Sunday, May 28, 2006

IMG_0684All Yellow

Well, all slightly blond really. I think I may have just trumped my previous best of nearly being run over by Neil Hamilton's car. Although I've not sure where newsreader email fits in.

All I can say is that he was wearing black, I twisted my hips to get past him, feeling his warmth as I did, and only later figured out who he was (hence the poor photograph, although if you've seen Flickr, you know I can't do people).

So looking at the picture on the right, can you tell who it is yet?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

GF6 600 - 20 Place for a rainy dayWhere the hell did that come from?

I know English weather is meant to be changeable, which is what makes it weather and not a climate, but sometimes I think it's doing the metrological equivalent of leaping out from behind a bush and yelling "boo!". Days and days slashing rain, and consequent conversations based on disbelieving looks and the line "it wasn't when I went out"; winds aping an orgy in hell, kicking against trees so heavy pollarded they resemble bollards, yet still have enough windage to thrumb; rooms autoexorcising as doors rend locks and windows pop. And now this; sunscorched cheeks bunched beneath the eyes as bodies sag across every ledge, bedecked in strewn jackets and sweaty watches, indifferent limbs weighting quivering pages (and in some cases reading about quivering limbs [I only read it at lunchtime and already I'm misquoting it. Fifth paragraph of Chapter 1 of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, by Lawrence of Arabia, who is T.E., not as I discovered when trying to find it in the library, D.H.; that's a completely different set of quiverage. Here it's the bodies that quiver, the limbs relegated to being hot and intimate]).

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, other than to complain, somewhat ridiculously, that the weather's a bit better, although doing in what might be seen as either an excessively verbose or beguilingly fluid manner. Which of course I cannot sustain, for it is simply too eloquent: too Sin.

And why are neoclassical, although now somewhat classical, columns so poorly designed for those lingering against them? The bases protrude too far, and too unevenly, to comfortably support the back, and the fluting (I'm sure there is a use specific name, albeit one I can't quite recall. But then I am related to the woman who, when accosted by an Alzheimers' chugger, replied solely, "No thank you; I think I've already got it") is carefully designed to exorably crush one's head under its own weight. But it was one of those days where people sprawl, slinking ever lower as they shed possessions, coats, shoes, cigarettes marking the engulfing quest for the position of least effort; one of those days where glasses are abandoned in improbable places, leaving one to wonder if they ever return to the hosts, or simply wander into the homes of opportunistic, or perhaps into the carts of the Camden clad zealots (the same men who removed the thin red line of graffiti by gouging holes out of the pavement along its length), or maybe are lifted into the nests of pigeons magpieing all that falls before them, or even tumble and drift off, only to stumble into the Thames, where in a few decades the Tate-to-Tate boat will ground on broken stemmed wine glasses and Ty Nant bottles.

That company of course being responsible for the multicoloured seaglass of the Thames, which is scarcely seaglass, dipped in brackish water, cocooned in silt and marooned from every storm by a titanium clad chrysalis. One could drop Wedgewood's entire output off Waterloo Bridge only to find it a year later intact in a cluster under Festival Pier, still with the price stickers on the back. The city may not need a storm, but unless the river gets one, it'll be a greater shard of glass than whatever they plan for London Bridge.

Guess who, while fending off parents (i.e. spending time with them, while deftly sticking a thick blue balloon into the gaps between any of the individuals involved), made some comment about wanting to take pictures from the strand (this is completely unrelated to the state of my current camera, my lust for a big lensed digital SLR, and the indecision forced postponements of so many birthday and Christmas presents... our family have never been good with hints; maybe I'll just send them the invoice), only to discover my parents have never been on the foreshore. As it was low tide, and a fairly low one at that, we descended to the sand and scattered debris. On other beaches I hunt obsessively for small bits of seaglass, but in front of the Royal Festival Hall the fun disappears in a scrunch of half glasses. I can't even revert to beach based activity number two: skimming, as the stones, bricks and chunks of iron are all inconsiderately shaped. The only thing I can find to skim comes with a still discernable willow pattern.

But then its failings as a proper beach are compensated for by the view arching underneath Waterloo Bridge. If... I was about to write about memorial benches, and how mine would be submerged by the tide, when I realised it's not just the one view I love. There are others, many others, although dunking is a common theme. How boring it must be to be summarised by one bench alone. Here's to Trevor, who never knew anything else, who never found new places, who never looked for anything better, who never went beyond this very spot, four feet from Mabel's bench, and so who is forever infinitely superior, as he can see his house from here.

I think the best epitaph I've seen was in a churchyard. Atop a downed obelisk, or colossal brick of stone, were the words "Rest awhile". I'm not sure why it impressed me; it might simply have been an awareness that live continues even though it does not continue for all of us. It was the attempt to still have purpose, to do something useful in death, rather than be squashed beneath an arrogant memorial proclaiming all that the here under did in life, and so be yet another waste of space. I think it only worked in the context of reckless consumption; if all others heap shrines upon themselves, let your shrine acknowledge others.

But that's enough of morbid views (who are these people who wish to let everyone know that the splendour before them is only a fleeting experience? Little plaques on key scored benches serve only to state that this, all this before you, is not yours. They say only that it is theirs and that they'd like to be theirs forever. It dismisses not just those who are currently there, but the others who have been, but thought better of stamping their mark on the very good. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between the dogs cocking their legs at those of the bench and the bench benefactors themselves; pissing on and pissing off even in death) and moribund thoughts.

This was intended to be a post about the V&A's Modernism exhibition, which can probably be summed up with glug of the V&A's Art Deco exhibition of a few years ago, a swig of the V&A's Arts and Crafts exhibition from a while back (including several exhibits which have been very modernly recycled), slightly more than a dash of the Tate's current Bauhaus thing (photographs and film of things currently sitting in a better lit and better designed display a couple of miles to the east), all served on the rocks, to remind us that Modernism also existed in Siberia. On the last point, this time I came prepared, dressed in clothes which would kill if worn on the Underground in late May.

