Saturday, March 11, 2006

GF5 600 - London Eye - 25This initial part was a separate post; until my flatmate blew the fuses. As I stayed up foolishly late writing this out rationally and eloquently, I now don't have to time to repeat the task. So, in summary:


He might also like to use this.
It may be helpful if he looks up the meaning of "by-line".

And what does it say about the place he so virulently mistrusts, that Reuters chose it as the base for proxy reporting?

Firstly, let me thank you all for not pointing out the error in last post which itself was pointing out errors (oh how ferrous). I'd like to think that this is because you all respect me sufficiently to know that such a mistake was a temporary lapse as even the greatest among us make. I'd like to think that, but I suspect it's probably because none of you even read it, or perhaps you did, yet in such a cursory manner that there was no slavish doting on every syllable. Oh, and in reply to the sole commenter; because, it is the twelfth commandment of music (one after "thou shalt turn it up to this commandment") that "thou shalt not cover thy neighbour's decent songs". I will also remind you of the lesser-quoted addendum to "thou shalt not worship false prophets*, although Radiohead's ok".

* Unless thou worketh verily for Enron [replace with personal misaccounting favourites].

To hear the cover go Mark Ronson'smyspace, or YouTube to see [presumably] the video. I think the reason I'm not keen is largely because of the vocals. The voice doesn't work against the horns. But also it's disconcerting as the lead-in chords sound suspiciously like something which my head autocompletes as "be the finest, the brightest, the fittest [that] can be", but those probably aren't the right lyrics, and my complete guess of the singer being Jamelia is probably equally spurious.

But having just checked (is there anything which isn't on YouTube? All human life is here, from the amusingly stupid (and you thought tuna in the ductwork was evil) to the... ah, I've found what isn't there), I'm fairly wrong. It's something by the Basement Jaxx then. Or Kylie. Or maybe Sinatra. Or possibly Verdi.

Moving on to the excitement of yesterday, which turned out not to be so exciting, due to getting stood up when I was on the verge of cancelling anyway. I think it was the fact that when I rang the other party up to say "So where the bloody hell are you?" (that Oz thing is a case of "More storm, vicar?" if ever there was one, although, as I said to the token Aussie, "that last lass; she's not convincing is she?"), or words to that effect (being me those words took about 4 times the necessary period to get the information across, due to being able to tell from the "Hello?" that plans had been forgotten, only it's a bit rude to ring someone up and say only "Hi. Oh, ok, that's fine. Bye" and I'd just spent a few minutes talking myself down from "where the blue blazes are you?". Quite why I start using my parent's anachronisms when I'm annoyed, I've yet figured out. Maybe it's because they gave me such a good education in annoyance)... Er, I'll start that sentence again, but with less bracketage this time. I think it was the fact that when I rang to ask "SWTBHAY?" we both managed to sniff at exactly the same point. How in sync are we? Tandem illness.

So after having pancakes-delayed delayed, and as I'd just remembered to post some cards (oh, er, that postcard thing... I'll remember it at some point), I went on the hunt for cheap cards. Paperchase is designed to make one near suicidal, isn't it? Or maybe it was the effect of suddenly feeling very dehydrated and then having my mother ring up about something I've already forgotten about, while struggling to decipher her voice from the atrocious background music, which was so doused in oestrogen that even the speakers had tampons (or maybe that was someone's attempt at shutting the damn thing up).

And please don't start pointing out the actual function of various hormones in the menstrual cycle, as I had a hard enough job remembering the name of the thing, having first come up with andro-, no, um, other, it's, er, so gynae-, but that's, er, no, er, The other one. Anti-testosterone. Thing. Haem- no. it's... help. Oh, oestrogen. And now of course I can see all the little arrows showing influence and effects round Lutenising Hormone<.

So after discovering assorted dismal cards (I don't know why, but I'm fussy about cards. They have to be things I like, and that I think the recipient will like (which can lead to some pretty small bits of Venn). Which is why I quietly get cross when the recipient chucks it on the floor without reading the inside, where it gets trampled for half the evening, before I can remove it. And which is also why I give the same smile every year to the person who always gets me the nearest card in Clinton's, because I haven't the heart to ask whether I'm really his favourite grandson or if I do have his deepest sympathies every year), including one bearing the thoughtful sticker "Left blank for your message", placed on a card emblazoned with "Happy Birthday". Ah, but it's what's inside that counts.

