Tuesday, October 31, 2006

2005-11-05 Greenwich 063Blasted man. I've just discovered how easy it is to spend an age reading through posts on Sin's blog - at least read the first posts in Unforgivable Sins. I defy you to avoid resorting to stiff_upper_lip-ism (or in my case clamped teeth, pursed lips and cheeks tensed to hold my eyes taut). But then I've also recently spent an age talking to him, when not inadvertently carrying bookcases. Oh, and being woken by him returning from a nightclub. One would think that after the chicken-tonight incident I would learn not to leave my mobile on overnight, but no, apparently I enjoy frantic buzzing missives which demand I ring him as soon as I wake. I took that to mean as soon as I'm awake enough to converse, so I'll go back to sleep now, thereby also allowing Sin to sleep and possibly sober up, and thus eventually say when contacted "I'm confused" and confuse me with talk of rickshaws.

And as he staked a claim to a phrase I used in conversation, I shall retaliate by pilfering one from his blog, hereafter to be shoehorned shamelessly into any vaguely suitable context:
"Here’s a ladder, now get over yourself."

I know there's a more common variant of that recurrent on his blog*, but I prefer the simple form.

* The idea that he reuses material delightfully allowing me to feel marginally less inept for tacking together the last post by a seemingly unbreaking thread of "somehow", or for my perpetual forest floor approach to writing. His writing means it is no surprise that he is told to put his life into chapters and send it to a publisher, whereas I have been told to put mine into sections; at least, I think that's what the blogfan meant by "you should be sectioned".

But I already knew he is prone to reuse, as indeed am I; I merely have fewer practices hence the result is less polished. Like Shakespeare, classic films and weak Radio 4 comedy, the last so predictable that I end up wondering if I wrote the script in year 8 drama, it can be very hard not to mouth the words in time with the speech. But then, with anecdotes like his, they are worth retelling.

I also find myself concerned if it would seem desperately rude to mention that I have read the current conversational meme on his blog. Thinking of the reaction of others when confronted with recalled blogcontents, perhaps mentioning something the author may not remember writing is not the best way to win friends. For note, I have been known to score over 90% on a test a friend jokingly set about herself, being the only person to score over 60% when the rest of the selection included her current boyfriend. I have also been accused of getting an A in General Studies at A' Level. I have consistently won Trivial Pursuit every time I have played it since I was 11 (although between 11 and 20 I refused to play it, after a spectacularly poor game led to a decade long sulk, on the grounds that I should not be expected to know the answers to anything which happened before I was born. I think it was the expectation that I should know of a Donovan beyond Jason that did it); some may suggest that this was simply because the opponents were either thick, drunk or both.

Yet despite the ability to remember slights suffered by people before I even knew them, which bizarrely might even suggest that for once it is not my fault, I remain regrettably impervious to any form of hint. I wish I could claim stubbornness bars me from following whims and wills not plainly stated, but it is not true. I simply do not notice them. Hints are like the unseasonable butterflies or bees out today; the form attracts attention, the statement noticed, but the fabric passes undetected, unassessed, swept beyond me to whither or moulder unobserved in some ill-divined yet destroying future. I am as sensitive to inward nuances as I am to bee stings; if it gets through I act. Yet the timely transmission of the inner meaning occurs about as often as a butterfly drinks my nectar (I've had them supping on my sweat, but I'm not sure that's relevant).

And yes I have used the flitting of hints elsewhere; disappointing I suspect the original form was better.

I do have to start worrying though; Sin purportedly abhors the misuse of both semicolons and commas. I've only recently learnt to use to former and am not entirely sure how conformist my efforts are (the application of the latter probably oscillates with the tides). But then perhaps that hanging 'are' annoys him equally. I would use the correct term for such structures but can only remember the partial Churchill quote which ends:
"...up with which I shall not put."

If I were cunning I would deliberately misapply punctuation in this post to better claim the flaws as intentional, but I rather fear I may end up unable to differentiate between intentional and basal errors.

This all is a ghastly variation on the original "I went to Sin's house. We talked". It adds verbiage, but little of any use (much like most of what I said). But I'm not sure what else is safe for public consumption. I wilfully pillaged his bookshelves. Our day featured both Thai and Egyptian (one cheese, one edible). I failed to enthral (he multitasks, disconcertingly for me, as my mother also claimed the ability, so I therefore expected him to fall asleep in front of Ski Sunday, in the middle of giving me a hated home haircut, doing marking, top and tailing beans, reading, and claiming to be listening. Obviously the memories are compressed as the idea of runner beans and Ski Sunday occurring in the same part of the year used to be impossible). But if you can persistently suppress the temptation to confiscate his mobile till home time, he is quite a good person to talk to and with.

But that is enough of the Hobbit for now. And now you can see why he is a blasted man, as for once I could think of a decent blogname, yet he already has one. The name incidentally (the use of which thereby suggesting that there might be something in here which is not incidental, although I am not entirely sure what) springs from his toes presumably not growing colder the more it snows, tiddly-pom or no.

So what else? This week had the delight of a proximity-influenced friend informing me that she was coming to stay for the weekend and, oh, which train on Friday would it be best for me to meet? As I don't think I'd even said anything approaching "Oh, do come, you simply must", I'm not quite sure where she got the stay-all-weekend idea from. As it was I had to placate her with the offer of a day. Cue the email to inform me that she will be arriving at 8.50 on Saturday morning. Cue several more emails back suggesting that while the time would be fine for me, I'm not sure it would be for the town. Cue someone else who doesn't take hints (actually, make that "'no' for an answer"). Cue setting an alarm on Saturday, getting up and running to the station through the town. On the way I saw 4 people; 3 of them in uniforms. The only place noticeably open was a butcher's.