There's something about the V&A. It might be the appalling signage (which way's whatever? Oh, back the way we came?). It might be dire layout of the building, which ensures that one at least gets a good walk, while apparently skirting though the boiler room. It might be the hateful staff. It might be the locked doors, which aren't meant to be locked (the museum is another branch of the Church of Please Use Other Door, only without the signs). It might be the awful display, where reflections rule and extra corners are engineered into the room, to ensure one person block three exhibits at once, while casting their shadow over the title and description of a fourth. It might be the superb lack of narrative, whereby one of the first exhibits is classed as Suprematicist, a term only defined in text further from the door. It might be the waffle of the accompanying blurb, which manages to contradict itself in a sentence (there's one, not quite memorable enough, piece which states that increasing complexity increases simplicity and adaptivity. Unfortunately, there might be instances where that is true, which just shows how badly I remembered it. The context of the sentence left few such options), or utter inane comments which scarcely scrape linguist sense, let alone any other kind; the whole thing feels, for much of the time, like plagiarism plagiarised, and so it is apparent that an endless chain of copying and slight editing has occurred, the end result of which stunningly illustrates the lack of comprehension on the part of the writer (but it's what everyone says, so it must be true. One advantage of being a teacher's son is that occasionally I was pressganged into child labour, and so into marking homework. The ones who learn by rote and so copy down verbatim what the textbooks say [give or take a few mangled words] may as well stamp "I don't get it" on the front cover of their books of worryingly round or erratically seismic Berol markings).

And this isn't even getting into the dreadful incompetence that surrounds the place like an aura. My mother is something of a connoisseur of membership schemes. She won't be renewing the V&A one.

I'm not sure whether it's because they don't have enough on to justify the cost. I'm not sure if it's because they wrote a letter which said the Inland Revenue had been terribly beastly and pointed out that the V&A had stuffed up and so, in a thoroughly unexpected move on the part of the Inland Revenue, they charged the V&A tax. I'm not sure if it's because the letter said they'd have to charge £10 more on renewals to cover it (bear in mind my parents already had it down as not worth the money). I'm not sure if it's because the V&A tried to charge my parents £10 more for the privilege of attempting to use their membership card (right, so that whole contract thing they signed, whereby you provide services and they provide the cash? You'd like to amend that after both parties have agreed to it, would you?), which was met with a look which would, if not part the Red Sea, at least freeze the thing (we'd had practice, having earlier been involved in a shoe returning incident [yes, I use my parents for moral support, and because faced with my mother and I in full volleying flow, and the one causal line, uttered in response to my father cranking up to join in, "[Father], don't worry, I'm sure it'll be fine" - there's something about calling off the dogs which is far more powerful than trying to set them on anybody - the manager who so very nearly laughed in my face strangely decided that yes, indeed, that is poor workmanship, and not any of things he'd just said, and, er, he'll just see if he can get me a replacement. In amongst all the big nosed, buck teethed, patchy stubbled genes my parents gave me must have been one for my "don't be bloody daft" look]). I'm not sure if it's because the girl behind the desk tried insisting that the letter had said so, until asked for the wording of the letter. I'm not sure if it's because the V&A have also revoked all the other benefits of the membership card. I'm not sure if it's because they close exhibitions early for the hell of it (by early I mean both time of day and month). Or it all could just be the way I instinctively turned to smile apologetically to the woman behind us in the queue, for the approaching delay, when I heard my mother drawn in breath in a certain way.

Fine, the V&A got something very badly wrong. The V&A have to find a way to cover the costs of the problem. But should the V&A do it by writing to the dear wonderful people who support them and telling the supporters that they owe the V&A money? Of course, they did it in a way which was only highly misleading rather than outright misinformation, but with luck might be read on the beneficial side. My mother said she received an ambiguous letter, and in trying to find out the true detail of the situation, suddenly this amount owing simply disappeared. Which sort of suggests the V&A didn't have much confidence in their own position, and were simply relying on no one querying it.

Of course the V&A is a publicly supported institute. It relies on donations. It is dependent on charitable generosity. Yet they wrote to all the perpetual donors with a bill for services which had already been paid for, and by the way, half those services no longer exist.

They didn't ask. They didn't request. They didn't suggest.

They told. They demanded.

Yet those same demands disappeared as soon as they were questioned. Asked to inform they change the subject. I'm thinking a round of applause for such exemplary handling of the situation.

When will there be just one Culturecard, which gives access to all the exhibits in London's galleries and museums? £100 per year, you and a friend, any exhibition you like.

Only please let the Tate run it. Membership schemes on Exhibition Road all outcompete each other in their failings. The Royal Academy, while having the cachet of the Summer Exhibition, is miserly and haughty in the extreme (if you want the twelve page blurb that comes as standard with the ticket, you have to buy it, and we're not talking 25 pence). The Tate are charming, slightly contradictory (usually "you're supposed to get tickets from the desk downstairs, but we'll let you off this time", while the desk downstairs says to go straight up) and have great view from the member's room at Tate Modern (the one at Tate Britain is less good, due largely to the lack of view and the vibrating floor; I've never known if it's bad construction, or a deliberate ploy to reduce lingering on the leather seats with a free copy of the Guardian).

Which sort of gets me to presents and holes in the road. One present for a friend involved me doing what has been termed my "full Boudicca" around London in the quest for something apt, suitable and transportable (I thought I'd failed by having to resort to a mini jigsaw of Monet's waterlilies from the National Gallery. SG was delighted as she likes the picture (I know, I was the one who showed you round. Remember the Canaletto snap?) and had never encountered a jigsaw before (sometimes I wonder about that girl. While watching Amelie [her birthday pick, but she didn't know it was in French] I made a snide comment about the montage of childhood quirks which runs under the initial titles, only to discover that the Shanghaiese don't have raspberries, and certainly have never eaten them impaled upon fingers (how horrendous was the summer when one's fingers finally outgrew them?). The existence of Chinese Hula Hoops is currently unknown.

The other present was a Mucha book from the Tate (although I later found more popular titles in the series a pound cheaper at The Works), which involved ignoring my mother ringing me to ask why I hadn't met her yet, as I tried to hurry across the junction outside Southwark station when the lights were out (and yes, some drivers did use the gas-and-hope technique).

