Friday, July 29, 2005

Notting Hill Gate, London Underground Station. Service InformationJust been sent a forwarded email. The image in it is the one to the right.

Another "I shouldn't laugh, but". And then you realise they were probably being serious. And then you start fervently hoping it's been B3taed as the thought of it being legit and intentional (if unthinking) is too worrying.

I would have stuck it on Flickr, but at least two other people already had (but then it has been doing the rounds for 3 days. I got forwarded two steps downstream of an actuary, so it just shows how out of the loop I am).

Actually it can't be real; they used both "you are" and "your" in the right contexts.

Anyway, that is all (for now, as I've still got Tateage to do).

Actually that's not all. I've just remembered I have to gush profusely because David Sucher, as in Mr City Comforts, as in the reason I went to bloody Alton in the first place (see Monday's post), has added me to his sidebar.

I'm a bit worried about being under the heading "The Built Environment (writ large)", but I hope the "writ large" bit means occasionally/in passing/when I remember.

And now, that is all.


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Following from events earlier in the week, my brother just rang me. He'd rung because he's just got a new MG B (new to him), but can't drive it because London's gridlocked because it's a Thursday so a lot of people drove to work. And he also says that it's a good thing I didn't go to the Tate today as the police, of which there are a great many (apparently half the night shift were told at the beginning of their shift to go home and come back at 5am), were stopping everyone with dark hair and a rucksack.

Anyway, someone in his office was on the train back from St Ives. While on the train, one man decided another man sitting opposite, beneath a huge case on the luggage rack looked a bit suspicious. Obviously on the long journey these feelings stewed and the first man decided to take action. He leapt up, grabbed the case, ran down the carriage and flung it out of the window (yes, apparently the train is still old enough to have the luxury of openable windows. At least, I assume he opened it first).

At which point there were, as my brother put it, ructions. The man who was still beneath the case was a bit unhappy, but nowhere near a perturbed as the man whose case it actually was. Who rang the police, and got them to meet the train at the next station, Reading.

The guy from the office said he had never seen so many police, let alone armed police, as they stormed the train. The policeman nominated for the speaking role walked up and asked the case-flinging man; "Where you the man who threw the case from the train?"
CFMan: "Yes."
Policeman: "And why did you do that?"
"Because I was a Marine. He was acting very suspiciously. And I also suspect her!" he shouts, pointing at an Indian woman further down the carriage.
The policeman politely asks "Would you step outside for a moment, and walk to those gentlemen there who will take you details."

I don't know what happened after that. But I was trying not very successfully not to laugh. But my brother said he was doubled up when the guy eventually got into the office several hours late. I shouldn't laugh, it's not funny, it's almost tragic, and yet...

But I think hamsters meeting their end under a piano is funny (and surely I've explained my non-fake fake smile story before?).

Admittedly creasing my face up in laughter I was wondering about various points. The poor man whose luggage it was. Did he get it back? Can he get it back? Can he get compensation? Who pays the compensation? What charge can the police bring for throwing someone else's possessions off a train? How does one deal with a psychotic ex-Marine? I hope they were going through the countryside when he did it, so it only killed a cow; a heavy suitcase hurled from a train doing over a hundred miles an hour is not something I'd like to meet.

Well, I suppose there is one good point to all the chaos and worry the bombings have wrought; it has spawned quite a few anecdotes.


Monday, July 25, 2005

Stupidly long posts have indices:
1. In the beginning
2. A visit to Alton
2a.i Alton Library
2b. St Lawrence, Alton
2a.ii Continuing observations on the library
2c.i Meeting the police
3. A minor digression
2c.ii Continuing with the police
2c.iii After the police
4. A visit to Winchester

How to make a birthday memorable #25:

Be detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Detained is perhaps stretching it a bit (a fairly large bit).

The prelude
As it was my birthday and I had somehow contrived not do anything vague responsible today, I decided I'd go off and take photographs (it comes of staying on a farm in the middle of heathland a fortnight ago, and not using my camera once). Not being a very original person I thought I'd seek out twee lumps of architecture in Winchester (when in doubt turn to the church). Because Alton is also vaguely round there, I thought I'd stop there first, and seek out the library I saw mentioned on City Comforts (as yer do). And also because I've never been to Alton; driven past it umpteen times, but never left the bypass.

So I take camera, water and a packed lunch, and street atlas. It might have helped if I'd noticed that Alton isn't in the South Hampshire book. So I drive in that direction (having first turned into a cul-de-sac after forgetting that they'd changed the roads, ooh, only about 15 years ago. You'd think the sign saying Old Wherever Lane followed by one of those handy red, white and blue T symbols might having given me a hint, but as any of my friends know; I don't take hints [only Visa with a four percent surcharge]).

I follow the signs into Alton. I drive through Alton. I see a sign to the library, but I wasn't planning on parking in the very centre (it's a small town; why pay £3 to save 5-minutes' walk?). I drive on, wondering where I am. Suddenly the traffic gets shunted round a selection of supermarket car parks. I could risk it, but I'd look a but stupid if I suddenly find they have a barrier and I can't reverse back out of the queue. I drive on a bit.

Disabled. Double yellow. Bus stop. Um, I appear to be leaving the town. I frantically scan side roads for easy spaces. Should have gone there. No, no, n- oh there's- too late. I think the Con Club might notice the only non-silver car on their forecourt. I need to get off the main road, I'll take the next right and go from there. Or maybe the next one that doesn't look like a council estate. Ah, big green, click-click-click, and right again off the cut-through. Nice empty space, not quite enough for two cars, drives either end. I think I'll take this.

Cut to a short time later, once I've finally parked straight (it's the lack of curving or slanted curbs, bizarre cambers, undulating slopes, trees, hedges, ditches, errant street furniture, and four feet deep drains that stymies me. Ask me to park between a skip and a pile of bags of cement and I can do it. Ask me to park halfway up a quarry and I can do it. Ask me to park without running over a mast or hitting a canoe and I can do it. Ask me to park where the stump of a tree has just been removed and I can do it. Ask me to park where the tarmac has slid down the hill to form a mountain range and I can do it. Ask me to park on a straight flat road, in broad daylight, in the nearest end space with no obstructions and I fluff it) and discovered that I haven't got the right map. I grab my bag, get out, smile to the man standing in his garden, while wondering if he's just seen me nearly complete a three-point turn while trying to get parallel with the kerb.

I walk off into town as I realise I've no idea where I saw the sign to the library. I know from checking the map beforehand that it's to the left of the road I'm on, and in Vicarage Road/Lane/Street. Well there's a church by the Con Club, but it seems a bit far out. But the job centre is over the road, so it might be around here. I'll see if I can find the sign.

Somerfield; the supermarkets were just before the town petered out, so it must be further on. Does Woolworth's have a brand architect? Or do all Woollies happen to inhabit remarkably similar mistakes of the 70s? This place could do with some money. Cross and Pillory Lane. Good name. Quite a lot of the town reminds me of other places. I haven't seen the sign yet. A couple of odd buildings. I realise I know nothing of the town; who was Curtis and why does he have a museum in some red brick gothicky courtyard?

It's getting back into villas around cottages. A terrace of four have an odd bit of cornicing. The denticulated brick swoops down twice, between the two pairs. It's regular to be subsidence, and the rest of the facade doesn't follow the same pattern. I ought to have taken a picture, but haven't, because it's four houses on a busy corner, with cars parked over the front gardens. On a bit more and pass the Alton House Hotel offering unlimited tennis and a 60s health centre. There's a milestone showing the distance to London and "Winton". I think I've missed it.

I retrace my steps noting the odd architecture, which appears to reflect sporadic affluence. I also notice the many yellow signs bolted to any blank first storey wall, like sections of Toblerone wrapper recycled for a school project model. There are so many For Sales and To Lets that no one's even bothered to add the inevitable I. Even the places which haven't got whitewashed windows are leaving the dust in sympathy.

What's gone wrong? The very fabric of Alton seems to endlessly repeat that the town has had money and then keeps finding it doesn't. There's a cafe spilling onto the street through windows which fold away. But there's no arm waving people on phones, or couples fellating grissini; instead it has Poppin in the name, an interior which suggests secondhand McDonalds and is rammed with fat people with badly cut and self-dyed hair nearly all with smoker's skin. Only a few seem to be able to afford the habitual Argos-full of jewellery.