So up to the station, with the shock of seeing a car moving, then arriving as the train pulled out, friend waving in best 4-year-old style (I don't mean two-thousand-and-yea-gods-two fashion, I mean full-on feet pointing in, knees together, Moomin-faced, Tubby-bye-bye wave). Smiling through the wince, I gave the merest nod of recognition and was secretly glad it avoided the usual chaos of handshake, hug, kiss, multiple-kiss or any combination thereof.

So where now? The town has yet to stir, so we headed towards the church, where I managed to display an astounding lack of knowledge on both history and religion, save for weak anecdotes. But I was largely concerned with damage limitation, in trying to restrain SG from clambering into the pulpit, bashing organ pipes, mountaineering in the choir or... fortunately the sound of prayer from a side chapel scared her off the idea of Andrex Puppying the altar. Now I understand why some parents use reins.

We beat a hasty retreat, out into the churchyard, where I explain the concept of spires, yew trees, burials, gravestones, tombs, war memorials and ugly 1970s extensions. She recoils in horror when she realises the path flagstones are reclaimed gravestones, leaping onto the grass back, fearful of stepping on the dead. Which is when I helpfully point that actually the bodies are under the grass, and would she mind not dancing on their graves.

Then down to the river and bridges, and weak claims to fame that nearly led me to cheer once while in North Wales. Then into the riverside park, with warnings to avoid the grass (a river runs through it). Round a monument, discussing parts of it, the background to it and the design. I gave up explaining the Delhi connection and that of New Foundland. I also abandoned trying to explain the shifting social acceptability and obligation of greeting complete strangers with "Morning" or "Hello".

Then out of the town past gorse, thistle, rose, nettle, bramble and bracken, describing most as 'fluffy' just to see if she can remember the concept of euphemism. Then onto birches and beeches, willows weeping and pussy, chestnuts including those disturbingly unconkered equine, ash, oak, elder and alder, and no, there is no tree in steak and ale pie (so don't ask; my face at the time attempted to produce shrapnel as eyebrows and jaw repulsed one another).

Onwards along the river, downstream, with complaints about the mud and confusion over moorhens, ducks, geese and swans. Then back up the other side of the valley, discovering that SG hasn't quite got the hang of not getting run over on roads without pavements. She also hasn't quite got the hang of either trying to keep up or at least making sure I know she's standing in the middle of the road staring at a hawthorn somewhere round the last bend.

So back up, with warnings of low flying pheasants, although the usual avian diaspora was disturbing absent. Apparently Shanghai living does not provide contact with many cows, the ability to tell male from female or the distinctive sensation of milking. So not only did I have to convince her that cows are not worth fearing (unless they inhabit a certain field on the Dorset coast, or are actually bulls), then try to explain that the bunch in the field were this year's crop, hence all being quite small (SG said of the smallest one, which happened to the white, "Is that a sheep?"), and that some of udderless are a bit less male than the others (don't whatever you do speak of "the bullocks with the bollocks" in the presence of a non-native English speaker).

Then back into town, through the High Street, failing to provide commentary on the buildings and places, beyond agreeing that even Woolworths is in an old building. Into the museum, round it far too quickly as it's changed since I was last in there (but then I had to stand on tiptoe to peer out of the windows last time; this time I had to crouch). Annoyingly they've junked the models of various bits of artifice, to be replaced with "feel me" lumps of rock from Dorset.

Back downstairs to discover my plan for a cheap lunch forgot to include the charity Christmas cards filling the normal cafe space. Wandering back through the town in hunt of cheap food, I discover I have developed my mother's ability to fail to notice shops changing (she still calls one place Shoppers' Paradise, despite it having about 4 new shops or name changes since then. We won't go into last month's "I've lost the Post Office" debacle) after walking past sandwich shops because they were things like an opticians and thus of no importance at all. Eventually I suggest heading to the next town over, dump SG while I run to get the car, return, collect her, discover she has no idea how to use a seatbelt (not the best thing to discover at the lights behind a policecar), change the plan slightly by heading to a pub in the opposite direction, then find out that she's not all that used to cars, especially not being in the front seat as I trim the passing hedges.

So we arrive in Rural Pub Type Place (I've forgotten the blognames I've used for the pub and the place), having discovered that I've been in London too long, as my ad-libs to other drivers all seem to end in "mate". For example:
"You might want to try signalling, mate. You know, it's that odd clicking stick that gets caught on your cuff."
"If you want a tow, you only have to ask, mate. I've even got a towrope so you don't have to hook your bumper over my towbar."
"I know yo ass is so wide it's still last Thursday on the left cheek, but yo ride ain't that wide, mate."
"I say, would you mind awfully telling your chap with the red flag to buck up a bit? He's damnably slow, mate."

I'm not entirely sure if talking while driving amuses, impresses or petrifies SG. I supposed saying to someone who's never been in a car outside a constant traffic jam "Oh bugger, I'm speeding again. But they shouldn't have changed the speed limit, you can take this corner at at least 60" probably isn't very tactful. Nor is taking the racing line, complete with fun gear changes, a good idea if not strictly necessary (but wide in, narrow out while accelerating is fun and it provided the only chance to read the tailgating van's number plate).

So park outside the pub, slotting between posts. Then SG manages to open the window instead of the door, as she didn't know where the handle was, so instead of asking copied what I did, as I closed my window. Go into the pub, chat to a sibling of GA, greet dog #1, belatedly get excitedly recognised by #1, give a hopeful #2 a "don't you dare" look (she is the only dog stupid enough to consider biting me), which for once she notices, hear faint whimpering behind me, and wonder if I've stood on the paw of the third dog. No, it's just SG being scared of everything, including dogs. She is now convinced everyone in this country owns a dog, as nearly everyone we met that morning had one in tow (but then the only people out early on Saturday are those with dogs agitating to be let out). Earlier I very nearly had to call her to heel when she shied at the sight of two dogs ahead on a track who were very excited about meeting each other. The idea that they were more interested in each other than her didn't seem to sink in.