Sort of related. I've found another hole in the road. Different road this time, with a bit less traffic. The hole beneath is at least three feet deep behind the gash, and thoughtfully someone's put a ring of red paint round it, so the drivers know where to aim, and Camden council know where to come and scrape out a ring of aggregate, lest their beautiful borough be marred by such antisocial scrawls.

And I think I've figured out why they're appearing (not sure if applies in TCR's case). Thames Water have been doing the rounds repairing age-old pipes and stopping leaks. Areas underground where chasms have been hewn out by generations of pressurised water, constantly kept up to the same pressure as the mains, have suddenly had the pressure cut off. The water has drained out of these ancient labyrinthine watercourses, and so only air fills the void as the Tesco van bounces down the road, denting the tarmac over the streams as it goes. Yet to see a car fall down one, but it's only a matter of time (heck, if it can happen outside my parent's house, in what BBC London term "the sticks", complete with hand gesture, where first a car's wheel created a puncture wound, trapping the car, and then half a day later, once the car was removed, the entire road collapsed five foot. Even the sailing club, when demolished to make way for the new one, was found to be hovering on a remarkably large reservoir of sewage).

Oh, it's quite late, and I haven't done my washing up yet.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

2005-10-01 024 WindfelledIt's odd; I post when I don't have time to post, but when I do, I don't.

So some recappery:
- Went for an odd, if somewhat drunken meal at a proper grown-up restaurant, with illustrations of bestiality and everything. The odd comes from the general ambience, as the outside is like a tornado in a garden centre, the interior anything theatrical (and theatres apparently have air conditioning coated in flaky gold paint, some of which intermittently drifted down), the music playing in the background is scarcely restrained to just the background and is a looped tape of shrieking women, the food is a mixture of God knows what (cue explanations of tzatziki as being like "raita", which possibly is a bit less helpful than I meant it to be), but the lamb's nice (and vegetables so lightly scalded that the broccoli phototroped during the meal) as was the attentive waiter, or at least the self sustaining wine glass. Which makes it very hard to know how much you've drunk, which is possibly why we decided to try pineapple-smuggling, which was made a bit easier, and somewhat less fun, by the waiter bringing us a plastic bag. Although I'm not sure what to make of a restaurant which serves a fruit platter at the end of the meal consisting of one pineapple, some grapes, some underipe bananas, some impossibly glossy red apples and green apples (the type that you know are all show, thus bitter, and lo-and-beholdly are), a couple of battered oranges, one token kiwifruit which one could have played cricket with, and whichever items the previous recipients have chosen to deposit amongst the fruit (yes, they came out, went back in, came out again replenished); all this with no cutlery, which is possibly why we chose to purloin the much recycled pineapple, so not only would they lose the centrepiece, but also we have have a chance of eating the fruit we (and the last 30 customers) have paid for.

The best bit? Due to the lack of ashtrays, yet in spite of the scorched velour tablecloths in a multitude of colours, all the smokers thought it was a no smoking restaurant, and went outside to smoke (at state helped by it being midsummer, whereas now it's only the leaves which say it isn't November). I like, upon being asked where the rest of the group is by the waiter and if they know they can smoke indoors, to be able to reply, somewhat gleefully, that I don't think it's occurred to them.

The name of this hideously over the top and rather deranged restaurant? It's not Sarasota, however many times I say it is. Sarastro, I think, apparently is not a contraction of "Sarah's Bistro", but the name of a character in the Magic Flute. It's on Drury Lane (just look for the plants) and the meal we had was the set menu, which was listed as costing £25 [no idea what the bulk rate was], of which I paid £10, as it was subsided (and possibly explains why I liked it).

- While browsing in Tate Modern's shop (and am I the only person who persistently refers to "the Tate", when I mean Tate Modern? It does seem to have eclipsed the old one, although it's probably only the late opening that's done it), trying not to notice how many thousands I could spend in there, I discovered who Mucha is. My mother used to have a copy of Job, and was quite cross when it was damaged. I think we can guess what her birthday present is going to be this year.

But I'm trying to work out if Job would have the same appeal if it was Rizla. Does Job still exist as a brand? And why are cigarette papers named after someone bad things happen to? Or is it a comment on the patience one needs to successfully use the product?

- I discovered that the reason Sarastro didn't mind the pineapples exiting stage left was that one of them was going mouldy. Hence hackage, internettage, buyage and bakage, et voila, un gateau d'ananas à l'envers (avec les cerises glacé enfantine). Although I still hate cooking with electricity, and fan assisted ovens are a bloody nuisance for cooking cakes.

- I was pressganged into watching American Beauty (ok, so it's my copy, and I am pressganging the pressganger into watching Eurovision tonight), while eating Pineapple Upside-Down Cake. The only problem with seeing films one knows is that one laughs before the punchline, one flinches as the scene cuts to what will become flinch-worthy, and otherwise general bemuse SG.

- I discovered that running while carrying PUDC is possibly a bad idea (it comes of seeing my brother crossing the far end of a street, running down a parallel road, having a bus and crowds get in the way, and so missing him. And of course this is when Orange decides to Network Busy permanently, as I try to ring him, he tries to ring me, and my mother tries to ring me, each time necessitating getting my phone out of my bag for the signal to drop. It's amazing what a well placed, and somewhat annoyed, "What?" can do to curtail my mother's usual loquaciousness. Especially as by this time I'd given up checking to see who was ringing, so it was anonymous irritation.

Ok, so I'd been running round cursing plane trees all day. Plane trees have nice fluffy (er, it can't be the seeds as they produce fruit) down, which they shed with great ease. Except being a plane tree, it comes with an equal mix of spikes. Now add in strong winds and no sunglasses and owie-owie-owie. Thursday afternoon consisted of Londoner doing their best impression of Cairoites, mid-sandstorm; creased eyes, bolted mouths, heads down and every other person trying to get something out of their eye. If ever the world needed to go a bit Brief Encounter, it was then.

