Thursday, October 27, 2005

2005-10-01 040Rule number 1 for [temporary] housemates who are cooking badly for their loud, and American*, girlfriends, thereby hoping for a romantic evening and all that entails: Never invite the flatmate's brother to join the meal (especially not the bolognaise has uncooked chunks of onion about the same size and shape as a piece of Toblerone, mixed in with a pound of mince, a couple of bulbs of garlic [yes, I do mean bulbs], three small mushrooms (with possible secondary fungi), and a single tin of tomatoes tipped over it at the end, so there's a nice light pink wash over the plates, which you can use to rinse them. Oh, and did I mention the garlic bread? Which was off white, still with chunks of unmolten butter between the slices. Still at least it wasn't frozen, and he did remember to take it out of the wrapper before warming it) and then a game of Trivial Pursuit after it (maybe I'm out of sync with current wooing techniques, but impressing the other party with one's knowledge of the trivial...).

* These two attributes may be linked. They may also be linked to why she complains her voice is hoarse the whole time. I don't know why some people, and it tends to be Americans, have such loud voices. She's attention seeking, slightly too liberal with the application of her opinions, and just very loud. Oh, and at night she sounds like a cross between a fox and badger, with a hint of magpie. But I'm sure you don't need to know about the nocturnal sounds of two random people, even though he rather oddly sounds like Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (a terrifying and peculiarly memorable sound) when they've making their vocal volleys. You can almost visualise the hairy balls bouncing back and forth (insert suitable lame tennis-sex pun, along the lines of "new balls please", "love all" and "first service", here).

But back to the Trivial Pursuit. Because it's a game, it suddenly stops being trivial. So when I'm there purely to make up numbers, it's a bit rude to trounce the other two, and then win before they've got more than 3 bits* put together. I think there was a little annoyance lingering beneath the astounded expressions.

In mitigation, they shouldn't have been so surprised. After all, they were both drinking and I wasn't. He knew my brother at university, and knew him by his former nickname of "Random" (is there a more overused nickname?), which my brother had gained by his knowledge of random bits of information, which he would add to every conversation. Bizarrely, I'm related to my brother, despite what hair and eye colour, and bone structure, would suggest, and so I too have this ability to know the truly pointless.

Hence, when asked "what became popular in the Nineteen Eighties and would fit on a tatami?", I know the answer to be a futon. Cue bewildered shock, and the inevitable question "how do you know that?"

Well, Trivial Pursuit deals with such broad generalities that it would have to be a fairly big trend, and futons were a major fad in the 80s. Plus a tatami is a Japanese mat, but it's also a unit of area in Japan.

From the resultant looks I'd assume the "how do you know that" was a rhetorical question designed to express disbelief and not an actual attempt to seek greater knowledge. Such strange illogical people.

Of course it start to get a bit odd when I'd be able to answer a misread question, and the proper question. Although explaining why I knew the answer and my logic behind it didn't work so well when it was the wrong answer. I blame the American girl saying "Santa Claus" in a tone which I assumed to be sarcastic, when Santa Claus was actually the answer. And a bloody stupid answer it was too. I still think mine was better. And anyway, it's Father Christmas, except it's in Mexico, so it'd be Papa Noel, but in Spanish (because all "foreign" is basically the same with different accents).

But arguing's half the fun (and most of the misery), as is correcting the out of date and inaccurate answers. Take the Railtrack question - is National Rail a private company? Answer came there none.

Then the next day roast pheasant with roast potatoes, carrots and beetroot, and peas. Respective reasons: reduced to £1.49; do potatoes need a reason? Carrots because Sainsbury's has adverts everywhere telling me to roast them with thyme, but I had no thyme, and needed another vegetable, and couldn't be bothered with more intensive chopping and doing two pans of vegetables; beetroot were 20p for five, and I like beetroot, apart from the few seconds of panic when I go to the loo (But I haven't been playing rubgy); peas because I didn't have enough broccoli for two and I had no other vegetables.

All this with a thermostat-less oven. So when it says to cook it for 20 minutes on 8, that just means put it in, and when it says to cook for a further 30 minutes on 5, that just means stick a baking tray between it and the element.

It nearly worked. When I tried to see if the juices would run clear before I put the peas on, I could find no juices. And turning the oven off to save the bird then steamed the previously roasted vegetables. But it tasted nice, if a little hard or crispy in places.

And that's about it for tellable stuff. And someone remind me that the point of not-stepping-back-fast-enough/volunteering, is because it is something the volunteer wants to do, not something they feel they ought to do, or feel would look good on a CV (or if not look good, at least provide recent filler). It could just be that after years of looking in wonder at perpetually busy dynamos, who do everything (and occasionally everyone), while yawning and trying to work out how to fit not very much into a big gap which doesn't feel like it's big enough, I've decided to try the alternative Tardis based theory that the more one does, the more time one has.

So when, in about a fortnight, I start blogging regularly again, you know I've got a null result.

Oh, and never attempt a flying visit anywhere. Either you'll stay for ages being talked too and bogged down in mundane issues (like washing the apples before eating, because they got picked after the sewer blocked, and some of them got dropped in the aftermath. You know, details like that would be more helpful when I first enter the house, not about 4 hours and various bits of fruit later) or taken on a wildgoose chase, otherwise known as a Ghost Walk dry-run, dry being said in particularly sneering tone.

Have you ever tried timing and recording such a thing, when it's still in the formulatory stages, and without any light? If I could make out my watch, I couldn't see to write. The only torches available either played maniacal laughter and flashed, were in use for special effects, or was in the hands of the narrating guide who had the annoying habits of leading the group, then turning round to address them, while shining the torch right in their faces.

One of the main concerns of the group was how the people lurking in the woods could get to their next haunt (so to speak), without being seen by the punters. I did point out that they already had a fairly good way of stopping people seeing shadows in the woods, or shadows anywhere.

Then back to the pub for planning the next rehearsal (altering the route to avoid tripping off security floodlights, which rather ruin the effect; deciding just which try is the X tree - although people walking out of an unexpected [and completely wrong] place can work quite well to shock) and for food. Well, a glass of water, then the discovery that food's been ordered, and as I'm scrounging I can't really get away with placing a separate order which will come later. So I get an offer of "you can have some of my cheesy chips" and despite leading questions about the preparation times on chips, and various other hints, nothing more. The cheesy chips come, and then I remember just where I am.

Yep, cheesy chips a la Surrey. Made with Stilton (well, it was probably a more expensive and refined blue cheese, but I'm not a fan of blue cheese; it's the way it tastes like badly mouldy bread that does it).

And then the group starts up for the next preparatory round, and I depart as my friend stalks off, and about 20m away remembers me with an "Oh, bye". I know she's absent-minded and I have the ability to merge into the wallpaper/daub, timber, brick with odd prints, paintings and unused lumps of brass and leather hung upon it, but still...


* Cheese, pie, wheel or round? Chunk, segment, quarter [sic], slice, wedge or bit? ^

Monday, October 24, 2005

2005-08-16 077One problem with being vaguely scientific is the tendency to experiment. At the weekend I needed some clean pants, and oddly after hanging for 3-days in a cold damp house the latest batch of washing hadn't dried. As the thought of lingering clamminess didn't actually thrill me, I tried to think of ways I cold dry them.

- Radiator: you think I have central heating privileges? It's been on twice since I've been here - once to dry someone's clothes, the other when people staying complained (and then baked overnight).
- Hairdrier: male-only house with insufficient current girlfriends for that item.
- Cooker: Combustion of gas produces two forms of molecules - carbon dioxide and water. So holding something damp over a big source of water vapour isn't going to be the most efficient way of drying it (although the raised temperature would reduce the relative humidity of the air. It depends where the crossover between capacity of lowering RH and the increased RH from the products of combustion comes). Plus there's always the offchance I'll either get bored and forget that I need to hold the pants out of the flame, or that I'll get bored and start wondering what happens if I hold the pants in the flame.
- Oven. Electric, and so avoids the added water vapour problems (well, unless one lives next to the cooling tower of the power station). But needs cleaning and lacks a thermostat. If chicken curls up like those stupid lovefish (ah, school fetes in the 80s), I'm not sure what the 5% Lycra would do; something like DNA or a Slinky I'd imagine.
- Toaster: over or in? Given this thing leaves no bread unburned (if one reduces the time enough to stop it burning, the pop-up mechanism jams, and so the elements stay on), clothing is just a bad idea.
- Microwave: would that work? I've heard of people doing it before. I suppose it heats the water and it's the water I want to get rid off. So maybe. As long as I don't put anything with zips or metal studs or buttons in there. But my socks for the most part don't have studs.

So, I timidly place a pair of pants (UK, not US, kind) in it, and set it to defrost for a few seconds. Burrz, clunk, mmm, clook, burrz... I open the door swiftly to check it's not over doing it. It's not apparently doing much.

I try a while longer this time. There's condensation on the plate under the pants. I stick a bit of kitchen towel in for the next burst.

Still just about getting up to gentle warmth, but no great loss of moisture. The kitchen towel is a bit like trying to bail out the oceans. I bin it.

I struggle on for a while, alternating loads so cooling load dries as the next on heats.

Realising I might be here for a while, I crank up the heat. Time for full power methinks. Rapid burst, swap loads, rapid burst, swap loads, repeat until nearly dry, as I didn't want to find out what happens when it runs out of water.

But by this time the next load of washing had finished and even with the space cleared by the microwave assisted batches, I still didn't have enough space. So one wet t-shirt versus one microwave. Shut door to start, stand back for thirty seconds, open door.

Stand back while steam billows up into ceiling. That's a heck of a lot of water. And yet we expect that just leaving things will get rid of it. The t-shirt's still wet, but hot, with steam condensing on any nearby surface.

So what I need is a microwave source to heat the water coupled with a some mechanism for providing continuous fresh air flow over the surface. So basically a tumble drier which uses a different wavelength from normal. And could be vented outside to dump the near-saturated air (like tumbledriers are meant to be - hands up if you've ever seen this domestically).