So after asking GA's sibling to recommend something fairly filling and fairly cheap (long pause, then "did I stump you on the cheap?"), and failing to either be recognised or be served by GA's father, we order then sit down to eat, or rather sit, realise I haven't actually got us drinks (well, er, normally I'm with GA, and they just sort of appear, so I don't have to go through the rigmarole of deciding what I want, getting served, and actually remembering to pay), but I'm driving, and SG's response to drink is in the realm of litmus paper; if it has alcohol in, she's drunk.

So while we chat, dog #1 appears, clambers under the table, head by my thigh, waiting to be stroked. Because we're in a dim part of the pub, and the dog's black, and SG doesn't tend to hang on my every word, she doesn't seem to notice the undertable fumblings, the comments to the dog, or that she's within three feet of what she considers to be the actual apocalypse. Worryingly, dog #1 seems to have abandoned her carpet beater habit, which would have given her presence away (never sit opposite GA when she's greeting #1 as you won't have any shins left). Perhaps it's a result of crowded pub living, but it can't be good.

The food arrives, SG decides she wants what I ordered, while I cheekily get the barman to bring us a couple of pints of water, simultaneously trying not to visualise him naked (there was a calender; I did not have a copy, merely saw one). #1 departs, only to circle the table and come back to curl up under my seat, like a furry Stone of Scone (and just think how different Scottish history would be if they'd used enough baking powder).

We finish and depart, having failed with the immersion (or submersion) technique of treating cynophobia. Into Notacity, parking on the Point because not only is it free even on a Saturday (it's up a steep hill, barring even the kitten-heeled), but because it provides a sweeping view over to the north, across Notacity, towards to grey towers of Stirfried, and on a better day Hedgerow and Undone. Then into town, where SG complains about having come down a hill to go up a hill, to which I suggest she visits Exeter. Into a carpark, because it's got a different view and you get to point and laugh at those atop two old buildings, sharing the same view, where both other sets had to pay for the privilege, and one gets to enjoy it from a small cage, the other under the theatrical guidance of a namebadged man in a painful jumper. Back down via different alleys, down the other street in town, and into Khaki and Blue, because the museum would have closed and to be honest, I've completely run out of ideas, and it can't hurt to browse. SG isn't exactly overjoyed, but there's only so much one can do with pretty buildings.

So we wander, she shocked that she could find herself looking at a £400 jacket (and...?) then was so infantile I headed in the opposite direction to flirt with shop assistants in the hope that no one will notice I brought in the loon who is in profound wonderment at the endless array of Christmas ornaments. I'd already said I'd shoot her if she bought a white, mother of pearl Christmas tree. And it's quite surprising, considering how I actually look, just how quickly a department store can turn me into a style fascist. It's all sotto-voce bitchicisms and disappointed frowns that anyone could display such rank poor taste. I remember someone in H&M in Exeter getting quite miffed when he saw me disapproving of the sunglasses he was trying on, despite it only being a fleeting reaction. They didn't suit him, and he didn't buy them, but I think he was upset by my lack of pokerface. The only problem is when I forget to control my face while walking out through the make-up department, where the "oh dear" is all too easily communicated. Green eyeshadow really isn't attractive when it runs in the tears.

And it must say something about the way SG carries herself that for once there was not one asthma-inducing sample. Even when I'm on my own, in full Moses charge, I still get them trying to offer sprays (which as I'm a badly dressed male, who has never owned anything bought purely to add smell - the nearest I've got is shaving oil, and that only adds the tang of overspiced Christmas cake - does reflect both the perfume sellers' desperation and how they perceive SG). It might also be worth noting that she was wearing a Burberry trimmed coat over a coarsely knitted v-neck tanktop in navy and maroon on top of a Victoriana blouse in a pattern best described as Lowra Ashley. There's a fine, fine line between trendsetting and trainspotting.

I told you department stores make me into a bitch (ok, more accurately 'bring out the bitch'). How does one deal with people where a single look in their direction brings up an internal monologue ending in "...but at least I try". Said he presently wearing clothes too painful to describe.

Back into the street, towards to station with dismay upon noticing that Fopp are imminent (in a really bad site). It's bad enough they spread to TCR from Camden (please don't point out it's a national chain), but that's nearly as upsetting as Wagamama opening a Notacity branch. It means the small Londonisms are no longer Londonisms. What next? A club called G-U-Y opening near the end of Old Cobham Street?

So abandoning SG at the station, parting with a great distance already between us, I run back up the Point, to move the car before the world's fittest traffic warden tickets me for being two minutes late. Then back to Tweeton, for low and anticlimatic fireworks (the bangs as they took off were louder than the final explosions) while wondering quite what it is about public school children that makes them so brattish and their parents so charmlessly repulsive. And yes, there was a mêlée in the car park on leaving, as the natural snaking filter-in-turns collapsed once one crucial line of cars departed. It is as if they intentionally breed individualists; people solely designed to escape the lesser mortals in squeal of Mercedes silver on Porsche Cayenne black.

Which reminds me that Sin mentioned seeing an Arab man in Bentley bearing the registration "OIL", which one either hopes is his initials, or a note to remind him to check the levels the next time he gets petrol. While I cannot top that, I have seen something very similar in the form of a keffiyahed driver sitting in front of a smoked partition, attempting to swing something black, fat, and probably without reverse gear round the streets of London (including the pavements) with a number plate that ended "710", which was either pure coincidence or a slightly geeky lapse of taste (perhaps he worked for 77345). It is a pity some people would only twig when he rolled the thing.

