Thirty Thousand Streets

Monday, July 10, 2006


It's summer but.. something's missing.. hmm. sun – check, beer – check, barbecues – check, Tim Henman losing at Wimbledon.. yeah, wait a minute that's it, WASPS! I don't know about you but I've seen hardly any this year!

And where are all the wasps anyhow? Have they been priced out of London too then? Not that I'm bothered, they were hardly key-workers in the accepted sense. In Manchester the advent of summer always brought with it the shadow of the wasp, who would be there before you at the beer garden (like Germans at the sun loungers, yeah), and almost certainly there after, hovering drunkenly round the last quarter inch or so of your pint of Stella. Wasps get pissed too, in all senses, especially in late summer when they're just looking for trouble, and should you get lary with them, they release a pheronome, so all their mates show up minutes later for a piece of the action. Truly, they were the bane of the sugary drink drinker's sunny afternoon, and universally disliked.

Seriously I reckon even Noah probably planned to ditch the wasps prior to the flood and it was only after he awoke the morning after setting sail to hear two rattling away behind his blind that he realised his scheme had been thwarted. Wasps posess the apex of that blind insect instinct to find their way into your room, through any hole – no matter how small, without being able to do it in reverse, even were you to demolish the wall of your house and attempt to usher them out with a jet turbine. I assume they navigate by the moon/sun like moths as they also have a tendency to fly directly into any lightbulb with a sound like someone training a dentist's drill on it. Eww that sound. I also remember wasps flying into my bedroom, perching on the lampshade and audibly crunching away on the paper (of course, this was before I got into listening to techno at artillery volume, so a wasp would probably have to be inside my ear now before I could hear such a thing). Terrible thought.

One thing about wasps is that pretty much everyone is united in their hatred of them. This blog here is like some kind of wasp genocide bulletin board:

"It’s us against them people. We can’t let the enemy take over our homes! I’ll let you know how it goes. Great stories!"

froths one contributor excitedly. Uh, ok, they are kind of annoying I guess.. Ever read Watchmen? One thing's for sure, if it turned out wasps were poised to take over the world, Osama Bin Laden, George Bush and Kim Jon Il would be united in their struggle agaainst the striped menace quicker than you could say "Yeehaw let's nuke those fucken yellerjackets!".

Anyway, here's my favourite wasp anecdote (you might want to save this for halloween, mind) Are you sitting un-comfortably? Well I'll begin:

I was back at my mum and dad's one summer whilst studying at uni. My brothers were in the two rooms next to mine. I awoke at about three in the moarning hearing an all but subliminal "WHHHUFF" sound from my brother Harry's room, punctuated by short panicky gasps of "shit!" coming from the lad himself.

Seconds later 'middle-bro' Dan awoke, and stomped into my brother's room..

"What THE FUCK is going on"

He roared.

What, it transpired, had happened was that a load of wasps had chosen to nest in the roof just outside his bedroom window. Now my brother liked to keep his bedroom window in summer (and bedroom light on), and perhaps unwisely, the presence of several thousand stinging insects just outside was not sufficient to deter him. You can perhaps guess the rest.. while he slept and under cover of darkness, the wasps let themselves in and my brother had an extremely rude awakening when a wasp crawling over his face decided to sting him on the cheek. The first sight to greet his no-doubt horrified eyes when he opened them was a roiling vortex of wasps circling beneath his room's naked lightbulb. Not to be deterred he rolled out of bed, grabbed a can of lynx and a lighter (cricket, clipper, who knows) and got medieval on those wasp's tapering asses.

Yes, that "WHHHUFF" sound was none other than a deodorant based flame-thrower my brother had hastily fashioned. A quick glance around his bedroom door the next morning revealed a war zone, with drifts of scorched wasps lying everywhere. It was like The Wasp Factory in there, or Aliens redux where the marines win. Those wasps fucked with the wrong guy alright. They sure got to know the true power of the Lynx effect.