It was also quite odd noticing the way people became invincible. They'd just stumble out into the road, in the hope the streaming taxis would stop, as looking down the road meant being blinded in the same instant.

And aren't building sites great? With their plumes of wind borne dust, sand skittering out of open bags, and bales of Rockwall slowly fraying in the wind. Hang on, doesn't Rockwall do nasty things if it gets in the lungs? So what does it do to the eyes?

- I went to my brother's (which is currently my cousin's) to test temporarily defrosted meat, which he claims is mine, and ended up having his version of spaghetti bolognaise (you can tell it's from the same family, but it's not the same as mine, although his is quicker to cook), while watching Shaun of the Dead (he'd made me watch Spaced in preparation while I was living with him, and then I moved out). The film is a slight case of "It's him! It's her! Who's tha.. oh, it's him".

He too got fed PUDC, which wasn't that battered by running after him.

- While trying to collect a copy of death certificate, I had the registrar's receptionist comment that "oh, he died two days after his birthday, that's sad. My mother did that". It took me a while to realise she hadn't noticed that the year of birth and death were the same, so there was very nearly a "So, where'd she fit you in then?"

And isn't it brilliant when you can throw people into consternation by coming ten minutes before closing (well, they shouldn't close so early), filling in a form, paying, leaving as she bolts the door behind me and she makes a pointed comment about their opening hours, only for me to notice as I walk away that's it's still not half-past yet (and they're supposed to be open until 4.30).

- There's a hole in Tottenham Court Road. There's a dip in the tarmac, a couple of cracks where it's pealed away from itself, then a chasm down into the dark depths which is about big enough to get a coke can down sideways. And judging by the slump in the road, the hole isn't the only hollow bit. It's just south of the crossing by Warren Street station, on the Sainsbury's side.

It's amazing what you find out while popping up to post something through a nearby door, while trying to get back down in time to catch the last train home (having walked round the corner to see one bus I could get just pull away, and the alternative bomb past nearly empty, ignoring the stop completely). I ended getting the penultimate one (having just missed the one before), and discovering that the automated displays don't show anything over quarter of an hour away.

- I've been naughty. I've been buying DVDs again. And of course during the traditional watching the beginning to check they work (which didn't pick up the problem on the only faulty one I have - Spirited Away has few chapters where the chapter replays rather than going into the next. I also have a pre-film copy of The Beach which is bound in the wrong order, and so has extra WTFness). Can you guess what I've been buying from the following lines?

Fetchez la vache and God gets quite irate.

Can you tell what it is yet?

It was cheap, as were the other things I bought - which managed to skew Amazon's recommendations. Where once it tried to sell me such delights as "Building Construction: Structure and Fabric Pt. 1", now it suggests oddly titled things like "My Beautiful Laundrette" (never seen, never heard of and the title's not really doing it for me).

Which, by virtue of its eightiesness and, via Eastenders, Londonness, gets me to Line of Beauty, which just so happens to be available on the BBC's website (not sure if it's UK only. Suck it and see).

Hurray, hurrah and huzzah! The BBC2 site runs to more than poor comedies! Ok, so it does Top Gear as well, except they only seem to have put up the first episode of the series, which is quite annoying. I'm also still trying to find out what happened to Nevermind the Buzzcocks. I'm guessing it's finished, but I obviously missed the bit where they said it.

I'm sure that isn't all, but I'd better get up properly.


PS. Very unimpressed with the new version of Flickr. It took me a while to find how to search the tags on just my photographs. But now if you search for "Fruit" on Anyhoo, and then the results come up, it also has related tags for each photograph. Click on one of those, for example "Apple", and it displays anything apple from the whole of Flickr, until you click the dropdown to reselect yourself and do another search. And they've changed the address bar used, so instead of ending something like "/photos/anyhoo/tags/fruit/" it's "?z=t&w=56545618%40N00&q=drink&m=text". Maybe I'm odd in preferring the Ronseal approach.

They've added a function but done it so badly it feels like they've taken one out. They've made me think I ought to be able to do something while simultaneously not allowing me to do it (whereas beforehand it didn't appear to be an option).

And another thing; I don't like the way it displays 24 thumbnails in four rows of five and one of four (and it's not apparently connected to window size). That blank space at the end does not say "more to come". It says "The End", despite being on page one of three.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Greece 1 600 - 14 EphemerataI'm on television.

I appear as the voiceover says "more conventional" in this report.

Ok, so it's only by the greenish hue, time of day and state of build that I know it's me, and there was another person with me, hence to seemingly shapeless form as we peer through the gap in the fence towards the left of the picture.

And while I'm doing BBC News stuff, this image just amused me. Caption competition methinks.


Monday, May 15, 2006

2005-10-02 002Aren't newspapers great?

Not only do they provide handy websites to browse when I should be working (do I care about X*? Should I? Well, there's an article to read on it, and it's not work, so...), but they produce informative guides to back exercise (along with an article which claims chiropracty and osteopathy are just charlatanism where the sole benefit is the human contact [Read it, as without it this post makes even less sense]).

* I was going to pick a headline from the Guardian's frontpage today, except I realised I vaguely do care about most things, except sport (and Water Butts for £43.98), and it's just churlish to pick "England Manager Scottish Name Shock" or something similar (was he the one in the Sex Pistols? Do I mean the Sex Pistols?).

Of course, given a guide, what do I do? Strangely read the thing, even though it may tell me how to do something, but because it doesn't say "instructions" above an incomplete series of badly labelled diagrams, I'm not compelled to ignore it. And by read, I mean the traditional response for any set of instructions, which is to read each bit once, do that section, and then move on, until you discover it wants eggs and you haven't got any eggs, and it's a Sunday evening, and er, I'm sure it won't matter.

So the first one, something call Cat Curls (which presumably are what spasm afflicted builders do when anything remotely female walks past). It wants me to make a box (do you want some fish as well? I can do big and little), on hands and knees, with shoulder-wrist and hip-knee straight. My back should now be flat.

