? And bread is so bloody expensive, except for the Value/Basics stuff that not even ducks eat. Remember Orange's Everyday 50 adverts?), pate because it saves needing butter, a pint of milk for said Weetabix, tomatoes, and pears because they were cheaper than apples.

Back to flat. Test keys. Eat some of newly acquired food. Then back up to Waterloo with camera to seek out quirky urbanesque. Text brother, be rung straight back, as he's just left his meeting. Return keys. Decide round London Bridge more promising. Re-emerge. Wander around. Get frustrated with lack photographic material. Get too hot. Carry on walking. Get pissed off with overdue hair. Notice barbers. Loiter trying to find price. Ask. Get told price. Try not to show my surprise (it was £5 cheap than the cheapest round here). Go in. Find crowd sitting is not queue. Give firm orders. Backtrack a bit on orders. Give up caring (I might have already done that step). Listen to other conversations. Fail to follow. Make small talk (which largely consisted of disappointing the [Cypriot?] barber when he guessed I was half Portuguese, and confirming that yes I was not going bald - barbers often express at just how thick my hair is, and what bloody hard work it is to cut. I've even had one, who was a cheap apprentice in an expensive shop, complain to his boss that he didn't want to cut my hair because it was so difficult and his hands hurt. Unsurprisingly the boss wasn't sympathetic. But isn't it so nice when people one is paying complain about one's hair, and that they really shouldn't have to cope with it [which rather begs the question "So what should I do with my uncuttable hair? Other than be asked not to come back by every shop in the country?"]. Anyway, instead the most recent barber made profound observations, and then whittled merrily away).

Impersonate a calf in a cattle stall when the barber gets out a razor blade. He scrapes away at the edges as I practice sitting very, very still (thereby giving away that no-one's ever done that before, although my skin was probably saying that as well). More manoeuvrings with concoctions, and odd smelling talc. Then it's done, and it's too short (or maybe I always forget what the back of my head looks like), but part of that was me being annoyed. Once again my hair is busy creating interesting effects as the remaining hair alludes to previous curls (these migrating patterns drive lesser barbers insane as they try to work out why some patches appear shorter than others, and they never seem to realise it's only the angle changing the appearance). So I pay, and wonder if I should have tipped (my excuses: not much money, and this is England), and leave with self consciously short hair - and self consciously white skin and scalp round the edges. But that's nothing a little sun won't fix. It's about then that I connect the darkening skies, the increasing heat, the utter clamminess, and now the rising wind, with not the effects of overgrown hair, but with a right-on-cue-flash-of-lightning thunderstorm.

So I stride up Borough High Street, impervious to the wind howling past and pelting rain monsooning upon me. There's something refreshing about being rebellious about being unyielding in the face of such weather. That is, there's something refreshing right up until that point where one realises it's beginning to get a bit cold now, and this rain is awfully wet. At which point one finds a suitable doorway, shop or alleyway, and loiters with intent to watch the sodden people carry on scampering past. Now I see what my tutor meant about lighting creating mood. So, in the lee of some building I get my camera out. I point it towards the girl waiting on the steps of the pub opposite. I the thing beeps at me, and I (wondering when I turned the warning signals back on) adjust the aperture. Or rather I realise it's already at it's widest, and that there really isn't much light. Moody and atmospheric and unphotographable (well, without a tripod).

But at least I got to stand (getting occasional odd looks - I think the washed out hair trimmings dripping down my face might have been responsible) watching other poor people try to maintain their image in the onslaught of horrendous weather. I have a hunch the girl whose Ugg boots were slowly filling with water as it ran down her legs was not having fun (but if someone is daft enough to slavishly follow ridiculous fashions which include wearing fur lined boots in June... and they can't still be in fashion can they? They were so the third Thursday in April).