Carrying on the Sin theme, he, and his chattels, do wonders for my vocabulary. It's odd that when I was with him I was incoherently groping for words, all rendered at safe-cracking speed or Dopplered into one whitenoise of a word. Yet with SG, and this is possibly as a result of her foreigness, my voice is far more grand, wonderfully enunciated, taking on the booming and sweeping vowels of Sin, becoming more prone to eloquence. I wonder how much of that is because the style of the message is the inverse of the substance. With Sin, it matters. There are endless jests and quips, but there's more communication going on than ever really occurs with SG. With SG either I'm explaining how to hold a fork, or how to kiss, or how to milk a cow, or how to gain confidence or how the clutch works, or I'm listening to an endless list of the ailments of her life, while occasionally finding that I'm channelling Mrs Butler. It's nothing really that Google cannot answer. Actually I suppose the same might be said of Sin, but he allows me to think of the right way of asking the question (even if it is not always the right question).

Anyway, that all is grossly incidental, as I was attempting to bring in reference to Stephen Fry's autobiography, Moab is my Washpot, which I gleaned from Sin's packing, along with half a dozen or so other books. Basically, I went to visit him on page 37 of Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie and several days later I remain on page 37 in one book and beyond 436 in the other.

Not only is it beguiling and engaging, with so many areas in need of quotation that I may as well list the bits fractionally less worth reading for brevity, but it does have an [...egregious? no. ...arrant? not quite... some vowel-word] tendency to send me scrabbling for a dictionary, or at least to scrawl them down to investigate later (albeit often inscribing punctiliously to better allow examination than scrawling). I have a third of an envelope of words for checking, although two of which are not from the book:
arrant, rorty, abjure, ratiocinating, ludic, agape (2), palliate, succubus (and thereby finally discovering what 'incubus' means, with Ghostbusters bonus points. I wonder what other -buses exist).

Those are simply words I did not know rather than those ill-remembered and damp with disuse as 'argot' and 'lissom'.

I still don't understand the Moab reference.

But that had better be it, as 'tis Halloween, and thus I, like all extant souls, am going to make damn sure I will not be in when the beggars-with-menaces appear (oddly, there seems to be very little awareness of the pumpkin code on this side of the West Sea), having failed to convince the trick-or-treaters last year that I was exempt by claiming to be Buddhist (well, if they have no saints, then All Saints/Hallowed Souls Day cannot exist and so there can be no evening before it).


PS. Wah! My window just flew open!
It could just be that I hadn't shut it properly and there was a gust. Cue:
It was a dark and stormy night...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

We interupt this programme to bring you a special message:

I'm not that dim Sum.

[Pun purely coincidental]

I'll do a proper post soon.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The misted car door opens nervously, a hunched figure emerging into slowly lightening street, walking uncertainly on the textures made harsh by abated rain. Following the house numbers he approaches the break in the terrace. He pauses, walks on, then turns back. Staring with comprehension but annoyance at the Dystrybucja sign beside the wire-glass door restraining a wall of books, he moves back to the building beyond. Bending to read the comms-grid he leans on a low button. Muffled speech as he tries the door. No luck. The late buzz-clack bids him enter, one door relentingly opening inwards after his pumping. He leaves the street at seven-thirteen, back out by sixteen. Returning to the car, carrying the same bag, now lighter, now relieved of a thick, deftly constructed package, hidden within an innocuous, branded ream wrapper, an inapt Niceday. The contents unknown to all but a few; the power ill-defined, uncertain. He breaks the fug of the dripping vehicle, negotiating with shadows. A small box, in tired paper, bearing an obscure message is passed out, into hand then bag. The door closes, deliberately slow. The car pulls away, the man watching, then walking into a side street. A few houses in he stops, leaning the bag on a wall, he removes the small box, in coded wrapping. In the other hand his phone, hunting for details. He walks to the door; an upstairs light, movement slowly starting within. Flap edged upwards, letterbox sighing, parcel falling to fate in a dull double thud. Turning, he heads south; south through streets and parks ever more anonymous, stopping thickening traffic, counting down to the discovery and disruption one of the packages will soon bring.

But that's enough of "how I dropped off my uncle's birthday present while I was in the area" written with a few too many unsplit infinitives and a hint too much Wainwright Rufus [verb noun adjective].

2006-10-20 024 - Black ToplarSo after hitting the Thames at the mid-point of Hammersmith bend I headed downstream, into the water masquerading as air, hence the slightly wearily grey images and cool diffuser effects in parts of some of the images. Low tide so the river was somewhere at the bottom of a muddy hill. After consulting a map near the bridge which contracted by A-Z's claim that there is no path on the north bank as the river heads south, I decide to follow the Thames Path towards central London.

I soon discover my A-Z is right. There is no one true path. Historically there was no path, but modern redevelopments tend to have included one along the embankment. So where the landlord built one, there's a path, and where the land remains unredeveloped or not developed with access in mind, there is not. So the actual path snakes back and forth between the shore and inland roads; remind me to head back to Craven Cottage when there's better lighting and I have a better camera, as I'm sure there are some decent abstract shots lingering under the backs of the stands.

2006-10-20 086 - OmnipresentIt actually was quite pleasant by the time I reached the park down to Putney Bridge (the guess-this church is by Putney Bridge), although by the time I got to the railway bridge the rain was back. Combined with a literally pressing need for the loo, and the discovery that I'm still a long way from anywhere, and that there is no real path I aborted inland, sheltering under the Underground line. Then up the King's Road until it actually became the King's Road, cursing each chandelier shop and bistro for their lack of public conveniences, and mostly for declining to open before noon. I try to find one in Chelsea Town Hall and fail impressively. Checking the map, I decide the museums at South Ken are more likely to be of any use than Sloane Square. So north past the church, past the Cath Kidson shop (oh dear), towards and accidentally through the station for the Metropolitan and District Railways due to being camera led.