Um, are we talking comedic Black-and-Decker advert flat here? The before shelves where they only just save the goldfish bowl in time? Because, and this might mark me out as a freak, strangely my arms aren't the same length as my thighs. I know it's a bit of an odd thing, but surely they can't expect every reader of their website to have standard Berliner adapted arms?

Straight-ish maybe, but not flat. Not unless they redefine vertical.

First it wants you to cat and cow away until the cats come home (which is obviously far later than when the cows do. Cows traipse in at dusk, ploddingly habitual; cats saunter back occasionally to see if you've bought a replacement yet). Then it wants you impersonate a compass by sticking opposing limbs in opposing directions. Which was fine, except it was fine, and it's a stretching excercise, so if it feels fine then that sort of means I've done something wrong.

For added fun it suggests closing your eyes, which tests your balance. For added fun I say complete the Superman effect (and you can imagine yourself as Reeve, The-other-one or The-latest-one) by raising your arm and your leg on the same side, which also tests your balance.

Next comes the Wall Rolls, which somehow makes me think vanilla ice cream wrapped in curiously inert sponge (to the non-UK people, it was a dessert, called an Artic Roll, being a bit like a Swiss Roll, but frozen; it was considered a treat in the days before people discovered the heady sosphication of Viennetta (which shares as much connection with Vienna as Londis does with London*). Basically imagine lagged ice cream and you'll be about there). But instead it's just like one of those excercises a doctor told me to do when I was younger, which I did, slightly haphazardly for a fortnight and then forgot. It's easier if you have a genuine wall available, rather than a wobbling wardrobe.

*Please don't point out that Londis comes from London Distribution Services or some such. You'll only ruin it for the others.

I am concerned by the mention of "taking at least four counts down", as I'm not sure we've got enough to spare if everyone takes up these exercises (although maybe that's the point; it is the Guardian, after all). Will Earls do?

Seriously, I've never liked the notion of timing excercise. Probably because I have no rhythm, get bored and lose count if I'm counting, or forget to start the stopwatch if I'm not. But they haven't mentioned timing until slinging it in in this by-the-way manner.

And sticking points? I guess I'm lucky to have so few. Well, it is mostly one big one, which I'm pretending is not the early symptoms of some horrific heridetary bone disease (especially not as my grandfather had an HBD, possibly with the first H), much prefering to think of it as an indicator that I haven't been swimming since Greece; a situation I really ought to do something about, much like my "do I still have an NHS doctor?" and "My NHS dentist retired and the replacement sent me a letter setting out her private charges" status.

Seated Back Press, which is a variation of the Gutenberg technique. I'm fine until "about 110 degrees". So I'm supposed to be sitting upright on the edge of a chair, and lean back 110 degrees? Am I supposed to be sitting back to front? I think the chair may fall over. Nope, it definitely says lean back until I touch the back of the chair, which should be about 110 degrees. What, Farenheit?

You know when I mentioned them redefining vertical? Maybe I'm being daft. Maybe it's 110 from straight down, except they do mention it's a high backed chair, so it's unlikely to be 20 degrees above the horizontal (not unless the seat is very deep, and one's back very long). I'm guessing they mean a bit beyond halfway between vertical and horizontal, which if there are 720 degrees in a circle would be about 110, or about 55 degrees for us weird a-mile-a-minute folk.

But leaving that one before I notice how much my stomach muscles are trembling, the next is Lower Lumbar Back Stretch. First, find youself a bigger house. Lean with your back flat against a wall (or wardrobe). Raise both arms and put them against the wall. Now try to put your back flat against the wall. Now your arms again. Well done, you've discovered leverage.

Ok, maybe you're supposed to bring your arms up from the side, so they go round the end of the collar bone rather than in front of it. Except now I can't get them straight up (but the left wasn't fully back as there's a wall in the way).

Try again. Still no good. Back or arms, not both. Have I got bizarrely recessed shoulder joints or has the writer fallen of a horse one too many times? I refuse to believe it's me, having recently been asked by someone who was complaing about a yoga class if I could touch my ear lobe with my other hand, going round the back of my head. Apparently this is supposed to be hard, and apparently being able to get your hand back round your chin counts as showing off.

So either I put my arms up and back so pushing my shoulder blades out as a pivot, or I have them flat-ish against the wall but not over my head. I settle for straight up and having my fingers touching the wall.

And now to lean. It says gentle, but it's not doing anything apart from make one very small area of my stomach muscles hurt on the compression side (ok, so it hurts in the same place when I lean the other way. God knows what I've done). Try going further but met the flanking wall, and the other way runs out of supporting wardrobe. At this rate I've have to go and do it on the stairs as it's the only bit of unobstructed wall.

Then comes Lying Side Rotation. It says lying. I'm guessing that needs floor. Er, well give me half a day to shift the washing racks, folders, ex-flatmate's yet-to-be-reclaimed possessions, furniture and oh, I've found some wine, and then I'll lie and make snow angels in the dust of the carpet. As the thing sounds like skiing but lying on your back, I might skip it for the time being.

After that Cardio....

Yeah right.

And if I'm going to be doing all this, then I probably should start using that wrist-spinny-ball-thing again to work on my arms (by again, I should point out the last attempt only confirmed that I have a natural righthandedness when it comes to wrist action, and so to avoid looking like a fiddler crab, I slightly stopped using it). But I really don't feel like it, and surely wearing out a keyboard counts as sufficient excerise (even if my shoulders currently ache, for which I blame over zealous wall rolls)? Who's up for realising how much I need to get through this summer, so shorts use is going to be minimal, thus I needn't worry about calves which have finally lost all trace of living in Exeter?

Oh, it's quite late, and this isn't the post I thought it was going to be.


PS. Apol's for lack of spellcheckery, but my computer apparently doesn't have enough space left to run Word. Time to take to the hamster's eggbox I think.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

2005-08-28 063 OptimismAren't parents great?

