Thirty Thousand Streets

Friday, December 30, 2005


Just popped into Wordsworth books en route to the supermarket, and as has been mentioned in the Camberwell online blog, it is indeed in the midst of its closing down sale, which from a selfish and shot term point of view means 25% of all stock, but also sadly means no more bookshop in Camberwell.

I also read that one of the contributory factors was the fact that there seem to have been ongoing 'rennovations' there since last year – and surely the term rennovations can only be used in the loosest sense of the term as it looks fucking awful, even I imagine without the attractive chipboard cladding which has pretty much concealed the exterior for the year, and put all and sundry off venturing within. Has anyone the lights they've installed? God they're a travesty. For those that haven't borne witness yet, they consist of a double row of harsh bright spotlights pointed directly at the floor and brightly illuminating a spot of ground a foot in diameter.. wasteful and unattractive! And this is what we get in exchange for our bookshop? Thanks.

Thanks a lot.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


I'm back at my flat and its all good. The journey down on the coach was predictably tedious; with the added bonus of carting a bag of stale washing and assorted small presents on the packed 436 from Victoria. I hate journeys home, though actually getting in is fantastic – I almost wanted to kiss the really bad swirly blue 70s carpet in the living room.

Rustled up some pasta and watched Eastenders (such tosh) followed by Tomb Raider, also tosh, but to be honest I'd take Angelina Jolie's 'bee stung' lips over Phil Mitchell's red grimacing face anyday.

I really want to get a good nights sleep. Last night Stockport felt like the North Face of the Eiger. Lay shiverring on my brother's couch until I was woken in the morning by the host of budgies chirping that the 'birdman' of Churchill Street keeps next door.

Earplugs and camomile tea tonight.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

So this is Christmas.

Well, the arse end of it anyway, and it's been a funny old one. Truth be told, coming back to the area I grew up in always makes me feel slightly melancholy, jostling for space with the ghosts from my past that pace the streets round here, in the perpetual drizzle that bathes Stockport.

Every time I come back, I feel at an extra factor's remove from everything around me. Christmas always seems to plunge everything into a supernatural stygian hush, but round here it feels like a veritable ghost town.

Stockport. I heard a while ago that it was the biggest town in England, and was frantically attempting to attain city status by transforming one of its churches into a cathedral; which may be so much apocryphal bullshit, but is also laughable as it would instantly be transformed from a somewhat dismal (in my opinion) northern town, into a city that could probably give Hull a run for its money as one of the crappest places to live in the UK. Actually, that's stretching it a bit, but whats it actually got going for it?

The largest brick structure in Europe (The viaduct)

A big college

Err.. a hat museum.?

Other than that its OK. Reasonably well to do, good employment etc, but coming back I'm reminded of why it was starting to send me under when I lived here. Living in London, the sheer plurality of humanity seems to foster an attitude of studied indifference, or perhaps as my friend Will has it, a "mind your own business" ethos, where everyone gets on with their respective missions at very close quarters, but blinkered to one another, which sounds quite bleak, but is actually somewhat liberating.

If I was given the unenviable task of 'rebranding' Stockport, as Slough have apparently done since 'The Office', I'd have my work cut out, because no-one would want it rebranding, and they'd just as soon settle for something like "Stockport, A Local Place, For Local People"

In London you could walk down the street wearing day-glo furry boots, sporting dreadlocks, wearing full plate armour whilst pushing a pram full of broken dolls, and while you would get some slightly odd looks, some people would almost certainly ignore you as though you'd just activated a Klingon cloaking device (that might just be Camberwell though, so don't quote me on that one)

Stockport seems to breed a really heavily parochial mindset, where anyone behaving slightly 'strangely' (students, foreigners, gays, weirdos etc) is regarded with a faintly xenophobic suspision, and runs the risk of being strung up from the nearest lamppost. I still fing it absolutely hilarious that the regulation townie uniform of stripey top (Henri Lloyd) tracksuit bottoms - importantly, and this cannot be stressed enough - tucked into simpsons socks, along with a pair of 'boater style shoes or trainers, is viewed, admittedly by default, as something to aspire to wear. If Stockport were a football team (and I'm not talking the 'hatters' here) it would be sponsored by Rockport.