2006-10-20 105 - Follow the yellow lined roadUp to the Natural History Museum, diverting buses along the way so I could take a picture of a puddle, where I take one look at the queue, play with reflections awhile including one in the window of the gatehouse, but the security guard shut the window as I tried to capture it. So then east to the V&A, straight in to the junction by the courtyard, look for signs, follow those and then realise that the V&A has never quite got its head round the idea that people who don't know it might want to go round it. So after walking through three signs declaring the area to be only for members or ticket holders, I eventually find them, off what appears to be a service corridor, given the battered doors to the outside at the end and the constant stream of staff.

Then out to massage my feet while sitting on the phone in a stairwell with dire acoustics while on the phone (one of those "Yes Mother. No Mother. Three bags full Mother. What? No, I said 'he's bashful', Mother"; you can tell it's going well when I call her "Mother").

A browse round a shop, a wander round their sole photography gallery, which has a few good shots, but then it has a few images in it. And of course all presented in the best V&A kaleidoscope of reflections, which adds an extra layer of painful confusion to the photograph of a harshly light multimirrored fitting room.

2006-10-20 119 - DefianceInto the courtyard for lunch, choosing the ground over the chairs in the grounds that it had dried quicker, and having been lugging tomes, I needed something more than a chairback with ends at the bottom of my ribcage and there was a nice, handy, sun-warmed building to suffice.

So lunch listening to squabbles in German, shrieks as children discover that water is wet, and young men impressing girlfriends with esoteric bunkum about the architecture (I would suggest she flees anyone who thinks her a fool, but she seemed to believe it, so perhaps they're well suited. Just as long as they never breed). A little photography before leaving, but the battery dies before I reach Tycho (seek and ye shall find... a small plaque and there the answer).

Back out, trying not to laugh at some of the stuff on sale, and back out west to find the results of one parcel, with much connecting the dots of friends' and relatives' houses and former houses. The loop was only about 12 or 13 miles.

And so exhausting my Oystercard with the journey back into town, frantic efforts to meet Sin, proving we are both inept at saying what we actually mean, while trying to do other things as well, but with a body that gave up somewhere before Putney Bridge and a brain that shortly followed. I even managed to think that running from TCR to the RA on an offchance was a good idea.

Collapsing on the Royal Astronomical Society's steps, I break open the emergency flapjack, far too late for it have stopped my body attempting to break down my muscles to gain energy. One look at the Gates of Hell and I realise I'm really not in a Rodin mood, and more importantly not in one suitable for coping with the type of people found inside the Royal Academy. But while sitting on the steps a woman comes out to the glossy, new Mini parked in front of me. Before getting in she blows something off the driver's door. She gets in, reads something while eating, lights a cigarette, rings someone while she smokes, puts the key in the ignition to open the window and fraction, traps the ash out of the window, carries on chatting, then hangs up, finishes cigarette, gets out, locking the car as she walks back to work, leaving a new grey Mini with a new grey pile of ash at the bottom of the window to match the old grey streaks down the door panel.

So on using muscles that feel like they've been under the auspices of Gunther von Hagens, I head for the relative calm of Oxford Street. And please can someone just win the afternoon free London paper wars? I'm tired of having purple idiots flail limbs in my face to try and get my to take their tat. And I'm considering walking round with a flamethrower on my shoulder; any bit of paper-pusher apparatus that gets in the way will be reduced to a smouldering pile of molten synthetics. But perhaps I'm just annoyed by the heightism of the paper-pushers, who must think "I know what I'll do; I'll put my five-and-a-half-foot parasol up here, right in the middle of the pavement on Regent Street".

Into H&M to look for clothes I don't really need*, but that's a nice shirt - maybe next time. I do at least try not buy things when tired as my judgement fades. Admittedly when knackered is the only time I buy anything as it's too expensive, too poor or too not-quite-right on normal assessment.

*I need jeans, but have given up all hope of finding any which aren't pretending that being mauled by sabre tooth tigers is an everyday occurrence, or that it rains bleach hence the map of the Panama Canal picked out in white or disturbing brown running down the legs. The best are those with face-painting whiskers applied at the crotch.

Back east killing time, eventually finding myself in HMV buying £2.99 DVDs (Taxi Driver and On the Waterfront; had seen neither but heard of both and it's cheaper than any other option, including, probably, waiting for them to be on television. Seen the latter now: my god, Brando can speak, and I'd no idea Bernstein did the score), although wandering for an age before going to the cash desk, during which I realised the state of my exhaustion once I found myself an the aisle flanked on side by Musicals and the other by Bollywood. I was quite tempted by Bugsy Malone, which I think shows that even if my body was still standing (just), my mind was definitely foetal.

So out to buy a scarf and hide in a building (which technically I wasn't supposed to be in, but neither probably is the guy I suspect is living there) checking email. Then back to loiter with intent to continue, while waiting for Sin to leave a party he said he was about to leave. Stupidly I waited fairly near I waited last time I waited for hours for someone who never came (near the Old Compton Stockpot, this time outside the closed for refurbishment Thai place; it's quite fun watching all the people walking up, still selling it to their friends, only to get to the dark window and signs). About two hours later I send an slightly arsey text (it underplayed the "so where the bloody hell are you?" aspect), at which point I discover that he's not left yet and is still in the same place "off Oxford Street" and I'm welcome to come.

Calmly, well, ok, with barely suppressed anger at the sheer inability to communicate, I ring him to ask where, pray, is off Oxford Street, while trying not to use most of the swearwords in my vocabulary. Fortunately he doesn't answer. I'm strongly inclined to send him a text telling him to sod right off and disappear home, but my legs hurt too much for me to stop me best caryatid impression.

He rings back, blithely oblvious to the death-beams which would be streaming from my eyes if only I could keep them open (perhaps getting up at 5, then forgetting that there's two different scales used on maps in the A-Z, aren't the best ideas). Begrudgingly, I agree to go up to join them if only to save me having to think of anywhere else to go. So after getting an address out of him, and then ignoring his route instructions (where on Earth's Bowland Street? No, repeating it doesn't help. Letting me realise a few seconds later that I'm mishearing Poland Street might), I head up, hoping the restaurant will survive the sudden removal of a buttress, and discover that navigating in Soho does involve being able to remember where things are.