Once the rain abated, I wandered back up to London Bridge, taking blurry photographs along the way. Then underground to warm up and dry off, and to take more photographs, which just about fulfilled the urban aspect. The LU guy on the platform didn't seem to mind once I confirmed I wasn't going to use a flash (due to not having one). I decided to go to North Greenwich to take pictures of sumptuous blueness. I stand at one end of a platform waiting for the crowds to disperse. To my left is a near infinite line of grey and yellow doors, to the right intensely blue pillars. Down the far end of the dark platform is a worker in fluorescent orange jacket. The colours work brilliantly, except the fastest my camera will let me go is 1/4 second. Which given I'm not very good at holding cameras still... So I don't bother. I try to work out if there's any other shot I might be able to get. I'm not sure. But the orange man is nearer now, as he's shuffling hurriedly up the platform. Maybe the increase in light bulk will increase the shutter speed. No such luck. And then...
"Customers are [huh] reminded that [huh] fla[huh] flashpho tography [huh] is not [huh] permitted on any [huh] London Underground Sta[huh]tion."

(Come to think of it, I heard a prerecorded version of that at London Bridge, but there was a flash from the far end of the platform then).

I try miming that I don't have a flash, but the guy's still a way off. I wait (some while) until the guy comes up. He asks me what I'm doing, and before I can give a flippant reply (I wouldn't have done, but you know, stupid question and all), asks what I'm taking photographs of. I reply the station, but I'm not sure there's enough light. He asks why. I mumble something about architecture and colour, and he looks nonplussed (what was I supposed to say? That it's one of the few decent things Will Alsop has done, and I think he come and kick your pasty and over-pasty-ed arse for daring to not notice). He says if it was a snapshot of somebody and trails off. He says I need a permit. He says everybody needs a permit to take photographs on any London Underground property. I apologise (why is it that when I'm nervous my voice rises a few social strata?) and leave (well, go upstairs, cross over, and wait on the Westbound platform).

It turns out I was supposed to have a permit. Oh well. Next time I'll have to go and find a beggar and take a picture of them, just to really annoy LU, because I'll be doing something without a permit which the permit would ban me from doing.

So I slink off to Southwark, figuring the Southbank would be good, as would sunset from the members' room balconey of the Tate, and anyway I need to loo (art galleries are handy like that).

Then a couple of highly illicit photographs using the reflections in Southwark station (and not one member of staff or security announcement got in the way), and out into the orange-lampposted hinterland. I know following the designated route isn't the quickest, but I wasn't in a hurry and I don't normally go that way.

A quick play with sun, reflections, shadows, railings, bridges and bikes (with optional St Pauls), and then a quick run up to the sixth floor (it got less quick near the top). And for the record, I like art galleries which stay open until 10 o'clock at night. I do wonder how it is that I've never noticed that the members room has two balconies. There's the normal river side one, and there's a huge one to the south, running up against the skylights of the turbine hall.

So I bag a corner waiting for the setting sun to come out. I play round with reflections, and the distortions of drops lying on a table. I thought I got chatted up by a girl, but as she then spent ten minutes face-hugging a girl I thought was a guy but then realised was a girl, maybe I didn't. I curse whoever it was who left a pile of sandbags sitting in the middle of the panelled roof (do roofs have floods?). Realising that the sun may be shining south of the river, but with that cloud moving as it is, is never going to shine on the city, I give up, and descend.

Heading west I play round with the orange light on various shades of modernist concrete (and occasional interplays with Blackfriars railway bridge, as ably illustrated by LondonDan). Further on I mount that curious circle in order to avoid drunken ragers in full rant, and then into the National to get up to the decent views from the staggered balconies (it's amazing where a camera will take you. Property starts to become vaguer [Insert Earl Grey joke here]. But it was built to be a public space, and I only know about because I've been there for legitimate reasons). There's a spiralling stack of tables I try to use, but the light's failing (and there's a guy pissing in the stairwell. Doesn't he know they have loos inside, and they probably wouldn't object if they thought of it in terms of either/or).

So onwards, round the bend. I try a couple of hopefully-less-standard-than-normal-but-still-standard shots round the snowdome-able places, and then discover the very large quagmire which is part of the lawn in front of the shell building. Then it's down into the underground once more. I return to the flat, and rumble round in it on my own.

Then bed, then not sleeping, then half sleeping, then waking up extra early to get up and go out to take photographs in early morning light, then looking out of the skylight and noticing the clouds are grey, which means it's cloudy, and then falling back asleep and then waking up about 5 hours later.