The area I'm from, Heaton Moor is even worse, as despite being a very nice residential area, it has its own elite cadre of numb-nuts plastic gangsters, self appointed fake hoods who think that knocking out a bit of weed to their mates qualifies them as working class icons. Wrong, wankers.

A bit of grafitti I once saw at Stockport train station kind of summed it up nicely.

"The Heaton Moor hard men from their middle class backgrounds, lots of mouth when they're in a crowd, but when they're alone they're not so loud"

Made me laugh anyway. So there you go. I love Manchester, and could quite seriously contemplate living back (t)here but and Stockport? We're through like a tunnel.

Well, 'The Italian Job' has just finished, or at least I think so; the specific portion of by brain that can register it has been worn down by too many repeated viewings, a bit like an old C90 cassette. Cliches abound when it comes to Christmas viewing. Personally, I'd like to lob a metaphorical 'gat amonst the pigeons' if I was director at the BBC. There was a show on a couple of years ago about really super adapted predators. One of the featured beasts was the japanese hornet, (which are hard as f*ck by the way) and the show features five of these 'insecticons' butchering a hive of 30,00 bees. I'd just show that. Back to back.

Well I return to London tomorrow, and can't wait, frankly. I'm tired of sleeping on couches. Staying at my brothers is a bit like living in the Ice Station in John Carpenter's 'The Thing'. Blokey, messy, and crucially - very cold (thankfully free of superadaptive extra-terrestrial life though)Intermittently my brother stamps in from the cold, from whatever roof he's been working on in Denton, dressed head to in performance snowboarding gear, and looking like he's just been on some black ops mssion to take down a puppet state in the arctic circle.

One good thing about this Christmas is that I've given up smoking. Seriously. Tore my fags up on boxing day and chucked that shit. Should I feel compelled to buy any in the future, I might just cut out the middle man and mail the money directly to whichever super-rich American arsehole's pockets I'm ultimately lining.

There's now this 'Spelling Bee' type programme on TV. A bit like the film Spellbound, but with this huge disembodied head lurking behind the contestants reading out the words. She's either a kind of avatar of spelling - a bit like the Dixons girl is of cut price electrical goods, or a sphinx like creature who devours the losers after the show.

Right. I'm getting out of here. London, I'll see you tomorrow.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Day

"My Style Is Crazy Fat, Reminiscent of a Whale"

Thus sing A Tribe Called Quest from my brother's stereo. I'm about to drive with him to, ahem, Wales to see my mum and dad.

Exciting times indeed. Went out for the annual pub excursion in Heaton Moor last night, which always consists of going to local pubs and talking to people you've not seen since.. last Christmas Eve.

Anyway later. I'll write when I've got the stamina.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Merry Christmas

Right. I'm back off up north. Behave yourselves.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

NEWSFLASH Funny Chinese Product Sighted in Camberwell.

Ha Ha etc.

The V&A

Today, I decided to go to the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington with my friend Dunc, to kill a few hours in the afternoon. It had been a pretty quiet day. The most exciting bit up to this point being watching half of the slightly duff 70s version of King Kong which I've now seen bits of twice in the last month - the second half first, and the first second - which doesn't really matter as it is slightly wack anyway, and I only really watched it to marvel at how much of an airhead the blonde girl is (Jessica Lang), and how a lumbering, shaggy Jeff Bridges actually makes a slightly more convincing monkey than the fancy dress rental costume we're presented with as the titular ape.

So anyway, the V&A. There was no way I could resist after that, especially as the easiest way there is probably the 345, which is a favourite bus route of mine (and I'm glad to report, still crosses over Battersea bridge).

Way back in March I was seeing a girl I met at a crazy party in a rented office block in Borough complete with an 'in house' band doing funk covers. Twas all too brief alas, but there were a few things that stood out about her.

