Thirty Thousand Streets

Friday, December 22, 2006

Shunt, Allez Allez, Banking, Santa's Ghetto


It was Allez Allez last night, so I headed out at about eight o' clock with Jess, to rendevouz with Ade, Robin and Hannah at London Bridge.

I don't go out in London Bridge much, the only other times I can remember of note being my ex-housemates Christmas bash at The Hop Cellar last week and drinking in some cheesey hostel bar (Belushi's) with Lucy last September.

The venue this time was somewhat mysterious, and the directions could have only been marginally more obscure if tatooed on a dwarf and then sent to me through the post, but nonetheless after some ambling around in the frigid cold, me and Jess eventually found the place in question, Shunt Bar, which is located under the arches adjacent to London Bridge Station.

After entering a tiny unmarked doorway, you are directed down a long corridor, through a succession of arches, housing chairs, benches, and in one case, a small cinema auditorium, screening some arty flick to an audience of one. All of this works as a dramatic prelude to the bar itself, the sound of whose revelry floats up as you traipse uncertainly down, and basically it's like rocking up on the outskirts of a very tame, somewhat underpopulated suburb of hell (perhaps at some kind of judgement day wrap party).

The bar when you actually arrive is a cavernous, post-industrial affair, with bare brick floors, bare brick walls, decks on trestle tables, and a shed. I bought a bottle of Magners and a Baileys for Jess, who had the luck of getting the end of the bottle, as the girl behind the bar gave her a dose of Nesquik-esque proportions. After this we found Ade et-al and sat down.

This venue seems like something of an anomaly for touristy London bridge, and seems to have attracted the kind of hip crowd you'd usually catch wearing drainpipes and pointy shoes in a watering hole in Hoxton. It is a truly remarkable space however, and exactly the kind of 'cool' thing I came to London to participate in. Jess liked it so much she didn't want to leave.

But leave we did, wherupon one of the venue's institutions kicked in – an artistic 'happening' where a naked man smeared in axle grease capered round to the strains of some suitably manic music, and had plum tomatoes and dust upended on him in different corners of the room. It was like a version of that children's TV mainstay 'the gunk tank', for the inebriated chattering classes, and the highlight (no pun intended) was when someone trained a lazer pointer on the chap's todger as he prepared to shower in passata while standing on a chair. Apparently this always takes place at 10.30pm, though I'm not sure whether this is just on Thursdays.

Then off to the bijou Allez Allez, which got really busy this week, as anyone not nursing a hangover on the last work day of December can probably expect a written warning from Ken Livingstone himself. Katie and Penny were there, neither of whom I'd seen in ages, along with Kaye and various It's Bigger Than affiliates (I spotted Cutmaster Max and Leo The Amateur reppin' at the other end of the bar).

Caught a taxi home at about half three, and sat up for a while wolfing down cold Chinese food from the fridge and hiccuping at Jess, before swaying to bed at around five.


I full intended to leap out of bed this morning, but only just managed to blearily field a phone call from a recruitment consultant in the entire AM (does anyone else sleep with their mobile under their pillow, or is it just me?). Eventually got up at around half one, and consumed my own body mass in strong coffee and white toast with vegemite.

After this, the day's business began in earnest, as I had to both go to the bank to transfer funds from my business account and do my Christmas shopping, which in a break from tradition I opted not to leave until Christmas Eve.

I first went to the HSBC—they're the world's local bank, don't you know?—in Camberwell, and was immediately reminded why I usually go the branch on Baker street when I want anything doing. The customer service stand had simply vanished, to be replaced by a sheepish looking conglomeration of chairs, which were arranged in a formation reminiscent of the aftermath of a creche at a church hall somewhere. There were a few people sitting uneasily around, not really sure what was going on, or how to behave without a qeueue.

"Oh, for fucks sake"

I thought, while at the same time being vaguely amused that any institution with the chutzpah to brand themselves 'the world's local bank' could so shamelessly do away with the symbolic apparatus of customer service in a local branch.

"Sorry, no, if you want customer service the nearest branch is on Oxford Street"

I could imagine being told, but actually got seen to after about twenty minutes, after which I hopped on the twelve into town, for the aforementioned Christmas shop.

It was all relatively painless, though Oxford Street was rammed, but I braved it for one last nose round 'Santa's Ghetto', the temporary shop Pictures On Walls have put on in an empty store for the last few Christmases I've been here. All the Banksy stuff had sold out in about an hour on the first day, apparently, as everybody is Banksy crazy these days. I'm undecided about Banksy.. some of his stuff is very witty and some of it.. less so; but one thing's for sure, the guy is a very smart cookie. I was in Bristol just when he was starting to make a name for himself there, and even at the time he was really pushing the faceless artist bit (he didn't bother turning up to the opening night of an exhibition of his paintings at the Riverstation) and there seemd to be a little bit of low key 'hating' going on too (some fellow graffiteur took Banksy's trademark stencil logo and reworked it into 'Wanksy'). Either way, I'm kicking myself that I didn't buy one (or eight) of his prints in the 2004/5 sale, which cost about fifty quid then, and I've recently seen being bid for on ebay up to the tune of about £800. Ouch. Anyway, some other good stuff, including some prints by a guy called Sickboy, who I think went to the University of the West of England and was in the year below me at the Bower Ashton campus. A lot of the stuff had been sold, but I bought a screenprint by Insect, whose style I like (though it's not the Warhol influenced DJ Shadow album art one, which was influenced by Andy Warhol both in terms of style and the ambitious scale of the edition).

After that I had a look in the Hideout, and the Maharishi shop, where the back wall was dominated by custom painted variants of Marc Gonzalez's priest toy. They're selling an amazing Fedora hat in there by Kangol and New York shop Alife, which is great, but a little out of my price bracket at £700.

Then I jumped on that most heinous of bendy buses, the 12, to get back to Camberwell. It was predictably rammed to the gills with festive folk, and when we got to Elephant, a troupe of African street preachers boarded and proceeded to belt out an impromptu sermon, interspersed with bouts of song. Initially entertaining, it got slightly annoying after a while so I put on some earphones to drown it out. I was moaning about this to some friends later until Vicky pointed out that if you can't expect this sort of thing at Christmas, when can you expect it, and it is the true meaning of Christmas after all. So there.

Went round to Vicky's house in the evening where she cooked up some lovely pizzas, and I had a couple of glasses of wine. Ed really wanted to go and meet up with some of his Foyles homies in town, and I begrudgingly agreed to tag along, before having a last minute change of heart at the bus-stop. It was just too cold, I was too tired, and the thought of standing shoulder to shoulder in a Charing Cross Road bar at someone elses works do was too much for me to face right then.

Off to Mancunia tomorrow, and following my last farcical misadventure 'on the buses' I opted for the train this time, which should be significantly quicker than a coach. Honestly, people point to the fact that a lot of pensioners use National Express but I suspect they just got a few stops earlier and were my age when they boarded.

In any event, it looks like I got my ticket just in time too, what with most of the papers prophesying festive transport doom: 'Travel Chaos' screeched the London Evening Standard the other day, whilst pointing a shaking finger at the James Herbert-esque fog bank rolling across London, and they seem to be intent on manufacturing a scenario of Die Hard 2 proportions round the grounding of flights at Heathrow, with the villain of the piece being the aforementioned low-lying cloud, rather than a renegade Army Officer.

Anyway. Merry Christmas one and all, and I might write again from Stockport or Wales if Santa tells me you've all been good.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Walworth Road Army Surplus

I love army surplus shops and have consequently whittled away many hours of my life thumbing through piles of threadbare tat in pursuit of some elusive rare camo that doen't exist. At my behest a couple of friends also recently trawled some shops in Sweden in a fruitless attempt to locate some rare Swedish splinter camo. No luck (it all gets burnt after service, apparently).

Unfortunately surplus stores, like charity shops, are mostly rubbish these days. Instead of some weird one-of-a-kind zebra-print camo suit worn by an African dictator's imperial guard you're probably just going to find racks of brand new Alpha M65 USMC jackets priced at 70 quid each. Yawn.

At first glance the surplus store half way down the Walworth road looks like a veritable elixir to any camo-hound's jaded palette. "Levi's (sic), Wranglers, Dr Martens" announces the signage proudly, with rows of khaki wares dangling from the rafters in the entrance like a unit from some long forgotten army. Pavlovian response well and truly excited, I bounded over, saliva already pooling on the lapels of my button-down shirt.

Unfortunately, like so many things in life, up close it's a different story, and this shop rewards scrutiny in much the same way a web-exported jpeg doesn't. Upon approaching the windows one suddenly becomes aware that all the articles in the window are not only shrouded in dust-bunnies, but have been long bleached and faded by the sun's daily intrusion as it steals across the sky. Suddenly the articles suspended from the ceiling attain a faintly gibbet-like air, swaying uncertainly in the impartial winds that gust down the Walworth road.

"What.. happened here?"

You wonder to yourself.

Nonetheless, fortune favours the brave, so the more courageous amongst you might venture within, where it all just gets weirder. Upon stepping foot inside, one is immediately greeted with a loud, slightly accusative

"Can I help you sir?"

Uttered by the shop's proprietor, who emerges, stoop-backed from the gloom like a shop bound troll. And this nasal catchphrase is essentially where where pleasantries begin and end: any response in the negative – even a "Sorry thanks, I'm just browsing" is not advisable, as it will usually be met with an unflinchingly brusque: "Come on you must want something" or even better yet "Well get out then and stop wasting my time, I've got a business to run here".