I get to the bar. The guys on the door take one look at me and ask "are you alright?" I explain I'm just tired, and that I'm supposed to be meeting some friends here, in the upstairs bar. They look confused, tell me I've got the wrong entrance and send me up the street. But halfway there they call me back (you know that whole limping thing? All this yo-yoing isn't helping) and ask if I said the upper bar. They then let me in, informing me that the upstairs bar is straight ahead, and the other bar is downstairs.

A room, a wall of people, a slightly vacant look, then sudden realisation that I haven't slept in about a month, I haven't shaved in about a week, I haven't had a haircut for ages (and it's clean and been rained upon, so it'll be finest Brillo pad), I haven't stopped since 7 am, and am not really dressed for this type of place, having been wearing the same clothes all day including under a mac in the rain, hence the slight smell of eau de deodorant passé, exacerbated by being unable to take my jumper off due to strategic holes in the misshapen t-shirt underneath. It wasn't so much that I wanted the ground beneath to swallow me up as it felt like it already was. Oh sod it, he can come and find me.

A becapped figure emerged, all slimming lines in black, red and white. After a brief "how are you", in I naively, though valiantly tried to give and accurate answer, and the offers of drinks, introductions, including to a guy whose name I didn't catch but who made various comments about his name being a good name; so I'm guessing it's the same as mine then. Somehow I'm offered a tall shot glass with pink things in it, trailing dissipating colour like jellyfish. God knows. It's alcohol, with luck it might have sugar in.

So then off to our own private cubicle to sit and chat even though it's a noisy bar which limits my ability to distinguish words, plaited in with being utterly fagged out (insert Sin or Soho joke here, and yes that was the only reason I used that phrase), being inept at small talk anyway, and constantly translating the accent and vocabulary, hence delayed responses to comments about Kali, because I'm having to work backwards, eventually getting to "Oh Diwali!" No wonder he resorted to sending texts (he is very text heavy).

Though at least I learnt what a Yutz is; it's like a Putz but somehow different. Somehow we go through a lot of words in realm of golem-goya-gura or thereabouts, meaning someone how is not Jewish which is not the same as the thing from the Hobbit or claymen, which I noticed was like the Romany (and so Gypsy and thus Traveller) word for outsiders, which is very similar to the Hindu for the white people. I just can't remember what the actual words are, which sort of limits conversation a bit.

Google leads me to 'gadjo' as outsider in Romany, which isn't as near what I thought it was (perhaps there's something else).

Anyway, so we chatted, then left as he had to be elsewhere, so therefore managed to walk into a bookshop instead of leaving (to get something to read on the way; sightreading must be a pain). Cue searching for Sin in some gay guide to London (not, I should add, as an entry in his own right, rather disappointingly), discovering that our tastes converge solely on Pratchett (possibly because I've never heard of any of the other sci-fi/fantasy authors). And then going to Starbucks at the top of the shop because they had a loo (see, it's not just me), having a friendly discussion on the merits of hazelnut hot chocolate, Nutella and Marmite (the boy* cannot be human; he does not like marmite. But then he seemed shocked that I wasn't addicted to Nutella), and trying not to laugh when Sin knew the chain's lexicon better than the girl serving.

* I know he's older than me, but...

Back down, spotting cabs for him, then a quick farewell, as he trundles down Oxford Street, while I plan the route back to Waterloo, wondering if he ever takes that cap off, whether it's glued on, held on by press-studs or velcro, or just stubble, realising that the vile mood and inability to move seem to have abated even if my legs aren't fully functional yet, trying to work out if that is the alcohol, the hot chocolate or just the power of Sin, suddenly becoming aware that I'm now one of the freaks who walk round with an overpriced container held out at chest height, and I don't suppose pointing out that it's hot chocolate and I didn't buy it would really count as mitigation. I also soon discover my gait, albeit unbalanced by a painful body, isn't designed for keeping fluids in a cup, even with a lid on.

I head to the station, thoroughly incongruous though Friday night Soho, causing confusion down Wank Alley (I know it must a have different name, or at least one more accurate, but it's where all the hetero sex clubs display their wares, off the end of Berwick Street), pausing by a bin on Pall Mall while I finished the drink and licked my thumb (it didn't slop that much after I downed most of it early on, but occasionally it still did, and always in the same place. Sometimes have someone around to overcome my innate puritanism can be quite useful. Note to self: sugar is not always bad). Then diagonally through Trafalgar Square, onto Northumberland, which I don't even remember walking along, across Hungerford, which I do because I discovered my phone wasn't in my pocket (must have been tired, because I don't think I even looked at the view), but realised heading back to the various places to hunt it down would stop me getting the train home.

A short "oh sod it; I've had it for ages and haven't lost it so far, which isn't what I'd expected, so I'll cope" later, I continue on, and I'm on the York Road Bridge when Big Ben strikes 11. Ha! Told you so. Well not quite. But Sin looked aghast when I mentioned walking to Waterloo from Oxford St, and my protestations that it was less far than walking there from Camden didn't seem to diminish his horror. He also thought it would take me a long time, as he and Stairs did it in 20 minutes from Charing Cross (presumably Road, or they were very drunk). So as I'd left him at twenty-to and in now was on the hour and I was very nearly there and was nowhere near my normal speed leads me... to realise how pointless even thinking about as this is. Sorry, it seemed important at the time.

Then onto the concourse, walking past the relevant screens because I still expect the left-most to be the soonest leaving. Finding the platform number, I walk to it, then down it, and then have to back up a bit when I realise I'm out of train. Bloody pathetic 6 coach things.