I'm buffeted by another broadside of hot air churned out at head height onto the High Street. I decide to take the help offered and follow the sign pointing right to the Tourist Information office. I miss the sign telling me to turn left, and discover the old town hall and small square. Beyond it the pavement ends in a barrier, with a small pavement on the other side. But that's beyond a t-junction, where the only option which doesn't involve stepping blindly into the middle of a junction is walking back to cross both the other roads in turn. Obviously not that way then. Turning left and there's a car park visible through the corner of the square. Taking the lane from the final corner of the square, I see the street sign. I'm back to "Cross and Pillory Lane". Following it round, I find the tourist information centre. But being me, I squat reading the map outside it.

Alton Library
It turns out that the road coming into the square, which forms the impassable t-junction, is the one I want. I wander over, down and round. Alton really doesn't seem to know what it is. I've just past a row of bow walled cottages staggering down the hill; up the next hill is a selection of modern housing; to my left is a river going under the bridge; to my right a building and no sign of a river; straight ahead is a boarded-up, pebble-dashed, single-storey, council prefab. And next to that, across various dead bits of tarmac and confused street furniture, is the barn-like library.

Except it's not. It just doesn't carry it off. The view I see is a large wall with huge square window, all of which are covered by blinds or some material which achieves an even white wash effect. They appear to be the same size as the bits of plywood covering the openings on the neighbouring building. Between the two is a small corral in front of a brick shed which I assume contains a transformer. The corral is surrounded by black wooden fencing complete with latched 5-bar gate. It looks like the sort of place smokers gather. It's even got space age ashtrays; but closer inspection reveals these to bike racks with saddle covering disks. But they are to be mounted too close the fence, and I'm not convinced on the clearance of the gate, which I presume opens inwards, as the other way would swing out into the road. The bike racks are unused.

Finding this a little dispiriting, I head off up the hill in search of an awe-inspiring view. I find gated blocks of flats and offices instead. At the top a path splits off to the right, and I suddenly find myself in a half cleared churchyard - you know the type of thing; church yard used from time immemorial, finds itself full, active burials shifted elsewhere, churchyard empty except for visitors to graves, visitors dwindle, churchyard empty, overgrown by vegetation and crime, growing town wants public space, graves moved or sometimes just the gravestones shifted to the walls (except for the inevitable exceptions where the family lingers on, or it's just too big to shift), graveyard becomes park or pub terrace (and if the thought of students vomiting every Thursday on your bit of sacred ground isn't an argument for cremation, I don't know what is).

Except this one still has a church and a couple of internal walls of gravestones. I didn't find out if the carefully bell shaped groups of gravestones were the efforts of a council worker with a sense of symmetry, or the product of generations of local families bulking out the family plot.

I walk round the outside of the church trying to work out the ages of its parts, and waiting for the elderly woman in the door to leave; I'm not sure if she's a cleaner, devout, bored, or a tourist. She leaves, and before I get to the door to see if she locked it, another couple enter. But they're wearing macks, so they don't look like the type who stop mid-prayer to barrack strangers (and then continue with a mutter and a loud "Amen". God obviously has a good editor).

I thought I'd left it a respectful length of time to allow the couple to be safely the other side of the church by the time I enter, so each party can peruse their separate territories at leisure. But no, they were right behind the door. And they start talking to me.

Me: "No, no, I'm not local. I'm from Tweeton"
Me: "The week? No, only for the day. Part of the day really"
Me: "The battle? Er no. What Battle?"
The husband then goes on to explain that during the war - the wife adds "Parliamentarians" - there was a battle and they got caught up on the hill and retreat inside the church (I look to the wife for explanation of "they", but she doesn't notice). They took their horses in with them. Into the church so they could shoot them - the wife adds "for protection: barriers". They shoot over them and there are still marks in the door. I comment that I'd wondered why the doorway looked so battered (I don't mention that I had assumed it was just poor quality stone, this being a town lacking repute). The wife adds "Musketballs".
Him: "So you're not here for the battle then?"
Me: "No, no. I didn't know there was one."
Him: "But they have re-enactments; you must have heard of those?"
Me: (Trying not to add yet another "no").
Him: "Down in the Library..."
Her: "By the door,"
Him: "...they have a display. It tells you about it. You can get a leaflet there too."
I thank them and find something to read while they walk away. I think it was the flower-arranging rota, but it wasn't that clear.

I wander round the church. It's odd. Where I come from aisles come in odd numbers. This place has two, and isn't sure which is the main aisle. But then I start noticing. Pointy arch, round arch, one somewhere in between. I think it was originally a small hefty Norman church, which got lengthened, and then spawned a brand new nave to the south, which runs the length of the extended older church. Hence the duality. The old screams "over here, down here", and the new acts an independent body hoping to upstage the old, but never sure if it should. The pews, main aisle, organ and choir are all in the new part, with the older section left to two fonts and a selection of crumbling colours.

I play round with my camera, but as usual it is a church and therefore everything is at pitifully low shutter speeds which means I was probably just wasting film. But churches are my photographic crutch; my default setting. Clean symmetry, swooping lines and contrast ridden; the photographs will look good, but they don't add anything. And a church is a church.

The Return to Alton Library
So I leave, and follow the hill down, walking down the road parallel to the one I came up. And there is the library again. Still smooth brick walls one way, shaded windows the other, but now seen for the undesigned view. I think I know what the architect was trying, but it's not quite there. It's architectural monkey-see-monkey-do, an outsider's take like Thames Town in Shanghai.

I think it's just too clean, in both senses. One I needn't worry about as that's only age, and fake old is worse than new. But the other is the lines. It's a box, presumably steel girder bound, with a brick skin. I'm borrowing a term from Stewart Brand's How Buildings Learn (and he in turn had borrowed it), but that's because it's apt.

When I read his book, and saw the diagram of layers, I wondered how structure and skin could be separate. Masonry does two things at the same time. Now I'm more aware of different techniques, and that structure and skin do diverge (such as panels of cladding, ostensibly to break up the monotony of a wall, but in practice usually because the developer can save X amount of square footage of brick).

In the case of Alton library, I think what unsettles me is this apparent divorce. The brick is too smooth, too sleek. It's a computer rendering, a flat plane of a tiled pattern. It's been praised for it's barn like qualities, but barns are either massive chunky buildings, with ramparts, beams and buttress, or they are steel frames hung with corrugated steel and plastic and gaps where the builder couldn't devise a join. And this is the latter hung in the clothing of the former.

Perhaps it is more architecturally honest than aping solidity, but if that was part of the design brief then why not leave it at steel frame and breeze block; the outside built like the inner face of a cavity wall.

It doesn't quite work. For me.

But I didn't intend to go there to critique the modern slant on the rural urban style. So moving on to David Sucher's 3 rules.
- Build to the sidewalk
Yes, but I think there was a degree of moving the pavement [sidewalk] to it. The road outside seem recently rejigged, and the library seems to have lost part of its site to ease the corner. The road has a hump which suggests a pedestrian crossing, but it seems as if someone forgot to paint on the lines and flank it with Belisha beacons. Some cars stop, some don't (and the motorbikes don't even look).
- Make the building front permeable:
The corner nearest the alley into town has the main entrance. Running west along the main axis are a series of large windows, which break into a blank wall guarded by a bench and tree. The bench has a girl looking sulkily at her phone. The rest of the site is taken up with the unused bike-corral. Counting the fenced off paved area in front of the services block as blank space, I'd say that on that axis the blank wall lasts for a third of the sight. Due to the lighting when I visited (overcast day in summer), all I saw when I walked past was a reflection of me, the traffic, and the car park over the road. As for the other street face, it was largely blank brick wall for the depth of the building.
- Prohibit parking lots in front of the building
I guess they managed on this score. Although parking was part of the site; part of the neighbouring abandoned site; a large area over the road, which flanked both sides of the temporarily emerging river; on the street round the corner (where the traffic warden was writing out tickets while discussing someone's recently widowed mother. I kept walking past in different parts of Alton and each time she was having conversations with different people about various dreadful things); and potentially in the car park round the back, which apparently was claimed by another organisation.

So on all three rules it comes out as a yes(ish).