Even in this day and age, let's not pretend anyone really gives that much of a shit about customer service, otherwise customer enquiries wouldn't be routinely directed to a call centre in Mumbai to be dealt with by someone reading the same ten answers of a prompt card. Nonetheless, everyone likes to pretend they're the customers best friend, so it's actually quite refreshing to encounter someone prepared to dispense with all formal niceties, because this man is plain rude. The last time I went (and I do, strangely, return) a West Indian family were exiting, having just been driven from within.

"Not gonna buy anything in there anyway" huffed the mother, irritably "Man's got no manners innit".

"Ah" I thought. "You've met him"

Basically the Walworth Surplus store is like a sketch from a comedy that never made it past the cutting room floor, and entering into any kind of dialogue with its bizarre owner will have you craning to see the hidden cameras, so utterly surreal is the setup.

His is the pinnacle of some Olde Worlde Institutionally bad service, where the customer is not only 'not right' but 'always wrong', and a necessary evil that must occasionally be tolerated (much like foreigners and women). This is the only store I have ever seen with a sign at the door that reads 'Only one customer in the shop at any one time'.

It's all a bit of a shame really, as the shop actually looks like the Alladins cave it should be, piled high with all manner of esoteric merchandise. But, browsing is simply not tolerated, and if you don't know exactly what you want, when you walk in, then get the hell out. I think the guy must own the place outright, as driving your customers away is hardly what I'd call a robust business model, and the only way that this guy could possibly be more offensive is if he implemented small arms fire as part of one of his customary exchanges.

To be fair, I think he is actually more mad than bad, and only slightly more surly than some of the bores who work in comic shops. He's something like a character you might encounter in Monkey Island 2 who resets every time you meet him, the limits of his slightly wonky AI being demonstrated by his stock of five or so witheringly curt phrases which he wheels out like siege engines. This guy doen't mince words, he just lobs them across the counter like grenades.

And in spite of all this, I have actually spent money there (a pair of gym-style pumps I wear round the flat and to go to the shops in). I'm just frustrated that he might have all this amazing stuff sequestered away, which is unobtainable soley because I don't know to ask for it. Much like a text-based game on my Spectrum 48k, visual clues are in short supply, and progress usually relies upon inputting exactly the right phrase ("What is "FUCK OFF" etc.) and maybe, just maybe, if I uttered the magic words "ripstop pants in experimental T-pattern camo, 32" waist" such an item might be plucked unceremoniously from a high shelf.

In my heart I doubt it though, and you have been warned "Abandon all hope ye who enter here".

Next time: Somewhere with good service.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Xmas Card

I think I need a new mac. Working on this kept crashing my grumpy old powerbook, annoyingly when just nudging layers. It was quite a large image to begin with, but nonetheless I'm beginning to think I need to put the old fella out to pasture as an MP3 jukebox or something.

Anyway, this is my Christmas card for 2006, which in order to cement my starving artist credentials is only getting sent digitally. Then again, this is 2006 and nearly 2007, so I'm surprised that (A) paper still exists and (B) we all don't live on the moon, so just think of it as moving with the times.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sharon Osbourne Disguise Kit™

Man, the animal posters were a pretty good freebie, but for those who missed it, Saturday's Guardian came with this free mask which allows you to 'become' X Factor judge Sharon Osbourne.

Way to go Guardian.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Allez Allez

Still working the same place in Soho I have been at for the last few weeks, and not really enjoying it very much to be honest. It's pretty manic with stuff being churned out for Christmas, and if I have to look at another mobile phone direct response ad I think I'm going to cry blood. I've felt shattered all week. No respite next week either, though I'll try and think of what I might plough the money into next year.

A lot of people there are using Adobe Indesign to exploit layer effects in Photoshop within a page layout program, and the jury is still out on whether this is good practice for when it actually goes to print. I'm not actually sure I care that much, but on a momentary aside I've got to say: Quark Express are screwed.

There are still sume clunky things about Indesign—it's sometimes really irritatingly fiddly to select type boxes for example—but it is so much more powerful than Quark it beggars belief. The fact that it integrates better with Illustrator and Photoshop and you can get all three packaged for less than the price of Quark's crappy software suggests to me that the latter's days are truly numbered.

Quark rested on their laurels for too long, lazily assuming their staus as the industry standard desktop publishing package was assured, and didn't really bother to try and develop the software or patch up the multitude of problems that pepper it like moth-holes in a deeply unfashionable sweater from the late eighties.

They do seem to have suddenly woken up to the fact that Adobe are probably going to take a huge slice of their business away from them, but their sudden frantic attempts to shore up their archaic enterprise frankly reek of desperation. The debacle surrounding their laughable attempts to rebrand being an own goal they could probably have done without as well.

Having said that, if I never had to use a page layout application again it wouldn't bother me hugely.

Went to my friend Sam's night Allez Allez on Thursday, which was great. I warmed up with some music for them but it was Weekend Steve and the man like Deven Miles who turned the party out, and you can hear the guys enthusiasm for what they're playing booming out of the speakers. The music is pretty eclectic (though that's an annoyingly broad term) but generally on quite a clubby, housey tip if that helps. I had a really good time, though I sure felt it the next day. It's early days yet, but I really hope it grows to be the success it deserves to be. Check out their blog here. They got podcasts and everything.

Saturday now. The landlord had arranged for an electrician to come round this morning, and he was banging round at about nine thirty. I got up and went to the post office to get a package, a belt from Oi Polloi in Manchester from their own line they did with the Japanese Paul Smith subsiduary, R Newbold. The buckle's based on their logo, which was designed by Rick Myers. I kind of wanted the Magpies one but that sold out in a hot second. They also sent a few pin badges too, which was nice.

Meeting up with ade in a bit, as he's just got back from Barcelona where he was visiting his brother. Maybe catch up with Marvyn and Ed too.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Hey, what happened to all the chargers, anyway? I'm talking about battery chargers in general but special mention must be made of phone chargers.

Time was that the earth used to groan beneath the collective weight of phone chargers, that dominated the horizon like menacing sillouettes in a Max Ernst frottage.

They were prime examples of the kibble that Phillip K Dick prophesised, technological by-product slowly swelling in mass to produce mountains of black plastic worms, intertwined like slumbering rattlesnakes in kitchen drawers throughout the land.

But now, they all seem to have vanished.. Something has decimated the charger population, and I want answers. Was there a charger amnesty I missed? or a cull on power sources in general? I used to have al least four—three Nokia, one Sony Ericsson with a really self consciously 'technological' attachment doohicky—and truly, they were times of charger excess. No place of residence was complete without about half a dozen of those things (each, per person), which would nestle like plastic umbelici in the corners of every room, warm to the touch. In much the same way a bedouin tribesman might offer you some weird tea or something whilst guesting in his caravan, a prerequisite of hospitality in Chorlton circa 2003 was unlimited acesss to a home's collective battery replenishment wealth.

"Does anyone have a Nokia charger..?" you'd ask, gazing at the mournful one-bar on your phone's screen, despite already knowing the answer.

Not so anymore.. It's like Mad Max round here when it comes to phone chargers, a trusty Nokia Type ACP–7X having suddenly having attained the same status as 'the last of the V8 interceptors' in these lean, mean times. I asked my housemate if I could use hers the other day and she actually had to think about it.. "Erm, yeah alright, I might have to use it in a bit" she said uncertainly.

Now I've got one, and I keep misplacing it.. I think it's making a quiet desperate bid for freedom, to follow it's compatriots to whatever alternate dimension all the odd socks and biros holidayed in in the eighties, and one day will simply ping out of existence when I turn my back on it, without so much as a "So long and thanks for all the DC power supply".

Perhaps they'll all return, someday, but like the entwives. I doubt it.

Because friends, I think we were destroying them, not so much through technological euthanasia as simply feeding them too much: leaving them plugged in for extended periods when not even charging, which eventually burnt them out. Our kindness killed, and they simply had to escape.

In fact.. all this would make for a 'great' Disney Pixar 3D animation! 'Pull the Plug' (working title) would follow the adventures of a rag-tag group of DC power transforming appliances as they seek to escape a student flat in a suburb of Stockport for the shargri-lah of (uncertain about this bit). Along they way they would befriend a gruff car battery with a heart of gold they meet in a shed, and seek to evade the local bully whose hobby is throwing mobile phone chargers on to fires. Comic hi-jinx would ensue, and along the way there'd be lots of room for post-modern adult humour, aimed at the grown ups sleeping in the audience eg: '"I'm getting turned on here!" "Well you are a charger!"' Hah Hah Hah etc. Vocal acting talent would be provided by Nadia Sawahla and Joey out of friends.

Any Disney execs reading this can get in touch through the usual channels, but I warn you, genius like this doesn't come cheap. And I'm clearly a busy man, as my writing of this blog post proves.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

You know you're working in an ad agency/design group when..

There's a copy of that Dilbert strip that takes the piss out of advertising.

There's a humorous Pantone 'tea' swatch chart sellotaped to one of the cupboards in the communal kitchen, while on a nearby cupboard there'll probably be..

..An A4 sheet instructing people to please keep the kitchen tidy, on which will be grafittid typographic markups (bring up to line above, close up etc..) some wag might even have inscribed 'stet' next to one of these.

You're in Soho.

That's about it.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Cynical food, good food, Stussy, Pan's Labyrinth.

Friday at work was pretty pants, workwise. Didn't really get a lunch break, so when someone suggested getting a take-out pizza from Pizza Hut I elected—In the interests of studio solidarity— to 'chip in' as it were, much against my better judgement.

I don't know what I was thinking. The pizza, when it arrived, was revolting: A flabby base that tasted of damp cardboard, with a thin smear of ersatz tomato sauce and sweet processed cheese. It both tasted and looked like something a child might construct out of play-doh. The biggest piss-take was the toppings however, consisting as it did of a handfull or so of harassed looking ingredients engaged in some kind of end-state diaspora over the wide flat topography of their pizza world.