But I don't have one of those, so standing next to an open window and flapping the clothing madly until it loses heat (and thereby hopefully water, evaporative cooling etc) will have to do.

Repeat until the clothing no longer feels clammy. It'll still probably feel a bit damp round the hems, but it's much better than it was. All this for only a highly inefficient outlay of time and electricity (and thus money).

Then, with the last t-shirt without hanging space, repeat the process, and then get distracted fleetingly. Return to a smell of caramel.

Open door; smell gets stronger and a bit more acrid. Remove t-shirt. It's warm and dry. Oh, and has over one part of a it a couple of lines of small brown circles ringed with brown, against the black of the cloth. It looks like it's been strafed by a machine gun, except the bulletholes aren't holes. But brown dust does fall from them on first contact. I wonder if it's the cotton or polyester which went? And where the circles cross the seams, the thread has melted into neatly spaced blobbles.

It's probably just as well it was a bottom of the range £2.99 H&M thing. And it'll be great if ever I need to gatecrash a tie-die convention, or dress up as a house in Dubrovnik (although I can think of walls in Dorset which have lines of fire across them).

So now we know whether microwaves can indeed be used for dry clothes, and what happens if it goes wrong. In hindsight I think next time (if there is a next time) I'll have to remember not to try and dry things out completely.

So, what experiments have you done today?


PS. It's only just occurred to me that I could have considered the iron (if I can find it). But the last time I used an iron was in 2002. And also, having been trained on neckerchiefs, ironing is inextricably linked with inordinate amounts of steam.

Friday, October 21, 2005

IMGP0206While pondering just how one would code "England expects that every man will do his duty" and realising I can spell it out longhand, until I get to a repeated letter, at which point I run out of flags (well, the sailing club would), and that "Englad xpcts th vry m wil o u" doesn't really work as well, but I don't know the current naval code or that used in 1805, and, oh heck, this sentence still has a clause left to be finished, so it's going to be a long one, but anyway, while pondering all that I started trying to work out what events might be on, and where they would be on, as I went to the thing in Portsmouth many moons ago (which I haven't quite got round to writing up yet, but I have Trafalgar 200 photographs).

So events in London to celebrate Nelson's victory. Well, there's the usual: Hyde Park, Regents Park, Trafalgar Square, The Mall. There might be something at Greenwich (there bloody well ought to be). Or there might be something smaller on the South Bank near Waterloo.

But which would it be? The parks are out because it's autumn and unless they want Glastonbury in London (according to one Victoria Line driver it's somewhere after Brixton. But then he also thanked us for travelling with London Underground's Victoria Line, and hope that we would come choose to use the company and the route again soon. I know one inevitably gets a few nuts on the tube, but one doesn't normally think of them being the person driving the thing), hundreds of feet and wet ground is not a good idea.

So where then? Trafalgar Square? It's Countdown's counting down noise: de-do-de-der-do-da de-do-de-der-do-da de-do-de-der-do-da diddily-did-do did-diddily-do dwow. Oh.

Yes, that might be quite apt. Once again I'm feeling a bit "but it's ten to the eleven, and everyone else has got hundreds of Gig". Platinum moment methinks. Oh, and when was the last time anyone of you lot measured your life in GigaJoules?

Anyway, from the sounds of it someone's celebrating Trafalgar. Either that or a Nova's just gone a bit supernova.

Moving on, and in an effort to actually move on (sounds in the background suggest there's also a nuclear family getting a bit too nuclear. BTW, I can keep going with these all evening) I went to a thing. It involved meeting unknown people outside Blackfriars station during rush hour. Yeah, that's a good idea. Oh and how many exits are there to Blackfriars? Fortunately I knew what was happening next, and so stood by the exit nearest to the bridge. Other people were less fortunate.

[I'm a bit worried; I keep typing the wrong words. Not the normal typos but complete words, spelt properly, which aren't the words I meant. Need for knew, for example, or enough for involved. Dyslexia creeps, moving up slowly].

So once the main group formed, and the guy organising expressed surprise at the number of people (er, he emailed more than that number at fairly late notice, and then apparently last checked his email a day and a half before the meeting. Now that takes a certain level of class). So then the introductions began, except the organisers had no ideas for ice-breakers. The guy suggest people point and, er, I didn't quite follow. Eventually someone said we should go round the circle and do a little "I am me and I do...".

Just to recap, this is going on in a ring of twenty or so people standing at the end of Blackfriars Bridge during the rush hour. "Hi, I'm [the exhaust on that Porsche is going, isn't it? And that van's really had it]".

And then we wander, making talk too small to be remembered when it could be heard. Stop at a pub. Trust an American to organise something by wandering round a couple of days beforehand and saying "There's a pub there, we'll go to that one", and then to complain about the price once everyone's been dragged in. Any foo' know [can't keep the accent up. I was going to try for a Vanilla Ice or possibly Snow (what is it with cold names?) accent, but I thought a fat black man would be easier to do than a white rapper] bars next to the Thames tend to be a bit on the extortionate side. I managed to be struggling to talk to people when I should have been buying a drink and thereby skipped that cost.

And it's odd having the same conversation you've had with tonnes of other people, except because most of the crowd was quite a lot younger than me, they all thought it was important, even though it's the grown up version of ASL in AOL.

Once again we move on, and I met a charming girl called Lucy, and we had an interesting discussion about where the bar (members' room) is on the top of Tate Modern, how it only opens something like every third Thursday in the month, the architecture of the building, the contents of the building, our attitudes to art generally, and it was about this point I discovered that she wasn't part of the same group. Two groups heading east along the South Bank. One starts to overlap the rear of the other. Add in my innate ability to be helpful (I get it from my mother. In her it's interference; in me it's being kind), and you have the makings of a sitcom.

So we move on. I met a highly opinionated person who verges on being a complete ass (as in donkey, although the American version probably applies as well). Ah, potential lawyer; it explains so much. That moustache for starters.

He makes some rude comment when I skilfully use a puddle to get St Paul's reflected (ok, not so skilfully as I had no tripod, and the cathedral had covered scaffolding round that face, but I like the effects of the floodlights and foliage, which would be a bit manic on the baroque stonework, and I also quite like the juxtaposition of something which is very similar to modern tensile skins and the actual substance of the building). Apparently he doesn't do clichés (which of course is a cliché in itself); if it's famous it's been done. Ignorant fool.

He much prefers the dirty (he sniggers at his own pun). I ask what he means, and oddly he doesn't notice the reference to deep-seated urban decay. I wonder just when he'll realise that gritty urban reality is as much a cliché as neo-classical architecture? I pity the fool.

Oh, and groups which have large contingents of non-British-Nationals move so slowly. They always wait for the green man, even when one side is a solid traffic jam, and the other an empty road. Of course crossing the road at my own pace doesn't help, because it means I'll have to then wait opposite this big group while a bus stops blocking the crossing and the lights change. It's beeping; we should cross - But there's a bus in the way! - Oh my! - What will we do? We can't go round; we'd leave the crossing and you can't cross off a crossing. - I know! - What? - We'll wait for the bus to move - Cool! - But the lights have changed - Shall we press the button again? - I think we ought to - I'll do it.. Meanwhile, a short distance away, a lamppost is making a regular cycle of doing-doing-doing noises as Anyhoo does a Heathcliff.

So I end up standing round on the steps of St Paul's being too polite to tell yet another American not to be so friggin' self-absorbed. Frankly, my dear... And what is it with Americans and daft names: Brady, Randy, Cherry, Brandy, Cherry Brandy, Sherry, Shandy, Candy, Bambi, and now Frankly. Let me guess, the Dad was Frank-Lee, and so the daughter got the feminised version.

Of course her real name is not Frankly (but it can only be a matter of time before that name is used for in earnest [or possibly algernon]), but it does end in a -ly of some kind.

And I am being rather harsh on the Americans because they have names like alcoholic drinks: After all I know a Becks (diff spelling though), and have met a Stella and a Gin (although with a name like Virginia she didn't have much in the way of alternatives). Oddly I've yet to meet a Laphroaig.

So back over the bridge, and towards the Globe, then Tower Bridge, chatting and eavesdropping along the way. And then we notice we've lost half the group. Go back, find the them waiting for us outside the next pub. Um, I hate to break to you guys, but that looks like a Greek restaurant, not a pub.

We move on, ending up at the Anchor, which is next to where my favourite bit of graffiti used to be, except it's now a Wagamama's, for which I can never forgive them (until my brother and I next get stuck for somewhere to eat that is. Although the fact they've got a branch in Guildford rather takes the cachet off it [yes, I'm easily impressed to consider them having a cachet. But I first went to one when there was a choice of two, and I liked the communality of the canteen seating plan combined with the distinctly non-canteen food, and the utter sophistication of eating with chopsticks. Don't say it, I know, but I was young[er] and foolish. Only the age has changed]), although it could have been a Nando's [the arch next door] which would be a unspeakable crime against humanity (and fowlhood).

So I end up in a pub, buying cider because it's about the cheapest thing they sell and it isn't (and my tastebuds must be dead. Either that or they've improved the taste of Strongbow by changing it from rank to tasteless). Somehow I end up chatting to a group, but mostly listening to their conversations. The guy next to jumps up (literally, and then over the table to get out) to go to the loo, never to return, and I end up chatting merrily away to a girl whose name I can't quite remember, but I do know the names of the people she was complaining about. No idea who they are, just their names.

Then back home after the immortal impromptu tour guide line of "that's Southwark Cathedral, and this is, er, Southwark", and onto to shopping. I managed to hit Sainsbury's half an hour before closing, and so end up buying unknown things in a yellow and white ticket frenzy (apparently they don't trust staff to use proper orange things with the tabbed removable middle). So I debate buying an Indian snack selection for 30p. It's a bit much for a couple of samosas and things which look like owl pellets (suddenly I'm having hideous memories of the identifying prey by the remains of their jaws), but it is reduced which always makes every taste better.