1. Her name was Lucy.

2. She was from Newcastle, but was very well spoken – not once did she utter 'Howaay Man'.

3. She was an ex lap-dancer.

4. She was a dance student, and on some crazy theatrical course where she did strange things such as research 'the history of the greeting', and bowing, and the things she couldn't tell you about Restoration era clothing e.g. bustles, you could probably have written on the back of an acid tab.

And the V&A was one of the places where she went to research this kind of thing. And I can see why. It's fucking huge and compendious and stuffed with all manner of historical stuff from all corners of the earth – so much in fact that you'd be really hard to absorb it all if you camped out there for a week.

From the entrance hall dominated by a huge colourful glass sculpture by David Chihuly, who I believe also has loads of stuff amongst the plants at Kew Gardens, we proceeded to an exhibit about architecture in Germay and thence to the Chinese exhibition, which featured a whole range of stuff from those itsy shoes women in China used to have to crush their feet to fit into to avoid being beaten and ostracised etc, to paintings and sculptures.

I recently went to an exhibition of old Chinese ink paintings at the British Museum, and have to admit to feeling slighly underwhelmed by the experience – the entire thing was presented in low lighting so as to stop the things fading and crumbling, and as they all seemed to consist of much the same motifs and brush in slightly different monochrome arrangements, I found the entire thing something of an interesting, yet slighly inscrutable squint-fest.

Tastes differ of course, and there seems to be more substantial stuff at the V&A to get your teeth into, and even some modern, more abstract paintings. There was even a token loon, sauntering round and chattering lyrics to himself.

From here we checked out the Japanese gallery whih I loved. Basically the Japanese are uber craftsmen and designers. I NEED a set of elaborate Japanese swords or 'Daisho' , modelled on a sword I saw there with an octopus and crayfish embossed on the sheath. A suit of armour with a moustachioed helmet wouldn't go amiss either. Please Santa? No, a Lynx gift set won't do.
There was also some amazing sculptures and printed fabrics to look at.

From here we went and looked at the Korean stuff, before having a gander at the two halls full of plaster casts of foreign buildings and sculptures; stuff even lightfingered England didn't have the bare faced cheek to try nicking. It has to be said, going to war and sacking Rome actually seems like probably more of a straightforward proposition than doing a cast of most of Trajan's column like someones done here – and guys, you could have fitted Michaelangelo's David on the back of a big enough cart, surely, so that's just lazy. On the other hand, the Greek government is making one hell of a fuss about Elgin's marbles, and that Henry Moore sculpture is only good for scrap now, so maybe it's all for the best.

After that it shut, so we went home, via Somerfield, where a girl at the checkout was telling her mate she liked my scarf. I don't even think this was girl code for something else, and fair enough, it is pretty hawt if I do say so myself.

I also photographed quite an amusing couple of newstands that seem to suggest that one car seems to a particular hotspot for crime in Saaarf London – gotta thank Dunc for spotting that.

I've just gorged on pasta in my usual tomato and pancetta sauce. My ex Hyo-Jin sent me a load of chocolates from Australia the other day. I've only actually eaten one while my housemate Jess fed her face on all but one of the rest which I've got stashed, so am contemplating eating it, but might give it a miss to be honest. Basically they're like Cadbury's Caramels, but minus the 'sexy' rabbit that now seems to be doing voiceovers for Marks and Spencer, its stand-in being a chirpy looking koala, (which I thought was a bit unimaginative – why not a platypuss for example or even that perennial cute favourite the box jellyfish? but then originality aint the name of the game here.. They've changed the name to 'Karamellos' for fucks sakes).

Ahem. Cheers Hyo, anyway.

Right, I'm now going to get on with my Christmas 'E-card', and doing an iTunes playlist for my friend Renee, whos leaving Blighty to return to New York next month.

Monday, December 19, 2005


Just gone to the nicer looking of the Dentists on Camberwell church street, to have the first of three fillings. Opted to have the harder of the standard silver colour fillings because I might as well, y'know.