I went inside to find the display about the Battle of Alton. I found a display. It discusses the civil war, but I managed to miss any mention of Alton, and instead find that everything was referring to The Sealed Knot (LARPing in the name of history). A quick scan round revealed that it was a library, with standard library fare. Bookcases, displays, a couple of trolleys of ex-library items for sale. I passed up the opportunity to get "The Best of Gary Glitter Live" for 50p. The interior itself was even more non-descript than the outside. Flat white everywhere. Down the far end was a hole through to an even flatter whiteness, presumably where the stairs and lift is. An island in front of the door holds the forlorn looking librarians. To the right of the door is an inviting walled-in wooden staircase, with a computer printed sign stating that it was "Staff Only". Beyond that a cubby hole with wall mounted CD player and industrial headphones juxtaposed with exposed brick. It's occupied solely by a bored boy flicking through a magazine. It's not quite small enough to be for one person, but it's not big enough for adults to ignore each other. It might supposed to be for children (but why do they get the CD player?) but the bright, low furniture could just mean they went to IKEA.

I just reread the Guardian piece. It speaks of innovative use of oak beams, and yet I saw only plaster; presumably they nestle in the private offices at the top. The only wood I saw was on the forbidden staircase.

Feeling foolish and bemused (was that it?) I leave, and take the alleyway back into the High Street. The alley is about as nice as anything the neighbours try to block out. Blank brick canyons are obviously the answer. Then back out into the High Street with a face full of industrial frying fumes. I'm opposite a shop which has gone bust, and yet confusing shares the same colourscheme with its neighbour, Curry's.

The anecdote proper
I decide I've had enough of this place, and walk back towards the car. One my way I see a police 4x4 followed by a police Volvo. Shortly after that comes a policeman on a bike. Right, so I know which way it is to the Police Station then, and when they finish lunch.

A fair way further on, out by the other church, I see the same police 4x4 again. Going in the same direction. A bit odd, but then it is a small town; maybe it doesn't take that long to do a lap.

I walk up, turn off back to my car, stick my stuff in, get in, key in, check the mirror for errant dustbins before I start and see a big radiator grill dip slightly as it stops behind me. It suddenly has lights in it, and they flash blue. Er...

I start to get out, then remember that both other times I was told to stay in the car, and the time when the police blocked the main road they got very arsey with anyone who got out...

[Skip this digression]
I'm not sure if I mentioned it. A couple of months ago I was driving [being driven] along the main road into town at about half past midnight. One the long straight stretch we see flashing blue lights ahead. Slowing down we suddenly realise that one set of lights and a white light are suddenly combing towards us fast, as a police car reverses into the traffic at speed. We stop, not having anywhere to go.

We can see ahead that there is another police car, and a car convertible. There are a couple standing with the policemen by the other car. Eventually the couple get in the police car, as a policeman gets in the convertible. He tries starting it. He obviously has never used a choke and drives an automatic. A series of horrendous noises ensue. I imagine I can see the drunken owner wincing with every extra rev, every whinny, every gnash. The police kangaroo jumps it out into the road. It stalls. It won't restart.

Being policeman, they can't ask the drunken owner for advice, or help starting it. Instead they decide to perform a manual 3-point turn. The first part goes well once it starts moving. Unfortunately someone didn't think of the camber as the car gains speed as it crashes into the gutter, grinding the front on the pavement [you might have wanted to try braking]. The thin policeman tries pushing the marooned car back up the slope, while the fat one acts as anchoring ballast and waits to steer.

We wonder about helping, as we do someone from one of the cars behind runs past, closely followed by another man. The second man asks if they need any help and only gets a very loud blast from the loudspeaker on the nearest police car ordering everyone to return to their cars [in a less than civil manner]. One of the men tries pleading with the nearest police car; another round of deafening variants on "cease and desist". He returns cowed.

The convertible is still wedged in place. The thin policeman has got the fat one out and is obviously suggesting the lighter one drives. The fat policeman isn't having that and gets back in, the car visibly grounding. The thin policeman strains a lot and eventually shifts it. Again the car gains speed after the watershed, but this time I think the exhaust acts as a buffer. They complete the turn, and push it down the road, then turn and abandon it in a nearby hotel car park.

And the next time I saw a policeman I nearly killed one and took his car door off. He'd stopped someone in the middle of the night on the other side of the road, and had parked behind that car leaving his headlights on full beam. I was coming the other way, and couldn't see anything beyond the lights [it was also in the bit where the streetlights don't meet]. I had the period between getting beyond his lights and his driver's door to see the door and avoid it. It was probably just as well I did what driver instructors tell you not to do; get progressively slower as I loose visibility.

But both other times I had been driving. Once I was stopped for having a blown brakelight (the asked if I was about to buy a replacement. It was quarter to midnight on a Sunday night in a small seaside town). The other time I was stopped for driving too slowly approaching a junction. They got a bit thrown by my reasons which were: A. The traffic light was red. B. It doesn't react unless you drive slowly, so if you hare up and stop suddenly the lights never change. They were also a bit thrown by my answer to the question "where do you live?", which was "there" as I point. I did give them a more helpful answer, but I don't think they expected me to be within sight of home.

And why is it, that whenever the police stop a car, especially a slightly rusty, dirty C-reg, they are always so disappointed to find that it has a valid tax disc?

Anyway, back to Alton. I get out of the car (and unlike the first time don't get ordered to get back in so they can order me out 15 seconds later). The usual routine; one does me, one does the car.

So I'm greeted by a policeman, who could possibly be younger than me. His words: You're not going to believe this, and you'll probably laugh, but...

Someone had phoned the police having seen someone park this car a few minutes ago (? I'd been gone over an hour) and get out carrying a rucksack with wires coming out. He says I can't quite hear about "Arab". He continues: "I'm sure you understand that given the present situation that we..." He never completes that sentence.

He asks me my name, if it's my car, if I have any ID - I pass my driving licence over with the usual "Don't laugh" answered by "Nice hair" (coming from the man with the golden stubble. It might an anti-balding thing, but I can't tell as he's on the kerb and I'm not). He hands it back, asks me a few more questions. I get in a muddle trying to explain my presence in the town without getting into the whole concept of City Comforts.

He asks for my name, again (having just read it on my driving licence). Am I shortened version of my Christian name or the whole thing? (Which rather gives that my real name isn't Neil [cue Stuttgart-Python crossover]). Did my parents get me with any awful middle names? I reply with my middle names (yes, I have two extraneous initials) and leaving the judgement up to him (it doesn't fit on his form). Yes, surname spelt the usual way. Date of birth; I've just noticed that he took me literally when I said "Today". I corrected it later to 1980, but he obviously didn't realise he'd classed me as a newborn on the form.

Again we go over questions and answers, as this time he writes down the answers. Address, featuring the inevitable, slightly too late to be helpful "Two words".
Next comes the fun bit. My, as the form puts it, "Self Defined Ethnicity". Rather oddly there isn't a category for "Pretty much English". He mentions that they have a list of 30 different options, but he'd have to get it, so we settle on White British (which comes out W1 on the form). I'm not sure they have an option of Norwegian great-grandfathers anyway. On the opposite side of this form is what I assume to be the police's own take on my ethnicity: PNC ID Code (IC 0-6), which comes out as 1. So obviously they don't believe whoever rung about the Arab terrorist (who can't park).

The next bit is about the car, which is easy and other than being thrown slightly by talk of the "registration mark". I say what it is, as he leans round me to read the number plate. Have I had it long? A couple of years, and the conversation digresses.

("A couple of years" in that statement meaning "Sometime, but I'm not sure, I'll have to go and work it out; have you got a spare envelope I can scribble on?")

He hasn't bothered writing down any of the details of the car other than the registration. He's ticked that both the person and Veh. were searched, even though they only checked the car and my bag in the car (admittedly a t-shirt and light trousers doesn't leave much room for the blocks of cocaine). And the other one had fun doing that. Peer at tax disc, read number plate into radio, try to open locked door, go round the other side, lean across car, unlock door from inside, get back out, walk round, remove bag, ask if it's mine, part-unpack bag, flick through diary, be bemused by the emptiness of the diary (I don't use it enough, ok?).

Actually it wasn't a very thorough search of the bag as he didn't find the phone, the computer disc, or the highly explosive ham sandwiches in the Tupperware lunchbox (obviously Tupperware's too good to waste on bombs). He gets out my camera, asks if it's digital when he can see the window filled with Kodak yellow. Looks round the rest of it. "Nikon; nice camera". I smile, deciding now is not the time to get into the merits or lack thereof of that combination of camera and lens.

He moves on to the rest of the car, again being perpetually thrown by the lack of central locking. Because I moved furniture around ahem months ago, the rear seats are still folded down. The policeman struggles to get to them up, and is confused by the presence of a solitary beech mast, which has probably been in the car since the late 80s. He tries the boot, but it's locked and keys are still in the ignition where I'd left them. I tell him and decides he doesn't need to look.