I leave, before I keel over into a pile of pens with feathers on (you never know when might want to tickle someone while writing). I head towards the Tate (the open-late one), remembering that they do cards, and I think they're cheaper than anywhere else I've found in London. My route takes me via Covent Garden, complete with the half-naked madmen upstaging the performers. He could have been part of the act, but judging from the way the guitarist was edging himself and the amp slowly backwards, I'd guess not.

Cue the second phone call of the evening, which I just missed, so rang back. It was the stander-up, ringing to apologise for cancelling last minute, although saying so in such an incoherent way that debilitating illness was obviously the only cause. So after yet another rambling lengthy phone call, on my bill, which wasn't helped by the man playing a guitar as a harpsichord and another, whose internal gyroscope was slowing down, informing half the city that my ear was glowing (Neil must have been at it).

Why is it I'm more concerned about the phone bill than I am about the failed social life? Probably because that nice, if curt, woman tells me "Hello. Your remaining credit is eighty-three pence. Thank you for calling. Goodbye", and because I can't remember the four digit code I need to top up the credit, having changed it the last time I forgot it, and so now can only remember the old code. Plus I'm trying to eke out a foolishly small amount until Easter, without quite being sure when that is (despite having looked it up to explain to someone else. The whole concept of a Paschal/theoretical moon confuses me).

Heading on down, and despite the cold air, I don't feel like going to the Tate just yet. Looking towards the river by the Festival pier, I notice the gates down to the riverbank. One has a big sign declaring the foreshore dangerous and closed. The other has no sign and is open. Which in my mind effectively cancels out the sign. They should have locked it, shouldn't they, if they didn't want people using it. Admittedly, I would have vaulted it if it were locked, so they should have put a sign up. And there was no sign...

I'm always surprising at how sandy the banks are. We're always taught the Thames is a muddy old river, and that it's tidal and so estuarine, with all the sludge that entails (sludge being the technical term for it. I could talk about silicates flocculating, but doesn't really fit in with the narrative). Yet there's a powdery beach opposite Somerset House. As it's a lowish tide but coming in (yes, that's why a strange man stood apparently navel gazing on the banks of the Thames. I wanted to see which way the waves were going) I walk along the foreshore, being careful not to get cut off.

Because I wanted to get to the next set of steps before the tide came in, I was walking quickly, so didn't gorge myself on the view as I'd liked to have done. But I need to come back here with a tripod, and a camera which doesn't mind going slowly, and a lens which isn't cracked.

Reaching the end of the shore, towards the octagonal corner by the ITV building, I head back, trying to read the writing on the floating bits of paper. But after realising it's in one of the Indian scripts, I abandon tracking the drifting paper. Instead I indulge in some scripting of my own.

Hurrah for vandalism!
Hooray for graffiti!
Huzzah for using Central London as one's canvas!
Woohoo for doing it on a beach, in the face of an incoming tide!

There's nothing like the fact that no one will ever see it for assuaging guilt. And for making it unimportant that I couldn't think of anything better than "Beware Troll" (because it was written so only someone looking down from one of the overhanging viewing points would see it, and obviously under one of those would be the perfect place for a troll to live. Yes, I'm daft, and yes, trolls were one of the few mythical creatures I believed in when younger).

So if you were bemused by a spurious warning about trolls along the banks of the River Thames, written in the sand sometime after 7.50 pm on Friday 10th March, then that was me. But I doubt anyone saw it, as it was a cold evening in March, with few people out, and fewer still pausing to look at the view, and so even fewer likely to look down when they should be looking across.

But as it was cold, I went back up, and along the path east, checking out access points along the way (why are the gates round Blackfriars locked, and why are they twice the height of any others? And what is that bin doing down there?). And while I was following the theme, I delayed Tate-age a bit more and went down just beyond the pub. The shore was rockier than upstream, and by rockier I mean it had more bricks in it. It also had seaglass, which surprised me. I know logically it should, due to having strong currents and a city full of glass flanking it, but somehow I've never really thought of the Thames as part of everything else; it just is.

Anyway, a pocket full of white seaglass (it might have been that I couldn't see any other colours in the orange of night, or it might have been glasses shed from the bars along the shore) later, plus half an oyster (of the big flaky kind) and a battered whelk shell later, I carry on eastwards, scouting for shots under the Millennium Bridge, for which I'll have to go back (and also to see if I can skim stones on the Thames. After all I've done it with pebbles at Brighton, and they're completely the wrong shape (as is the beach). Think brick might be too rough though).