I'm not scared of the dentist, but the entire experience does feel slightly uncomfortable.. a couple of people staring into your mouth, and by extension up your nose, while they stick a needle your gum then pad out your cheek with a mini tampon. My upper lip feels like a dead slug at the minute, and as you can't put too much weight on it for an hour and a half or so, I'll have to forgoe my customary Monday lunch of half a pound of kola kubes.

Damn you dentist.

Actually very good job, and very professionally done.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Quiet Friday

A quiet friday indeed, and as if it wasn't quiet enough, I used some of it to go and buy earplugs from Boots.

Other than that have mostly been listening to techno (notably the Carl Craig 'Landcruising' album, and the 430 West mix CD, which pounds alond in an endearingly bassy fashion) and trying to do some illustration.

Have returned to an image for a Threadless t-shirt competition I did a while ago but never finished. The theme was 'In Love And Death', and although I didn't get it in on time, and since accidentally deleted it, I decided to rework it. It's not quite finished yet.. I'm not sure it needs the keyline or the type, even if the font is right..

All done in Illustrator, which recently I've been finding a little frustrating. A very powerful package, and exceedingly good for certain applications (eg graphics, logos), but also very time consuming to high end, or very complex stuff. In short, it's not all that intuitive for actual illustrations, ironically.

I think I should focus more on hand drawn stuff for a while, then play with Photoshopping them some. Yeah.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Christmas Do

Last night was the Christmas do for the group which I've been freelancing for within M&C Saatchi on and off since Easter, and considerately, they invited me along. "Eyechild, you shall go to the ball!".

Normally, Christmas bashes are endurance rituals on the scale of the Ironman. Protracted meals and dodgy discos where consuming as much alcohol as possible is necessary to counterract the mind numbing conversation, the obvious tensions simmering beneath the surface, and the glaringly obvious fact that you'd rather be off somewhere with your real mates, or even just watching TV of the order of say, Trinny and Susanna (oh alright, maybe not). At the last place I worked, where you had to part the cobwebs to even see your neighbour and the smell of 'Advertising Old Fart' was cloying; there were times mid way through the evening where I wasn't sure whether I hadn't consumed a poisened breadstick, died and gone to hell, or at least purgatory.

Has to be said, these are a nice bunch though. A lot of young people up for fun, and some 'nice gyal', so some fun was guaranteed.

The evening began in the Waterfront on Formosa Street, Maida Vale or 'Little Venice' as some refer to it; which is also the residency of an ex girlfriend (Maida Vale, not the pub) Despite walking round the block and taking my time getting there I still managed to be the first person there.. And look like a proper herbert.

From there it was onto a barge which went up river to Camden and back. There was a buffet, a free bar, crackers, and people dancing. People were singing badly - to the tune of "We Are Sailing".

"We are retail, super retail, no-one likes us, we don't care"

Seriously, you had to be there. There was also a slighly awkward "Dance Off", where if this was Breakdance the movie, Shabba Doo would be headspinning in middle in a Kangol hat and lime green baggy pants. As it was, it consisted of slighly stilted dance moves performed by people who were not yet kaned enough to not care if they looked like pricks or not.

From there, the hardcore progressed to a pub in Soho – Digress I believe, where I have vague recollections of attempting to breakdance and making eyes at the account executive I really like (she's dreeaamy yo).

Woke up today, and my brain felt like it had been dropped at the end of a corridor full of angry bees. I had some toast spread with vegemite, and as the butter I stole from the fridge was all cold and hard, I popped it in the microwave to warm it up, forgetting it was Lurpak and hence had a reflective wrapper. It lit up like a christmas tree and started smoking, making ominous crackling sounds. I manged to wrestle it out on time, but I think on balance if I was masquerading as a DC Supervillain, I couldn't legitimately claim to be 'Brainiac' after that one.

My bedroom also smelt of pets, but I've lit an incense stick so everything's copasetic yo.