While this is happening, the data gathering continues. We're now up to section C, which he fills in without saying anything. It reads: Grounds/Authorisation/Stop and Account Prevention of Terrorism Seen by member of public leaving car with rucksack and wires appear to be hanging out.

Right, so misery guts over the road, who frowned and pulled away into his garden when I smiled at him, it is then. Anyone else reckon he looks on that space as his own (or his wife's)?

Next is Section D: Object of Search. Rather disappointingly it says "Tick one box only". Drat, I was so hoping I could have Disguises S.60 AA Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994 and Poaching S.2 Poaching Prevention Act 1862* as well as Prevention of Terrorism S.44(1) (Vehicle and Occupants) Terrorism Act 2000.

*So who's going to do the "only scrambled" joke?

Hang on, PoT Act 2000? But I assumed it was a post-nine-eleven thing.

And that's about it, as the next section is outcome (No Further Action), and after that a few sections of acronyms, most of which are driving related.

The notes on the back explain various bits, i.e. without requiring reasonable suspicion, as I'm fairly sure some paranoid fool (who, incidentally, was wearing rather thick glasses) calling the police because he's seen a dark haired man with a big nose (and for the record, it is not an "ethnic" nose**; this, said he pointing, is what is know as a "Dorset nose"), whom obviously can't park (because they don't have cars in "terrorist countries"), and mistaken the webbing adjustment straps on a rucksack for wires, does not count as reasonable suspicion.

** And I hate people misusing that term (as I just did). Every single person is ethnic in one form or another.

The aftermath
When it happened I wasn't that fussed, as, although it made me later than I would have been, I didn't have to be anyway promptly. When a friend rang me later, she was shocked that I'd had my rights violated. That take on it hadn't really occurred to me. Minor nuisance perhaps, but a cause of outrage? Not really. More anger is directed towards the guy who rang the police (presumably Albert Road in Alton is a local road for local people) than the police, who at least looked a bit shamefaced about the whole thing, while carefully trying not to comment on the likelihood a suicide-bomber attacking what they called Hicksville.

But as risks go, Monday afternoon in a dull, rural town, a place which is literally the end of the line? Perhaps some parts inviting bombing, but that's in the same metaphorical way as Betjeman's friendly bombs of Slough.

So incensed with pretend rage, I speed off out of the town. Well, I pretend to read the street atlas until the police have gone (and then won't know I'm looking at South Hampshire when I'm in North Hampshire), then drive slowly round the block, turn right onto the main road, and head south and out onto the A31, being careful not draw the attention of any other police (speed limits are jolly slow aren't they?).

Anyhoo's adventures in Winchester
And so to Winchester, following the signs to the untried park and ride (they usually stick them on the exit of the roundabout, not before, so just keep going round until you see it). Then into the car park, and it's much more environmentally aware than Guildford's. By this I mean, it's a lot of small car parks dotted round bits of a wooden hill, which means one has no idea how big it is, where the bus stop is, or whether this bit is actually part of the park and ride car park.

I park, get out, read the sign, find I have to get a pay and display ticket which includes the bus ticket, rather than just buy a bus ticket. I feed the machine, cursing its inability to accept 5p pieces and wondering if Winchester is worth the extra 50% above what I normally pay. And then I realise I have to find the bus stop. There's one down the end of the car park, but it's just a shelter, and I'm sure this can't be it for the entire place. I walk up the entrance road, and then turn left down to the roundabout I'd earlier avoided. I think what confused me earlier was that each of the car parks has barriers so they can be closed afterhours, rather than the main access road. There's a bigger, robuster busstop, and a large toilet block.

According to the display, the next bus is an hour and twenty minutes away. There's a degree of worry until I realise I've lost an hour, largely due to the police (and having last looked at my watch before them, and before driving here). So buses supposedly every quarter of an hour and the next is over 20 minutes away? Right.

I go to the loo, or more precisely go into the automatic-doored loo block, wonder why the alarm above the disabled door is ringing and the light is on, open it to find it's unlocked with no one in it, try pulling the alarm cord to turn it back off, wonder if enough people try that every quarter of an hour that the 20 minute timeout never kicks in, leave it rapidly before I can get in trouble, go into the comparatively very small loos (with nowhere to put anything one might be carrying or wearing) which are about as wide in total as the entrance hall.

Once outside again I study the timetable and other bits of the bus shelter. And then just before quarter-to the bus appears. The next bus on the digital display is on the hour. I get on as the driver displays gross indifference to my ticket (which at least is common to all park and rides). As I'm wondering where to sit for my twenty-minute wait I stumble as the bus lurches off. It would appear that I can sit anywhere, as I'm the only person on it. The bus driver swings round a heck of a lot of bends, easing slightly as he passes empty bus stops. I'm completely disorientated as he drives out of the back of the site, down a road and into another park and ride car park. Out again, along a bit further, round bits I don't recognise, then he stops again next to a park on some broad modern road which I later find out is the Broadway. I debate getting off, but I've already decided I'll get off at the far point of the loop by the station.

The bus continues up the road, past the bus station, then up a one-way street crowded with people. The buildings suddenly jump forward, and the pavements crowd with people. I think I could be getting warmer. He stops again and I thank him and get off my large cheap taxi. The bus shelter says that this is Brookes, wherever that may be. I walk back into what I assume is the High Street, and wander up it scouting for photographic potential.

There's lots of varying degrees of old buildings, but like the church, they are just pretty buildings. There's a market cross, or something along those lines, tucked round the corner of one building, but its lower flanks are solid with bored teenagers. I continue up, veering off to the left to check my map. I'm north west of the Cathedral (but it makes more sense to think of the city running uphill from the river towards to railway, and so laid out as it would be from St Giles's Hill), so I continue along whichever Minster Street, and then drop down round the back of the Cathedral.

But while I was going that way, I ran up and down a few of the steps and alleys in search of photographic potential (I didn't quite find it. I found some nice houses, but no great scenes). I'm not too keen on some of the narrow one-way street-iness of round there, as some people empty roads as the perfect place to test acceleration and road holding.

Banging a left at the end of the road I found myself passing terraces on one side, and a flint wall on the other. Down the far end is a gate, and as I get closer I realise that off to the right is another gate. And it's other the top of which I find St Swithun.

The church of St Swithun on Kingsgate that is. The whole notion of a church over a gate hadn't really entered my imagination up until then. But I like it, as one doesn't normally see the guttering of neighbouring buildings through leaded window over the altar, and it does seem to be an underlooked place.

[But obviously I wasn't respectful enough, and that patron saint of yearly summer weather predictions has vented his ire in the solid rain of the past week. And can ires by vented?]

Anyway, I wandered down through Kingsgate, past another wall, past an aged school. and then I discover fields. I hadn't expected to run out of town. I take a left to look round Wolvesey Palace next to the Marlinspike-like current residence of the Bishop of Winchester, planning to leave by the other path marked on the map by the entrance.

The palace is ruined, but still shows the effects of successive waves of growth; architectural style switching on each successive floor, and arch bodged to make it fit the different portals at either end. I take some photographs, but I'm not expecting much as there's no sky (there is but it's just flat pale grey) and low contrast stone. As studies of structure and detail they'll be reasonable; as interesting works of art they won't be interesting.

The rear exit is padlocked, so I walk back out and round the site and a neighbouring school playing field. Rather than heading back into town I follow the signs to the St Giles' Hill viewpoint (the route consisting largely of "walk to the top of the hill").

Good views in three directions (including the M3 gully through the downs), but few too many inconsiderately placed trees (I mean, how dare they grow in a wood?). Then back down into the town, back up and under St Swithun, through the gate into the cathedral grounds.

Under gothic arches with covering four different ages of floor, boxes of books each with suggested minimum contributions, all in aid of the choir. I browse, but don't buy anything as the suggested donations are all a bit steep. And I wonder if the Edward Heath book on music is deliberately left in such a prominent position considering the day.

Then on, back and forth under (they have a thing about building over arches these Winchesteronarians) the southern transept, gauging the age of windows and there subsequent amendments. It appears that the main body of the transepts is older than the nave and chancel, but the southern transept sprouts growth lower down, and which leads to a curious arrangement where the builders realised the new wall meets the middle of a window on the main axis. There answer is to build a narrow arch to the wall above leave the entire, now darkened window in place. Unfortunately I don't get to inspect the internal effects of the this join as when I go it is sealed off for evensong, and after a few photographs I get to the other transept just as they are closing for the day.