Nowadays, I'd like to think I'm not too bothered about wasps. Live and let live, god's creatures etc.. and wierdly beautiful too, amongst other things* One swooped quite near me in Highbury fields the other week, and I barely noticed, honest!

But still, maybe it's the NIMBY in me, but I'm not sure I'd like some sort of government funded wasp farm in my back yard (even though it technically belongs to the landlord, Mr Spyrou, so he could do with it as he wanted I suppose).

Maybe I should actually try and sort my life out rather than posting blog entries about wasps at half eleven on a monday night. Who knows.

*critically important in natural biocontrol or course, thanks Wikipedia.

Photo copyright Alain Labat 2006

Sunday, July 09, 2006


On Saturday me and Gridrunner headed North to check out the Rise festival at Finsbury Park. Can't either of us lay claim to coming up with the idea, but the man responsible – Ed, wasn't present as he and John had headed on a mission to Ikea in the dark heart of Croydon, and were presumably circumnavigating the winding path that wends its way through forests of flat-pack pine in all it's stores. Ed was also assuming the enforced air of radio silence that comes FREE! without a mobile phone. So we left without them.

It was aight, though..

For festivals to work for me a few things have got to be true.

Firstly there's got to be few of you. You've got mates yeah? Now's the time to show them off, as you saunter round drinking off-cool Red Stripe at three fifty a pop in a camouflage jacket and shades. Otherwise you feel like a bit of herb. Urban (what you call it?) festivals especially are where everyone and their Staffordshire Bull Terrier seems to come to hook up with someone else and their squat muscular pet.

You need to find somewhere and sit down. Plant a flag. Put down a blanket if that's your thing, but crucially, sit down soon and put down the plastic bag with the luke-warm wine cooler in and start interracting as normal. There'll be plently of time to go and buy some overpriced falafel or see some local crew, but for now, act as though you were sat in your local park on a particularly busy Sunday. Or you could have a plan, but personally, I feel all other festival plans are incidental besides sitting down somewhere.

It can't be too busy. Okay, busy enough, but not rammed. Notting Hill sounds like a great idea until you get there and realise it's like a bigger, louder, hotter, busier version of Oxford Street on Christmas eve. Two years ago Me Ade and Dunc fought unsuccessfully for the best part of two hours to fight our way to the mythical Norman Jay sound system, before finally giving up and shuffling around wearily next to the Trouble On Vinyl soundsystem playing out the back of a truck. Actually getting out of the place is the most terrifying prospect of all however, as you are swept along remorselessly in rivers of people. For me, no amount of saltfish can compensate for the fact that your free will is effectively circumvented by the whims of the million or so people squashed up in your face. If John Carpenter ever ressurects Snake Pliskin and the "Escape From.." franchise, the third one should be set here. Kurt Russel wouldn't stand a chance.

It's got to be hot. Ok not essential, and a bit of rain's quite fun actually, certainly no surprise, but put it this way – at least one or two of the previous rules need not apply if it's actually a blazing hot day. Shouty urban grime acts are prolific in London; sunny days less so.

Sadly, non of these cardinal rules applied to me and Ade. We arrived late, unwashed (me anyway) and jostled through the thronging crowds. We had arranged to meet Ed by ringing his housemate John but there was no network coverage. The sky was the colour of grey milk, and the atmosphere moderately torpid. Most of our time was spent queueing for things, and wandering round clowning around whie Ade took pictures of beer bottles and reflections of bins in my shades.

Eventually we went to the the Finsbury pub across the way and sat out front with a pint. In a rare moment of synchronicity, a couple who had been sat a table away in the Hermits the night before were also there, two tables away. It got cold, but I couldn't be bothered going in the pub as the footy was on and Gary Linneker's face was leering, big brother style, from every screen in the joint.

Went home via Oval and got some food from the Silver Lake, opting, on the Chinese lady's suggestion, for some Malaysian style Mackerel. Very nice. She also showed me a laminated A4 photo of a bearded Kenneth Brannagh, thesping it up out the front of the shop.

Then went and watched 'Live Flesh' round at Ed's, before going home to sleep. The end.