Anyway. Went for a mooch round Dulwich, and ate a stir fry. I might go and see my mate Dunc in a minute.

God I'm bored. With no work at the minute, I'm trying to use the time to do my own stuff, but it does feel a little like I'm rattling round in my flat, whilst everbody else is in festive wind down mode at work around me. No fair. I'm not sure whether to take it as an opportunity to piss off up north for an extended hiatus, or go and stay in a barn in Wales with my mum and dad (no really). In the first case I'll be sleeping on couches and going to the pub lots, and in the second I'll be in a barn in Wales with my mum and dad.

Decisions.. *sigh*

Saturday, December 10, 2005

New T-Shirt design

Here's something I cooked up for a competition on the Threadless website. Go vote high for it. You know you want to..

My Submission

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Hermits Cave, Camberwell.

Man, I love the hermits cave. Unashamedly spit and sawdust it sits on its corner of Camberwell church street, with the uncomplicated agenda of serving good beer in a unpretentious environment. There seems to be a trend these days, especially in London but equally true elsewhere, to gentrify anything that doesn't move. To give it some ersatz designer chic, hire some DJs, and serve 'gastro pub' style food drizzled in something and bedecked in rocket... which is all very good if you do this kind of thing exceptionally well, but just another hook to hang your hat on otherwise (hook probably bought at Habitat).

I suppose you could argue that this kind of environment is more modern, female friendly etc, but what is inarguable is that in any area in London, you'd be lucky to find a nice pub which isn't harbouring some bar-like aspirations, with one eye on the profit margins. In short, decent pubs are in short supply.

Into this vacancy steps the Hermits Cave, and as me and my friend Will mused over beers one Thursday it's pretty much the Platonic Ideal of what a boozer should be. Unpretentious and cosy, beery and smoky. It's also got a wistfull greek looking hermit on the sign, probably regretting the entire solitude gig and wishing he was in the pub.

Reasons to like the Hermits Cave:

First off, the beer in the Hermits is very well kept. I don't know much about whatever industry aracana describes the art of selling a good pint as, but they do it.

Second is the music policy: There isn't one, or indeed any music – which I actually find suprisingly refreshing. Let's face it, most people like music – who hasn't at one time written 'music' under interests on their CV.?* But it can ocasionally be somewhat trying when some aspiring mixmeister is drowning out your conversation with his 'selection'. The calibre of DJ's in bars in Camberwell is passable, but of somewhat unimaginative stock (If I hear 'Billie Jean' or 'Sex Machine' much more I'm probably going shit kittens out of my neck) so it makes for a nice change not having to shout above the soundtrack to a wedding reception circa 1970 onwards.

Thirdly, the decor – or lack of it. There's your usual amount of tat that any self respecting pub accrues over the years, and some nice cut-glass panels in the doors, but no zinc topped bar, no substandard art, no post-modern furniture garnered from a reclamation yard, just chairs and tables and a respectable amount too. And a fire. And no slightly menacing guy brandishing lollipops and cologne in the toilets.

As for the food.. well I haven't got a clue actually, it's probably alright, but who cares. I was slightly suprised to find a pub in London not yet serving Thai food, but I'll get over it. It's a pub and It serves crisps and nuts too, and I might petition them to start selling pickled eggs from a huge jar actually positioned on the bar.

Finally: the crowd who come here seem like a generally nice mix of young and old, professional and studenty, and nobody seems too fussed what trainers you're wearing. Basically what you've got right here is your quintessential local boozer, and it's proper.


Thursday, December 08, 2005


After two days rest and relaxation and general chill I fell off the wagon with a vengeance last night, cementing my pact with alcohol with lashings of the sauce and Marlboro 'lights'.

I feel typically hung over. My skin feels like a pez dispenser, with weird humours seeping out of every pore, and the aroma of the pub last night shrouding me (I'm sure) like Pigpen from Charly Brown's dustcloud. I just warmed up a couple of Pain o' Chocolat I had in the fridge, then had a sudden crisis of confidence and opted instead for toast.