Shower, dress, eat, inspect weather via digital Ceefax; hopelessly lacking in detail, and yet every forecasts for 3 hours force it to be inaccurate (over the entire weekend, it never got the weather right. I'd look at it at 11.59 am and it would tell me that at 12.00 it would be sunny. Looking out of the window would tell me it was solid cloud in every direction and it appears to be raining over there. I want wind, I want isobars, I want fronts, I want lows, I want highs, I want we used to have. I don't want the coverall symbol for sunny spells with scattered, occasionally prolonged, showers. And yes I know "'I want' doesn't get"). Surprise flatmate who seemed to have forgotten I was going to be here. Leave flatmate in confused and hungover state.

Then once more unto the breach, dear friends, as I head tubewards, then northwards. I have a minor wobble where I think I've forgotten to change on to the other branch of the Northern line, but realise that was Stockwell, not Kennington. Eventually I pop out at Tottenham Court Road (and then pretend I'm not really surprised that Centre Point's just there. My mental map has a few holes).

Then I try to cut through the backstreets near where CNN used to be, but discover the road I took only leads back onto Oxford Street (past a barbers who were one pound cheaper than I paid. Grr. Yes I am that much of a miser). Then back round and up TCR, with occasional instances of "Oh, that's where that is". Eventually up to the great glassy canyons by Warren Street tube (no, I didn't visit the colourful fountains or the closed Starbucks). As I'm playing with reflections and distortions in one of them, I suddenly occurs to me that I've seen this before. And I still worry about how it will age.

Then east past Euston, and some bizarre mixes of buildings. The British Library is an odd piece of architecture, and an awful piece of urban design. If I had a digital camera I'd have taken pictures of it, especially the oh-so-welcoming Midland Street face as an anti-New Urbanism example. The Midland Hotel, which I saw described elsewhere as Gormenghast (which it is, said he who's only see the television adaptation), is an odd pile of dusty, battered, vibrant gothic. It's being knocked about, as is much of the surrounding area, to fit the Channel Tunnel Rail Link in (hence the many, often broken, signs warning that changing a Grade 1 listed building without consent is a criminal action).

I walk up the road between King's Cross and St Pancras, never quite sure of what's where, as everything seems to be temporary. Once again there are some interesting bits of architecture oddly exposed, but I'm not able to get some of the shots I want (although at least a faint wave of a hand from behind a window is a nicer way to be stopped than being fe-fy-fo-fumb'd upon). It's odd the northern spur of King's shooed me, but the brand new St Pancras don't seem to care (the security does a studied job of ignoring me).

Inside the new bit of St Pancras, which is handling the normal trains at the moment, there's one gorgeous feature. Between two sets of escalators is a flight of stairs. These have opaque risers, and are lit from beyond. So when it gets very busy, and the escalators clog up, the overspill cascades down them. Seen from underneath the shadows made by various ankles bounce down the steps, like a slinky. It only works with the right density of people, but it's still an fun effect.

One less gorgeous feature, which I think they really should have sorted out beforehand, is the fire escape. Imagine the scene: a great glassy box breaks free of a Victorian trainshed, and gallops off into the distance, beneath a huge overhanging plateau of a canopy. It's all long, white, sleek lines, until at one random point a rectangular grey metal fire escape spills off the edge of the roof and drops to the ground, leaving a boxy, dark tower standing on it's own, only touching the main building at the edge of the roof. It's completely out of place.

Is it a temporary fix while the rest of the building is worked on? Is part of some other plan, to be completed later? Is it that the architects didn't bother to read the regulations, and tacked it on afterwards? I hope it's simply works access, otherwise it's a pretty damning verdict on the ability of the architects.

[Helpfully, every link to a larger image on the CTRL website brings up a load of junk text. Someone, somewhere, has got the encoding wrong. Anyway, from the thumbnails, the fire escape doesn't appear in the Architect's drawings].

But then one does have to wonder about people who brand their product CTRL. For a start most people on first contact will read it as Control, and probably ignore it because it's something to do with computers. Secondly it makes Googling a bit harder (until it takes off). Thirdly, it brings up images of +ALT+DEL and imminent doom. Yes, you too can enjoy a swift ride to Paris onboard our largely automated train, and don't worry if you suddenly stop 8 miles out from Folkestone, it's only the Blue Screen of Death, just wait till we reboot, and we'll have you out in no time.