I may comment more on this when I get my photographs back, but I haven't taken them in yet.

After being ushered out I wander southwards east, then realise that my mental map doesn't mesh with the default position of churches, and head up one of the back streets. I re-emerge onto the High Street and start to wonder about where the bus stop might be when I see a bus turn off the road ahead of me. I realise it says park and ride, so I run to catch it. As I check it is the right bus the driver closes the doors but then opens them wearily when I stand beyond them looking hopeful. I check it goes to St Catherine's, and sit near a family who judging by the conversation have just asked him the same question.

I realise fairly soon on that if I got off at the same bus stop and the bus travels in a loop, then I've just joined the outward leg. Which means I get a guided tour of the nightmare I try to navigate when the roads go bad. I still don't know how it fits together. The family by me are getting a bit concerned as the bus didn't take this route into town. Eventually they realise that we've just turned into the bottom of the High Street, stop at one bus stop and then made a u-turn. They are dismayed to when it occurs to them that they could have just stayed at that bus stop but I'm not sure they realise that they'd still be on the same bus.

The bus trundles out of the city centre, and round the car parks. I get off a bus stop early as I'm disorientated enough to think it's near my car. I wander up the steps out of the corner, past the bus I just left, into the loos, use them, leave having tired once again to walk through a window (the building has doors and windows which are all floor to ceiling height and all of the same design. There are four middle panels of which the outermost pair are the doors. There are then two sections of brick of the same width, and beyond those a window each side, which are the ones I keep trying to walk through).

Then I locate my car and drive off rather circumspectly. It doesn't last long as it's the end of rush hour and some idiots can't drive, and this is a fast road, so no way am I sitting behind someone who does things without warning, or that Volvo who appears to be drunk, or that car who doesn't expect me, a C-reg car, to be able to accelerate.

I have to admit to be not best pleased at catching up a cyclist as we both leave a roundabout, and then hangfire briefly to ensure no one else is about to fly in off the roundabout in the outside lane. I start signalling to pull out as I'm running out of clearance when the Volvo behind me decides to overtake (with any signal). I slam my brakes on as I was expecting to be over there by now, but the old speed with the new course rather overlaps with the cyclist. I realise a car coming off the roundabout in the outside lane has also stopped dead having lost its lane to a drunken tank. To make it better the Volvo nearly takes out the cyclist it hadn't seen as it pulls in.

I was not a happy bunny. I suspect the Volvo didn't notice, or blamed everyone else.

And as for people who start overtaking me going up a hill when I'm doing seventy, get enough of an overlap to sit in front wheel to my rear wheel, and then fail to make any headway meaning they'll be screwed in a few yards when the overtaking lane switches over at the top of the hill. I was kind and eased slightly, but he really shouldn't rely on other people to do his driving for him. He roared off down the hill and on the next took on a lorry and did the same thing, only the lorry didn't yield.

But lots of people can't drive, said he noticing that he'd been taking his anger out on the accelerator and gosh that needle is far over, although the engine doesn't seem to mind and the other revs are only a bit higher than they were before.

But driving fast is quite fun, if only it wasn't so illegal (and it wasn't that fast, just rather beyond the 10%+4 [and the police doing a speed trap outside of a school many years ago really shouldn't have told a class of primary school children about their threshold formula. Firstly they have parents, and secondly they grow up to be drivers, who tend to regard speed limits as a bit like suggested donations. I'm not that bad, and I don't rely on that formula as they've probably tightened up by now, but some of those pupils...]).

Incidentally, how should one react to people who send text messages saying "Not to shabby thanx!", which answers none of the questions I asked, and doesn't even connect with any of them?

And that is way too long, but this is a draft, until the pictures come back, but it'll probably stay a draft with links after then.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evilPointless numbers I

As I missed the 10,000th visitor here, instead I bestow the arbitrary honour on the ten thousand one hundred and first visitor here, simply because the number makes a pretty pattern, and looks like 21 in binary.

Drumroll please... and the winner is from PCCW in Hong Kong, who came here at 09:05:34 on Sunday 24th July looking for Anyhoo.

It's a bit odd to think that someone might actually have been looking for here, rather than the usual misguided (in both senses) searches such as Linda Barker nipple. Yes, she only has one after an unfortunate incident during filming of the Curry's "Always cutting prices" advertising campaign.

I've just found out an anagram of "Curry's: Always Cutting Prices" is "Trusty girl spews inaccuracy". Admittedly it's a bit of a stretch to class Linda Barker as either trusty or a girl, but still it's probably fairly apt.

Pointless Numbers II

The reason for the title of the post is the looming abyss (don't point out that it's a bit hard for abysses to loom unless one's at the bottom so then it would be a canyon). Today is one of two days when my brother is 4 years older than me, and I don't want to catch him up.

So in an effort to avoid lengthy soliloquies along the lines of "My life's not where I wanted it to be, and although I'm trying to waggle the tiller, I'm beginning to wonder if I put the rudder down" (Yes part of this post had a different first draft, and yes I'm not good at analogies, and yes tiller waggling is cheating and I ought to be using the wind), I'm going explore this famous day.

On the twenty-fifth of July:
Constantine the first was proclaimed emperor (by his troops. I wonder where this year's military coup in honour of my birthday will be?); Caracas was born; Nelson loses an arm; America sinks one of its own ships; income tax starts in Canada; people talk over the Atlantic; a man hopped over the Channel; a test tube baby is born; a boy is reportedly attacked by Mozilla's email programme or a member of the Tracey family; Rosalind Franklin was born, as more importantly was Matt le Blanc and a great many people I've never heard of, including several Wikipedia think are important; Coleridge died, presumably while Kubla-Khaned; the bard of the USSR died on the day I was born (and I've never heard of him either); it is Hurricane Supplication Day in the both sets of Virgin Isles (although Googleing suggests it might be a bit of a moveable feast. A .vi website has it as the fourth Monday in July); it's the National Day in a province of Spain; it is also the feast day of Furina, Roman goddess of thieves (Wikipedia claims elsewhere that the feast day is June the 25th. Just shows the power of the Wiki).

Via Google: Roxy Music played the Birmingham Odeon on the day I was born. The European Commission made a decision. The Chicago Cubs fired their manager.