Actually it's not that bad. But unfortunately I've said I'll got for 'drinks & nibbles' with a recruitment agency this evening, a pleasure I could probably forgoe at the best of times but which seems at the minute massively less preferable to say, playing snap with a nest of pit vipers.

To counteract this, I might make an Itunes playlist comprised solely of Daniel Beddingfields 'Gotta Get Thru This', while drinking espresso through my eyes. Or I might not.


Monday, December 05, 2005


A quiet day indeed. No work so far this week, so spent a couple of hours doing my turn on the flat cleaning rota. Braved cleaning the oven using 'Mr Muscle', whose use must surely be contravened by some UN resolution.. After applying it my throat was tingling for a good five minutes or so. Must remember to spray it in the oven next time. Also went out and did some shopping for my ill housemate, who is currently laid low by the flu, and mainlining olbas oil in the kitchen as I write this.

Then went to Brixton on the 35, my aim being to see if some stuff I'd been involved with in the early stages of design for a major high street chain was instore. It wasn't, so that was a fine waste of time right there. Bought some chorizo from a deli under the arches, and returned to make a sausage and chickpea stew.. which was nice.

Just watched a harrowing programme thing on TV about the Tsunami at the beginning of the year, lots of which consisted of authentic footage from people's holiday videos, whose sunny content makes for uneasy viewing when you're aware there's a huge wave on its way to flatten everything. The eeriest bit was when the water was sucked out prior to the waves arrival, and lots of people were just standing around unsure of what was going on, but crucially JUST STANDING AROUND as opposed to running. Everybody seemed to be bemused as much as anything, as though this was just another entertaining interlude in their holiday paradise.

At the risk of trivialising, it was a bit like watching Jaws when the first strains of the cello start murmuring in the background. And the waves, when they came, looked absolutely terrifying. Probably the strangest looking bit was when the sea came crashing through the buildings of the resorts and and towns, sweeping up everything in their path: chairs, plants, trees, cars, cds, glass, cutlery, etc. and people were literally being crushed by this tidal wave of kibble. It was fucking apocalyptic.

Just goes to show how illusory civilisation is really, when the whole facade can get washed away in about five minutes flat. And to think much the same thing happened in New Orleans a few months ago. Seems like it's getting increasingly like a JG Ballard novel on Earth these days. Hope the Thames barrier isn't next.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Crypt

Went to the crypt at St Giles Church on Camberwell Church Street last night, which I've failed to go to on several occasions over the last year and appears to be one of South London's best kept musical secrets.

The venue itself is charming enough, a basement with pillars dotted about, and a tiny stage in the corner, and being in a church has a faintly quaint informal air - I kept expecting to see some props lying about from last years production of 'Joseph' or a table with jumpers on it for sale for 50p. But no, not even any scouts who'd come on the wrong night. Just some excellent jazz.

The act consisted of a five piece combo, with a guitarist, drummer, saxophonist, trumpeter and keyboardist, all laying down tight grooves on everything from 'Kind of Blue' era Miles Davis, to more funk-a-sized numbers like an excellent rendition of The Meter's 'Sissy Strut', which got heads a boppin', and would if there was room, surely have got people dancing. Looks like these guys jam together quite a bit, as the performance was consistently tight, with all the performers getting the opportunity to shine on a solo, with a barely perceptible nod as a cue. What is such a pleasure about performances like this, is that the joy that the players obviously take in their art prevents it from ever descending into out-and-out showboating; jazz's excesses are often equated with wankery, but I would challenge anyone to sit through a performance of such artistry, soul and skill, without smiling and tapping their toes by the end (not to mention howling, like a wolf, for an encore).

There was also a bar (of course) selling wine and bottled beers at very reasonable prices, and a kitchen selling food which I didn't get to sample. It probably pays to arrive early as it does get quite busy, and tables are something of a premium commodity here, but in any event the cramped conditions just kind of add to the atmosphere. Suffice to say, I'll be returning.