You know when you arrange to meet them, in fact you actually move things around so you can? And then they don't ring to say they're leaving, but that probably means they left late and were in a bit of hurry, and they'll ring me when they get to London? And then they still haven't rung, but maybe they're on the Tube, although if I supposed to be meeting them, I'd have to be on the Tube at the same time as them, oh, but I'm sure they'll ring in a minute? They must be nearly here though, so I'd only annoy them if I rang to ask "Are you nearly here yet?" so I'll wait a bit longer, although isn't it getting a bit late? And then the phone rings, and it's my mother, and oh wow what a surprise, they haven't left yet, they're about to leave, they're having a row while she's still on the phone to me, they're not coming, my mother's blaming him but I can hear the television in the background, which sort of suggests she's watching it, which means she'd got up first, usually solely for the purposes of allowing her "and who got up first" points in the ensuing arguments (should the first act of one's day be a pre-emptive act of warfare?), and then sat round waiting for my father to get up, then became ensconced in front of the thing, and annoyed by my father saying he's ready and asking if she is, to which she'll answer in the dismissively affirmative, which can be taken to mean she's nearly ready, nearly being used in the same sense as our family uses lightly, which stems from some washing my father put in the airing cupboard, which he described as "lightly crumpled", so my father will abandon all hope of moving in the next hour, get coffee, go off to buy papers, return, sit reading the paper, which my mother will take to mean that he's not ready yet, and if he's not ready yet, then why should she be, and at some point she'll accuse him of drinking coffee (and therefore all that stands for), cue the first rally of rowing, then comes a sulk, although they've been doing it so long neither actually bother to sulk anymore, and simply go back to whatever it was they were doing, then another row, this time involving something which happened in 1979, to which my father no longer deigns to respond, simply carrying on with the crossword and asking if it was Leda with the swan, can she think of the name of a mask which is three-somethings-u-something-something-s-something, which may or may not be worse than what he used to do, or may simply be an extension of it, as there was a long period when in any argument my father would be guaranteed to say the worst possible thing in response to any comment from my mother (I was never sure if this was intentional), and they're back to arguing, only now she's citing some woman she doesn't like from aquaerobics, but pretending she does like her because my father thinks the extraneous woman is an idiot, a view cultivated from only receiving my mother's interpretation of her, which sort of suggests my mother thinks that too, and sooner or later, is it mask the noun or verb, because -s- is either ise or ism, the topic will shift again, resurrecting the who-got-up-first, and if she's not careful, she'll end up using "and another thing" which is shorthand for this argument is now null and void, not that it stops the argument, merely rules out the conclusion of any of the separate arguments in it, botulism maybe, because of botox, have you watered the begonias, the last signalling the end of the argument because my father has, and therefore potentially overwatered them, or hasn't, and so droughted them (in this family one can never just "water"; it always comes with equal doses of error and blame, which are our Miracle-Gro and Baby-Bio), then my mother will have to go and check on them, and thereby get cross with the garden for daring to take advantage of her erratic presence, and my father will start playing his guitar or listening to something on Radio 3, and thus isolating them both for over an hour (my mother taking the view the Devil's Music is all of it), at some point they might remember they were supposed to be going to London to meet one, possibly both, of their sons, only they don't feel like it now, but rather than say they can't be bothered, and London's such a hassle, and they always get too hot and tired, they'll say the other one didn't get up which shows he or she can't be bothered, the other one finds London confusing and stressful (despite one having lived here and the other worked here), the other one always gets too hot which makes him or her cross, the other one gets tired so easily, so always wants to stop for coffee, which is a pain (it's true, my father's first act on arriving anywhere is to stop for food and drink [neither of which he needs], which given how long he takes, means nothing ever gets done. It's not unknown for parts of the party to disappear off to do 4 disparate things and come back only slightly flurried to find him in the same place, nursing the dregs), so it's all the other one's fault really, and the speaker can't really come on their own, can they, to which if one answers yes, they respond that it is a bit late now, because the other one held them up, and so if they'd been on their own they would have come, and there will be next time, although not then, nor then, nor then, and whatever it is we were going to see finishes before then, so maybe leave it until his, her, your birthday, that alright?

And of course it isn't really, as I've moved things round to fit them in, and now have gaping void, half of which has been used up doing nothing waiting for them, and the exhibition I wanted to go to, that I put off seeing because I was going to see it with them, will finish before I get another chance to go, as I won't be able to find anyone else to go, and while I could go on my own, it's always more fun and more informative to go with someone else (even if it is to engage in mutual sarcasm).

So when two adults prefer to indulge in mutual blame for inaction rather than actually do anything, that's parenthood, right? Or just marriage? Or even simply coupledom?

And yes, they were once overheard by my brother and I to claim that they were staying together for the children, which at the time seemed to us a woefully misguided strategy (although in retrospect, I'm not sure I could ever stand living with just the one).

It's hardly surprising they worry about my brother wearing himself out, given how much overcompensates (whereas I tend to alternate between submission, so not doing anything and getting miserable and annoyed about it, or rebellion, and so doing everything I possibly can, which usually means coming back late, too late to cook, and then remembering I haven't quite had time to think about eating. Thank God for apples, or failing that, Hob-Nobs). It's also to be expected that both of us have on occasion got infuriated by the endless delays and so stood asking questions until we get truthful answers, and then commanded our parents to go and get their earrings or close the greenhouse, to do whatever myriad pending jobs they are using as an excuse for doing nothing, then get them out and in the car, where they both look surprised to be out of the house in under quarter of an hour, where they promptly start arguing over the route, worrying they've left the door unlocked (so what if we have? We went away for a fortnight and came back to find it ajar, but nothing had noticeably happened, except for a few scattered bits of paper near the door, where the wind had caught them. Who is going to walk up and try the door? And if it's open, that usually means someone's in, either painting the dining room and trying to get rid of the smell, or it's too hot inside, or they're having a party, or a pipe burst and they're trying to dry the carpet, or they're hidden somewhere in the garden) or my mother demands that the radio, suddenly spewing shrieking woman once the ignition is turned on, is turned off, which causes a row because it's obvious my father has booby trapped the car with Wagner to spite her, just like his pettiness in moving the seat from where she left it.