And these things aren't cheap either (Half a 12" pizza cost me £6.50). One extra piece of needless gymcrackery was the addition of a hollow crust piped full of yet more of the disgusting plastic yellow cheese (it felt like eating the Simpsons), which I surmise was a ploy to distract from the complete lack of value for money that this food represents.

This is essentially food for people who don't like food, and then some. There is something so horribly cynical about this kind of fast food, where they don't even attempt to use the corporate leverage the scale of their enterprise allows to give you a better deal on the ingredients and quality, and charge you more for your meal than would cost in a fantastic Italian restaraunt.

Moreover, much like sandwiches, you do actually have to try quite hard to bugger up something as simple as a pizza, the rule of thumb basically being: great ingredients, fairly apportioned. Especially at this rate.

Anyway. On Saturday headed up to the Truman Brewery on brick lane for the Stussy warehouse sale. There was some alright stuff there, and the t-shirts were a snip at a tenner. I was kind of hoping they'd have some flat caps with a bandanna print they were hawking instore earlier in the year, but no dice. Bought a few shirts and headed out.

Caught the 55 from Old Street up to the top of Oxford Street, and from there walkied down into Soho. Went and checked out Libertys, which I've never ventured into before, and has much more of boutique-y feel than most other department stores. Some nice stuff in the menswear bit, though I was mostly looking for a 'brooch' they had in one of the window displays, which was basically a large pin with some small antique keys on it. Sounds a bit weird but trust me, it'd look great on a jacket.

There's also an exhibition of prints from the Scrawl website, whose curator Rick sold me a Stefan Plaetz t-shirt in the City Tavern in Manchester a few years back, when I was living there and he was up for a Man U game. His business is also, oddly enough, incumbent in the design group I'm working in right now. Anyway, some good stuff.

Also went and looked in the Levis store Cinch off Carnaby Street. They seem to have dispensed with the RED line altogether there, which is a bit of a shame as I thought they did some really nice pieces. Now they seem to focus more on the 'vintage' range and the new twisted series (into which they seem to have diffused some of the design elements from the RED range).

One thing I don't really get are the iPod compatible jeans, which strikes me as the ultimate in cheesy designer excess. Certain brand collaborations really seem to work (Stussy and Levis for example) but I don't think this does, mainly because I fail to see how an extra iPod shaped pocket with a built in plastic spinwheel is in any way superior to a, y'know, traditional pocket.

The beautiful thig about pockets is you can put anything in them (up to a point) iPods included. These jeans mainly seem to be about shouting "LOOK AT ME, I"VE GOT AN iPOD. iPODS ARE COOL, AND NOT ONLY THAT BUT I'VE GOT SOME iPOD JEANS WHICH MEANS I'M COOLER THAN YOU EVEN IF YOU DO HAVE AN iPOD'

After this I was hungry, so went to a falafel place called Maoz on Old Compton Street. Now this is actually quite good fast food. I can't make any particularly bold claims about the nutritional worth of Falafel, as it does seem in the main to be vegetarian stodge, but this is pretty wholesome all the same. The standard meal came with some nice chips, a drink and as much salad and toppings as you like for £4.90, which seemed pretty reasonable. Pizza Hut take heed!

After that went and met up with Will Ade and Helen at the Covent Garden Odeon, to watch Pan's Labyrinth, which I really enjoyed.

Superficially at least it bears some comparison with other stories where the protagist is a female child who finds herself in a otherly realm (Alice in Wonderland, Spirited Away for example) though in this, the tone is much, much darker (and maybe more akin to A Company of Wolves in this respect.

It is set in Spain after the Second World war, and the 'real world' narrative centres around an outpost of Nationalist guardsmen attempting to stamp out a local group of Socialist rebels who live in the forest. The central character Ofelia, moves here with her pregnant mother, who has wed the captain - himself as evil a character as any I have seen in film recently.

Against this backdrop of guerilla warfare, brutality, cruelty and torture Ofelia retreats into a world of her imagining, where she meets a Faun in some local ruins who reveals she is in fact a princess, the daughter of the king of the underworld, and in order to return home, must complete three tasks.

While much of this fantasical element of the film is truly magical, it is also inarguably far more mordant in aspect than I was anticipating. This Faun is no Mr Tumnus, and certain other sequences seem more reminiscent of Clive Barker's Hellraiser than they do the 80's muppet flick Labyrinth.

Nontheless the interplay between these two contrasting strands is handled very well, and the entire thing is tremendously exciting, and I dare say, thought provoking. I can't say it's particularly happy, but I would highly recommend it.

It's Sunday now. I just rang Lucy on her stall in Greenwich Market and will hopefully catch up with her in the week as I don't think I'm going to make it over to see her today. Anyway. Ade should be coming over shortly to pick up his brother's coat, and we might head out somewhere for a pint.

Incidentally, I've been published in a book! Yessir one of my blog entries has found its way into the pages of The Blog Digest 2007, where a throwaway anecdote about my brother and some wasps has been immortalised in print. The tagline reads 'Twelve months of the best writing from the web', so apparently, I'm part of that. Who'd have thought it?

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I walked into the kitchen of my flat the other week to observe that the plates were on the march again; columns of greasy crocks winding across the hinterlands of the worktop toward the cooker like Hannibal's elephants traversing the alps, daubed in a Pollock-esque crust of dried pasta sauce.

I sighed, the first nascent stirrings of a headache throbbing at my temples.

It's not the big things that annoy you when you live with people, I find. Alright it is, but it's also more persistently the little domestic foibles and quirks that drive me to distraction. I'm fairly tolerant, and can co-exist contentedly with any amount of opinion, vice and idiosyncratic behaviour, but so help me god, if someone leaves the tv on standby again I'm going to get on some Michael Douglas in 'Falling Down' type shit.

I think I'm getting a little irritable in my old age, and ideally, would really like to get a place of my own. While I think all my housemates are wonderful people, co-habiting is a process of acquiescence and tacit agreement that sometimes seems more like an unspoken war of attrition, with shifting alliances forged along lines of opinion, over all too familiar flashpoints.

Cleaning is one example. I don't see why anyone is too busy to spend ten seconds washing a plate, but then, most of my housemates at some time or another seem to disagree with this, and would rather deal with it 'some other time'. Of course everyone denies doing this, and ostentatiously huff and puff when the plates stack up, yet nonetheless think nothing of dashing spent crocks into the sink to lurk for days like crocodiles beneath the greasy water.

Heating is another common bone of contention. Now it's getting colder the heating is constantly on, and our flat sometimes feels the engine room of The Bismarck, so stifling is the temperature. I sometimes come home and fling open windows just to get the air moving, which is a sure sign I think, in November, that it's getting hot in herre (thanks, Nelly). Then again, I'm the kind of person who'd rather wear a sweater than turn up the heat, wheras some people are only content if they can walk round their home in a t-shirt in January.

Maybe I should look at the bigger picture, and consider all this as terraforming on a macrocosmic scale; a contribution to global warming that will, in the long game, engineer a warmer world for us all. Hell, by 2050 London will probably resemble some Ballardesque dystopia, where Iguanas compete for space alongside the pigeons on the South Bank.

The biggest source of my grumpiness these days however is the guy who has the room next to mine; part of whose ritual of going to bed is to switch on his tv immediately prior to sleep, (and he generally drops off within twenty minutes) leaving the set to quack away to itself like the teacher in Charlie Brown.

Part pf my problem here is that I do suffer from degrees of insomnia these days, and it takes very little to stop me dropping off. I freely admit this is slightly neurotic as London is hardly an oasis of calm, yet whilst I can somehow tolerate the distant external sounds of traffic, sirens, gunshots and shouts and screams that Camberwell generates, any incessent persistent sound, no matter how quiet, is the aural equivalent of the Chinese water torture to me, which I just fixate upon to distraction.

Selfishly enough, I don't even mind up to about one o'clock when I do go to bed, but after that, I really wish people would pull the plug on all local forms of media. I simply don't want to lie awake guessing whether that tinny sound I'm hearing through the wall is the soud of someone not watching golf, or someone not watching some crappy game-show.

Quite a few times I've actually crept into his room to switch it off (which is weird). The sight of my partially clothed housemate snoring like a beached porpoise snared in the folds of his duvet is a sight I could willingly forfeit at the best of times, never mind at half two on a Thursday morning.

A couple of times he's woken up/been awake, and I've asked him if he'll turn it down/off which he willingly does, and this happened last night. He was a bit funny with me this morning though (didn't acknowledge me on the landing) and I think he thinks I'm being unreasonable ("it's not loud etc").

I am hence, going to have to talk to him about it, and him being a reasonable guy, I'm sure he'll understand. I don't really want to though, and would much prefer it if he'd just take the fucking hint and turn it off.

In this respect living alone sounds immensely attractive as you can dispense with this kind of banal diplomacy, and don't have to convene meetings about trivia such as who's buying the toilet roll with anyone except yourself. At the minute flatsharing is getting to be as tedious as an Eastenders storyline, only unfortunately not relegated to four half hour slots weekly (and the omnibus on Sundays of course). Basically I want to go and live in a cave (and no, not The Hermit's Cave on this ocassion).

God I sound like an irritable bastard don't I? And there's the rub. I'm no domestic god. I'm sure I'm a pain in the arse to live with, and sometimes in the end living with other people just seems to hold a mirror up to your own petty madness and general crankiness, which my personal vanity would much rather avoid. I'd like to pretend I can get on with everybody, all of the time, but it just isn't true.

Satre said: "Hell is other people" (or something similar). My maxim might be: "I love people, I just couldn't eat them all".

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Casino Royale

I went and saw the new Bond film on Friday at the Ritzy in Brixton, as everywhere in the centre of town was sold out. And despite my reservations about the franchise as a whole it was pretty entertaining.