Grabbing a window seat I feign sleep, remember to look for my phone, frantically search in panic after it's not the normal pocket in my bag, the discover it's in the next one back, relax a bit and discover Sin has already sent me a text, which is sweet. I've belatedly discovered it's probably the reason he didn't look up as the taxi drew away. I then feign sleep so I don't have to move my bag and share the seats (I will do it, just not until most of the other empty seats start to fill; anyway they should try putting in luggage racks which take things higher, and with a higher centre of gravity, than a laptop case). About this point I realise I was so distracted by the absence of my phone I might have an absence of something else important for travelling on a train. Oh well, I'll sort it out when the guard comes.

My phone rings as the train moves off (huzzah, a lift from the station) and then I struggle to stay awake though the familiar sequence of dimly light names. Then off again, past the dark stationhouse and through the gates. No sign of the car, but instead I get to see one man walk up to a small silver car, get in to the front passenger seat, closely followed by a second man trying to do the same as the first man gets out making excuses and heads for another small silver car, while I recognise the approaching headlights, jumping in on the road, thus avoiding the clutter of cars and taxis trying to leave the forecourt, driving down the middle of the road to avoid the traditional pedestrians all ignoring the pavement on the other side of the road (it's what we all do and always have done regardless of council attempts to improve the opposite side, and every driver except the fools goes in on one road and out on the other despite neither of them being one way).


PS. Photographs now on Flickr, view the set. And I should clarify; I'm not an actual caryatid, due to a chromosome, but I thought people were more look likely to know of them than telemones or atlantes (and I can't use the singular of the latter as Atlas is a person, not a type, and I'm not sure calling myself an atlas would help clarify things).

Saturday, October 21, 2006

2006-10-20 069Apologies for the declining blog rate; I'll explain later, perhaps.

But first I want you to tell me where the picture was taken. It was about one third into a 12 mile walk, if that helps.

And I know it's not a great piece of photography, but it was a dismal day.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

GF2 600 - 09b Acne door [adjusted]Not much to report, except Radio 4's Diplomatic Dinners is worth listening to (and it's quite short). It goes out on Tuesday morning, so listen to the first episode before then (if you can; I'm not sure if the radio section of the BBC has the same UK-only restrictions as the television branch).

In other BBC news, Lead Balloon (on website) has one killer line about fruitcakes, oh, and I'm glad I was cooking when Robin Hood was on because that meant I only saw bits of it, which saved me from having carpet embedded in my chin. There's Saturday night rubbish or something mindlessly occupying, and then there's just... this. I'd rather watch a repeat of documentary based on the Da Vinci Code than be exposed to that again.

I know it's aimed, to a certain extent, at children, but I struggle to think of any child I know who would watch it. Admittedly, under full disclosure I should admit I grew up with Maid Marian and her Merry Men, and remember watching Prince of Thieves fairly early on as well (I was at a residential sailing school, it was snowing and blowing things over, so we were inside practicing knots when the instructors realised they were running out of knots; I can still tie a noose, having seen one in the film and therefore asked) and can cope with the myriad insanities of the Costner thing, as I could at least ignore the ridiculousness of it purely because it was American and therefore it mattered not that they land at Dover and expect to arrive by nightfall in Nottinghamshire despite going via Hadrian's Wall.

So if you've grown up with Maid Marian, watching something in which the first female appears solely to stand around waiting to be kissed, while the hero battles with her father - a man old enough to be her husband - does seem a little insulting.

Of course the television got even better after that, with Celebrity Come Dancing, which isn't as gelatinous as it sounds, and which I abandoned unable to withstand Forsyth's gurning (what do you mean he wasn't?). It did feature the not terribly distinctive DJ Spooney, thus providing a link to the previous programme through my brother's comment upon hearing that voice emerge from his car radio...er, I've already done this haven't I? Hey, recycling's good for the environment [this statement may not be entirely accurate].

It's hardly surprising I adjourned to Flickr (with a break for Bremner, Bird and Fortune) where I added a few more things; see what you recognise.

Now if you'll excuse me I'll get back to singing along to the Avenue Q soundtrack (do not go, it won't leave you for weeks, and if you get a copy of the soundtrack you'll soon discover that the way to stop to hearing songs endlessly in your head is not, unlike the common misconception, to listen to them; that only means you know more of the words).

#Making the world a better place...#

Er, did I just use hash signs to indicate music? How Ceefax* is that?

* For non-UKers, and Az as he'll claim to be far too young to remember (even though it still works and is quicker than the digital equivalent), Ceefax is a system for encoding text and graphical content in analogue television signals. It comes with a whole eight colours and pixels the size of small mammals. If you can remember BBC computers, well, text and graphics like that, only on BBC television.

And I of course lied when I said I'd go back to singing along to Avenue Q [écoutez ici and here]. It's not really multitaskable. My hands flap around as madly as my voice (which, probably due to not singing since that cold in '95 (or was it '94? Either way, late developer), currently is somewhere between Rod and Trekkie Monster).


Thursday, October 05, 2006

A Plea.

If you're the guy who keeps leaving unintelligible messages on my voicemail, for God's sake send a text or an email.

This is starting to irritate me, mostly because I can't figure out who the hell it is. The pitch makes me think Sin, but the name which comes after "Hi, [Any], it's..." has a promenient 'g' in it, which doesn't fit with what I know of him. Other people with a similar voice have similarly g-less names. I don't actually know anyone with a g-name: no Grahams, no Georges, no Great Uncle Bulgarias.

So if it's you, sorry for ignoring you, but I haven't the foggiest idea who you are (until I remember). And for future reference, back off the mike.


2006 10 02 054Huzzah!

I get to sell-out! I shall retire and... realise that sounds very boring.

Oh, what do you mean Mr E. Insurance is only offering me a one off payment of £30? But they offered the Muppets man £40 and I've been going longer than him.