So a few tonnes of 10-pence bread later, and end up disturbing a cashier who is intentionally taking an age to fill out the front of a money bag. For this I am addressed as a "fine young man", which in retrospect was a slightly odd to say. Somehow the world seems less confusing when one is still slightly louche for earlier drinks. It isn't any the less confusing, it's just the ability to care and worry is diminished.

It's also odd how priorities shift. I suddenly find myself repeating saying "Oh, it's fine, it's fine, don't worry, it's fine", in situations where I'd normally be seething about the incompetence and being held up (although I'd probably still be claiming it was fine, because I only unleash my rage on people I know).

I walk home, and upon getting back promptly launch into the Toffee Tiffin Slices I'd bought, because, er, they were reduced. I'd no idea what a Tiffin is (any relation of a Puffin?), but I took the toffee bit to mean they were sugar with some other stuff thrown in. But on the walk home I'd desperately been trying to work out where I'd encountered the word tiffin before recently. Eventually I realised - blog research for the previous post.

Anyway, the tiffin slices were some odd combination of dried fruit, digestives*, brown sweet stuff holding it all together, with a covering layer of chippable beige stuff (that'll be the supermarket's interpretation of toffee then). The ingredients list is in very small print and takes up most of the label, but then after each ingredient comes the constituent ingredients of the that ingredient, so it'd say something like "Glace Cherries (Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Glucose, Citric Acid, Colour E90210, Pectin, Whey Powder, Lignin, Potassium Sorbate, Cellulose, Soya Lecithin, Titanium Dioxide, Clay, Mono and Di-Glycerides of Fatty Acids, Sulphur Dioxide, Reformed Cherry Tree Bark)".

Basically sugary junk. Ideal for eating while you decide what proper food to have.

* No idea how to explain the concept to my American audience, considering they can't be sold under that name there. Biscuits which aren't cookies and on the cusp between savoury and sweet.

So after such a distinctive starter, which tasted a bit odd and strangely tasteless, and I prefer my lethal sugar dose to at least be unadulterated sugar, like Kendal Mint Cake, I followed this with the Indian snack selection.

Turns out it was a Taste The Difference version, and thus originally hugely expensive. Of course I couldn't actually taste much difference from their lower market ranges, except perhaps not having as much pepper. It was only after eating it that I discovered that the samosas were date and spinach. Somehow the act of putting any ingredient, be it date, walnut, goat or caviar, inside a triangular parcel of filo pastry makes it all taste the same. It tastes like a samosa. Maybe it stems for expectations thing, whereby a bright yellow apple drink will be said to taste of lemons because that's what the brain expects. Which is why blue drinks are as rare as blue fruit.

And don't try arguing that a blueberry is blue. It has a bluish blush which is mould on the surface, which rubs off (and is more of a grey anyway). It's only blue in comparison to a blackberry. And what's the colour underneath? Black, or purple, or red if a bit underripe. Squash it and what colour juice comes out? Hardly azure is it?

Just think of all the drinks made from berries. They range from pink to red to purple. If you taste a red drink made from a blend of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, what does it taste like? Are you sure you're tasting a mix of those berries, or just what you've been conditioned to think red tastes like?

But getting back to the Indian food, the selection also came with a little pot labelled "Cucumber and Mint Raita Dip", and the specific instructions, repeated twice, not to heat the dip.

Now this may seem a daft question, but what other type of raita is there other than that made with mint and cucumber? Paperback?

After that came cheese on toast, made with 2.5p sesame baguettes. I'm quite bad when it comes to reduced bakery stuff. I see it's cheap, I buy it, I get it home and realise it'll go stale, I try to eat it all in one go. If I succeed I realise I haven't bought enough.

Moving on once more, have you ever been battling long and hard over something which is a key element of your life for the next few months, only to have the opposite reply with "So what?"

It's somewhere in the realm of bloody infuriating and frustrating, and the third member of the troika is too bloody quite to intervene, even though her reactions give away that she's firmly on the same side as I am (oh, and probably most of the population of this country would be too). Just because he's seen something cool in Beirut does not mean it well work here. He even started dragging in references to the American prairies. Hello, this is London, England. Cramped land of grey light and misty spires, oh and did I mention drunk people? And he wants to do something which would be so bad it would scare the drug dealers off.

So what? So what? [You’ll have to imagine that I'm steadily starting to interfere with bat navigation systems while also managing to send signals across the Atlantic] Have you any idea of what you're talking about? Can you think beyond the aesthetic? Can you think of other interpretations? Heck, can you even think at all?

Bloody committee design. I don't mind committees, in fact I quite like working in groups, but that's because I'm good at bringing individuals together and round to the same way of thinking: may way of thinking.

And what really doesn't help is that the silent partner is the expert who is supposed to be doing this bit and we're meant to be helping her.

In an effort to be more constructive, we change topics. It gets no better: "I think, eh, these things... they are of no matter".

A. Of course they matter, but I'll accept I may be getting a bit bogged down in detail and fixating on one subject, except that, B. he said that in answer to everything. We went round in one big circle and any alternatives which were contrary to his grand masterplan (which he hasn't thought out), or clarification sought, received his response. Any criticism of his plan got a "So what?"

I was paralysed by indecision over whether to beat some sense into him or throttle him.

And better yet it has been assumed (by him) that we will all go off and be socialable together. Which of course the poor unfortunates who couldn't provide evidence of prior engagements fast enough will be subjected to patronising small talk, before being ignored as he and his cohorts lapse into some other language. They'll then be offended when the people who've been ignored for at least an hour don't want to go on to a club.

But in other news I've just discovered that the person I kept meaning to go and visit in some other country (well, one of the people in that situation) is no longer living there, and about to be leaving in London. Ok, Londonish - the freak lives outside zone 2 (said he who has realised that finding somewhere else to live may well involve having to get a wider-ranging travelcard).

I think that had better be it.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

2005-08-31 025 London in the summertimeI have to admit that I haven't been to many presentations at which the one of the questions at the end comes after the following: "So-and-so, Independent on Sunday". Listening to the Government's Chief Scientific adviser (which sounds slightly oxymoronic, doesn't it?) on climate change proved to be quite interesting, if a little frustrating. It's odd to hear the former head of Downing (hmm, is the Cantab's version the same man who named the Street?) suddenly lapse into political not answering the question. It's made even more strange when contrasted with the objective scientific attitude and political cynicism displayed a few seconds before. Obviously insulting the boss isn't the done thing.

Anyway, the whole thing can pretty much be summed up with "Be afraid, be very afraid", coupled with some slightly dubious logic (which was very rare in the whole thing - just a couple of poor choices of example) and some diplomatic comments which verged on the bitchy.

Oh, remind me not to be me, and thereby leave stuff too late, and end up running things round everywhere, because while running up escalators is great for toning my calf muscles, it's not so great when they start aching.

And remind me to stop using the phrase "I do my best work at the last minute; it's just normally more than a minute's worth", because while possessing a please degree of paradox, it is really just an excuse for being disorganised and lazy. Although lucidity usually hits at 1 am (or it could just be "oh sod it" hits at 1 am).

But being disorganised has it advantages, as it means I don't bother to remember that somewhere in the small print of a timetable that it said an event was an hour and a half later than usual. Guess who ran in slightly late only to meet a group of slightly bemused people who had also neglected to read the blurb until they arrived. Disabling "but what do I do now" left us lingering for a few minutes, during which time the guy running the event turned up and started setting up, dragged us in and started. Turns out that the event was at the normal time, despite being not the normal person (it was organised by several third parties. Next week they're planning a sampling session in a brewery). And it means we get to find out which the disorganised, and now better briefed, third of the group was.

But moving on from such petty matters, the last post analysis of changing street names has already brought a flood of visitors (maybe just the one). Checking out other sources from that linked search I found a Wikipedia article* on the subject in hand (no pun intended, well, maybe a bit once I realised it would be a pun). From that I came across found this Telegraph article on the names of parts of the body and their actions.

Except it's the Telegraph and not the Guardian, and so certain words cannot be used - in an article about them. Can you see the problem here? Oddly it doesn't count if the depraved word is in a compound word. I had to resort to Google to find out the noodle thing (but from the description I suspect rather a few people would be expected to do that). So now I know what that is, and both meanings (which oddly enough I hadn't bothered looking up until then).

But curiously it comes up with suggestions for words that should have been in the reviewed book, but which weren't; camel-toe, furtle, and the verb trombone. The first one I know, although I don't know how, and can't say I've ever had reason to use it. The second had me reaching for the OED only to realise the internet is much better at this sort of thing (furtive fondle, should you be as uninitiated as I. Is it me or does the definition have a hint of Mr Kipling about? Another furtive fondle, Vicar?). For the third I guessed at the meaning, assuming it was a reference to growth analogous to deepening the instrument's pitch. Completely wrong on that on as well. If you want to know, go Google.

But then I had to Google Onanism, which I thought was something to do with oneness, or connecting with the inner self, which it sort of is.

In light of this article, one does wonder just what they get up to in that great angular phallus at Canary Wharf. I know the Spectator indulges in this sort of thing (hands up if you've watched More4 since that was on. So far my viewing of the channel was patches of the opening night when not cooking, so NewsLite on drugs and the first quarter of an hour of the Daily Show, which was funny (but with American timing), but apparently the programme went downhill after the break, followed by the Blunkett thing).

Anyway, I can't imagine that vocab being common parlance at the Socialist Worker (if ever there was a paper that ought to carry the words "where sold").

*Which disagrees with what I said. The Wikipedia article states it was near the Barbican, and then has the article which states it is off the south of Cheapside listed as the second reference (according to my map reading, that's not the same place. Perhaps it's near in the same way Trafalgar Square is near Tottenham Court Road, i.e. it is, but quite a lot of things are much nearer). But some of the references are things like the Telegraph article - not so much references, more vaguely related. They even have a link to an Evening Standard article by Brian Sewell, which only mentions the name in passing, and who uses longer sentences than I do, with less punctuation.