I'm glad to say they've reigned in the cheesier excesses of the recent Bond output in favour of a grittier, pared down tone. So gone are invisible cars, Ice palaces, genetically enhanced villains, Bond doing a spot of impromptu tidal-wave windsurfing after an orbital satellite slices of a section of a glacier with a laser, and in is ushered a craggy faced Daniel Craig striding purposefully around Montenegro with an intensity worthy of the T1000.

One of the best things about it is the decision to eschew grandiose visual effects in favour of more traditional stunts, which gives it a tremendous sense of kinesis in parts. An early chase scene which sees Bond pursue a terrorist (played by champion freerunner Sebastian Foucan) across a buiding site in Madagascar, has a high impact choreography reminiscent of Jackie Chan.

Also dispensed with are the far fetched gadgets which wouldn't look out of place on Adam West's batbelt. This bond gets a gun and a car, and in one scene it's a Ford Mondeo at that. MI6 must also provide free gym membership as 007 looks impressively buff, emerging shimmering from the sea in an inverted reprisal of Ursual Andress's iconic cheesecake moment in Dr No.

Muscles aside, Craig's is the first convincingly hard Bond since Connery's, and you probably wouldn't spill his Martini if you met him down the pub. Moreover he manages to project the right air of moral ambiguity appropriate to a government sponsored killer, his piercing glinty death-camp eyes somehow just adding to the overall effect.

The main villain—La Chieffre—comes acoss as a proportionately psychotic foe, who, while in full posession of a trademark disfigurement (he weeps tears of blood) is less cat-holdingly camp than previous incarnations of the bond baddy (though he does whip James Bond's balls in one scene). The fact that his name sounds a bit like 'The Chief' is pretty top too.

Of course, before we all start reaching for our genitalia, it's still a Bond film and not the Godfather part II, so any accrued gravitas is somewhat undermined by the hackneyed trappings native to the franchise (the audience were pissing themselves laughing when the first Bond girl made her entrance jiggling down the beach on the back of a horse) yet overall the familiar institutional motifs (crashingly insipid one-liners for example) are underplayed, and mitigated by the Craig reinvigoration effect(tm).

So if you're going to 'catch a flick' with Brian Sewell and Germaine Greer, you might want to look elsewhere, but otherwise go see it. It's a fun way to waste a couple of hours, and has a very nice graphic title sequence (the main tune's a bit crap though).

Go on take a gamble (arf arf).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Just for the record..

If and when I make it into Second Life, this is what I want my avatar to look like.

For some more check Wayne Barlow's website. His stuff's incredible, a bit like Heironymus Bosch with Corel Paint.

Monday, October 30, 2006

National Express

My trip to Manchester this weekend gone was moderately successful. I managed to see most of my friends, in spite of them inhabiting different areas, and having pretty different social commitments; arriving on Friday evening and departing on Sunday afternoon gives you a pretty slender window of opportunity to timetable everything in, though I did my best.

Caught up with Vic and Paul on Friday, and went to a bar called Common in the Nortern Quarter, which has lots of illustration on the walls, before getting a lift off Kenny back to Heaton Moor in his latest Japanese second hand motor (a Honda this time). Ended up sitting up round at Vic and Paul's flat well into the wee hours, listening to Northern Soul and other delights on this amazing old school DJing unit which Paul's dad lent him – all it's missing is the telephone handset to cue tracks up on and it could be the seventies again. I think we got a bit carried away as the landlord rang up the next day to say there'd been two complaints about the volume. Oops.

Saturday went for a trawl round Heaton Moor's charity shops, though didn't find a thing worth having. Wandered past my old place down into Burnage were I bought a few CDs at Sifters, before catching the number 50 bus into town.

Here I had my first encounter in years with a couple of good old Manchester scallies, who you almost forget about in London, but are instantly recognisable by their uniform grade one haircuts, and the fact that they tuck their trousers into their socks (I can't believe they think that's a good idea). The exchange was unremarkable. They called me some names, I wanted to bang their rodent-like skulls together but decided it really wasn't worth it. The end.

Got to Manchester and caught up with my brother Dan briefly, before heading over to Chorlton where I met up with Fran, and later Crenan, who'd just got back from Jersey. We sat in the horse and Jockey talking and it was generally a bit like old times.

After that I caught the 22 bus toward Stockport, and after quite a bit of walking eventually made it to my friend Stu's party in Reddish. Everyone but me was in Fancy dress, so I guess, in a sense, contextually speaking, I was the most outlandishly dressed of them all. My one concession was to fix a comedy moustache to my upper lip for a duration not exceeding twenty minutes. We partied until around six, before I caught a taxi to my brother's place in Heaton Norris and crashed in his front room.

And then it was Sunday and time to go home.

The worst thing about the weekend unfortunately, was getting there and back, as I'd opted (foolishly in retrospect) to take the National Express coach. Bad move, and as of yesterday I have made a solemn pact with myself to under no circumstances ever take the coach again of my own volition. Ever. Life is simply far too short.

It was bad enough on the way up when we ended up diverting through Alderly Edge, but the trip back down was the coaching equivalent of dropping brown acid, and ended up taking over six hours. It would have been more bearable, but the last person to get on the coach was a really fat lady who decided she wanted to sit next to me. I don't have a problem with fat people necessarily, unless they're sitting on my seat while I'm in it, and this lady's backside was threatening to annexe mine.

I sat, cramped up, feeling hung over and miserable, alternately reading a book about the Manson killings and watching the 'toilet engaged' light at the front of the coach slyly wink on and off at me.

"Please god, make this stop"

I thought. It didn't (draw your own conclusions here).

The worst bit was in Luton where the traffic was forced into one lane to pass a flatbed truck putting out traffic cones. It took an hour and a half to pull abreast of it, wherupon I noticed they'd just put out the last one.

I eventually got into Victoria and battled my way home, but by then it was getting on for ten o'clock. Nearly seven hours since I'd caught the coach. I could've flown to New York in that time. I hadn't.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Up North Trip

Right. I'm off to Manchester for the weekend. The iPod is strapped down with life affirming soul joints, and I've got a bag of limes to ward off scurvy mid coach journey. Yes it takes that long.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

'Washing Up Bowls'

It was my turn on the flat cleaning rota the other night, which, if nothing else, gave me turn to meditate on a feature of many kitchens, which I think is utterly superfluous, but still persists to linger on, like a kitchen based appendix (the wasted, vestigal stomach in the human body, rather than the bit at the back of that textbook you never read).

I'm talking about washing up bowls, and I'd like to invite each and every one of you to explain what practical purpose they serve. Feel free to use simple, childlike terms and intonation, diagrams, pictionary style sketches, or, if you peep me on the real (I can often be found in the Hermit's Cave holding forth about such trivia) maybe you'd prefer to communicate through the medium of mime, charades style.

Be as patronising as you wish, only please, can someone explain, 'cause I just don't get it.

Ok first and foremost I realise you can wash things up in them, but then you could also wash things up in the sink they're placed inside. To use an analogy it seems like placing a slightly smaller bath within an existing bath when bathing. Or building a house only to live in a shed inside it.

The restricted space the bowl allows basically means that you have less room to manipulate the crocks, less elbow room to grease the elbows so to speak.

But probably the worst thing about them is their materials however – as being constructed from low grade plastic they are subject to inummerable abrasions from the cutlery that shimmies daily across it's surface, or the scalding pans that brand weals into it.

These no doubt act as a matrix for a rogues gallery of bacteria, for whom the washing up bowl is probably to germs as the Costa Del Sol is to ex-pat British felons: Warm and accomodating.

Despite being cleaned regularly with the bleach equivalent of shock and awe, ours has still managed to acquire a 24/7 greasy sepia tinge, and a bum-fluff beard of frayed plastic. It looks rank. If it was a person it'd probably be someone like one of Roald Dahl's twits.. certainly no-one you'd want in your kitchen, let alone your sink.

Doubtless someone is thinking:

"why don't you just replace it then, if it's so manky?"

But I don't want to. I don't want another one when there's a perfectly good stainless steel sink there that everyone seems to forget about. I almost want to suggest flinging it out at a house meeting but I'm sure I'll just be met with an awkward, uncomprehending silence, because, of course, the bowl is the sink: and I might as well suggest we go and wash our dishes in the blood of newborn badgers for want of any consensual response.

In one place I lived in, the bowl (and I will stop going on about this soon, I promise) was circular, and only fractionally larger than a dinner plate, so when plates were stacked within and you needed to wash them you either required a gecko-like adhesive touch (which would be better served fighting crime) or to upend the lot into the sink anyway. Arrrrgh!

I used to hide it, but my housemate would simply find it and re-manifest it back in place like it was some kitchen based groundhog day – a utensil themed cycle of eternal recurrence. But why?

There was a piece in the Metro recently discussing the imminent relaunch of Smash, which for anyone lucky enough to have been not born yet or dead at the time, is what happens when people pretend something tastes like potato when it doesn't. It seems odd to think that in these nefarious, virgin olive drizzled times, anyone could excited about a powdered substance that isn't typically inhaled in toilet cubicles, but the allure here is nostalgia, apparently. People just have an unquestioning affection for the chintz that lurked in the cupboards and kitchens of their youth.

Another prime example of this would be those plastic swing top bins, which on the surface were really neat, but whose central design conceit (the swingy bit) was actually flawed, in that it either got too full to swing (though don't we all, eh?), or the act of scraping leftover food in would typically deposit a slug trail of food on the bin's lid.

Evolutionary pressures do seem to have edged that one out the door, somewhat, but in the washing up bowl a true design parasite persists, good friends, attached, remora like, to the seamy underbelly of the nations kitchens. A simple chrome sink, or ceramic basin will suffice for my loft appartment and/or country pile (if and when I come into posession of either).