Bloggers who share my birthday (for no reason other than Globe of Blogs lists those registered):
- Adela, who is a year older than me, posts infrequently and slenderly, although she's just been flooded (or nearly flooded).
- Someone writing in Spanish on a Norwegian domain. Seems fairly good, but I don't know what he's saying.
- CandyMandy from Canada writing about all things Canadian and torturing small rodents along the way.
- Angela from Boston, with a grammatically poor meme (although I'm not sure use of word wicked is solely a Bostonianism. For me 1,4,8,12 [and it's has supper], 16 [because I don't know what one is, but I do take any line I like across roads], 17 [I suspect I do; Google puts it as skittles with thinner pins], 19 [I'm not sure what is in mph, but probably], 23 partly, 24 and 25 are true, which makes me 38% Bostonian).
- A guy from England. Bit of a hit and miss affair.
- Avital from Vancouver, who admits to liking country music.
- Ben from NSW bemoans the irritation caused by online petitions, while overwhelming Firefox's pop-up blocker. To be honest I haven't read much of this one, as I'm having problems with the black on dark green writing.
- Bill the post-Catholic exploring Judaism. He writes it G-d, but other wise seems fairly sane.
- Boi from Troy, who I've seen mentioned elsewhere. He has his own unique political stance (meaning he talks a lot about Republicanism, and most of the time I've no idea what he's referring to).
- Someone with defunct blog from Nashville.
- Chad from Chicago and his Chess Strategies. I'm sure it'll come in useful at some point.
- Cory the Newfy, who has given up.
- Cory from BC, who advocates writing good content pages simply to boost ratings at a linked-to site.
- Christina from Brazil, whose site loaded the scrolling title and no more. Uses accented vowels in place of normal and mu when she means u.
- David from Binghamton NY, and his defunct site.
- Sur-Reality. One post onscreen, 24 words, dated 29th May. This isn't going as well as I'd hoped.
- Francesco Nardi writes in Italian, with a slightly confusing dual-column layout. No idea what he's talking about, but at least he's persistent and prolific.
- Another kaput blog, from Japan this time.
- Amber Dawn Pullin in goosed-upon boots from Canada. LJ and very of its genre (but better than some).
- Gardenwife from Ohio, who many writes about back problems, dieting and comment spam.
- Hans Presto's bilingual Niblog which mostly seems to be about some toy man.
- Houssein Ben-Ameur on various aspects of Quebecois life, such as Stephen Harper et le mariage des gays (yes, it was the only bit I understood without having to get out a dictionary). Just to enhance comprehensibility, he also writes in Arabic. The last CD he bought was by Leonard Cohen. Moving on...
- Jamee of the lapsed Happy Phantom/Ruckus Maker/Somewhat Damaged blog.
- "Jane", an unhappy student in Seattle. Bit irregular posting.
- Jason Cheeseman-Meyer, who is going camping over his birthday, assuming he hasn't drowned his daughter first.
- Jim, an [American] English teacher in Thailand. As I've just been distracted by several of his posts, it might actually be worth reading.
- Jenthemom in Calgary. DEWISOTT.
- Jon from San Francisco and his extinct blog.
- The Musings of a Lank which seeks to answer which is better; True Romance or Pump up the Volume.
- i=i. Better than some, but still not quite there. But I think I need to go and refuel, and I might be more receptive once I've done that. This is taking a very long time.
- Meg in Mobile. LJ.
- Obconic. Possibly good, if I was in the right mood.
- Paulo's Republica. Brazilian, hence in Portuguese.
- Something to do with Marbella, which no longer exists.
- Someone with an infrequent blog about Project Management.
- Someone with an University of New South Wales Art Dept hosted blog on advertising in the digital age. The template loads, but no content.
- Ryan Morrison who might work for the BBC in Jersey. I didn't leave his site as quickly as I have left some.
- Sara White, a student in Victoria, British Columbia (and Hawaii). Again a lingerable site.
- Serge lives in Mexico and writes about it. Either the quality of the sites has improved or my blood sugar's gone up.
- Edward Sinann-Whittaker. Unused; still in original packaging.
- Stacy, a potential alcoholic, last post September 2004.
- Stuart Tinsley blogs about his coytoed cat and his brood.
- Teju gave up in December 2004.
- Someone blogs about Scouts in Belarus. Unsurprisingly it's in Cyrillic Russian.
- Me and my monkey. Sporadic.
- Austrian Veronika writes her Koala themed Egozentrum in German. Alles ist less than klar, although I understand sporadisch upgedatete.
- Pink, lilac and purple Weggywoo feels the need to state that she's a girl. I would have thought the discussions of Gog and Magog would have already suggested that. She's a year younger than I am.
- Xtort's Entropic Bloom contains links to various fun and informative things. Mostly just link-feed.
- Yaya runs News to me by reacting to the news. US-centric and apparently and abandoned experiment.

Conclusions from this
- It's not just me who has problems with writing consistently good posts.
- Blogs are just as disposable as everything else in modern life.
- Signal to noise is low.
- A shared date isn't unifying.
- Yet a lot of these fit into pre-existing types.
- There's only a couple or so I might bother revisiting, if I remember them.

I wonder which part of Leo x Year of the Monkey X Friday's child bestows upon me the ability to be pointlessly persistent? And if I really am that combination, shouldn't I be having more fun?

Pointless Numbers III

Twenty-five on the twenty-fifth ought to be special, significant somehow. And yet it's not. It's going to be a day like all the rest, just another creeping period which will be gone in a pathetically small amount of time.

I think the problem is I don't feel like I've had 25 years of life. I've existed that long, but have I lived? In one sense I must have done - what else would give rise to the "where did that come from?" creases in my skin [memo to self: must stop smiling], or the occasional white hairs which mark impacts and not just pigmentation on the blink (or so I claim). And yet... And yet there's an awareness that the "yet" is less, and that the haves, hads and hases are growing as they recede.

And why are the words denoting the past so cruelly reminiscent of laughter? Everything is ha-ha-ha, aping the waning sound.

Maybe I ought to seek out the bastion of the aged, and lie about my age. After all, people who don't know me assume I'm doing A levels, but the same people also assumed my older brother is doing GCSEs, so that's probably more them than me. But I don't want to have to lie. It seems ageing somehow.

And in this mood I really don't need banner ads for Sky screeching that "The clock is ticking" and that "Time is running out". I don't even want Sky. I have no need of it. Begone all ye harpies of commercialism and harbingers of doom. And take your brand-name drugs spam with you.

So much for skirting the soliloquy. But perhaps the true meaning may save me yet; the obscurity of this blog and lingering oblivion may mean that I am actually only talking to myself.

And for all those, and I use all somewhat loosely as it invariably comes down to a, a hor-hawker and the near lunar wellsfargo, about to tell me that so much is yet to come; I know it is, but I just wish it didn't feel like I was having to compensate. And Mr Halls of Residence can't do that, as he is pitifully young (and probably feels comparatively old. It's the comparatively that undoes people).

Youth is wasted on the young, but the young are the only people who have it to try. We may simply have to conclude that wastage is a symptom of youth; it would be wasted regardless.

Whereas all this could just be a symptom of that fact it's raining, and rain in the IBP [Inter-Birthday Period] is rare, and I don't remember it ever raining on my birthday, which just goes to show how the memory goes as one ages.

It's stopped now; as should I.


PS. Finding a suitable image just brought to my attention two different mutations of memes. Firstly I originally typed it as "Monkey say, monkey do" rather than "Monkey see, monkey do" which makes more sense (at 580 ghits versus 80,000 ghits respectively, I think the rest of the world sides with sense).

The second was the divergence in the order of the three evils [results are in ghits, and the second figure is for the replacement of speak with say]:
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. 47,600, 468
See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil. 610, 63
Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil. 692, 38
Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. 9,810, 289
Speak no evil, hear no evil, see no evil. 798, 50
Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil. 701, 24

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Map pinsLondon Dan has just let me know about an extremely cool Google Maps hack (I say hack because I've no idea what to call electronic widgets, especially those hosted on separate sites from the source). Originally intended to act as a pedometer and calculate the Calories burnt during running, it also allows one to play in all manner of ways.

One can create epileptic spirographs in trying to recreate the course sailed in last Saturday's race (we came first; of the final third). It came out as 15 miles shore to shore, but I'm not sure that I got the scale of the course right, so I suspect it is considerably less. But I'm also not sure how the rate of Calorie use when running equates with that during arduous sailing (and it was, my brother was helming and I was acutely aware than 10 and half stone on a frame this size doesn't really leave much room for functioning muscle).

One could find out how far aeroplanes taxi before they take off (not that I know someone out there will do this the moment he discovers this technology). One could find out just how far one has to walk when changing trains (although without cartographic information on certain underground stations, some of the most prominent examples will be sadly lacking), or how much further the diversion over the footbridge is than just crossing the road.

Just think of all the scintillating conversations this could spawn: Did you know that if you used Eurostar to get from the Houses of Parliament to the Bastille, you would have walked 8 miles of the way? [This is of course completely made up as I have not been pathetic enough to measure the distances walked on various concourses. Or it might be that I can't decide if it's better to take the Jubilee or just walk it]. Just what one wants to hear as one frantically tries to remember what a velouté is.

Is it possible that I'm not very good at thinking of interesting uses of what could be very useful?

I've discovered that I walk 6 kilometres each time I go swimming and burn about 200 Calories. But does running burn more calories than walking? It feels as if it must do, yet it's the same mass displaced the same amount. And now I'm also wondering how much longer the route is because of the hills, but I'll stop before I start getting lost in a pi/sin mire.

It's also 6.66 miles to a friend's house. Ok, so proper Google Maps could well have done that, but there's something delightfully low-tech in sticking electronic pins in a conjured map, and then winding invisible wool round them to measure the total distance.

Woah. I've no idea if the proper Google maps does this, but on this liberated version, zooming completely out loops the world. It shouldn't be quite as disconcerting as it just was, and having said that, I'm now wording if I've ever seen the world that way before.

It does (even if the grid's a bit wonky), and I've also just discovered that Crewe is the middle of nowhere (or possibly everywhere); the default view for the site is centred over Crewe.

Ooooh. Me like Hybrid button.

But I'd better stop this near navel-gazing, not least because I'm wondering if that patch of skin on my thigh is week old sunburn or eczema and I can only do one bit of anatomy at a time.