And that was about the point the Thames Clipper went past. I avoided the wake. I avoided the echo of the wake. But the echoes of the echoes chopping through each other pushed the next bit of shore beyond the scarcely passable state of before the boat passed. A quick bit of counting the waves coming in, and looking out for breaks between them, followed by what can only be called a scamper (if a loose-ankled one), and I was past, with only slight dampness on part of one foot.

Anyway it's good for shoes to occasionally get doused in salt water. Ok, it's not, but it happens to all my shoes. Admittedly, running through rubble is less good for the leather, but they were looking too new anyway (said he rapidly trying to justify stupidity, and feeling guilty about it).

Then up outside the Globe, and back into the Tate. Having come this far, I'm not sure what it was I wanted to see, having used cards as a pretext for seeing whatever's on. As there was something new on the 4th floor, I went up to that. I took one look, saw it was crowded, and that it was the second day of the exhibition, and first evening, realised I'd either spend the evening trying not laugh at the stupid comments, or trying to not get annoyed by the pretentiousness of the same comments. I like art, but it's a bit like France*.

* Not that I necessarily believe that thing about France and the French, but the idea carries over in this context. And I have once walked through a French village having every door slam as I approached.

So instead of Bauhausing, I went down to look at the cards, and generally drift through the shop. Coming away with a single postcard, as that was all I could afford (and how assistants do so love it when customers help top up their float), I walk back out into the night, taking the inland route until Blackfriars, then along what should be the towpath.

I headed back, skirting round the lake on the corner, noting that I ought to come back to get a shot of the OXO tower reflected.

Taking Waterloo Bridge for once, rather than either the traditional Hungerfords, spotting potential images along the way (equipment permitting). I head north, and finally come to realise that Covent Garden faces east, not north, and so Long Acre must get in the way (I tend to think of it all as one large porous block between the Strand and Oxford Street and can never tell Seven Dials from the other one, nor know which way to turn).

Eventually emerging, I mill round the Virgin near Centrepoint for a while, thinking of things to buy for which I don't have the money, then eventually get ushered out as it closes, then go down simply to go up in a different sense.

Emerging at Oxburrow, I head into Sainsbury's to seek out anything reduced. Only it's too late, and all there is is minimally reduced and dated for the next day. So instead I end up buying expensive things I don't need because I'm hungry, or slightly less expensive things because I'm hungry and guilty about spending money on nothingness, and so end up justifying dry roasted peanuts because they're cheaper than salted cashews, and they don't have salted peanuts. And yet, there's a reason cashews cost more. It's to do with supply. It's because people will pay more because they're so much nicer. Oh, and never experimentally eat a chunk of peanuts bound together by a nugget of the dry-roasting coating. Breaking open a chunk of solid MSG is never a good idea.

So hefting home such essentials as wholegrain mustard, lemon curd and ginger muffins (which taste either of apple or orange, but not really ginger), I retreat to be alone in an annoyingly empty flat.

Other highlights of the weekend include:
- Going back to Sainsbury's to get vegetables as I've given up convincing myself that buying crap quality food from ill-mannered, bloody-minded people with severe arithmetic problems (86p + 49p + £1 + £1.18 = £5.38 - call it a fiver) is cheaper, more efficient and somehow more ethical. Even if their potatoes are cheaper per pound than any supermarket, by the time I've washed them, cut out the diseased bits and generally faffed around, they're not.
- Hitting Morrisons in time to add to their losses by grabbing loaves for nine-pence, Chicken Kievs for not terribly much more each, some random sausage hot-pot thing which features the delightful sounding "Pork Connective Tissue" among the ingredients, and no, it's not in the sausages and some collection of Pick'n'mix pastry things from "The Pie Shop". Other supermarkets have mere instore bakeries (which curiously have their exhaust vents emitting fumes at the other end of the store. I know it's not the actual fumes, as that's too complicated and dangerous, so instead they buy bars or cans of bread-smell from BOC and unleash that amongst the nappies), but not Morrissons with their common-as-muck approach. And was the adage "where there's muck there's brass" invented for this supermarket? Because if you think of what they sell...