So to return to my original point, is anyone up to the challenge of defending the humble 'washing up bowl'? can anyone be arsed? I suppose there is an industry built around the construction of this tat, so it's continued popularity probably ensures a subset of the nation's injection moulders have got jobs to go to on an industrial estate somewhere, but otherwise, I'm quite literally, not buying it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Went out to the Sun & Doves Tuesday evening, for the film night.

The screening in question was Tod Browning's 'Freaks', which a very succinct affair, clocking in at under an hour and a half.

It's quite a wierd beast, being a darkly comic tale about the members of a travelling circus troupe. Ed tells me the director is often lauded as 'the Edgar Allen Poe' of film, and it shows, as the final twist is really quite disturbing. There are definitely shades of it in The League Of Gentleman, I would say.

On a sadder note I was sorry to hear that a friend of a friend had been attacked on Sunday, and beaten quite badly on his road in Croydon – having been set upon by 15 youths. Having been attacked myself in the past (albeit by fewer thugs) I can empathise, as it's a pretty dehumanising experience.

The sad fact is that, aside from being aware of your surroundings, there's often not a right lot you can do about it. Sometimes your number gets called, you get singled out, and that's that. In this sense, aside from keeping aware of where you are, and what's going on, it's almost impossible to legislate fully for the actions of idiots, and hence hardly worth wasting your life worrying about it. Indeed, when it happens, it often occurs so quickly you hardly have time to be frightened, and the fear itself is somewhat mitigated by the adrenalin coursing through your system and blurring the edges of everything.

When I got mugged in 2003, it was about half one in the morning, just round the corner from my mum and dad's house. I was weaving my way home, quite drunk after a night out. The first I knew about it was being slammed into from behind, whereupon I tried to turn and was swept to the ground. The back of my head rang against the slabs.

I briefly remember being pinned to the pavement by two sportswear clad rats, one's knee in my kneck. "give us yer money and yer mobile" he hissed, while they rifled my pockets. Then I passed out.

I came too shortly in the street, pretty much the textbook definition of a punch drunk with empty pockets, and managed to stagger to my mum and dad's house, where I was put to bed. The next day when I awoke, the back of my head was matted with blood, and there was a footprint shaped bruise on my neck (you could practically make out the Rockport logo).

The emotional aftermath to events like this is usually a mixture of disbelief and anger: disbelief that people will do this kind of thing for chump change, anger that you were less able to stop it happening to you. In the abstract it's tempting to fantasise how these kind of scenarios might play out if you actually were as nails as fuck, and your hapless would-be attackers were soon to receive a lesson they'd never forget, delivered with bone crushing force in some brutal and esoteric martial art.

"Leave now" you'd intone, your voice cracking strangely as they slowly encircled you "we don't have to do this"

But, alas, this isn't The Bourne Identity, I was always better at drawing than fighting, and breaking off for a quick bout of sketching mid-brawl just isn't an option sometimes.

In any event, the police were extremely helpful and understanding in my case, which is something which doesn't seem to have happened in this instance. Indeed, it sound as if the interviewing officers were pretty unsympathetic, going as far to suggest that the chap in question did something to instigate the beating he received, which pretty soundly adds insult to injury. I think he's going to complain.

Anyway. Thursday night now, and tomorrow's Friday. Can't wait for the weekend. Cecilia mentioned a 'Festival of Light' which is 'gahn dahn' in Myatts fields tomorrow eve, from half six onwards. I wonder if it will be anything like the legendary 'Son et Lumieres' which we ocasionally asked directions to in GCSE french, but which along with Citron Presses I've zero empirical knowledge of, outside of vague references in the Escalier series of French textbooks (whose protagonist, Oliver Oignon, would inevitably be augmented by a crudely drawn cock and balls on every page which he appeared).*

Come to think of it, has anyone been to a Son et Lumiere, or drunk a Citron Presse, or better yet, gone to a Son et Lumiere and drunk a Citron Presse?* Are these genuinely French cultural predelictions, or the kind of useless bollocks you ocasionally get taught in school? Answers on a postcard please to the usual address.

* I googled hard for a picture of Oliver Oignon. Not a sausage.

**I guess that would count as light refreshment arf, arf.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Rat Records and Retail

They say you're never further than ten metres away from a rat in London, though in Camberwell it's probably closer to five. This doen't really matter though, as in rats' favour there is Camberwell's very own music vendor, Rat Records on Camberwell road.

Not many Saturdays are complete for the Eyechild without a nose through the racks of this place, similar to when when I used to live on Kingsleigh road in Stockport and was contractually obliged to stride down to Mr Sifter's place in Burnage for a shufti at the wares there of a weekend (Sifter's incidentally getting a mention in Oasis's 'Shakermaker' by the way).

Being a second hand shop, it's stock does fluctuate in quality quite wildly, so as ever when it comes to digging, the key is frequent browsing, because when you do hit a seam of vinyl gold, it's usually very fairly priced.

Yesterday while doing some auditory browsing through a stack of twelve inches I came across a tune I'd been searching for for ages, which featured on a pre-hyphy DJ Shadow mix he did for Kiss Manchester in 1996. My mum had since thrown out my shoebox of mixtapes and I'd devoted many fruitless minutes googling half remembered snippets of lyrics to try and get a fix on what it was. I can now report the record in question is the the 'Dedicated EP' by EDO.G, and the particular tune being 'Acting' off the B side, which I think Shadow then blended into 'Brownsville' by MOP (Damn that was a good mix). Anyway. Fiver. Result!

I do wonder how the owners of Rat Records manage to make a living out of it though, as by all accounts, trading in Camberwell isn't easy, unless your'e a fried chicken vendor or sell rotgut cider – the demise of Wordsworth Books alone is testament to this. (In fact, for a fascinating insight into the pressures which beset the Inn Trade round here, you should get yourself to Camberwell Online and read Mark Dodd's comments in this post. You might have to dig down a bit, mind.

The problems which beset specialist music retail are not specific to Camberwell of course. Looking at the amount of record shops which have closed in recent years in Soho surely gives some impression as to how tough the market is. My old mate DJ Phase once got talking to Nicky Blackmarket in erm, Blackmarket records, who was lamenting the impact online shops had had on trade. The counter argument to this I suppose, might run that buying online saves you the hassle of circumnavigating the bloated egos of people who quite often work in record shops; but we will all miss them when they're gone. Anally retentative vinyl enthusiasts will anyway.

The advantages of shopping online are obvious though, just in terms of it's convenience – and it always great getting a package in the post. Depending on an item's obscurity you are also far more likely to find it on the net – recently I tramped round all of Soho's specialist music stores searching for a copy of K-Def's rather wonderful instrumental album "Willie Boo Boo – The Fool" only to be met with blank looks. I eventually got a copy online from Fat City in Manchester, but someone in London lost a sale there, by missing a trick.

Speaking of retail there was a spot on London Tonight the other day reporting how Westminster council might use compulsory purchase orders to hound out the traders who perpetually hawk naff logo shirts and discount jeans round the Tottenham Court Road end. The main thrust of their proposal seemed to be that these kind of shops cheapen the tone of Oxford Street and their ousting would pave the way for a more gentrified shopping experience. There were a few gormless voxpops with the man on the street, mostly along the lines of "Better brands down the other end innit".

Now as I'm not in the market for nylon Union Jack knickers or a t-shirt with the legend "Nobody knows I'm a lesbian" embazoned across it, I'm probably the last person to actually frequent these places, but I have to admit, they do have their place in London, and do, in their own way, add local colour. The fact that Oxford street at times resembles an obscure plane of Dante's inferno is such a cliche it hardly bears recanting, but the spectacle of shops in perpetual liquidation and 'golf sale man' are merely props in this scene rather than their causal origins.

Frankly, I find the notion of discussing regeneration purely in terms of retail unimaginative in the extreme. Sure, the Tottenham Court Road end of Oxford Street does look as rough as dreads on white guys, but the kind of development I'd advocate would be things along the same lines as the proposed redevelopment around the base of Centre Point, which in it's current incarnation is to civic planning what daisycutter bombs are to human life.

Moreover, I find the prospect of simply copying and pasting the same mile of bland brands that populate the other end of Oxford Street immensely depressing. One of the things that does get me down about London is the flavourless corporate facade of high street chains that wallpaper practically every stretch of road, such as yes, you guessed it, Starbucks (a handy whipping boy in these kind of rants if ever there was one). Why anyone would want to allow these coporporations to gain more of a chokehold over London is beyond my ken (see diagram attached).*

So back off Westminster, You don't know jack.

*Photo by Cpl. Benjamin M. George. Apparently.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday 13th

Another day, another dollar.

This is turning into my longest stint so far this year – two and a half weeks so far and I'm booked in here next week too.

It's been a week of late(ish) nights, due to a pitch that's just gone down. Wednesday I was here til half one, and all in all. it's been quite tiring.

On the other hand, it hasn't really infringed too much on my generally nocturnal nature, as I don't generally get to sleep before half one anyway, and I felt more sorry for the account executive briefing me, who's been working as late or later than that most nights and has been in over the weekend.

She came into the studio yesterday and got a little weepy because she was so tired, and had been skipping her regular physiotherapy to get the job done. She was really under pressure to stay in right up to the pitch, but I think eventually managed to hand over what was essentially a job well done and go home and get some sleep.

Anyway. I've made some money which is good.

Bumped into S the other day in the lobby, who I worked with quite a bit last year. She really is quite distractingly pretty.. so much so in fact that I find it quite hard to work out whether I'm talking or breathing when in conversation with her. She's got a lovely face. I don't see much of her here anyway, though. *sigh*

It's now Friday the 13th, and I've just had fish and chips for lunch from the cafeteria, which was quite nice – the batter was good and crispy anyway. It also came with some homemade tartare sauce which was a nice touch. The chips weren't as good, mind. Bit flabby.