Further up I discover that pedestrian access isn't high on the list of priorities, having come up against a junction filled with buses and lost drivers. I finished off the film, decide I ought to have lunch. Being lazy I consider getting the bus a back down to the main road, but then discover that each bus stop nearby is not yet in use (despite the man waiting at it. He asks me the time. I think he's just bored and a bit cracked, rather than actually wanting a bus. Or maybe it is in use, but they've forgotten to take the signs down). Walking back down, and it becomes apparent I'm not the only one who isn't quite sure of where to go; three different sets of people ask me directions (as for the guy who asked "Scuse mate, there a train station round'ere?" while standing between two of them... I pointed him to the nearer King's Cross, as I couldn't be bothered to investigate further, and have no clue where each station serves), and several taxi drivers drive into a dead end and then all have to turn round again.

Then I'm strictly admonished to "get in lane" by a sign which fruitlessly tries to ease the flow of bewildered pedestrian traffic. Then down into the underground, dodging then people doing u-turns halfway down the steps when they spot the sign telling them to buy tickets in the mainline ticket hall. Then into the blessed relief of the Northern line, with it's rigid statues all clutching unread books or phones.

Out at Camden (I'm sure there's probably a better route to Regent's park, but I was sticking to what I knew), walk on autopilot (having once again come out of the wrong side of the station). Walk down past some of the Nash Terraces, cut in through a gate, wander aimlessly avoiding football games and sand marking tracks. Sag to the ground in front of some Georgian House. Eat skewed sandwiches. Try sunbathing, but spend most of the time waiting for the cloud to pass, only to be replaced by the next one.

Get bored, seek out loo, find it's locked, give up, wander down and out, then down Portland Place. Be tired and half asleep. Give someone completely spurious directions to Carnaby Street (which I've just bizarrely typed as Gandy Street. Wrong city). He asked me outside RIBA, and I completely forgot which road I was on. So he's probably still wandering round Cavendish Square.

Realise my mistake outside the BBC, but he'd be long gone by now. Then I veer off right, straight through BHS, and into John Lewis (it's strange the way one can navigate by where the loos are). Then back to H&M to buy clothes. I find a pair of linen trousers. I decide to think about it. I can't find the same display again. And there's nothing quite like realising one is standing in a shop full of gay couples, all judging me a variety of disapproving manners to really hammer one's self confidence.

I fail to buy anything, having been unconvinced by the omnipresent pink. I wander round various other nearby clothes shops seeing what's there, and largely want I don't want. I was originally looking for a replacement pair of shorts, but everywhere seems to think plus fours are so much more fashionable (yes, I know they're cropped or capri or whatever you want to call them, but they just manage to make me look odd, with skinny white legs which get cold without getting tanned, and I'd just been thoroughly dismissed by umpteen waxed eyebrows sneering at me, so I wasn't in the mode to take sartorial risks).

So, in full risk avoidance mode, I realise I'm investigating yet another beige item of clothing, so I move on, vowing that if I buy anything it has to have colour. About then was when I began my quest for the plain yellow t-shirt. Not ordinary yellow, but an intense mustardy one, like the colour of Selfridge's bags. I have no idea why I suddenly fixated, but I was tired and had had enough (yeah, that's always the best mood to be in when starting to walk down Oxford Street). I think I'd seen someone in one recently I thought "I like that" rather the usual "Oh Good God" response to any bright colour.

Naturally enough I could find none. They all either advertise, in a shredded way, some minor American sports team, or advertise proper brands out right (and don't ask me why some part of me feels wearing something which advertises O'Neill is better than something which advertises The St Louis Mudslingers. Maybe blatant branding is just more honest than "Logos are very in, but we know 'Next' isn't really emblazoned across the chest material, so we'll pretend you've really been to Hicksville, US of A, and bought a crap tourist t-shirt". Admittedly no part of me thinks spending £30 for the privilege of wearing authentic branding is a good idea).

But I did find a lot of pink shirts (and another thing - Coloured t-shirts with white trim round the edges suggesting there's a white t-shirt underneath; what's that all about?). I even nearly bought one (don't worry, it was reduced). Annoyingly, it would appear that the places with the best selection of wearable clothes also happen to be those I didn't need to go to London for.