Anyway, the turnovers were nice, as I realised the greyness must mean they're rhubarb, but the pie had strangely tasteless blackcurrants in a very purple, very acidic and very sweet sauce, which I presume was supposed to compensate for the dull fruit. And you can tell I need some food, or maybe just some water, as I'm writing about pastries. Sorry, it was only the branding which amused me. But I've figured out why parts of Morrisons feel familiar. It's because it's what Waitrose was like twenty years ago. Just look at those "Next Customer Please" bars; they could be originals. The individual price tags with promenient barcodes stuck on each item; that's how they used to do when barcodes first came in. Even half the colouring and branding is 20 years out of date, right down to the brown and yellow price sticker on the pick'n'mix pie selection (and when did Woolies introduce those pointless dual-apostrophes to the nation?).

It's all part of the plan. Successful shops modernise. They spend money on frivolities like rebranding. Unsuccessful ones don't. They struggle on getting ever more out of date. So why look like the shop is unsuccessful? Because shoppers know that unsuccessful shops either don't have customers or are selling things too cheaply (or have large scale fraud going on). And if they're in the shop, and they know there are a lot of branches, then it can't be because of a lack of customers. So it most be underpriced (or at least not overpriced). Hence it's cheap, hence people buy because it seems cheap.

It doesn't actually have to be cheap and on a lot of things, isn't; it has far fewer offers than Sainsbury's, and as it's the offers I tend to stick to, I hit Sainsbuy's loss leaders and then get out (except if I'm hungry and buying junk), so for me Sainsbury's is cheaper (and the carrots won't rot within minutes).

It was just really odd noticing that there are lots of little clues which give Morrisons the air of imminent failure; it's decked out in the style of a closing-down sale. And it's quite strange to think I remember the ostentatiously old-fashioned things they use to confer this coming in. But then while sobre-mesaing with one group the other day, we got onto floppy floppy-disks, and I made the locking action one had to do for BBCs. It was quite interesting observing the split of those who recognised it, and those who didn't.

But getting back to my exciting life: Morrisson's own-brand ginger beer is neither. Oh and never try to find Angostura bitters in Morrisson's: only I would.

Maybe I should just use CHIP SHOP STYLE instead. It was next to the vinegar. In small writing beneath the main words it declared "Non-Brewed Condiment". Only it looked like vinegar, and when I looked at the ingredients it had acetic acid listed. Except, er, vinegar contains acetic acid, but it isn't made from it. But this bottle of diluted acetic acid with colouring apparently was. Which did make me wonder why, as surely it's cheaper to make vinegar than it is to make a chemical, even a simple one, and then reconstruct it? A check of the price, and the CSS was more expensive than letting alcohol oxidise. So why? I suspect I'll never know. I suspect I probably don't need to.

And while I remember, Morrison's do something odd with their stock display. In every other supermarket in the country, the items with the most profit are placed at eye height. So things like Hob-nobs will always be at eye height. Yet in Morrison's I couldn't even find normal Hob-nobs, and the chocolate covered ones were on the floor. The cheap own brand biscuits were at eye height. So either they are circumventing the profit-margin-placement rule, or the cheap own-brand stuff carries the greatest profit. Now given McVities give a big enough profit share to every other supermarket to induce 5 ft high Hob-nobs, it's probably not the lack of profit which bars McV's biscuits from the sacred shelf. Which means the own-brand stuff, while being very cheap, must carry larger profits. So what's that say about the cost of production? We already know that supermarkets have driven prices of most foods down at source, yet Morrissons must be finding it cheaper. So what's that say about the quality? Pork Connective Tissue anyone?

And while apondering, is Pork Connective Tissue actually pork? Surely pork is the muscles? Otherwise it's fat, bones, cartilage, tendons, gristle (which includes a couple of the former options), guts and assorted miscellaneous bits, most of which tend not to be called pork; porcine perhaps, but pork is the meat.

Moving on, from such... oh hell, I think I've used every euphemistic cliché already. Anyway, and not quite moving on far enough; the random sausage thing consisted of one sausage (yes, I was bored enough to put the slices back together. You can tell I've got work to do), one and half small potatoes, one small carrot, about an eighth of a shallot, a scattering of peas (God knows why) and half a Bisto factory. I'm not sure it was worth the heavily reduced price.

[Er, apologies to anyone who gets the half finished version of this, but I've just found the shortcut for "Publish". I don't know what it is though].

And what is about my brother? Once again we went out into Oxburrow to eat. Once again we hit Wagamama's, as we'd been to the other usual place last time. Once again we order what we did many years ago, although in my case I ceded the choices to him, being to distracted by not sneezing to read the menu, although it might have shifted the not-so-small girl nuzzling next to her mother beside me (yep, we went into interesting*, informal and uniform restaurant on a Sunday. Family-friendly doesn't necessarily mean friendly families).