And with that revelation, I’d better finish.


Sunday, October 16, 2005

2005-10-01 042Why do I always feel the need to start every post with an apology? Take it as read if I've been busy and/or lazy (did I just use "and/or"? Somebody shoot me for being so lazy*).

* This is not a genuine request. Please do not shoot me. And please stop worrying me as well, especially the man who drove slowly up beside me, stopped, drove on a bit more, stopped, had another good look, and then drove on. I don't know what it is about one quiet road in Brixton, but something slightly unnerving always happens there.

So, stuff, then.
Meant to do a write up of the poker night thing which predated the exploring thing, but er, I had a thing. Anyway, I was late because I was buying ginger beer, milk and doughnuts. Ginger beer because I still had the remnants of a cold and because I was about to play a card game whose rules I don't know, which rather rules out proper beer (even if the taste of proper beer hadn't already done that). Milk because I'd run out (see how exciting and spontaneously unpredictable I could be). Doughnuts reduced, and if I'm going to a gathering on a secondhand invitation it stops me appearing emptyhanded, and did I mention the proof of my largesse was reduced?

Arrive, after visiting a small, confused boy and ignoring his older brother who was loitering on the steps. Oh, left then right. Helpfully by brother's extremely long phone message giving me directions did mention the name of the road I was in, so I got even more bewildered than the child I'd just hastily apologised to until I listened to the message again (damn you patchy Orange coverage squared, so the original recording cut in and out, as did the listening signal. Did I mention I have to stand on my brother's bed facing northwest to get a continuous signal? And damn you Brother for leaving long complex messages on an answerphone I get charged for each time I listen to it). So eventually I realised I was in the next road over.

Oh, it appears j'ai arrive (or do I mean arrivé ou peut-etre arrivé encore?). Give food, get fed (the sight of 7 well brought up adults all trying to make discreetly for the pizza with the chicken on while not being seen to impede anyone else's access nor cause shortage... mildly entertaining. As was the game of chicken over the last peice, because we're all too frightfully polite to take the last piece of anything, until, that is, it's about to get taken back to the kitchen, when it's every hand for itself which strangely happens without the merest hint of skurmish). Discover goats' cheese doesn't melt, let alone brown (my brother is a special person, and so gets special pizza. His special olive oil based margarine type thing, which I've been "borrowing" also has the freaky habit of not melting, even on toast).

Discuss things. Like Maorimite - that's a trademarked name, just as soon as I trademark it. Apparently, according to (Oh hell, I'm going to need a whole swathe of new netnames to cover my brother's friends. Looking up new year's a couple of years ago to check for names, I just came across the following line when discussing the frequency of repetitions of songs in The Sound of Music: It's got more reprisals than the West Bank. Good line, must remember it.)

Now I know what names I've used for them I can get on with it (although confusing H has a friend actually called Aitch, who she slept* with in my bed because of the Poles [their mutual housemate's wedding to a Polish guy equals many drunken polish people filling house for entire weekend, equals rest of house seeking refuge elsewhere, equals two girls in my bed and me sleeping with my brother, who keeps moving the quilt down]).

*This makes more sense when I don't confuse "slept" with "spelt".

Where was I? Maorimite. Apparently, according to J, H's latest beau (rumour has it that they've lasted a fortnight: Unheard of. General consensus is that he's very young), that Spates, the brewery in New Zealand (J is surprised to find that we're all not thoroughly acquainted with it), apparently has been seeking for many years a use for the waste products of brewing, as it is very expensive to dispose of. Hence the bewilderment at the idea that New Zealand lacks Marmite (well, for a country which likes to see itself as Englisher than England...). And then came the revelation that some people didn't know how Marmite was made, and never realised there was a difference between Marmite, Vegemite and Bovril (I'm suddenly having evil thoughts along the lines of the Alabamarite's assumption that dark brown and glossy equals chocolate spread). So if the concept of Marmite does not exist in New Zealand then obviously there's money to be made there, except using the Marmite name might cause trouble, and thus I thought of Maorimite.

So food happened, discussion happened, doughnuts sans licking happened (well nearly, but I have managed it before. But it's a waste of a perfectly good doughnut). And then out came the money and the cards (both with the value printed on one side only). Pokerage began. It's a bit of a dull game. The person who apparently always goes out first went out quickly. Some survived a while more, some didn't. By midnight it was down to just two people: the injured host (hence the group having Friday night in) and, er, me. I would cheerfully have stopped there but I wasn't allowed to (due to having slightly more money than him). Play carried on, but once it's down to two people it's much more luck and complex psyching out.

Once he'd got a greater bulk of money (even if it was fifties to my hundreds) he let me stop. It had become pointless by then. It wasn't real money, it's a silly game, and he can never lose. And the level of cheating had dropped considerably.

H cheats. She repeatedly tried to liberate my money. She nicked chunks of her boyf's, and he was either too dappy or gentlemanly to notice (and he's nice but... not on the same plane). She and I freed some of our hostess's money (A. to stop H gaining mine. B. to see just how blatant I could be before anyone noticed). I gave my share back, and was a bit surprised when H managed to be distracted at this point. She did eventually return it when our hostess was on the verge of bankruptcy (and then she still was and got cleared out on that go). J was too dim to realise that when he won he could collect more than just the money he'd put down. Other people pointed out his error, but let's just say there wasn't as much as there had been. We started inventing all manner of ways to remove our initial deposits from the table if we'd folded (drink, glass on table, drink. Pass something across table, use elbow. Cough or sneeze to blow money around, clean up resultant disorder). Some of us usually put it back because cheating is cheating.

And then after the party fizzled out and a couple of abortive attempts to leave, which meant I endured more than is healthy of discussions betwixt two couples, I left.

Then next day I've done already. And then on Sunday I went off to explore again. Green stuff this time. South Ken up across Hyde Park, really wishing I had a camera (autumnal sun after a night of rain; everything's clean and bright), wondering what's wrong with the conkers that no one's collected them (and I still have one in my pocket. Too tactile), resenting the inadequate chestnuts (they're just so small. But think last year was fairly good for them, so maybe...), being releived to find the Diana Polo fountain is completely missable even if the path I followed apparently leads to it, wanting to know what the patented false stone represents (three ascending lumps, with TMW on it), and wishing I had my camera on several occasions.

And did you know the season progresses the further into Hyde Park one goes? Trees round the edges are green but become tinged with yellow then orange as the distance from the road and buildings increases.

Once I've left the park past the fountains covered in scumbergs, I turn right towards Lancaster Gate Tube station, walking past a hysterical variety of paintings hung on the railings, with added backlighting effect from the sun, fence and trees.

Continuing on I realise that the tube station must have been to the left, but I carry on anyway. Coming to a bus stop I rapidly discover (with a little volunteered aid from the woman waiting there. A stranger speaks, in London. How weird is that?) that the bus whish sped off into the traffic jam as I arrived was the one I wanted. I opt for walking to the next stop.

Locophilial impatience wins again, and so onto the next stop. I soon get over taken by a bus.

This time I know which buses I can catch and wait a few minutes until a suitable bus arrives. Yes, this is it, it even says where I want to go on the front. She's slowing down as she pulls into the kerb. I ready the Oystercard.

Oh. Is this a request stop then? tI doesn't say it is. Odd. Oh well. Next bus stop then. Except I was going to get off at Marble Arch, and the traffic from there is stacked up back here, so it hardly seems worth it.

Walking on I remember it would have been simply for avoiding the nightmare that is the subway system round Marble Arch. At any moment I was expecting David Bowie to spring out and tell me that I remind of the babe with the voodoo. [Muffled cursing as I realise that not only have I invoked the spirit of a pitifully awful film, which oddly has prime status with two of my friends (although one of those did once recommend "Look Who's Talking 2"), but now my head is filled with the endless round of: you remind me of the babe - what babe? - the babe with the power - what power? - the power of voodoo - who do? - you do - do what? - remind... Which just goes to show how ghastly the place must be].

So after a concrete hokey-cokey (you take this tunnel forward, and this tunnel back, up down, up down, shake it all around) I escape the labyrinth muppet-free. Then onto an incredibly lazy bit of Tubage to change at Bond Street, then up to St John's Wood. It's strange how the same train can feel so different in the different stations. On the Jubilee Line Extension it all still feels new, clean and efficient, but on the old part it takes on the characteristics of the station (well, not quite the scuffed darkened bronze that almost demands a hat and good tailoring).

So I surface, discover Abbey Road must be fairly close (either that or lots of Beatles hunting tourists get off in the wrong place), and the after a quick dose of A-Z stride of down Acacia Road (which leads to Avenue Road. No flimsy clichés round here). Taking A-Z is the pandemic for the modern age. On every street corner there's someone having a quick shot. Lone men lurk in doorways too ashamed of their habit to brave the street. Down any alley people dart out of sight to get a fix. Some people flaunt it, even offering straying tourists a rapid hit which will change the way they see the world. It's so mind altering that the city seems to flow, as streets distort and reform to cope with the sudden burst of imagery. It's even common for people to become so ensnared that they forget themselves, and stand in an A-Z induced haze in the middle of a busy pavement. Occasionally A-Z use induces supreme mental breakdowns as the victim is assault by lurid colours and chanting meaningless words until eventually they fling their loathsome stash of concentrated city aside.

Speaking of which: man I overhead on bus passing Mornington Crescent and heading into Camden was instructing his son on how to ask the bus driver when they needed to get off for Piccadilly Circus. The son duly went to ask but couldn't understand the reply. I resisted the urge to give them a slug of A-Z, as some people just can't handle the feelings of futility and despondency it can induce.

It was a Northern Line replacement service by the way (if you haven't understood yet, black is not brown or blue).