I am a bit concerned that I've started seeing things in shops, and thinking "Ooh, I like that" only to realise a few seconds later that I used to have a shirt exactly like that, only smaller, when I was 3. Bloody revivals.

Can I get away with wearing clothes which match what I was wearing in that picture of me on the trike [shortly before I rode off the end of the patio into the gooseberries]? But the real problem is I can't distinguish between liking it because it's like what some distant part of me is used to, or because it's actually quite nice.

But then I was feeling as if I was so far out of kilter with the current world that catching up would cost a bomb, which I don't have, so I may as well not bother trying. That, and I was painfully aware of just how thin my arms are, and how X my Y is [&rpt].

I think it's become a case of Confidence, Nebraska.

Anyway, pretty demoralised, I head back down, once again failing to navigate Bond Street station (I don't know what it is, but it isn't instinctive). For reason I got off at Waterloo and wandered up towards the river making up my own route. Which largely consisted of walking past a garage door labelled 35a, and desperately trying to remember why I know it.

Then on, past people drinking a couple of tonnes of mint, and then into that patch of grass between the Oxo Tower and those odd shops next to the studios (and if you want odd juxtaposed architecture, look at The London Television Centre from the street side). The gardens in a glass seem to make sense now as there's some Cuban festival one. Well, lots of people drinking rum anyway.

I don't stay, as there are crowds and queues everywhere, and I'm on by own with a big, heavy bag. Eastwards to the Tate, a quick, needless sortie up to the top, then back down, and out onto the balcony bit in the middle of the turbine hall. The exhibition below is Herzog and de Meuron, the architects who remade the Bankside power station into Tate Modern. The exhibition is largely made of their models; scraps and offcasts reflecting ideas. From above it looks like a shape fair; scattered stalls each flogging some piece of geometry.

I go down, and find that under the stairs is a room showing a film about their projects. I sit on the floor at the edge; cross-legged while the teacher shows a video. I watch and think.

(It's quite a lengthy process).

[Bear in mind I started midway through, but there's no apparent order anyway].
One of their buildings is a great diagonally bound block towering away over Tokyo. It's some high fashion shop full of sleek gadgetry. And then they show a wide external shot. Over the back fence are a couple of houses, built in mock-Tudor style. I find it a bit odd that Prada's new cubic bubblepacked building is flanked by Japanese Elizabethan houses.

One overriding theme, throughout the film, exhibition, and surrounding building, is the fondness for boxes of light. Sometimes they form entire buildings, sometimes protrusions from and within them. I think the architects work best when they adapt the pre-existing, or are otherwise constrained. Some of their other work is too shape-not-building.

Some of their work also has other faults. They show one building in the middle of a snowy landscape. In front are trees blocking access. Well, they're not really blocking access, but they obscure the direct route to the main entrance. The film cuts to another shot, showing it without snow. The path to the door curves away to the left and back round to the door. It takes the user on the scenic route. Which is just what one wants when tramping through the snow.

They make a great play of creating novel surfaces for their buildings. One favourite seems to be casting thick concrete, and then chipping away the surface, to reveal the aggregate underneath. This is done in rolling undulations. So the end building looks like a Gaudi, but pebbledashed. I dread to think of what it will look like when it's aged.

There are a few other examples of innovation for the sake of novelty, such as the Chinese houses built by splitting air bricks in half, with the broken edges sticking out. Photographically: great texture. Practically: don't brush against this wall. And don't get it dirty either.

Other Chinese projects seem equally without constraint. A building in Quingdao (I think) built to mimic the building blocks used to assess mass. Elsewhere an entire borough built of haphazard geometric shapes, like dropped crystals (or Koolhaas on drugs).

It's quite entertaining reading their hatchet job on some man who built a mosque, got it wrong, asked for help and refused to take it (and stopped paying for it). H and de M steadfastly try to suggest it's their fault for overlooking nuances, all the while managing to convince the reader that the client was a bit of a nutter.

There are other interesting and fun ideas; a few new ways of thinking. And some of what they do is good stuff. The Beijing stadium (other than a few Pompidou-like worries, and trying to figure out how the canopy drains) is impressive, as is the one in Munich.