Thus far I've usually gone out for lunch and wandered up to Camden, to take in the sights (alternative looking people with eccentrically coloured hair and complicated boots) sounds (usually some warbling trance) and smells (joss mostly, and troughs of Chinese food).

Unfortunately I forgot my Freelancers pass today, which makes moving round the building a bit like Alien Breed when you ran out of keys. Indeed getting past the tag team of cheaply suited receptionists in the lobby is such a bore I won't even endeavor to face it today.

Anyroad. The weekend comes, my cycle hums. Groovin' all week with you. Not sure what I'm up doing over the next couple of days, but I could really do with getting a new digital camera. My old Nikon Coolpix is well and truly fecked (even when fully charged it now only takes about three photos before the servos within utter a piteous bleat and the lens retreats, turtle-like back into it's shell) Any suggestions as to make and model gratefully accepted.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tax Tuesday

I'm working back at a large ad agency in Camden. There's a variety of accounts, but I've mostly been occupied with that of a certain high street retailer.

For professional reasons I obviously can't divulge who this is, but if I said:

"This isn't just retail advertising, it's ..... ... ....... advertising"

In a breathy female voice like the Cadburys Caramel rabbit (remember her?) you might have a clue. And if you were to think of a certain 60s model who currently features in their campaign, I'm sure you'd soon twig who I'm talking about.

Also, this brand is very close to the national heart – you could almost say it's the opposite of sado-masochism.

On your marks, get set, go!

Anyway. I'm bored right now, hence writing this.

Weekend was OK. Went out for Ed's new housemate Madhu(?)'s bithday on friday. Thirty three apparently, but she looks much younger.

Anyway we went to, yes, the Hermit's cave and generally shot the breeze.. The place was thronged with art students in tight jeans, some of whom were ogling the Kinder egg I gave Madhu until Ed had a word.

About the most eventful thing was someone shuffling over and offering me 50p for a roll-up, which I refused, offering instead that he help himself. At this point Ed took receipt of the Pentagonal coin, and our new friend took this as a cue to calmly lift the packet of Golden Virginia from the tab and dart out the pub, causing all three of us to do a double take.

Exeunt me and Ed, pursuant, only to find the street outside as quiet as Margate in the winter, bar the usual usual convention of hop-heads, rudeboys and assorted lost souls who trickle down Camberwell Church Street's leg at all hours.

Slightly puzzled, we retired inside, only for odd-lad to return five minutes later brandishing the baccy pouch and demanding we return his 50p. Things get slight hazy here, but seconds later I found myself outside having to separate him and Ed, and telling the bounder to:

"Just smoke it all mate"

which was itself a a nearly subliminal uppercut I thought.. proving my innate superiority by refusing to brawl over tobacco of all things (plus tobacco is bad for you, so perhaps he'll smoke it all get ill and die. Which would be poetic comeuppance I suppose).

Perhaps he'll even contribute, in the grand scheme of things, to me giving up (again).

Anyway. Sunday went round for a roast at David's flat. Ate loads, then started playing board games – including Trivial Pursuit, which my team triumphed at, before receiving a sound birching at 'Cranium', which is over-wrought and stupid anyway. I also had a Pop Tart for the first time since, ooh, 1996? (and vowed to reacquaint myself with said toaster pastries soon).

Also trying to sort out PAYE on my limited enterprise, but the company acting as accountants seem, as usual, to be doing very little to help. I think the new year might be time to part ways with them, however much of a temporary inconvenience it presents.

In the interim I seem to spending a lot of quiet moments ringing an engaged number in Shipley. I'm almost glad it doesn't connect as the Inland Revenue is one of the more bureaucratic articulations of the human spirit, and trying to explain why I've not paid tax I'm not yet due to pay, to a bored someone-or-other in East Yorkshire on a tuesday afternoon (whilst at work) has fairly obvious limits in terms of enjoyment.

On the other hand, much like dental surgery, it really isn't worth deferring too long, so I would prefer to get it out of the way, pronto.

Film night at the Sun and Doves tonight, but I'll probably give it a miss as I've got some other stuff that really needs doing. Cheerio.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Something I ocasionally do when I'm trying to avoid getting down to more important stuff is have a nose through the referrals page for my blog, which (for the uninitiated) basically breaks down things like visitor numbers and frequency into statistics. The referrals section itself is a bit where you can see what phrases people fed into a search engine to rock up at the front door of your web place.

It really is quite fascinating in a limited kind of way. Recent searches that led to The Eyechild include:

lily allen earrings

funky eye glasses for kids

deven miles (That's ma boy right there)

funky town lipps ink (sic)

number 9 printed all over hip hop fashion t shirt (presumably bad buoy fave Akademics tings)

nearest cashpoint lock tavern pub

Given that my blog is about the least useful thing ever unless you're interested in wasps, me slagging off tv, or the Hermit's Cave, you can but feel sorry for the poor souls directed here by the web equivalent of faulty Sat-Nav. Without judicious use of quotation marks search engines do rather seem to snuffle excitedly at disparate words in any body of text, sometimes in my blog's case when the posts are months apart.

On the other hand, part of the internet's charm is that you can easily waste hours of your life being lured from point A to B by the graffiti that daubs the walls of the information superhighway, so maybe people enjoy the average 1:14 minutes they spend here once they've arrived.

This post is particularly low on content due to it's very self-referential nature, so for anyone led here looking for something critical to your continued existence, now's probably the time to hit return and revise that google search.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

London Lite

In another day, another age, a paper with the word light in the title may have been alluding to illumination, with it all it's attendant, noble, journalistic associations (bringing truth to light etc).

Not so Lite London, which can't even be bothered to spell light correctly, opting instead for the four letter variant beloved of soft drink marketeers, for this is lite as in light as air, as in air headed.

It's often said that war is if nothing else, a catalyst. Granted mostly for new ways of turning people into catfood, but hell, the Cold War gave rise to the internet, which is why you're reading this, so it can't be all bad. Also bear in mind please that at the minute, opium production in Afghanistan is exceeding that of the country pre the conflict that followed 9/11, so that's more heroin than we could reasonably be expected to consume. The brown's on the Taliban, kids!

We can but hope, therefore, that something good comes from the so called 'free paper wars', though it seems unlikely it'll have anything to do with journalism. indeed, the aphorism "The first causalty of war is the truth" seems far more apt judging from the weedy gauntlet Lite has thrown down into the arena.

For this paper trumpets its own inanity from the rooftops; this paper wears it's own witlessness like a cross-eyed badge of honour on it's sleeve.

Presumably aimed at a post-MTV demographic who judge information's value in terms of screen loading times, Lite delivers lashings of chicken McNugget sized prolefeed, with sick-burp celebrity soundbites and lavender coloured bulleted columns of lifestyle advice that are effervescently anodyne.

This paper doesn't just cater for people with limited attention spans, it wants to bomb attention spans back to the stone age (or further back, when we were all still fish).

I got a copy of all three free papers yesterday for comparison (well alright to read). In a Newsnight style roundup of the front page news here is what the three were saying:

Metro: "Britain's first war criminal"

thelondonpaper: "Shop your children says reid"

and, sigh

London Lite: "Harrow girl 'was killed for kitten'" (note use of inverted commas)

Hey? I'm sorry? Granted this is a very sad story – someone deeply odd kills someone young and much-loved, and female (and pretty), but this claptrap hardly does it any justice. Indeed, the opening paragraph throws this bold statement into immediate doubt, stating:

"The daughter of a Harrow schoolmaster may have been killed after a quarrel over a kitten, an inquest heard today"

So it's not actually clear whether this even was a kitten motivated killing, and even if it was, she wasn't killed for it, was she? Admit it Lite: You just wanted a headline that had the words 'girl', 'kitten' and 'killing' in it, and fortuitously, some handy alliteration in the second two. The only possible better headline would surely have been:

"Harrow girl was killed by kitten"

Though that would have been to good to be true.

Other big newsworthy events were Steve Irwin's funeral, and Kate Moss's £3 Million Top Shop Deal, though if you looked carefully enough, there were token articles on the Pope's recent Islam gaffe and John Reid's recent, um, Islam gaffe, wedged back to back between pictures of Paris Hilton and diarhettically watery lifestyle pieces. It'll be interesting to see if such kindred articles are hounded into similarly content themed half page ghettos in future editions of this rag.

Some of it is just badly concieved. Does anyone really care if the BBC's This Life is set to return? Even allowing for Lite's bubblegum content, this seems curiously irrelevant for today's readership. And I thought the review of the Biba fashion show hilariously innapropriate in format. Why give a fashion show that happened last night a star rating? It's not like it's something we can consume, even retrospectively, so why would we care? I might write in and suggest other things Lite could apply a star rating to, such as countries or major religions.

The most irritating features though are the self congratulatory "I Love Lite" roundels which are strewn amongst the pages, where members of the public offer up quotes as to why they 'love Lite', despite the fact it's only been in print for a fortnight or so.

"It's really colourful with a really vibrant feel about it"

burbles Marco Barbuti from Wanstead.

Even aside from the fact that the point-one-five of a second's worth of fame that having your photo printed in Lite grants is the only reason anyone participated in this, the use of Vox Pops in an attempt to validate a publication is doubly annoying because A: I'm already reading it so can make my own mind up, thanks, and B: heaping self praise on yourself by proxy in this manner is akin to masturbating in public with someone else's face grafted onto your genitals.