And when I was discovering the impossibility of photography in the vicinity of a shoe shop (don't ask, but go and find a shoe shop and ask. Heck, go and find any shop and ask. You'll be surprised at the number of no's. Obviously I should have taken the No Enrique Iglesias, Senor approach. An Italian girl took my number and said she'd ring me once the Milan office reopened. Obviously Italy is a Muslim country. Russell and Bromley gave me head office's number (I was guided from the property. From Russell and Bromley. Now there's a claim to fame). Umpteen jobsworths said they preferred Whiskas, or speak to the boss, boss say no/boss not in/boss in head office/boss not boss. Oddly one of the best experiences was in a vo-po* (er, I'm from Surrey I just tried adding on a silly posh accent. Um yeah, that works) men's shop featuring much stained oak and mahogany, and that was just the shoes. After walking in to a locked door (by admittance only. Sign of real class/those can't be arsed), I spieled and receive a shrugged "ok then". He proceeded to ignore me, after making a doomed attempt at small talk in which he ignored my reply because he had already reverted to reading Dull Men magazine, this month featuring the definitive answer to whether to file bands under "The". Read the exclusive report on the future of trainspotting. Learn to make your own WD40. Find out what happened when the Milton Keynes Travelodge was doubled booked by the Welsh Actuaries Association and the Taxidermy for Life group.

*Pronounced vaux-paux. It means very posh, in much the same way some people speak of Cla'am when they mean Clapham. This tends to be the same people who didn't know Cla'am had an omnibus, much less several horseless ones. Actually what should the man on the Clapham Omnibus be called now? The man on the Northern line? The man who changes at Stockwell? The man who cycled in because there ain't no Northern line. And for some reason my brain has decided that Northern Line ought to be something analogous to the Black Diamond Line or the Peninsula and Oriental Line.

Anyway, in the course of shoe shop hunting I discovered Mornington Crescent proper, and that that daft Egyptian Art Deco factory thing fills the inside of the crescent. Of course I can't mention that place with lapsing in a game of Mornington Crescent, but it's rather hard to see how one applies the precedence rulings of past games in the light of non-functioning Northern line (and the actual closure of Mornington Crescent station and excision from the replacement bus routes).

So I'll leave the game (unless some commenter finds a way round this hitch), and continue onwards. But which wander am I doing? Last Sunday’s, yesterday's or today's? Yesterday's features Neil Hamilton. So today's it is then. Not much more really. Walked on, disappeared into Fitzrovia, which as areas of London go, has a pretty poor name. It's named after a square off in a corner of the block. The name really should be Fitzroyia but that's a little too much quadthong in it, so they borrowed the ending of the much nice Belgravia. Fitzrovia has the air of the Victorian Foxtons about it; it always sounds a bit made up and not real. Whereas the current Foxtons and ilk (there's another estate agent out there with an equally crass swarm of branded Minis), have decided that henceforth it shall be known as Noho, short of Northern Soho (Soho apparently coming from the hail of coachmen as they cleared the narrow streets of the city. Either that or it was an early play on words that used the aged old seamstresses euphemism for whores). Which apparently has given rise to the name of Nogo for the area, although I can think of more Nogoable places. And anyway, I was rather hoping to hear of a new gym opening that thinks it's core market is a collection of eighties retro loving 20-somethings seeking to relive there schooldays and so are sure to be drawn in by a gym named PE. Each gym would take the name of the local [desirable] area on the format placePE, so there would be FulhamPE, GreenwichPE, SohoPE (although SogroPE might be more accurate), and for Noho there'd be...

How long will it be before we start hearing of Arup's West Bloomsbury headquarters. They did want East Portland Place, or Langham Borders (makes it sound like a bookshop) but west sounds so much more elegant that east. Just look at New York for example. Lower East Side? What kind of a name is that? South Left Bank has a much more deliciously bohemian edge.

By the way, where was Gropecunt Lane? Googling turns up a variety of answers (Threadneedle St, Grape St, Milton St). And a series of references about a building which was on Cheapside and flanked by Gropecunt Lane and St Pancras, Soper Lane. 1858 addresses given for the property are 74-75 Cheapside and 12 Pancras Lane. The article states that Gropecunt Lane ran along the western boundary, with a frontage onto Cheapside (to the north). A Pancras Lane still exists, as does Cheapside (my A-Z uses a smaller scale than any map I've found on the internet).

So we have a property stretching from Cheapside to Pancras Lane (St Pancras of Soper Lane having disappeared in the Great Fire). And somewhere west of this property runs Gropecunt Lane, which doesn't still exist. But there is a Queen Street running north-south and it is the only road which connects Cheapside with Pancras Lane. Could it be?

Except without knowing the numbering of the buildings I don't know if Gropecunt Lane survived the inferno. The article about the property says it measured out half the alleyway (and suggests that it was built over, but I'm not sure I've got it clear). Looking up the addresses involved, and it turns out that 75 Cheapside was archaelogically excavated and the plot is on the corner of Queen Street and Cheapside, but that Queen Street was created after the Great Fire. So Gropecunt Lane is either Queen Street or lies under the buildings just west of it. So now you know, but Threadneedle Street has funnier implications and added euphemism value.

Anyway, where the hell was I? Fitzroving wasn't it? Not much more to add. Found a few more places, wished I hadn't just hurriedly finished off the film in my camera. Then Oxford Circus, then home on the bone shaker express (standing, leaning, swaying and shuddering, with an unintentional halo - I only noticed because I saw a reflection of a shadow with two red ears).

My brother just phoned. He wants to know why I'm still awake (it's midnight). Then he wanted to hang up because he thought I was still asleep. Then he picked up on some bit of a sentence but I didn't follow his objection. Then he wanted to hang up but didn't. Then he said something I didn't understand. Then he said he was nearly home, but when asked put himself the other side of London (but he defined it as on TCR between Old Street and Warren Street. Old? I'm beginning to have that Piccadilly Circus on the Northern line feeling again. I'll pretend he meant Goodge Street). He then hung up after calling me mate three times in a row. I think he's drunk.

Anyway, so last Sunday I went walking, down Acacia Road (but I didn't find Eric nor number 29). St John's Wood (and why is it Saint John's not Sin-gen's?) is quite odd for London, in that it could be Guildford (ok, so of the refurbed places had a touch more Weybridge to them, if not Leicester. Snobbery is such fun).

I then made the mistake of assuming that just because a path is marked on a map doesn't mean it exists, no matter how many other maps on can find it on. I tried using Radlett Place to gain access to Primrose Hill. I think someone built their garage in the way. Not that any of the mapmakers have noticed. Even the signs within the park are ambiguous on the matter. So a not very short walk later I entered the park. It was most autumn there than in Hyde Park. But it's an exposed hill in semi-suburbia.

After I reccy round (ooh, golf ball, locked private gates, private gate with house being built in the way, the garages at the end of the Radlett Place, unlocked gate, no gate - shortcut methinks) I join the gathering on the hill. Good view. Really wanted a camera, as it was sunshine after the rain, and so the air was clear and the southern horizon sprouted masts, not just Crystal Palace.

I discovered, by cunning use of the A-Z (um, really girly aligning it with the paths in the park and following the bearing) that the big thing off to the left goes under the auspicious name of The Nag's Head Shopping Centre, and in front of it is a prison. I discovered that UCLH (or is it UCH?) blocks Senate House, and that the supplied engraved bit of metal needs a couple of other updates as well. At the time I wondered what the red, yellow and blue topped blocks were, but I've been past them several times since then, so I now know and it's less interesting (I think it's the Ampthill Estate).

And there was other stuff, but it's London, so either you'll correct me on things, or you'll be confused and bored, so I won't bother now. It's interesting to think how much will change over the next few years, and how little. The NLA exhibit at Store Street does a quite good job of highlighting the areas of change and about the only thing west of Farringdon Road to change is the Channel Tunnel Rail Link round King's Cross (incidentally I naively thought that the CTRL would run through Stratford station, rather than forming an unconnected canal that the Olympic park has to leap).

So Primrose Hill: pretty, good view, I want the white house just over there.
Then down to Regents Park and find the nearest entrance is closed. Walk to the next one along the canal. Suddenly I'm happier again - coming off windswept hills down to canals curving under trees shedding their leaves into the golden reflections. It feels like the places I'm used to.

Coming back to a half written entry, I've completely forgotten where this was going. My life of late consists of frantic work, slightly dubious scouting out missions (don't ask), enforced Starbucks doom* (how to piss of the staff; ask for "a hot chocolate", rather than a Vented Togo Choca-latte with dash, dollop and dust. I just want a drink and I'd prefer it if I could have it for half that price), many illogical journeys, and a few worrying moments. Oh, and does anyone know a decent but cheap place for film development in London?

*Minor typo, should read Starbucksdom.

Anyone else watch the Stirling Prize last night (thereby giving away that this post was at least four days in the making)? The Manser Medal winner I agree with, but as my brother pointed out that in rewarding the Scottish Parliament, architecture has just shot itself in the foot. Not that the Parliament is bad, it's just reviled and complex. It's architecture for architects, which is a bit too introspective for its own good. And has anyone else noticed how the city hosting the Stirling Prize ceremony tends to be the one which wins it. This year the event hosted in Edinburgh was won by a building in Edinburgh. Last year London and London. Before that Gateshead and, er, Gateshead. So where's next year's? And what odds can I get on that?

Anyway I'd better go and do some work. Oh the joy of a lazy sunny Sunday afternoon.


PS. Is "camp as chips" an acceptable phrase to use when describing a weather presenter? Daniel Corbett gained this accolade after one particularly daft summary in which the big nasty clouds where going to come and bully the poor, ickle, defenceless sun. Ok, so that's not what he said, but some of the stuff he does say is halfway there.

"Camp as chips" comes from a description applied to an ex-flatmate of mine who was as camp as Christmas with a glace cherry on top in the middle of a sea of tents doused in weird ersatz coffee or possibly just David or even the bog standard fuck*. He tended to over-use the phrase "cheap as chips", and so the two clichés quickly melded behind his back.

