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.

Re: 'CAF' - Thats so true, nowadays people just use it in anyway, anywhere. Its lost its true meaning, and people still find it offensive (stupidly), if no one reacted to it as a rude word, then it wouldnt be rude...and i bet it would be used a lot less.

A rather random insight into my thoughts there. :-P
i don't understand poker
Azuric: What like "John Prescott's as camp as fuck"? That type of anywhere?

Karma: Oh but poker's easy - all you need to do is ask how much two jacks and three queens are worth, and then express surprise when you win that round.
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