About all that Lite really has going for it compared to the Metro is it's claim on the cover that it is:


And I just hope that applies to other areas of the body as well, though I wouldn't say it's even up to task as toilet paper frankly, which is a shame as that would effectively cut out the effort of recycling this utterly superfluous rag into something more useful (Indeed my personal vote would have been for Lite never having changed state from oxygen producing trees in the first place, but there you have it).

There are just too many free papers being printed now. Yesterday on my way back home from Vauhall I practically had to burrow through drifts of the things just to get home, all the while dodging the purple-shirted gimps responsible for shifting their personal paper mountains onto the public. It's starting to get annoying already. Presumably they make their money off advertising revenue, but unlike say, Vice magazine which is reasonably exclusive and distributed through stores whose customer base is the advertiser's target market, it's approach seems as scatter-gun and wasteful as most direct mail (and a lot of it does seem to end up as rubbish, too).

I'm practically getting misty eyed as I reminisce over the good old days, when a copy of the Metro was a covetable thing on the work run in the morning; when acquisitive commuter eyes would scour carriages for any sign of the familiar blue masthead.*Sigh*

I am aware by the way that The Metro isn't all that good itself, just seemingly better than it's two new rivals without exerting any extra effort. There did seem to be more of these about too (though not as many as Lite) so maybe they're weighing in in response too. I've not really deleved into 'the london paper' vey much, but wheras Lite London is conspicuously bad, the london paper appears unremarkably indifferent, right down to it's all-lower-case-wannabe-the guardian logotype. So I won't bother to comment.

Anyway, if anyone can think of a good use for Lite London, let me know, as I personally can't see any, bar the aforementioned (recycling).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Faustian Fear

Working back at an ad agency in Soho which is fine but..

I've just been offered six weeks work. Great you might think, and the money is good, but the work sounds fucking shit.

It's an in-house role doing Quark work for estate agents of all people. I'm guessing I'll be the only 'person' there, and there'll be lot's of really boring re-flowing of text on glossy coated stock for the kind of sharks who wear Hackett shirts and bray into mobile phones in expensive but culturally bereft bouroughs of London on the weekend.

Having just slagged off Estate Agents (and I do know one who I like) I'm aware that ad agencies aren't exactly awash with the milk of human kindness, but I'd still far prefer to work in one. It's very possible that someone could ring up in a week and offer me something more interesting, which I wouldn't be able to do due to my chilling up in dicksville.

I also suspect that within a week I'll be bored rigid, and just about willing to commit suicide (after having killed everyone else there, of course).

But the money is good, and I've just got back off holiday, and have also spent a large slice of the summer sitting reading sub-par science fiction in Brunswick park (admittedly with the aim of avoiding bookings like this).

And I probably won't get any work in January, and maybe not December, so maybe I should play the ant of the parable, rather than the grasshopper..

Or would I be better off again waving two fingers at the 'the man', subsisting off my monetary fat deposits, and trying to get some work I actually want to do?

Argh. Decisions.

What do I do.

PS: Celebrity (sort of) sighting update – Nigel Havers talking into a phone and wearing a sport jacket/blazer on St. Anne's court in Soho, yesterday lunchtime. Beat that.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Greek internet

I'm sat in a bar/internet cafe in Loggos on Paxos. Some unbelievably bad pop tune sampling 'Funky Town' by Lipps Inc is burbling away over the radio. In fact, the station itself seems dedicated to the playing of formulaic disco remixes with the same dreary 4:4 beat.

It's quite overcast today though it has been really toasty the rest of the time. I'm quite brown, and my feet are covered with mosquito bites which I'm leaning down to scratch intermittently.

It's been a good holiday, though other than the obvious holiday pursuits of lying around, eating, drinking and swimming, there's (peers around) not actually a right lot to do here, which is rather the point I suppose.

Anyway, I've been nosing around taking photos with my dad's old Nikon SLR, including an old decaying soap factory on the beach this morning, which is full of bits of rusting engines, and looks like a hidden level off The Chaos Engine. I'll get them up on Flickr as soon as I'm home (and have got them developed).

I turn 29 tomorrow. Not sure how I feel about that, but with any luck, Ade's got me the animal posters that came with the Guardian this week, which is something to look forward to at least.

Anyway, some old dude has sat down at the machine next to me and is announcing things aloud to no-one in particular, which is my cue to leave.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


I'm in the airport. It's about midnight. I've got a long wait ahead of me before I check in and ultimately, fly.

I thought I'd indulge in a spot of blogging, or surfing, seeing as I've got so much time to kill, but unfortunately, airports being airports, the good ole net is prohibitively expensive, costing a rather steep 10p per minute. So a quid gets you 10 minutes.

This is probably about as much time as some people will waste on the internet in their lifetime, before they retire to organic yurt in the Forest of Dean, but I'm not one of them.

Nor however do I think I'm the kind of person who's going to shovel six quid into the coffers of 'Spectrum Interactive' (who curate this monetary black hole) for an hour's worth of webbery. And plus, the connection's really slow (twenty seconds to load Blogger) which makes something already expensive, blatant daylight robbery. At those kind of prices I want warp factor 10 connection.

There are a load of free sites you can visit, but without actually having ventured there, I expect they'll merely be gleaming nodes of consumerism, extolling the virtues of airport shopping.

So I was going to write a rather long winded bit of proey waffle about holidays I've really enjoyed in the past but instead I'll conclude with the following:

"Eat a dick Spectrum Interactive"


"Why didn't I think of it first?"


After having gone and sat in an uncomfortable chair for a bit, I was eventually driven back when some people sat next to me and started talking loudly about 'integrated agencies'. I returned to the internet, and out of sheer boredom checked out the free bit of the internet service. It was just as I'd predicted. Lots of click through ads for various non-entity type companies. And you only got two and a half minutes at a time before the thing reset (remember: time is money) so to be subversive, I composed a letter by writing a letter in the 'question' field of various corporate website's comments sections, then sent it off to a range of people by copying and pasting it afresh. It cost me nothing, and killed some time, so all in all was an unqualified success.

This is costing me big time though..

Anyway, here's what a bunch of IT companies and Web Developers will be finding in their inboxes real soon. (Frustratingly, Loan and finance companies were only contactable by phone. Boo.)

Hi, whoever you are

I'm writing to you because I'm sat in a terminal in Gatwick Airport, waiting for to check in in a couple of hours.

It's two thirty right now, and I'm trying to find ways to fend off the spectre of excruciating boredom boredom which I suspect is, even now, hunting me down through spotlit corridors like a beast from the Doom series of first person shoot 'em ups (Do you know of them? ah, this a website, of course you do!

Anyway, the internet would be an ideal way to while away the hours, if the hourly rate charged by the incumbent internet cafe were not so eye gougingly prohibitive. (An ideal metaphorical nail gun to fend off the aforementioned spectre of boredom in this tortuos analogy).

In fact, in order for me to spend any time 'surfing the web' here, I'd have to sell that sizeable chunk of prime Tokyo real estate I simply do not posess, so you can see my problem.

Instead, I've opted to traipse through the 'free' section, which links to such catatonia inducing, mediocre corporate web presences as your own.

I presume you are, in some way, paying for this advertisement, which is unfortunate, as you only get a couple of minutes 'free time' anyway, and given that the loading speed on this portal moves at a pace which molluscs would snigger at (if they could) there's hardly any time to form an opinion of your no doubt excellent service, before you're sent crashing back out of cyberspace.

I've managed to get around these time constraints by typing in the 'Question' fields of comment forms, then copying and pasting the message as the time expires. Cunning eh? Also exceedingly wierd, granted but as my options are appreciably limited, by my not being heir to the Hilton millions (billions?) I hope you'll understand why I've chosen to contact you, the person responsible for checking the email of a mundane corporate web portal I couldn't give two solid farts about.

Anyway, all the best, and if it's Monday in your world, my commiserations. I'll probably be sat on a 'real beach' as my post modern 'e-message-in-a-bottle' washes up on the shores of your inbox. Fancy that eh?

Not that I'm gloating or anything, I'll be back where you're sat (so to speak) before too long.

All the best.


ps: A delicious irony about all this is that this proprietary browser won't actually let me view my blog as it's offensive. Ha!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Greece is The Word

In my world.

I'm been working back at M&C this week. Good to see all the people who I worked with so much last year, and handy as the booking took me up to my holidays. One of the good things about that place is that getting a decent cup of coffee is never a problem thanks to the Gaggia machine in the foyer, whose frothing roar as milk is steamed is a veritable siren song for caffeine fiends such as myself.

Was slow off the blocks yesterday morning as I was busy lying in bed, and kept intermittently hitting snooze on my alarm clock. The clock itself is on my desk on the other side of the room, which is a setup I engineered to make me get out of bed in the mornings, but it rarely works. Instead I lope back to my nest like a cave bound bear with a tranquiliser dart embedded in it's neck.

Part of the reason for the morning's sloth was that I was awoken at about two fourty-seven AM by someone stumping round the kitchen below my room and eating cereal loudly. Dink dink dink chimed the spoon against their bowl. Slam went the cupboard doors. GO TO FUCKING BED thought I. Thankfully it didn't last long and I drifted off again shortly after.

Wednesday morning's hike to work was vaguely notable for a few things:

1: Getting a smile off a pretty girl through the window of the Jungle Cafe Grill on Camberwell Church Street. Cheered me up no end.

2: Seeing (I think) Jonathan Ross, in a brown suit and shades striding across Golden Square

3. 6 Japanese hipsters camped outside the Bathing Ape 'busy workshop' just off Golden Square, presumably for the privilege of spending £200 on a limited t-shirt. Three of them were wearing identical BAPE camo tops and didn't look as cool as they thought they did.

On my way out for lunch I also glimpsed the big man himself, Maurice S, rocking trademark huge glasses in the foyer. I'm sure he must be the inspiration behind the 'Ad Nauseum' character in Private Eye.