* CAF: makes no sense does it, yet we understand what it means. Odd.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

So in an effort to actually use my already paid for travelcard, and to stop me reading blogs all day, and as an excuse for not working, and to improve my local knowledge, and otherwise generally waste time, I went for an exploring session.

Alighting for the tube at Old Street (because I've never been there, and, um, I thought it was going to be the Barbican next because I miss-read the Tube map). So Old Street. There's a great picture in waiting from one of the western exits, but I didn't get it as I was travelling sans camera, so I was really wasting my time, rather than spending time taking photographs when it could be more productively spent doing many other things.

But otherwise, Old Street doesn't look that old, and yet has a general feeling of being too old. I imagine a bomb hit it, and then the planners did. There's probably a reason I don't have a mental image of it unlike most other places round London. Heading westwards to find out what the monument is (odd spire on a church), I break off to the south to find out what's there, and to avoid the traffic fumes.

A bit of an odd area. Poor people harassing each other as they walk past expensive parked cars and solid black gates. I found a market, but which occupied about a quarter of the stalls allotted to it.

Then I came across the back of the Barbican centre. I must take a camera back there, as there are so many unexpected views and generally interesting oddities. It's also slightly novel recognising buildings from exhibits at the nla (guess where I whiled away part of the rush hour on Friday evening (trying not to snigger at the Formica stand), before wandering southwards finishing off a film until Charing Cross, with several instances of "Oh, that's there").

Foolishly I walk round the Barbican, not through it. Skateboards clatter and teenagers call overhead. Did I say I've now realised that I hate split level streets? Inaccessible warrens aren't fun, especially not when things land out of the sky thrown by unseen hands. I'm not even sure it was intentional, I think the people above just chuck rubbish over the edge where it no longer features in their minds. And the whole time the sound of a gang laughing and swearing echoes above. A Clockwork Orange comes to mind, but I'm sure there must other more apt modernism-induced apocalypse films. Sinister, uncontrollable power mixed with self-doubt over whether it's just paranoia. All this because someone decided street uses should be separated and I found myself in the wrong world.

Eventually I get up onto the plane above the lesser mortals. I find the Museum of London, but don't bother going in. Back done yet another step of steps dripping with piss (why isn't that ever shown in architect's drawings? Is there an anti-urinal module architect students can take, so they can learn how to stop people using public spaces as public conveniences?). And I'm still unconvinced the notion of paths using bits of private buildings, or at least things masquerading as private buildings. Usually within a few feet one can tell as the lighting fades and the smell begins; not really somewhere a company would pay a security guard to protect.

From there I take Little Britain because the name's too much to resist. I discover, after many years, the location of Postman's Park, with its memorials and four worlds (think Escher, then add netting to protect the fish and upon which moss and algae is growing). Next to it is St Botolph without Aldersgate (and doorhandles. It's very common on churches in London).

Taking Little Britain round I discover St Bart's Hospital, and St Bartholomew the Great (ex-priory church therefore. Look over the gateway as you leave. If the roofs don't age it, the inscription will. Yes, that's right, it was started at twenty to one).

Then a thorough navigation of the block north of Smithfield (oh, so that's where it is), partly because I wanted to see what the other Charterhouse looks like (£10 entrance fee and signs saying "Private property". It's the only the entrance fee that differs then). I also discover Farringdon station, and the fact it has daylight.

Wandering north I find some unexpected art deco apartment blocks (just west of Farringdon Road. Another source tell me that Fagin's den was supposedly here. Obviously a very avant-garde man), as will as some important building complete with dome, and yet which doesn't merit a special colour in the A-Z. The plaque next to the door says it was a Sessions House. The smell of roast potatoes suggests it isn't still. The cluster of men in half discarded suits makes me think it is a club. Googling brings up Masonry, Masons and Freemasons. So private members club with rich men and roast potatoes probably fits with that.

I carry on walking until I decide that the Guardian is one step too far. I'd never thought where the Guardian have their offices, but now I know. Brown pebbledashed modernism. It's even less impressive from the back. But it is the first place on this expedition where I noticed the hill (it's not a very big hill, but there's a heck of a lot of nearly flat streets). Then back through Hatton Garden because I've heard of it, but never known where it was.

Suddenly I'm at that roundabout outside the glassy Sainsbury's office. I take the next road round from the one I took last time, and find I'm still looking at the same buildings (still haven't got that film developed). And out onto the end of Fleet Street. This whole navigation thing really isn't that complicated.

I, of course, then pick the wrong side of Blackfriars Bridge to cross, and have to walk upstream a long way before I can get over the dual carriageway. Crossing the bridge I notice various potential pictures to take when high pressure hasn't been sitting over the city for days, as I ponder just how much of the sun's halo is moisture.

Then south a bit, and right to cut along The Cut (completely missing the thing I intended to see). Oddly my wanderlust had not abated, so I went left past the Old Vic (currently starring American and Guy from Coupling), ignoring the cold looking African dancers in the park opposite.

I end up at St George's Circus, and a quick check of a bus stop tells me that the buses don't go anywhere I want to, and that the Elephant and Castle is just 3 minutes down the road. Oh. That'll be that big building over then. Maybe I ought to stop.

A dodgy bit of navigation leads me to the Imperial War Museum and from there I just follow the traffic signs to Waterloo (mostly, apart from getting bored and wandering down side streets, and discovering that there is a North Lambeth Station, and it's on the Bakerloo line, and it's a bit pointless really when it's so close to Waterloo).

Stupidly I walk round Waterloo to get to the main entrance forgetting that I'm not getting on a train, and that the main escalators are shut until November. So back down the concourse (er, I could have used York Road, couldn't I? Oh well), then into the Jubilee line end of the underground station. It's at this point I decide that I can't be bothered to walk (ok, travellator) anymore, and there are now printed signs proclaiming the Northern Line to be perennially buggered, so I cheat and take the Jubilee line north to change onto the Victoria line. Only in London can heading in the wrong direction make sense.

A wobbly trip on the Howler later, and I'm out into a world of sirens and ten-year-old boys trying to sell me drugs. Hints for ten-year-old drug dealers: Don't call the customer "Whitey". Don't say whitey in such a way that it sounds like "why" - this saves a lot of confusion later. Improve your sales patter so it is less reliant on insults. Don't run away when your aunt appears.

Now I'm back in the flat, past the burnt out shopping trolley, listening to the rain on the skylight, faint car alarms and a helicopter or two circling overhead.

And I'm wishing my brother would hurry up and get back from sailing, so I can start cooking, and he can do the washing up which has been sitting there since the last post (he told me not to do as I've been doing it all week. He'll probably complain I haven't done it).

To think that this time (well, several hours earlier) last week I was scrambling round a crumbling hill, grabbing trees for support (and pretending the weren't really moving. Creep is fun).

Ah, drat. I can't plug photographs from last weekend because Flickr is having a massage. Go to my account, then about the third set down on the left should be labelled wood. Click on it. Be distracted by the same twig that annoys me.


Song playing when I started writing this post: London Calling - The Clash. Because I'm without all my music, and my brother has no Radiohead. Freak. But he has got Beautiful Freak by the Eels.

Friday, October 07, 2005

In a blatant rip-off of Drawing inspiration from Mr Two-tuals, and cunning getting in a "what I did last night" post, I now present the secret recipe for meat mountains adapted for my brother's flat.