PS. It's not just me (the Googleage, not the potential eczema); Dan has picked up the same theme but taken it in a different direction (which is probably better). Apparently I could eat two Mars bars for each time I go swimming. It's probably just as well I can't even finish one.

PPS. Just to complete this Dan inspired post. His mention of the news that the man shot at Stockwell wasn't a bombing suspect. He was a Brazilian leaving a house under surveillance who did not stop when ordered to by armed police. Possible points to worry about: A. The building was flats. A house under surveillance could mean the suspects have the ground floor flat, and the first floor flat would share the same entrance. B. The man did not stop when asked to. The man may not have had good English. C. He was asked by armed police. Armed plain-clothes police. Big men with guns. Now I probably wouldn't run, but maybe he had different experiences and expectations to mine. D. This could get very messy.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

CF11 600 - QU 26 - Lambeth WatermillYet more happenings in London. Seems like it's just to cause panic rather than danger. I saw a brief bit of BBC News 24 at lunch. They were interviewing someone (who seemed very professional) standing outside Oval tube station. Near the end of the interview the main presenter said "And, of course, the cricket is on" obviously leading into the next answer from the man on the other end of the phone, which was a very long "Er..." before dodging the question by discussing the number of people around.

And, of course, the cricket is on; at Lord's.

God, it's as bad as Chinese television stating that London "is in disorder... but the airport is open" (in fairness, this statement was read out by an American, so what can one expect?). And this was before today's events.

Spot who went from City of Sound's all things Chinese post to CCTV9 (passing examples of distinctive architecture, plus beautiful and disturbing photography along the way. Feel free to swap the links classed as beautiful or disturbing).

The CCTV interface is like The Smoking Room's coffee machine. I choose Asia News and got BizChina instead. The Live button doesn't work. Clicking CCTV News brings up the caption "You are watching Music Video", and no video. Financial Report transforms into Cultural Report again with no video. Documentary turns out to be something called Cultural Express which is talking about Chinese International Fashion Week and Qingdao International Fashion Week, and G4 "covering such pop classics as Everybody Hurts, Creep and Nessun Dorma [sic]". Then onto something about French architecture which is heavy laced with images of Foster's Millau Viaduct. Suddenly there's a mention of April the 1st. Er, when exactly was this made? The business section kept referring to the 7/7* bombings as "the bombings Thursday", which I think is them aiming to out CNNese CNN, rather than renaming the day along the lines of Shrove Tuesday. Which, when it's being watched a fortnight after said attack, does create slight disorientation.

* I must say, it was nice of whoever to pick a date which isn't going to cause cross-Atlantic confusion unlike the seventh day of the thirty-first month.

Even better are some of the captions scrolling across the screen: 90% of public buses and 70% taxis will be clean vehicles by 2008, when Beijing hosts the Olympic games.

I'm not quite sure either.

But in other news, Burger King are to open their first Chinese [mainland?] restaurant in Shanghai. How exciting.

And now the poor presenter is having problems with "golf", but fortunately the stream died before the interview with golf-man started.

I'd better stop now, before I find another country's media to mock.


PS. I've finally passed the 10,000 mark. I know most other people get there in their first week, but then they write better than I do, or at least Googlebait better than I do. But no prizes for the special person as I was looking the wrong way when it happened. Oh well.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Polo, the mint with a holeThere must be an airshow. Helicopters this time.

Whilst trying to think of possible locations, I found the following headline: TV presenter opens shop.

Anyone else thinking Linda Barker and possibly DFS? Or more likely; Mark Curry and a Lego franchise.

Wrong. The star [the paper's words] was Andy Collins (I've no idea either). As if aware of that some of the readers might be a little slow to remember him, the paper prompts readers' memories with this description: who famously filled in for Les Dennis on Family Fortunes.

You know I obviously ought to get out more (or stay in more).

But better still, the famous filler-in also joined forces with Arsenal Football Club’s chef for a charity auction. If ever two men were going to share a stage whilst wondering who the other one is... (I assume the chef is male, but he's called Robin, so it's a case of not necessarily).

Via this BBC article on the future of cities I found the Squattercity blog (DEWISOTT), which has some interesting stories gleaned from elsewhere.

Which reminds me that I haven't been to City Comforts in a while, although last time I was bewildered by endless bickering over Kelo (which I think was some precedent setting legal judgement expanding the realm of compulsory purchase, but there are probably better sources than me out there).

But in an effort not to get sidetracked what struck me about the BBC's piece was the mention that China have hired one architect (and his firm presumably) to design 7 new cities. Part of me is stunned by the notion, part of me is in awe (and a wee bit jealous) and a significant part of me has a strong sense of foreboding. I've seen Le Harve and after that one-architect towns don't seem like such a good idea. I've also seen what some other architects have proposed for various places in China, where it seems the imagine that anything goes. Not that I'm referring to some of Herzog and de Meuron's models currently right down the far end of the exhibition at Tate Modern. The broken air bricks to provide "texture" (which also doubles as a grater) were particularly inspiring, as was the building designed by haphazardly stacking blocks which represent the space needed for various types of room (a case of form dictating function and probably blocking it).

Am I being remarkably thick, or don't H&deM have a website? And I'm now trying to fathom the intriguing notion of an H&M designed town.

Anyway, one comment which disturbed me was about the creation of parks to allow pedestrians to avoid ever having to cross traffic. Which to me suggests the architect (McDonough - the green roof on Chicago's city hall) intends the parks themselves to cross over the traffic. I'm just wondering about where exactly people transfer from being part of the traffic to being pedestrians. McDonough seems to think it's a case of never-the-twain-shall-meet, except one is the other; they change states. But if one tries to separate one state from the other, where does the change between them occur? On some dark abandoned underpass where the only other humans are in the cars doing 50, and so can hardly be counted as real actual people. Can anyone see crime being built in? Or is the only parking available in underground and multistorey carparks? In which case I hope the city is dense enough to render cars unnecessary for the actions of a reasonable life (and if that is the case, why bother providing parking spaces at all?).

Admittedly, I haven't verified the architect's claims on his website (as I can't find them).

While searching out the none existent site, I rediscovered the City of Sound blog, who has been reading the same bits of the Economist as I have (I do wish whoever it was wouldn't leave their copy about so I suddenly find I've lost half an hour, but know all about the ailing state of the pharmaceutical industry. It's like New Scientist; how do the people who ought to know about its contents get time to read it?), and been annoyed by the same missing clause.

I originally got to CoS through his photographs of the H&deM Allianz Arena in Munich (yes I'm struggling to avoid putting something really nasty about Allianz Cornhill in here, but I as I'm not supposed to know... Basically, er, I really can't say anything without causing or getting in trouble. Moving swiftly on...). Did you know that the University of Texas's tower has a different outfit for every occasion?

Ooh, excuse me for a mo, I've just found that CoS covered something my brother did.

In other news, literally for once, one of the odd side-effects of doing a photography course is that one starts paying more attention to any type of photography (and possibly the photographic potential of life, but that's for another time). Take the main photographs on the frontpages of newspapers (which tend to be less adulterated than those on the covers of magazines). I've begun to look at the photography more than the image, if that makes sense. I try to work out various aspects of it, or how I might have done it better (I'm allowed to do this because it's purely theoretical, and I'm unlikely to find myself trying to get my photographs of any newspaper). Or simply think "that's a me shot" when looking at something which I would take if I saw it (today's Telegraph cover photo - the crescent moon on top of a mosque's dome in amongst a line of Victorian chimney pots. The chimneys alone where quite interesting for their variations from the original standard. Frustratingly the only attribution seemed to PA. But thanks to the power of the internet [once I'd got past Pennsylvania and Public Address] I've found a small copy on the PA's images website).

New word for the day: iatrogenic [near the bottom of the linked entry, but read it all].


PS. [Showing my podcasting; that's sowing peas isn't it? roots] How does this whole trackback malarkey work? I know I ought to know, but have never really bothered, largely because I was always waiting until I wrote something good before trying to make people aware of it (and nothing is ever good enough).

PPS. My neighbour must be having a really relaxing time of it. Yet again my room smells of what my mother always used to think was incense (because she knew people burned incense at the parties in her youth and that's what the parties all smelt of. There's a certain logic to it, I suppose). It's like being back in the third year, when the flat below was virtually entirely Chinese and perpetually under the influence (I'm not sure if the two correlate). Yay for getting stoned by proxy. Anyway, I'm going now because I've suddenly got hungry.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Drilling a toothI do hope it doesn't mean anything.