Near the end (or beginning, depending), is an odd selection of test tubes. The blurb describes their aims for creating an architectural scent (like the Oak Tree, it makes more sense at the time). Beneath it is a range of test tubes. As no-one else appeared to be doing anything other than reading the wall, I started investigating (figuring if they talk about smell, they must expect people to try smelling them, and therefore praying I wasn't about to get kicked out). There are a mix a different smells, from river water, engine oil, musky animals and various other scents of the post-industrial.

One does get a few odd looks by continually bending down to sniff the potentially unpleasant. But I found it quite interesting (ok, so I'm not entirely sure of the point, but it was a mildly amusing diversion). Trying to untangle the blends at the end is quite fun, if futile. Oddly the scent they choose to make into a product wasn't the one I thought best. But then maybe Rotterdam 11 doesn't have quite the cache required.

And I'm wondering just how long the sample bottle of scent, from their limited run, will remain with the display. I imagine it might make rather a good collector's item. Would anyone in an art gallery do such a thing? Well, it is the turbine hall of Tate Modern, full of people flouting most of the fairly few rules. And possibly related, this exhibition also informed me that Southwark considers the turbine hall to be a street.

By the way, I also liked the tear off and fold your own tour guide. That's nearly as the weather project's unsuspected yellow one.

Going home, I remember why 35a Cornwall Road [Project 1] is familiar. It was the violin factory next to the LFO, which was on Grand Designs when it was converted into a house. It was the one where the LFO opposed it every step of the way, and came out of the programme looking incredibly petty and spiteful. Other than refusing legal obligations over the fire escape, the decided they didn't like the colour of brick used to top a party wall. Only they'd already signed a party wall agreement and hadn't specified at that point which brick they'd like to be used. Once the wall was finished in red brick, which matched most of the much amended wall, the LFO demanded it be demolished and rebuilt using yellow bricks, which matched the very base of the wall. I think what they were really objecting to was the bright newness of the bricks, but were much too short-sighted to understand that every single other brick in that wall was that bright originally.

Apparently a compromise was eventually reached, and the top of the wall was treated to age the brick. However the LFO refused access to do this, so the workers had to work from the fire escape and roof. Nice, sensible LFO.

Anyway, from Cornwall Street all there is to see is a garage door in the middle of a terrace. From Theed Street, the home of the LFO, not much can be seen other than the part of the LFO's courtyard. Sorry, it's not very interesting, but I've never connected Grand Designs with real, actual places.

The house in question is now apparently available for rent, but the connected website - - is so slow I've haven't had anything beyond the title load yet.

Moving on, and down the Northern line. I get off and as I walk back to my brother's flat, another person asks me for directions (what is it about me?). Then a few yards further down I'm stopped again. A incredibly well spoken man is asks me
"Can you smell marry-whan-na coming from in there?" as he points to a closed shop.
"Um, no. All I can smell is stale chips" I reply gesturing towards the spilt chips on the pavement, which was all I could smell.
"Do you know a small Portuguese cafe near here where one might stop and have a drink of coffee?"
[I'm being to feel as if I'm in some language textbook of the "I have a flat tire. Do you have small gates? I would like a single green parrot in a glass please" type]
"I'm sorry, I don't" as I smile politely (the fact the bar next door might actually be a Portuguese cafe completely passes me by at this point, as I've never bothered looking).
"I say, are you Portuguese?" he enunciates with great clarity.
"Er, no I'm not."
"Hmm, Latvian?"
"We might be here some time."
"Palestinian?" he asks, nonplussed by my comment (naughty me. Never try to jest with the insane). I don't answer.
"Oh. Slovakian?"
"Er..." I say as I wonder just where this, and the woman who is incredibly hunched up, as she's avoiding us, but not sign which she's about to get trapped behind, is going.
The man starts questioning the woman, as she edges out from her hole.
I stealthily steal away (is there any other way?), and toss a "Goodbye" over my shoulder from a safe distance just to complete the surreal experience.

It's about then that I notice I haven't seen the friendly neighbourhood drug dealer since I've been staying there. The street always felt much safer with him standing on the corner.

But the present occupier of the corner adds a certain something to the area, although I'm not sure it has much need of more "character". He wasn't threatening just bewildering. But then how much of that is his innate state, and how much comes from trying to have conversations with people who either ignore him, give flippant replies, or spend their time running away when he's not looking. I imagine finding that suddenly happening could unhinge one a great deal more that whatever it took to make him forget that abrupt conversations with complete strangers is not really the done thing in London.