- Firstly take 454 g of mince out of the freezer.
- Discover that it's pork, but there's only 250 g of beef mince and that is well on the way to being pemmican.
- Leave out to defrost during the day.
- Come back tired and discover that one cannot figure out how to turn the oven on, as the markings on one dial have burnt off, and the other dial gives temperature but does nothing.
- Wait for brother to get home.
- He comes home, falls asleep.
- Resort to baked beans on toast (having done cheese on toast the previous evening) using the grill to make the toast as the toaster is a little box of all known evils, which has a habit on not turning off except when disconnected from the mains. Even after all this the top third of the slice is not even warm.
- Put mince in fridge.
- Go to bed.
- The next day arrange to attend a department discussion evening, which also clashes with another event I ought to have gone to.
- Talk at cross purposes for hour upon hour, in a small, hot, humid, loud, crampt room, while watching a wide variety of nationalities try such British delicacies as pork pies, sausage rolls, mince pies (it's great seeing the confusion when the taste doesn't match the expectation), the joy that is pre-cooked cocktail sausages, and chunks of chicken coated in sticky fluids (yellow is indian, red mexican, brown chinese). Oh, and a blow of celery as the token vegetable. There were dips as well, but nothing near them to dip in them. I think there was even a cheese board, but circulation in the room didn't happen so one ate whichever food one got stuck by.
- After about an hour I managed to get to the drinks. The options were the white Chateau Lac de Vin or the red Vino Collaspo, or orange juice, which was empty.
- Note to self. Never hand a Korean guy a generous glass of red. Three sips in an he was well to the good.
- And chicken coated in sticky things is an ideal finger food in a crowded room with everyone clutching very cheap paper plates and wine glasses (the skin round the sausages had more structural integrity than the plates).
- And it was interesting seeing someone trying to guide a muslim guy through the nearest platter, which consisted of mini Scotch eggs, sausages, pork pie, and sausage rolls. Actually, he's probably safe with the sausage rolls.
- Chat merrily away without being able to hear what any other party is saying.
- Try to leave. Start having wine foisted on us. But it had emigrated to various Australian things, so I didn't object too loudly.
- Be tempted to liberate an unopened bottle. But my bag was under a table on the other side of the room.
- Smile benignly as the Korean guy frantically tries to find somewhere he can smoke. Fire escapes trigger fire alarms, the main doors downstairs are locked without the right swipe card, and he is walking like a Wayfarer mid-Atlantic.
- Eventually, after many false starts leave.
- Try all the main doors.
- Assume token English guy role of asking of sticking my head round the door of the security office to ask if we could be let out.
- After a lengthy discussion in which the security guy finds out that there's a party upstairs with quite a lot of people in it, we get lead through some offices and out of a very non-descript door (with a thoroughly low-tech and slightly flimsy lock) which dumps us halfway up the parking ramp.
- Then out and towards various destinations.
- I walk with a couple of girls for a while, one of whom I vaguely and the other I've yet to be introduced to. She says "nice to meet you", I say "Hi" (and try to banish all thoughts of pointing out that she doesn't know it's nice to meet me yet because she's seen me for all of three seconds).
- We walk for a while then I peel off with a "It was nice to meet you. Bye", as she starts and then realises she's already used it.
- Thence tubewards, past a nice sign which says "Good service" for all except the alternative route, which currently has severe delays. So if I hadn't been told it was nice to meet me then I'd be standing at a different tube station getting cross.
- Then home, not getting lost in a potentially not very nice place, walking behind a guy with white headphones (figuring that if anyone's going to get mugged...).
- At the flat I'm greeted by a cross brother. Obviously he was not quite awake enough when I told him about the do.
- Ought to eat. Have toast instead.
- Watch Lost, once my brother's disappeared and won't get cross with me for watching television. For some reason Channel 4 is not broadcasting on digital, and it takes me a while to remember that the television has analogue. So having missed about 40 minutes, I start watching it with very bad reception. It was a case of "Blonde, I think. Don't know which one" closely followed by "Wainthrop's Hobbit!". I'd no idea what was going on, other than stuff, backstory and imminent cliffhanger.
- Go to bed.
- Another day passes. Brother home very early. I start cooking.
- Get my brother to instruct me in turning the oven on.
- Discover it has no thermostat. Top shelf is gas mark 12, down to about 3 at the bottom of the oven. It's a fan assisted thing with an element at the top (why can't they just have boxes with gas fires at the back?), but use of the fan ensures the entire oven is gas mark 12.
- Impale potatoes upon baking spikes. Place on middling low shelf.
- Boil kettle.
- Search for suitable bowl.
- Ask brother about mixing bowls.
- Get told a pound of mince will sit in a cereal bowl.
- Point out the increased volume during mixing.
- Get told to mix slowly.
- Call my brother an "Engineer".
- Have the stupidity of that comment pointed out to me.
- Get stuffing. Chiltern Herbs's Country Stuffing. It used to come in small packs (125 g? Don't know, can't check), but for some reason only the Waitrose in Sidmouth still stocks it. So use half a bigger pack. Try not to copy my brother in leaving the opened pack lying open in a cupboard for a year. It rather dulls the taste.
- Pour into mixing bowl (or cereal bowl, having first chipped off the dried on Weetabix the cleaner didn't get off).
- Add boiling, or recently boiled, water. Enough to get the right consistency. Which is usually a bit less than you think it is. Add it slowly, and don't add too much. It's not like cous cous; you can't keep adding more solids until it balances out.
- Once mixed, and you're supposed to leave it rest for a while, but I don't do that (intentionally. Usually I do while trying to find something else though).
- Open a small tin of tomato puree. This is the only thing small tins of tomato puree are good for. Again no idea how much is in the tin, probably 100-150 ml (based on a coke can being 330).
- Once you've mastered using the tin-opener (designed to work like a modern tin-opener, so held horizontal. But it cuts through the rim of the tin and then gets stuck. So use as an old fashioned one. Then repeat on the other end of the inverted tin to break the air lock and get the stuff out) add the tomato puree to the stuffing.
- Mix.
- Now comes the fun bit which your vegetarian housemates will really like. Work in the mince. You can either add it all in one go, and try to bash it with a spoon before giving up and using your hands, or you can pull chunks off the block and mix it in using your fingers. Just pretend you're making pastry and not really mashing up mangled miscellaneous bits of animal.
- If you can, really show off and do it one-handed. This firstly allows you to use a smaller bowl, and saves trying to turn the tap on with your elbow to clean your mucky hands.
- Add an egg (taken out of the shell first). Make sure you dunk your egg to test it for signs of witchcraft.
- Mix in. It's probably slightly too gooey for comfort.
- Take a baking tray or dish.
- Dole out into even sized mounds. Usually a pound of mince makes 8-12 lumps.
- Put in the oven. Normally for 45 minutes on gas mark 6 (I can't remember the timing on 4, but they come out less scorched but drier), but where thermostats don't work, on the shelf with the potatoes until cooked.
- After a while add a semi-nuked potato because the flatmate is apparently going to be around and would quite like food.
- About half an hour after the potatoes went in, turn them over (this step is unnecessary in ovens that work).
- Half an hour after the meat mountains went in, stick the water on for the vegetables. Suitable vegetables include frozen peas (always a favourite), courgettes (if you can find any which aren't impersonating marrows), beans (of the green and choppable, not any tinned, variety) and broccolli. If using pre-trimmed beans because your muppet brother buys expensive things, do check that the intervening fortnight doesn't mean that they require retrimming. If so, engage your brain and realise you can line up batches along the edge of the knife.
- Cook vegetables to perfection.
- Turn off gas and drain.
- Leave steaming in closed saucepans while you do other stuff.
- Get dish out of oven (normally the potatoes should come first as they lose heat more slowly, but there was a small degree of gridlock). If cooking without thermostat, they should be sporadically charred by now, as the base has been cooking on gas mark 5 and the top of each on gas mark 8.
- Serve the meat mountains.
- Realise extra-lean mince on an elderly and not very clean tray means they have to be chipped off.
- Cunning use of a spatula/slice means that 7 out of 8 can be served vaguely whole, with the first one being sacrificial to allow manoeuvring room.
- Realise 8 in 3 doesn't go.
- Realise that I'm serving it, therefore I'm going to have to take two. Scavenge bits accordingly, and be glad they come in a variety of sizes.
- Get well-crisped potatoes out.
- Give flatmate the potato that's twice the size of the others as my brother picked it out for him (the two I'd selected were accompanying-size, not entire-meal potatoes).
- Realise I've forgotten to shut both the window and the door. Shut one to stop draught (the stove does have an extractor fan, but the fan has no external outlet, so it's not so much an extractor fan).
- Serve vegetables.
- Realise the beans aren't the same colour as I left them.
- Fastidiously align beans.
- Get cutlery.
- Carry two plates through.
- Serve.
- Ask long winded question resulting from confusion over how one asks a lactose intolerant person and a non-lactose intolerant person if either wants butter/not butter.
- Go back and add organic extra virgin olive oil vegetable spread (which doesn't taste of olives) to potato.
- Carry through.
- Eat, while watching Spaced, and trying not to notice the flatmate only uses one piece of cutlery at a time. Never knew he had American parents.
- Return plates to kitchen.
- Leave washing up for someone else to do.

And should you feel this recipe lacks enough detail for you to reconstruct it properly, then you should know that meat mountains are Delia Smith's meatballs as adapted by my mother. Who didn't see the point of taking homemade bread and fresh herbs to make the stuffing, or of moulding the mixture into 32 perfectly spherical balls, or of cooking a creamy tomato sauce to which the balls are lovingly added, or of cooking divinely some obscure form of pasta to serve it upon.

Oddly most of my mother's recipes are of the "stick it in and leave it" persuasion. I wonder why.

Oh, and don't try making it with sage and onion stuffing - it's not a good combination.

For more fascinating recipes, including how to make a hash out of baked beans on toast (and I don’t mean corned beef hash), stayed tuned to the Anyhoo Living Channel.

Over on Anyhoo Fashion Channel now, Iwant Garde* explores just why there are no McFly t-shirts**.

*Say it in a German accent.
** It’s because once upon a time there was a boat called McFly, and the owner copyrighted the name for all air and sea vessels and casual clothing (so he could do a crew uniform). Along came a band who also happened to be called McFly, and their management were a bit dismayed to find someone already had the McFly name for clothing, and so far have failed to work out an agreement whereby McFly clothing might be produced.

But a quick website check suggests that all this may not be completely accurate as they appear to be selling McFly t-shirts. Maybe they did sort out a deal. Or maybe they took the so-sue-me approach. Or maybe they’ve classified McFly t-shirts as safety wear. Or maybe my brother was just trying to see how gullible I was (he’s mean, but he’s not that mean, is he? Maybe. But he’s not that imaginative).


Thursday, October 06, 2005

2005-08-31 021 MinagfiFor those who are easily amused.

For the... heck I'm not even going to try and spin it. It's a meme and my voice is too croaky to say no (and I was glazing over while gazing at stats presented in units I don't understand). The suddenly cryptically uber-goth Rachel volunteered me for this list of my top three songs to X to (although anyone who names Amy Studt as a top three anything deserves to be ignored for all eternity).

Sing To:
Mrs Robinson, Simon and Garfunkel (wo-wo-woah).
Virtually Fat Free, Rootjoose.
Ding Dong Merrily on High. What? I used to enjoy singing it at primary school, and watching everyone else run out of breath mid-Gloria. Chorally competitive, now there's a great attribute. If not that, then:
The Monkees, The Monkees. I have no taste/they got to me early.

Dance To:
Insomnia, Faithless. I can't dance, but with this on it doesn't matter.
Glorious Pop Song, Skunk Anansie (not that I would have been bouncing around madly to the rest of the album. And I feel I should point out that dancing and singing tend to be the same thing near me).
Bluetonic, The Bluetones. Once again, I can't dance.

Romance To:
Mezzanine (the album), Massive Attack. You can't expect romancing to be over in 3 minutes and 46 seconds, hence the whole album. Also ideal for thunderstorms.
Some of stuff on the Get Carter soundtrack. Too gorgeous.
Sexy Boy, Air. Ok, that's romancing me (if reducing the intended party into a fit of very unflattering giggles counts as romancing. It's the thought that counts).

Fight To:
Have you met me?
Or should I pick something suitably cliched like Barber's Adagio for Strings?
Maybe Brimful of Asha?
Perhaps the theme from the Teletubbies?
California Dreaming?
Anything else suitably incongruous.