3 groups of 3 fighter jets just went over heading north. Disappeared off to the north, but they must have changed direction as I can still hear them rumbling behind the horizon. Initial thoughts were that it was the Red Arrows, except they didn't look particularly red, but they flew to the west of me, so were mostly against the sun. And the website doesn't have anything listed.

But 9 aircraft? It can't be coping with something potentially bad, as there's far too many.

In other news, that bloody radio controlled car is back. It's been around every day for a week. It's some odd petrol driven thing, so there's constant loud whining (think a car reversing at speed) which is inescapable even with all the windows closed (and the batteries never run out). Judging by my neighbours comments, I wouldn't be surprised if a few proper sized cars also went to the same carpark to practice their handling skills, and just so happened to back over the sodding thing. Various people have tried negotiating, but all that achieved was that it no longer continues until 2am.

Are lynch mobs legal?

Or maybe I can get away with kicking one of the windows on the office building which owns the carpark, simply to trip the burglar alarm and get the security company to turn up and tell them to bugger off.

Ah, angry voices outside the window. Then calmer but persistent voices. And then only the rooks cawing. Please let this be what I think it is.

[I think one of the men who walked past before the sudden silence was policeman from a couple of roads away. So if he could hear it, just how many hundreds of people are they pissing off?]

But continuing the theme of annoyances; is Athlete's Foot one of those things which just goes away?

I'd better stop this post before I start feeling sympathetic with the people who complained about the noise from Top Gear's test track. One wonders how they managed to miss Harriers practising their take-offs in the site's previous incarnation (or what they'd make of the entire place becoming housing).

Sodding hell. They've started again.

God give me strength.

And flamethrower please.


Edit at 21.00. It gets better. Having overheard an altercation (man bangs a on door, woman answers, man demands to see other man, woman says they're eating, man says he'll wait, woman suggests he might be waiting a while, man says he's staying where he is, woman says she's calling the Police, man and woman talk, man eventually leaves*) it turns out that the owners of the office have graciously agreed to allow the model car drivers unhindered access, and the Police have been informed of this agreement. It is rather strange that no one thought to inform any of the many residents who would be disturbed by this action, oh, and is it legal for an area classed as A2/B1 office space to permit motor sports? Which category does motor sport come under? D2, or is it an amusement centre and so needs site-specific permission for every change of use? Wherefore art thou EHO?

*Added even later: It turns out the nice man threatened to drive up and down the road until he found the man who had complained (now that's a bright idea when the street's full of ex-, and not ex, policeman). The nice man also stuck his foot inside the door as soon as the woman opened it. The nice man also couldn't see what the problem was, as he'd only been there today and on Saturday, although he admitted he'd not done it on Monday because there were already people there and they were a "bad sort" (which coming from the hunting-down and doorstepping nice man...).

To think I felt like reaching for the rum before this started.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Tide predictionI'm beginning to feel as if the next thing I'll do is put on a bowler hat full of water.

Goshikins vexes me. He said something, I said something, he changes what he said, I look stupid. And most annoyingly, I've realised the problem with calling him Goshikins is that it is very hard to get cross with someone called that. Can you imagine a mother in the middle of a supermarket angrily saying "Goshikins Cyclisme Freaktadpole, come here now"? Can you?

Yes actually, although it depends on the supermarket. But people round here have a penchant for the unique (read daft). In Tesco's it's Kaysea Jodie Lillibet Thwackface; Sainsbury's Tallulah Butterscotch Granger; Waitrose Claudia Gunhild St John-Fauntleroy"; and in M&S one never hears the name, as the parents just don't give a shit.

Whilst seeking out a suitably obscure Old English name, I flicked through Wikipedia's list of kings at random, alighting on Harthacanute. With a name like that, the wife's has to be good. Ah, no wife. Mother then. Mother, wife of Canute: Emma. Not very obscure. Æthelred the Unready then. Married the same Emma. This isn't going too well. Female names of the era come down to the familiar (Edith, Maud) versus the unpronounceable (Ælfgifu, Świętosława).

I've lost where I was going with this. Probably ought to stop then.


PS. Does this mean we're going to have to wellcome Goshikins here soon? But where will he get all his "noble Englishman braving the natives" anecdotes from?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Andie McDowellHuzzah!

Buzz/Neil/InActFa/Mr Grant*/Goshikins** tells people to come here, as item number three in a list of six things of interest. Not only that, but he tells everyone to skip the main bit and scroll down to a PS which isn't by me. Result!

Admittedly I might have made life [and success therein] a little easier had I bothered to right something which wasn't utter rubbish, but given the current evidence I doubt it's wise to wilfully indulge in fantasy (Grape flavoured or not - see #1).

But there's no point in trying to be offended, because A. I'm not. I ought to be, but I'm not. B. It's too darned hot. C. How can anyone get cross with someone who is an equal mix of pathetic and foppish?

* I say that in jest, but what proof do we have that he's not a certain actor? We know he strives to keep his true identity well hidden, and if you were HG trying to be anonymous, you would, wouldn't you?
** I so hope the latter sticks.

While wondering just how London Dan managed to make a Google map of his route on Thursday (and trying to solve a little question of location), I started exploring. In my travels I found a plane near Brixton, an infestation of red ants towards Camden and an inflatable building just off Oxford Street. But having investigated some more famous aspects of London, I want to know when Google [or whoever they paid] collected all their satellite data. According to Google, Trafalgar Square is still a roundabout, the Gherkin looks half-eaten, Broadcasting House has yet to bloom and grew [forever?], half of Houston in Euston has yet to distort its way out of the ground and St Pancras International is still such a ridiculous notion as it sounds.


PS. Goshikins made me feel slightly embarrassed for writing so well that he encourages people to bypass it. And then he posts this.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Gainsborough's Mrs Peter William Baker[Retyped post, as Blogger and Firefox are having "issues"].

Drat. Now we know that Blogger does not react well to alien code. Sorry for the wonky display. I did try to modify it, but I think I only ended up inventing useless HTML code, and of course the Preview option had packed up the moment I pasted from Flickr.

Hurriedly leaving that clutchless gear change, I'm sure you'll all be pleased to know that this site is currently the first result in the entire world for the Coop dividend card. I'm also doing remarkably for searches for various foreign objects and "an al". Most excitingly, rather a lot of these are coming from one server.

Perennials favourites (or just perennials) Matt Barbet, Catherine Ztea Jones and Foxtons are all making strong showings this week. Him: I've decided it's not his nostrils, it's his ears. Her: There's no hope for her now that she's got competition from Free Katie. It: They've finally decided I'm not in a position to sell this house. I eagerly await the blurb asking if I want to buy a house.

Slightly confusing search of the week: je t'aime english translation brian molko. Well, Molko is Russian for bread and Brian is Slovakian for garlic. Oh sorry, you wanted to know what je t'aime means? I you familiar like. Clear now?

If you were referring to Mr Placebo's cover of the song, then allez ici pour la traduction (or check out Me gustas tu by Manu Chao instead. I'm now imaging a mixture of Gainsbourg, Molko and Chao. Somebody save me please).

Having checked that, is one of the line really "I go and I come between your kidneys"? You'll get septicaemia.

I'm sure there's other much more interesting stuff to read out there, so if you'll forgive me I'm going to go and find it.


FloridAnyhoo's Florid photoset

So much for the Language Week thing. I am supposed to have done three more posts in French by now. Can we see that happening? Can I translate "I am supposed to have done"? Well then.

So what have I been up to? Ranting to all and sundry (or sunday according to my fingers) about various things; continuing the experiments with someone else's camera (I could just buy my own but that might mean I'd have to make a decision); discovering that people on Flickr don't care about the photography - all they want is nipples and navels.

Actually it's true. I stuck a picture of a bit of midriff on Flickr because I wanted something I could tag with a word beginning with X (don't ask, it's a Flickr thing, and if you insist on asking then I will explain it, but in very poor French). I came back a few days later to find that the pictures either side of it had been viewed 6 times. The nipple shot had been viewed 36 times.

Admittedly in less time 15 people looked at a scan of a receipt; I guess you never can tell. Although it's rather disparaging if one puts effort in photographs and then finds that a generic scrap of paper out does them.

Reverting to the playing with the borrowed camera (which annoying has a better zoom than mine); pictures are on Flickr and if you can help identify any of the plants or animals then I'd be a bit more than fleetingly grateful.

As I'm experimenting with implanting a badge from Flickr, I'd better not make this post too long.


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