That evening, hooked up with Ed who's working at 'The World's Most Famous Bookshop', Foyle's on Charing Cross Road. There's a pirannha tank in the kid's section, and I stared at it's grimacing residents while he finished stocking up. Then we went for drinks in Soho (French bar, nice cider) then The Hermit's Cave in Camberwell.

It's now Thursday, and, Lord Willing, I'm off to Paxos in Greece tomorrow, though, me being me, I've still got various things to do. (pack, for instance). Can't wait though.

I'll try and get at t'internet while I'm out there, but I'm not sure if it's going to happen. Toodle pip.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Does anyone know of any decent podcasts? I quite got into the Ricky Gervaise one for a bit, then stopped when they started charging and it invevitably, so I'm told, became not as good as it used to be.

Subsequent attempts to get into it have so far merely confirmed Sturgeon's Law that '90% of everything is crap', but I'm sure this can't be the whole story.

So c'mon kids, hook me up with the good stuff and show me where that 10% is hiding.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Saturday Night TV

Having decided not to go to Manchester for the Bank Holiday Weekend, Saturday was decidedly low key. Got up, bought bacon from kennedy's (5 rashers, no smoked alas) before jumping on the 12 into town.

Checked out UNIQLO (the clothes store from Japan) and discovered that apart from their usual quality basics, they've got a set of t-shirts in designed by Tokyo's Power Graphixx. Unfortunately, on further inspection, they were 68% polyester, and would probably itch like the clap, so I left it, which was a shame, as standing at the intersection between effortlessly crisp vector styling and misappropriated Japanish (I just made that up) the designs themselves were cool like the 70's, which is also, unfortunately, the only excusable cut off date for shirts constructed from man made fabrics.

It would also seem Oki Ni on Saville Row has shut up shop in London, which is aight by me as their shop seemed almost soley predicated to flogging a vast surplus of naff Duffer shirts on my last couple of visits.

Was looking for an album so trawled round Soho to no avail for an hour or so. Bumped into Gemma and her beau just off Kingly Street, who were drinking coffee and waiting to go and see Avenue Q, which is, as far as I understand it, a 'Muppet Musical' or somesuch, though by today's standards, the idea of hiring someone with a furry mitten to act the fool seems curiously antiquated when you could probably get Big Brother's Nikki for half the cash.

The rest of the evening was ok. Stayed in as due to the alignment of certain stars, I didn't have shit to do, which resulted in me watching a whole mess of Saturday night TV.

I don't watch too much TV these days. About the most entertaining thing right now seems to be Dragons Den. Lost had me interested for a while, but it's intricately silly plot twists and tortuous flashback sequences left me choking dust a while back (by now, no doubt, the maroonees have discovered all the Earth's missing socks have been hoarded on aminiaturee Death Star presided over by a mysterious blah blah blah all in a concealed cavern, somewhere under the Island etc).

Saturday night tv, like endemic alcoholism, is a problem england is all to familiar with, but no-one ever talks about, because all the people who actually give a shit are doing something interesting. Like going to the pub. The fact it really is enough to drive you to drink makes me wonder whether there isn't some kind of agreement in place between breweries and programmers, in order to lever people from their seats and send them to the Dog & Duck for ten pints of Brainfuzz.

First up was Casualty, which has been a metronomic constant in the Beeb's programming over the last couple of decades, though I've not watched it for a bit. In fact, the last time I saw it, the guy who, ironically enough, got stabbed in the neck by a broken bottle in 'The Long Good Friday' (by Bob Hoskins, no less) was still riding the BBC's drama gravy train, averting his eyes heavenward in a worthy attempt to combat bureaucracy on the floor of the A&E Department. Charlie I think his name was. Yawn. I sort of watched its spinoff Holby City for a bit, but it got shit when Dr.Meyer slithered off into the sunset, and his stubbly protege went off do do the tiresome Peugeot ads with the 'French' girlfriend (you know the one, "Fwance", "Ze Eifell Tower" and so on).

It was all boringly worthy and Beeb. But worse was to come in the cringe shaped 'How To Solve a Problem Like Maria' which lurched over the hill at nine o' clock, featuring a studio lit up like a particularly power hungry Christmas tree, and a hooting, baying mob, presided over by the puce jacketed demagogue Graham Norton, himself as camp as the festive season.

Also present was director/criminal Andrew Lloyd Weather, excreting thespian pronunciations from a mastermind style swivel seat like a turtle headed Pez dispenser: ("You're no Maria"). Scouse bore-next-door Clare Sweeny was also on hand to offer such germs of advice to the contestants during the farcical 'endurance test' as: "Stamina is so essential girls", though presumably her true role in the programme was to reassure them that anyone with one head could feasibly get as close to the nation's heart as cholestorol.

The wobbly fulcrum over which the programme's format labours it's fat arse seems to be them all taking turns to regurgitate nuggets of pop trash in an increasingly histrionic mode, and on a serious note, what is the current broadcasting obsession with this shit? Who cares? People often allude to the Japanese love of Karaoke as eccentric, but at least they've got as far as hiring private rooms to do it in with friends rather than broadcasting it across THE WHOLE FUCKING NATION and masquerading it as primetime entertainment.

The climax of the show was all the contestants lining up in pinafores and colour coded dresses, singing their fame hungry hearts out like a troupe of competing Teletubbies. No-one won. One of them lost, and retired to the sidelines to weep and be cajoled by the victors in some weak semblance of professional sisterly solidarity and oh god it's fucking rubbish. It's like a variety show without the variety, so come back Morecombe and Wise, all is forgiven.

Then it was the news, which despite being quite depressing, was actually an effective palliative to the supperating wound that was the night's television, as it did actually make me feel genuinely grateful to be alive and well in England. I didn't much fancy New Jack City at half eleven though, so staggered upstairs to bed, to reflect on my non-eventful evening.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Thursday/August Bank Holiday

London quite often gets on my tits. It's stern impassive visage, a bit like an Easter Island head set in concrete and wreathed in smog. can be all too forbidding of a wet morning.

On the other hand, sometimes I wouldn't be anywhere else. Like yesterday, on the way to work, there was a guy in Trafalgar Square with a falcon on his left hand, texting with his right, as though it was the most normal thing in the world.

This, for the uninitiated, is the guy who makes sure that pigeons steer clear of Trafalgar Square now that Red Ken's administration has served notice on their greasy feathered asses. Now that's a job. He's essentially a pigeon hit man, whose weapon is another bird. A rifle with a beak.

He was back there on Wednesday, only this time his feathered gun was 'stuck' up a tree. He was trying to entice it back by wafting what looked like a golden hamster pelt in its general direction, but it wasn't having any of it.

On a less inspiring note, there was a group of studded bracelet wearing alternative kids queueing for a signing outside the Virgin store on Oxford Street (and presumably to beg eyeliner tips off a favourite bandmember).

One girl, flushed with glee at her own wit, was brandishing a cardboard square, with the legend "Smile if you wank!" written on it in upper case marker pen. Happily, it didn't emote even the vaguest response in me as I stumbled past slurping Benjy's coffee, though judging from the faces of those clustered around.. well.

Hooked up with Sam last night, and we went to BRB in Camberwell for a pizza and a couple of drinks, then the Castle for one, before returning to mine where Sam raided some MP3s off me, before heading back to Hackney on the 35.

Bank holiday weekend eh? I notice Time Out is doing a guide The Notting Hill Carnival, with Lily Allen on the Cover like a smirking Queen of the May. If I'd got to curate that feature (unlikely, I know) I'd have just settled for a double page spread, full bleed image of some tarmac littered with: A half gnawed corn cob, a crushed Red Stripe can, some broken glass and rivulets of some unknown liquid, all stippled with an arc of clotting blood. The words 'Don't Bother' would be superimposed over this.

The myth of Notting Hill Carnival is that it's a kind of merry multicultural utopia, with jocular policemen dancing to reggae, while throngs of smiling people wearing bright primary colours eat wholesome food to the accompaniment of Steel Drums.

In reality this version of events is about as real as Sesame Street, as even putting to the side such awkward things as 'bad men with sharp things, sticking up chumps for change', it's impossible to actually do anything there, bar being swept in rivers of humanity, along roads steeped in piss and fishbones. Great.

The time before the time before last I went, me and my friends caught a bus down from West Hampstead. In a presentiment of what was to come, someone at the back asked an asian chap if he had the time, to which he replied "I aint giving you the time mate – this is the ghetto" (this was before the film Notting Hill, mind). A girl wearing antennae also mimed biting my arm, which was to become the highlight of the day actually. Immediately after we decanted from the the bus we were met with a troupe of dancers in Devil costumes, who were merrily slapping red dye on anyone and everyone they passed and though I did manage to escape this, my friends weren't so lucky, and looked like they'd in indulged in a spot of mid-carnival painting and decorating.

Later on, my friend's girlfriend were jostled by a rudegirl who kept jabbing her in the ribs (thankfully only with her elbow) and intimating violence, and I also glimpsed a Rastafarian guy threatening to throw a plastic crate at some asian shopkeepers through the doorway of a newsagents. And those were the bits I remember, though inevitably I suppose. it's always the bad stuff that sticks in your mind.

I've been since so I think I've given it a fair chance, it just does strike me as being the most overhyped thing ever prior to Coke Zero, though perhaps that's just me getting older and less excited by crowded places and Red Stripe.

So this year I think I'll take my chances with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or whatever Ian Fleming penned bank holiday crap is on the tv, and indulge in a fantasy world where I don't have to qeueue to use the bathroom. Either that or I might go to Manchester, which'll will probably take less time all time, all told, than an in excursion to 'the Hill'.