Smile To:
Girl from Mars, Ash.
Something by Ruth.
A whole swathe of songs from a tape from long ago. Moby's take on the James bond theme was unintentionally one of them (back before we knew who Moby was). Blame the younger brother of the tape's creator overwriting part of it. The Oasis-Moby segue is not one I've heard repeated. But the tape was happiness in a badly driven Volvo which smelt of dog and in that car one was always grateful that it wasn't Leonard Cohen).

Cry To:
Everybody Hurts, REM.
Street Spirit, Radiohead.
Half the stuff by The Cranberries.

As for this tagging others business: if you're fool enough to do it then do it, otherwise don't.


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Yet another "sorry for the long time no blog" (and typing on a keyboard which has @ and " reversed is very confusing).

Been a bit busy. Mostly getting cross with offices which work banking hours and then decide henceforth they'll close an hour early at their busiest time of year. Which means they now open for a grand total of 4 whole hours. Well done them.

And then the rest of the time has been spent ranting about said office (in much the same way as I spend time worrying about the work I have to do before I deadline, rather than just actually doing it).

Um, what else? Have I stuck more on Flickr? When was last time? I probably have, so here's the obligatory and ubiquitous Flickr plug - although that may be it for a fair while due to minor technical details like no longer having a scanner or a digital camera. So if someone'd like to buy me one... Actually I could just buy the one that someone was looking at from their eBay account, which they've left open in a window on this computer. It's only 2.2k*. So, so tempting.

And I thought I was lax leaving pens on shared workspaces (which I got back, rather surprisingly).

* The pound sign is a hash but the hash is a pipe but the pipe's a pipe, so I've no idea how to do currency. The dollar sign still works, so if you come across GB$ then you know what that means.

Oh, and I've been having fun having a variety of different colds. I get a different symptom every day, and last night I even managed to have a nosebleed as well. Have you tried coping with a nose which is dripping two different liquids? Really wanting to blow my nose when I can't because I'll dislodge the clot is rather frustrating.

Whereas typing the influence is quite fun. As demonstrated by the following blatant copy and paste (and when well I learn that blatant doesn't have two n's?). brain's to leaden to cope... (and shop assistants [that] give people funny looks when they walk into a supermarket and buy not quite enough paracetamol (and
ibuprofen) to top themselves [I'm sure I intended to finish the sentence]. Although to be honest the whole patronising absurdity of rationing and individually wrapping tablets probably says enough about the world that any potential suicidee would count it as an example of the cruel insensitivity of the world and thus be spurred on by the multiple popping frustration to win a final victory over the world by actually killing themselves with their illegally acquired and misapplied medicines. Maybe that's just me. Anyway, two paragraphs in to an email to someone I haven't written to
in two months and already I'm on suicide. Fun guy, huh?).

Oh, and did you know Sainsbury's, other than selling two types of paracets - one at 26 pence, the other at 47 pence, where the only difference is the size of the box (I think big and expensive is the newer style) - have also started selling their own Super Plus Fantastico Cold Relief. Containing two painkillers and caffeine. Yep, a thing that dehydrates people is an ideal way to cure the sinus induced headache.

And another thing, with the whole shift in home, does anyone use any shops which aren't supermarkets?
Need bread? Walk to Sainsbury's
Need fruit? Walk to Sainsbury's
Need medicine? Walk past Sainsbury's to another Sainsbury's a bit further away because it's bigger.

I'm staying with my brother and I've yet to confront him over the fact he bought apples in his lunch hour from M&S, despite the fact he would have walked through the only market I know of to get there.

But then he also has a cleaner who does his washing up as well. His rationale is that she costs less per hour than he can charge for his time. I thoroughly disapprove, but then I won't complain if the pile of washing disappears, having done it ever since I arrived in the flat.

I'm worried I'm turning into my brother's housekeeper. I cook, I wash up, I clean the bits the cleaner doesn't bother with. Ok, so I cook because I get hungry and because I'm concerned that he doesn't eat enough or well enough (there's healthy eating and there's a stirfry consisting of carrot, cabbage and noodles). I wash up because I'm borrowing a room and technically not living there so I feel guilty, and also because we keep running out of plates. I clean because I spill stuff (or drip blood), clean that up and then realise there's a line between the cleaned and the base level colour.

While I'm at it: numbering systems in London streets. A la the Strand. Emerge from Charing Cross (hurrah, I didn't get it mixed up with Cannon Street for once). See number 437. Walk east. See building number 42something. Carry on walking east. Consider getting a bus. Prefer walking to waiting at a bus stop. Carry on walking. Get overtaken by a bus. Pass my grandfather's preferred parking space (for some reason he always managed to get the same space outside St Clements. You can't even drive there now). Two hundred and something. Bank opposite is 218. And suddenly I'm in Fleet Street. Er...

And after much wandering I realised the number starts at Trafalgar square on the southern side, runs to Fleet Street, then back up the northern side, oh, and some of the buildings display numbers from a previous numbering system. Eventually I find 92, who don't do the offers the other branches I've used do. My brother later informs me that lots of places do that, and that it gives the numbers in the A-Z anyway.

Just seen food going past for some dept do, so better go.


Saturday, October 01, 2005

2005-09-18 [2] 129Firstly I've stuck one of those annoying letter recognition things on the comments, as I've had a couple of anonymous comments come through and somehow I get the impression that they're not quite as, er, human as some others I get. It might have been the "I just came across your blog about **keyword**..." that did it.

Oh, and if anyone finds comment spam buried somewhere in archives let me know where and I'll come and bash it over the head (read: I can't find, and I've realised just how much I've written over the past couple of years).

But at least it was complimentary comment spam (in both senses - spot who just discovered complementary doesn't mean what I thought it meant). Here's how it continues:
...and wanted to drop you a note telling you how impressed I was with the information you have posted here. I also have a web site & blog about **plug** so I know what I'm talking about when I say your site is top-notch! Keep up the great work, you are providing a great resource on the Internet here!"

Top notch - Woo-who uses that phrase anymore?
Two greats in one sentence? Too great.
I'm intrigued by the "also". The link excised from the plug doesn't sound particularly relevant to this blog.

Other stuff:
I've been Azurised - check the link in the sidebar.

I've updated the HitMaps thing. Someone could have told me it's been showing error messages since July.

I've rediscovered various comments I'd forgotten about at the end of August. Tagged on the end of this post are a series of comments from this site's author and her boyfriend.

He leads me to this list of suggestions for bloggers to improve their success. To save space (and ctrl+c or v work) I'm posting only my rejoinders, which will make more sense if you go and read the list (hint: read it. I know what you lot are like about following links. Or of course you could just read the comments and try to guess the original statements, in the style of 42).

1. Not much to add. Either you have to pester or you have to not worry.

2. Assuming the big website's readers follow the link. Working from comparison of traffic from a couple of past big-ish links, about 10% of readers of the big site will come through to here. I doubt if any of them stayed.

3. I know. I still forget to though. Same with Flickr. "Oooh that's good" and I stay and scroll down. "Er..." and I don't.

4. Tuesday's normally best. No idea why.

5. Promotional email? Like those asking if I want cheap meds?

6. But be careful what you say about them (or about other people in the same paragraph as the link. Some people are none too bright and none too patient).

7. Yes it is sexist. Here's a cleavage shot [source].

8. Yeah. I have those. (Who are these people? Nothing is ever sure).

9. Advertising? Um, I don't think I have the stats for it.

10. Because I am me. (I am joking. Ish). Anyway, nothing is ever truly original; it all builds on something else.

11. Well it apparently is, but I know it's not entirely reliable. But I prefer to think something probably slightly underestimates than to know certainly just how pitifully few people come here.

12. Wow, I must have made it to the big time to get comment spam.

13. Bit late. But the deluge hasn't happened any more than for comparable addresses which aren't sitting on a website.

14. Copy and pastage into and out of MS Word (but I don't write in Word as it gets all confused by links).

15. Hmm, I suppose I ought to explicitly state it, even if it is a given.

16. This is not a job. It is a hobby, or maybe a habit.

17. See last answer. It's nice when other people read it and enjoy it, but I try to avoid making pleasing X my aim. I'm of the "write it and they will come" persuasion, even if I know marketing makes sense (and that is marketing in the true sense of find and fill hole, not advertising or sales).

18. Because they're good? They're written by intelligent people who write well, usually with acutely honed observation skills and senses of humour, who are kind to other people even when not suffering fools gladly. Actually that's more "blogs I like" than "popular blogs" (which tend to be humourless fools bitching about one another [i.e. American political blogs]).

19. And also it's a bit embarrassing if there are 4 lines of my comments to every one of anyone else's.

18. Remember to count in the right direction.

20. 1,000 words and 15 links? Does it matter if most of them are La? Even then it's too much like hard work.

21. Criticism by another blogger. Rather assumes they've noticed me in the first place.

22. Sometimes it is hard to find nice things to say. I shouldn't have just admitted that was ever a possibility in some cases, should I?

23. But it keeps people entertained.

24. That's why I don't bother with opinions. Although people who use "IMHO" on their blogs ought to be shot. A. It's on your blog, therefore it's pretty much a given that it's your opinion unless you state otherwise. B. If you feel the need for your thoughts to be introduced by "IMHO" then it probably isn't terribly humble. C. If you use "IMHO" expect to be answered with anything ranging from "WR" to "WTGPR" (the respect escalating with the humbleness of the prior argument).

25. Drat, and there I was saving up the post about my National Insurance number until a slow week.

Anyway, back to the woman who started all this. I'm still not convinced. There's posting regularly and there's fresh posting (just count the PETAs). Plus I'm not completely attuned to all her sensibilities. But all this is a bit moot, or maybe mute, as she's dropped me. Oh well.

One to file under "Yet another blog". Life's not long enough for things which aren't quite there.

And thus Anyhoo unwittingly spake his doom. Perhaps I do have a general lack of thereness. But I can't be arsed to worry about that now.


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