If they were the same height I'd bang their heads together. Very occasionally I'll be so annoyed that I'd drive them, and scare them in the process by combining my mother's speed with my father's steering and land positioning for the first ten minutes (which is something of feat in itself, if driving the Skoda, where the accelerator works on a binary system of "standby engine" and "dead slow" [with occasional incidences of "stop" for good measure]). It is worrying when I find myself thinking that if I can handle my parents, then children will be a doddle. Unfortunately it's probably true (although children don't generally realise how driving is supposed to be done, so I can safely drop the less-safe scare tactics).

So once again I ask, aren't the parents the greatest thing since sliced bread (although not Morrisson's Wholemeal, which apparently must constitute an entire meal, otherwise it's liable under the Trade Descriptions act, as it manages to be the whitest brown bread known to mankind)?

Think that's enough ranting for now.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Arsenal must be returning to their military origins: there's a bloody great battle flag hanging outside my window declaring "Arsenal. Emirates Stadium... a bright, new future." And it's making the helicopter, which is struggling to hold it in the slight wind, look very small.

Not that I have the foggiest where the new one is, it being football, and the Arsenal website 404ing the maps.

Uh oh, the banner appears to have met the rain. Expect the rotorblades to start bending to a worrying degree.

GF9 600 - 27I should be working, but, er, I'm not.

So after managing to go and see the heffalump last night, only getting there at about 7.35, and discovering that while the show may run late, it also may run early, hence a snoring girl, a sagged elephant and about 8 people in the entirety of a very wet Horseguard's, and no sign of action until today, when I don't have time to see it. I hadn't realised that it was supposed to be put on last year, running over the weekend of the 9th July, and so unsurprisingly got postponed at the last minute. I guess I'll just have to be another city it happens to visit at the right time.

Oh, and to the Texans on the bus yesterday: It's Nelson's Column. It commemorates Admiral Nelson who died at the Battle of Trafalgar, hence being in Trafalgar Square. It is not "The Trafalgar Square Column" and it does not commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar Square, although yes, that was in Spain [ok, "that" being the battle, and off-Spain being more accurate, and anyway surely it would be "Plaza de Trafalgar"?]. But then their other comments where about Diana Rigg [she was on television, said in tones of awe, although they didn't know what she'd been in, simply that she'd been on] and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest [Is that new? I heard someone talking about it, must have only just come out], featuring Christian Slater [I didn't know he was British]. They also were loudly discussing which bus to get from Victoria, despite getting on one with "Westminster" on the front. I guess they'll just to pay out another dollar-half to get in-between (well, they could walk it as it's only a short walk, but it's a short English walk, in weather they'd complained was being very English [how do you think this land stays so green and pleasant? It's not sprinklers you know]).

I do hope it was an act put on to amuse the locals, while allowing the perpetrators to laugh at the gullibility of the audience.

Hell, I've just seen the time. Point of this post was being reminded that the Eurovision Song Contest is slowly approaching. How? Because someone found here by Googling "Peter and the Woof"+mp3 (sorry, I've only got it on a "Classics for Children" tape, try searching for "Peter and the Wolf", and now I've got the tune stuck in my head da-de de-d'd'd'...), which lead me here, and then to the Eurotastic "I wanna love you tender" and "Moscow". I'm not sure which is worse, although the Finglish adds a certain something, with memorable lines like "Your lips are taste of wine", "How can I be sure you no pretender?" "I just want to be your loving bender [or possibly fender]" and their curious inability to say "sweet" plus the odd Monty Python reference at about the two-minute mark. Note the section which also doubles as a deodorant application instructional video.

At least the Moscow/Moscou/Moskau thing has the advantage of being in German so the logical nonsense of the lyrics is obscured (although I'm not sure what Brunhilde is doing in there). And it doesn't help my brain keeps slipping into "Ra-Ra-Rasputin, lover of the Russian Queen". Good comic baddy laughing though, and surely that can't be Ming in the blue?

Think you can better either of those? Links in the comments.


PS. Bathtub? Er, I know pop lyrics are supposed to make no sense, but...

Saturday, May 06, 2006

2005-08-31 018Last night

'... I was flat on my back in Soho, possibly saw Tracey Emin's nipple, slept in Jane Fonda's bed'

Ok, so the last one's not me, but from the Guardian's feature this is homaging.

The Soho thing because I was tired, dispirited and hungry. And I happened to be near Soho Square, have an apple in my bag and nowhere to eat it. So I found myself lolling on concrete ledge, uncertain of the dampness of the grass, and to acutely observed to sit anywhere more prominent. One problem with Soho; everyone's looking, judging, dismissing. It's a land of endless slights, and not really the best place to be if one's confidence has taken a battering.

Which is why I laid back and thought of England. Well, the English habit of getting excited about weather. It's summer, quick, where's my cropped trousers? We can put our barbeque on this bin. Gosh, isn't it so hot? which only too soon [with a small interlude of thunderstorm-watching] becomes It's snowing!. We are a rush-to-the-windows nation.

I quite like lying in the sun, eyes closed, head propped on bag (everyone needs a liberated loo roll for a pillow; we'd run out and my flatmates don't tend to do anything about it, and I didn't feel like going shopping), basking in the strangely green glow.

Ok, so it would have been better if I could properly sunbathe, but if you think I'm taking of my shirt in the midst of so many gay men, you obviously haven't seen the disgusted looks I get for having antisocially thing forearms.

Better still would have been the guitar playing guy sticking to the instrumental versions, as he twiddles melodically away peacefully soothing, until the crap, erratically shouted lyrics kicked in. Some people don't have the voice for shouting.

Even better would have been being able to drift through the cascading perfume flowing from a lilac without having the acrid emissions of some haggard man's cigarette scattering the viscous scent like Fairy into fat. The little twigs of doom so painfully vile I wondered what he was actually smoking. Hawthorn, I think. Either that or rolled sections of a chemistry lab extract filter.

So once el mariachi hit what I take to be his version of the schizophrenic Fairytale of New York, only with both parts sung in a pale, Home Counties voice, with added excitement around the swearwords because they were naughty, I decided I'd better leave, especially as the tree at the far end had grown covetously taller, dappling heat.