Then back to flat, avoiding being taken to a party (I always feel so odd at parties of people I scarcely know. Ok, so I swam with him on New Year's Eve last but one, but that was once, and last but one), by claiming I'd be asleep in half an hour. Which I would have been, had I not decided to watch Bullitt because I've never seen, and then spent the next half an hour trying to make the video work. I couldn't. Well, it was playing the tape, but I couldn't make the television find the signal.

So instead I flicked round and found there was nothing on, and then ended up watching TMF with its Blasts from the Past (hey, that's not old, well, not that old). And so to bed.

Sunday I was fairly idle. The plan was to walk up to the river, then along it and into town, mill round a bit in various galleries and museums, then walk back. Guess who was still cross about TfL abolishing weekend travelcards, and therefore determined I didn't need one. But then the weather was pretty overcast, and it is a long way, and I'm not sure how long, so I didn't. Instead I bought some more bread, and some thank-you doughnuts, ate lunch in an empty flat, thought better of wandering to the nearest bit of green space, and sat in front of an open, occasionally sunny, window reading Riddle of the Sands.

And there's a lot of noise in London, isn't there? Various trains chattering, clattering, clunking, hissing past (one very knackered one sounded like a steam engine, or in modern terms, an ailing bendy bus). There was the usual chorus of sirens plaintively calling across the sea of cars. There were planes coming in overhead, pitch dropping as the froth suddenly builds as they slow. There were the twin roaring shushes of the passing Eurostar. There was the whinnying of a pair of unhappy horses. Yes. No, I don't know. Somewhere over there.

I also discovered that I could see a woman down the road looking out of her window, in the reflections in the mirrored windows on the Eurostar. It would have made a great shot, but I'd finished the film.

I've never noticed before that I could see the chimneys at Battersea down the road. Just as I can also see the same chimneys as are in one of the photographs on the wall. The flatmate had asked me my opinion the day before. I just about managed not to give it, realising that if it's the view from the flat then one of the flatmates probably took it, and I didn't think it was my brother. It was a picture of chimneys, the top of a tower block (which looked better at dawn on Saturday, when the lights on the upper floor were on), and of the clouds of a sunset. Except the buildings were silhouetted against the sky, and were utterly black, so added nothing, and the sky was a vibrant dusk. There was just nothing special about it. No convenient shape of cloud leading in, no half seen details on the foreground. Silhouette, sky, and that's it.

Then I packed, borrowing books (I'm sure he won't mind, probably), and left. And so began the long walk to Clapham Junction. I'd already missed one train I was aiming for (unless I really can get to the station in under ten minutes). I sat on the platform for a while, pretending to read. Then the train arrived I realised why leaving from Waterloo is better; you get to pick seats, and manipulate other people into not sitting next to you. It's amazing the number of people who get on a train and fall straight asleep.

I ended up in the first carriage, which it turns out was a quiet, mobile free zone, except most of the people who had got on hadn't known this when they got on, and they couldn't move away because the aisle was blocked with suitcases. There was a opposite, who was sprawled across the seat, and sat tutting over his book at every use of a phone. But as he was being an antisocial sod by taking up two seats and the passageway, I wasn't going to worry about him (not that I used my phone, but it's the principal of the thing). He eventually withdrew his leg from the aisle when someone stood on his ankle.

It was quite funny watching his reaction to the group of girls sitting further up, who when not gossiping, playing games, or using their phones, started signing. And then they started impersonating that frog ringtone (even though I doubt any of them know who Axel Foley is).

Another train oddity was the juggled balls appearing above the seats, when the juggler (presumably the baby sister of one of the group of girls) was slouched down and couldn't be seen. She occasionally dropped one, and oddly it was always the orange one, and even more oddly, no matter its original direction is contrived to land at my feet each time. After I passed it back the third time (the first time I threw it, and she caught it and put it into the juggled set) she got embarrassed and stopped.

Nearer home I developed an avid interest in the tray on the back of the seat in front, as I was trying to avoid detection by someone I know who means well, but could do with a good stabbing.

And then home, and washing. Which was nice.


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