Corporate whoredom isn't exactly lucrative, is it? Maybe I should start telling all the tales of Endsleigh inflicted woe I know, and set up this site as a gathering point for all the infuriated students (Endsleigh seem to perceive insurance to be something like a valve for money). I know someone whose job it used to be to target anti-whatever sites and bribe them to close down, so I know some companies do it (and usually defray the cost as Search Engine Optimisation; well, it is, of a sort).

Actually I'm sure I could earn more for bog-standard whoredom (though obviously depends on the bogs; those of Tate Modern Members' Room come highly reccomended* and have the added bonus of coming highly, although there's no windows so you can't tell).

*Ok, so not by me, or anyone I know (that I know of), but there's little chance of putting your elbow through the wall in those caverns, and they are infrequently used, except by those two staff members who were obviously cleaning one room extremely vigourously.

But back to the email, it starts:
I currently work at...

Spot the extraneous word, which by its presence makes it suddenly seem not so extraneous. Why do I end wondering if he's about to get sacked?

It continues:
I am constantly looking at ways to divert traffic through to our websites.

Bad word, that divert. Generate, promote, stimulate, encourage. Divert says zero-sum. Divert says, "we gain, you lose".

And am I really supposed to care if you have spent your entire life devoted to creating webtraffic or whether it's a dull Tuesday, you're bored, and link upping is a diverting whim?

I was wondering if you would be willing to have a static text link to one of our sites from your page...
Were you? Really? How very interesting. What else do you wonder about? I suppose I should be glad that he didn't "I am just writing to say...".

Unnecessary redundancy which serves no purpose is both fairly pointless and mildly annoying, thus, slightly hypocritically**, I abhor it. And if you're thinking what you should be thinking, I know.

** But it's not like there's any ulterior motive for the blog; the whole thing is pointless, which wasn't the case with the proposition.

We would be willing to pay £30 for this service.
Where's the rest of that sentence? We would be willing if you were a baked bean, but as you not, we are not.

Unfortunately I think printing out the offer email, marking it in red pen, scanning it and emailing the image back to him might be just a tad too much effort.

I'd just like to clarify...
I would or I had? It can't be had, so once again why the timidity, why the uncertainty?

And this from the Internet Marketing Coordinator; no mere underling for me. Unless they have someone to coordinate their coordinators.

But having written the above, I now notice:
Information contained in this email is intended for the use of the addressee only, and is confidential and may be the subject of legal professional privilege. Any dissemination, distribution, copying or use of this communication without prior permission of the addressee is strictly prohibited.

Except I would have thought the addressee would be the person to whom the email is addressed, and the first line confirms this (unless they just sent me an email telling it is for the use of the person sending only, in which case that's a novel file storage system they have). The blanket ban on reproduction sounds worrying until I notice that I have to get permission from me first. Ok then. Sorry, that probably should have been at the top of this post.

So not only is it a rather uninspired appeal, but the offer is equally uninspiring. £30 for a link of uncertain duration. How long do they expect the link to exist? Forevermore? Let's say it's for a year. That's a sixth of my road tax. That's a sliver of [currently purple] paper which could be covered by a penny and a tuppence. That's eight pence a day. That's a text message every day and half (guess who's on Orange Pay Through The Nose). So unless they feel like revising by a couple of orders of magnitude, it's not really going to happen.

Yes, ok, I've had bad day and am taking it out on poor misguided fools, but then I also completely discounted what someone said when interviewed on the news because she used "completely" thrice and in all instances purely as an amplifier. I'll now get back to editing something else while wondering if I can find another synonym to lower the repetition rate of "so/thus/hence/therefore/thereby".

Hmm, 'consequently' sounds too convoluted, and I've never really known anyone use 'ergo' and would probably think it a fungus if asked at the wrong time.

And with such scintillating thought, I'd return from whence I came.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

IMGP2122Curses. It's not like it was even raining at the time. Basically big post met thunderstorm, only thunderstorm without rain, lightning or thunder and which only knocked the power out for three seconds, but this is not a laptop.

I didn't really have time to write it in original instance, so there's going to be no repeat, at least for a while. So there's some more stuff on Flickr (quite a lot more stuff - ten pages of it - as I ran out of patience with the tricklefeed technique) and there's a silly thing below because it was saved days ago.

The One
Spinning ring, lit by flickering light from the right, drops onto dark surface, rattles round in ever decreasing vibrations, stopping with a snap. Voice-over:
...and in the darkness bind them.

Arching zoom in on reflection in ring, showing distorted television scene as light source, with promenient BBC1 red.

Might have to drop the "to rule them all" bit though, as it's bit too prolefeed. But broadcast television does bind people in the winter dark, waiting to be awed, clinging to siblings when something evil this way comes*.

*I'd swear there were more wolves and more snow, but I don't really remember it, other knowing the titles were scary (but not being able to visualise them. It isn't surprising my brain blanked them out, given the terrifying effect of a wolf merging into Mr Punch [full version of The Box of Delights theme music: boxofdelights.mp3]).

I know outside hasn't quite succumbed to the snow yet, but last week I was in shorts, this week a Guernsey (that's ridiculously big). Remind me not to keep scratching my neck.

And how many readers remember The Box of Delights? One is out instantly as he won't be born for a few more years, another probably was only two, someone else is way too old to have been watching children's television (or maybe not, thinking about it), and most of the rest were in the wrong country at the time. There's only one person who is vaguely the right age to have seen it, considering I remember hiding behind my brother when it was on (which I'm sure he must have loved), so he must have watched it, so anyone the same age as him might have watched it.

But perhaps age isn't a good subject, considering this week I've been reminded the horse chestnut tree probably killed by the drought came from a conker scavenged from a tree felled in the big storm after the '87 one (91? 92?), that the new BBC2 branding is anything but (it's not the current one), that a something built in a field I used to play in is twenty years old and where the hell did it all go? I can't even make a joke about it being a quarter-life crisis unless I'll reach 104.

And on that jolly note, I'd better leave it.


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