So then south, or east, or whichever direction it is to Covent Garden. But that's an averaged course, as I did my traditional tacks as I discover Monmouth's the wrong one, so back down Neal Street. While useful for evading u-boats - I've just finished reading The Boat, also known as Das Boot, which is good, if uncannily similar to The Cruel Sea or Montserrat's non-fiction stuff - it's not the most direct route, but I wasn't in much of a hurry, idling simply for the sake of otherness.

In the square - piazza, Arthur, piazza - I passed up the opportunity to watch a man fail to set a borrowed child on fire, ignored for health reasons the solo artist (meaning he had no audience) who was stretching Sweet Child of Mine to a more savage degree than the average French lesson tape, and then found myself lingering by a man with a rope. And some knives. And a penchant for heckling the audience, although he hadn't got it quite right, possibly because the audience was speaking Greek most of the time, and possibly because he was mostly interested in making good looking females flirt. But I hung around for a while, well actually until he finished, just because boredom couldn't invent anything better to do, and then shamefully didn't out any money into his hat because he repeatedly said what was a suitable donation, which was way above anything I'd consider (or had on me).

Possibly the most entertaining section was when an American near me asked his friend if the building labelled "St Paul's Church" was the famous one.

Not quite.

Then south, or west, walking through the city, with low sun making the buildings sing. Past the depressingly empty Metropole Building, which on a different street is labelled the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (ok, separate, yet neighbouring, building equally as abandoned).

The New Metropole BuildingI've just discovered that the Minagfi and Metropole are both being assessed for redevelopment (obviously very thorough assessment given how long it's taking), with the Metropole dismissed as unimportant, and to be replaced with the thing on the right. Which they've clearly put a lot of thought into designing. They must have done, because the website says:
The development has been shaped by the desire to create a stunning building which will be an exemplar of good design.
Ok, I'm being unfair, as the rendering isn't particularly accurate, but it does seem to have been selected for its least-offensive-while-still-claiming-to-be-iconic status. Perhaps the current building isn't quite the architectural gem it might have been, but why replace it with something duller?

And this isn't written with quite the vitriol it might have had, as I've been distracted by discovering what else the Crown Estates own.

Anyway, back to last night, after the dyslexic nunnery (there must be something about religious females, as I used to have a dentist called Eria as the nuns forgot the c), and sun doused stone, I wander along the southbank, pausing for long enough to have the impression of the concrete marring my arms, before getting to the Tate, where Rachel Whitebread's [I know, but it's become habitual] fantasia on sugarcubes was being ground up in the back of a lorry. Hollow plastic boxes slung into the flaying arms mobile plastic shredders make quite a lot of noise, and the hall works with hums, rumbles and thuds booming cavernously. I wanted to ask if I could take one home, but I thought they it might be a bit big to carry, not terribly useful, and the guy on security already looked annoyed, so if I ever do need to show of my Rachel Whitbread, I'll have to have some advance warning so I can freeze a box of water.

Then deciding I could be arsed with actually looking at art, instead wondering how I've never noticed the lorry-sized door which leads onto the balcony crossing the hall, I went into the shop to find a birthday card. A few minutes of indecision later, Tracey Emin walked in. She was there to do a DVD-signing (DVD-only, no just autographs), although she thought she was there to do a q-and-a (like C-and-A only less defunct).

And if you see any pictures of the event, with a guy absent-mindedly fanning himself with a Moholy-Nagy in the background, I'm probably him.

But instead of waiting for the questions (what's the atomic mass of Bohrium?), or joining the loiterers in their insights (she's small, but has good legs, if silly shoes, and she's not as ugly as photographs make her look, but the pink rock star sunglasses aren't working), I buy a card and postcard, discover the coal-towers picture is no longer on display (I remember really loving it when I first discovered it), laugh at a Miffy at the Gallery book, wander out, up the slope, past the gaggle peering through the window, turn and look back, and realise the gaggle have view right down Miss Emin's cleavage, and then she moved and I saw darkness that had too much colour to be a shadow. And then, being me, I got embarrassed, looked, then walked away.

It could just have been some quirk of the lighting.

And then home, to food and Green Wing, and teaching SG swearwords. Most of which she miraculously hadn't heard at 4.45 that morning, when one resident of the surrounding estate decided to make sure every single other one knew that a guy one flat was a "fucking ginger cunt" or occasionally a "ginger fucking cunt" just to novelty's sake. I think it was the usual thing, for round here, of there being too much fucking of cunt generally, hence the girl plaintively trying to restrain boyfriend number one, who was trying to trash a car at the time.

And it was then that I realised I think she was one half of the couple who were having a row about STDs outside my window a while ago. Of course, it might not have been her, as from up here they all blend into one, which is possibly why the local males seem to get so frequently confused. I imagine they're doing the sexual version of driving down a street of identical houses holding down the garage-door opener until one of them opens. It's just that the automated doors all seem to operate on the same frequency.

Oh, I meant to go and see the elephant tonight. I might go for the end of it. Bye,


Monday, May 01, 2006

2005-12-25 0904 randoms to alleviate the boredom induced by subjects as disparate as net present cost, tundral warming and semiconducter doping.
- The spirit of Dan lingers on. Or maybe just his money. For some reason I've been given a £1 coin from the Isle of Man as change from somewhere round here, which makes me wonder how people Manx money importers there are near here, and what circulation times the money faces (the two other pounds I got at the same time are from 1983 and 1985, and as I've just discovered, that means you should know what they look like).

Incidentally, it's from 1999 and apparently lays claim to cricket as a Mannish thing.

- I can't speak Polish. But someone Polish can speak me. I've no idea why, simply that I'm sidebarred. If you can work out what they're saying, can you let me know.

And I can speak Polish: a bit. Mojej ciotki dlugopis, for example (although Google Images suggests pióro might be more in keeping with the original).

- Photographs tagged on Flickr with "Purest Evil". Guess which one I disagree with.

- French rap music. I'm sure it's not supposed to be funny, but it does make excellent use of a xylophone.


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