* It used to be, when there was only one in Oxburrow, one in Lecky Square, and one somewhere in the city. Now it's in Alton, Basingstoke, Camberley and Dorking, it suddenly doesn't seem so interesting (disclaimer: it may not be in all those towns, but it's in Guildford, and that's bad enough).

But while I'm on interestingness, I also realised that, having been so impressed when younger by the really cool staff, people with tinkly noses and percussive eyebrows are norm round there, so it's not so much actively seeking the coolest people alive, as simply who they can find to work there.

So yay for Yaki Soba, less yay for their strange fruit juice thing, especially for getting banana foam in my lungs, and yay again for improved chopstick skills as, while waiting for my brother to finish, I distractedly started picking up single sesame seeds and those crunchy sprinkles they dump onto the pickled ginger (and yay-yay-yay for pickled ginger), but which I can never work out what they are (bits of onion? bits of egg?).

A confusing conversation about shallots (my brother on the phone to our mother, miming Easter Eggs at me), me saying something along the lines of "I can't lipread in here; it's too loud", and then being handed the phone, talking for a few seconds before hanging up with my cheekbone, later, we head out to explore Oxburrow.

He shows me one bit I'd never connected, which lead me to make a stupid comment about "hold onto your hats ladies", although there were women doing exactly that at the other end of the bridge (while walking very, very slowly because they were drunk, wearing high heels, and going down steep cobbles. Have they never heard of reverse). I show him a bit he never knew about. We both would which AP that is with all the satellite dished (Associated Ports, obviously, as it's beside the canal).

Then back, and round a few sides of the same block, before he helpfully guides me to the Tube station, in case I get lost (I think he wanted to put of going back to work). The Tube station which is exit only on Sundays.

So some improv busing later, during which I discover yet more "where-am-oh-it's-here" parts of London, I go into the department for some fun and simulation.

Oh, and at some point I was lent a copy (and actual legit copy; how bizarre) of the new Wallace and Gromit thing. Childish, cliché-ridden, clinging to stereotypes, but because it's Plasticine*, it doesn't matter. So watch it when they show it at some Christmas.

*Nearly misspelt as Pleistocene.

And the bits that I meant to include, but apparently haven't:
- 11 pm HW 5 pm LW
- Got back to a capsized Amaryllis.
- And the half-written:

Random recent abuse/praise (one of the joys of London).

- "Oh my god. He's so hot!" A case of Are you looking at me? Are you looking at me? 'cause I don't see anyone else here. No, really I don't. I'd have expected there to be some guy behind me, but there isn't. You must be drunk/high/mad/taking the piss. From random abuse corner, which is where I imagine Dan got Oi-queered, just because the teenagers there are highly vocal, highly opinionated and always there.

- "Oi! Fit guy" yelled from the window of a passing limousine. I think she was more taking with the act of yelling than getting her message across or even considering what that message ought to be.

- "Fuck me" yelled from the window of the second passing limousine by a lass who must presumably have had clothing on, but would nonetheless be suffering from severe windchill.

- "It's Rocky Balbao!..." A series of references to "eye of the tiger", some mock punches, during which I was very glad we were on a straight road without traffic or imminent bus stops, and a reference to Sylvester Stallone later, I finally learn to ignore the surname and work out who they think I'm like. Which given this all was coming from one teenage guy as part of a uniformly hooded gang, which only served to make them look younger (said he wearing a hooded top), made me wonder when he'd seen Rocky, as it was made before I was born. And as comparisons go, did have to be Sly Stallone? Yeah, thanks for saying I look like I'm thick. But then the girl sitting further back was told she looked like the girl in Rocky, which is just harsh.

- Catching someone giving me come-hither eyes as I got off the tube, which was quite flattering, if woefully mistimed. How can I hither if my momentum is carrying through doors which are about to close? But underlying sexual tension is so nice.

And yes, I know I forgot to add any disparaging comment about myopia to negate that last thing, but not all of them can be mocking or insane.

I think that's it. It's not, but I think there are details to boring even for this blog. And why is it I alternative between relatively brief and vaguely witty, and then exploring the meaning of "Pork Connective Tissue"? Maybe I should produce and edited highlights version of this blog. And still the PCT would get through.


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