Thirty Thousand Streets

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Tagged (twice)

So on Thursday last, Gridrunner tagged me with a viral question meme, which invites you to volunteer five facts about yourself that are, to quote the man "(less than obvious)". This is actually the second time I've been nominated for this, the first being over Christmas by the chap over at TracknKern. Man's got a dot com, works and plays in Oz. Peace.

So anyway, here goes, five things about ME:

1. My favourite colour used to be yellow, but I think it's green now. Is that allowed? When it comes to design I sometimes wish I had more of a synaesthetic response to colour and could assign straightforward associations to a pallete. It's never that simple though and there's always going to some duality to what emotional response a particular colour evokes, e.g. green can be perceived as relaxing or connote envy. It's all contextual I suppose. The standard colours of retail press advertising also happen to be the red black and white beloved of national socialism. Go figure.

2. The last thing that made me cry (sniff) was the end of 'The Road' by Cormac McCarthy, which I really didn't expect. It's a fairly harrowing read, set in the onset of a nuclear winter precipitated by a cataclysmic war he describes simply as: "a long shear of light and then a series of low concussions". It follows a man and his son on their journey south in search of warmth and food, beset by the gangs of marauding cannibals who stalk the blasted roads of America after a fire that has scourged the earth of life; where no plant, beast, bird or fish prospers.

Needless to say, It hasn't got a happy ending, though.. Nah, go read it yourselves.

3. I don't get football. I don't mind it or anything.. I just can't ever get excited about it. One of the questions I get asked a lot upon happening upon a new work environment is "what team do you follow?", to which, with a sub-vocal sigh, I must—almost apologetically—mumble "Er, I don't really follow it to be honest", which pretty much nips in the bud that avenue of banter.

While I wouldn't exactly class this as a handicap, I must admit having no interest in the de facto male opening conversational gambit probably eliminates at least 50% of the conversations I might be having with geezers I don't really know. Football is the lingua franca of the bloke, and even a passing knowledge of some of its trivia seems to function as a kind of masonic handshake, wherever you are in the world.

When backpacking in Hostels across Europe, my friend Andy told me how he would sometimes end up cohabiting with groups of guys who spoke no English, while he himself didn't speak a word of, say, Polish. In situations like this where communication was a problem, all he had to do however was rattle off the names of a few players on the Polish National Squad, and sure enough within minutes he was all but being borne aloft on the shoulders of his cheering, newfound buddies.

When it's not inspiring them to glass each other on the terraces whilst wearing Burberry, football breaks more ice amongst groups of men globally than American industry's carbon footprint does in the Arctic Circle, and by not having a working knowledge of it my 'arsenal' (pun intended) I am already at a social disadvantage. Sometimes, on slow rainy days I even contemplate getting 'into' it.. but nah, fuck that, I'll just apportion more of my energy to my other overwhelmingly male trait: accruing and hoarding crap I don't really need.

This is my favourite footy song.

4. One of my favourite musical genres is disco. No seriously. Back in the days when my mates were raving to acid techno this used to get a few raised eyebrows, but to quote 'Withnail and I' even a stopped clock keeps the right time twice a day, and I harbour grave doubts that anyone will be listening to Routemaster Records in thirty years time (me-yow!).

One of my all time musical heroes, if I'm permitted them, is undoubtedly Vincent Montana, who conducted the orchestral backing for more classic joints on both the Salsoul and Philadelphia labels than man's had hot meals. The march of technological innovation in music these days seems to be towards democratisation, where a bedroom producer can put out records that can all but rival the high end production gloss of the big studios. Against this, the idea of making dance records with a full orchestra seems quaint, unwieldy, fantastic, decadent, and frankly unlikely. But that was how it was done back then. No matter how much I love electronica, I would argue that there is an emotional charge that live instrumentation imparts that no amount of studio wibble can lend, and it's the strings that do it for me; the crying voice of the violins soaring and zigging above a track always makes the hairs on the back of my neck just stand on end.

Heady and escapist, exquisite and seedy in equal measure, diso was the effective precursor to modern day dance music for the clubs. A hybrid form straddling the genres of Latin and soul it was at its best also a profoundly inclusive genre, bridging differences in class, race and sexuality. I suspect I'm just getting nostalgic for scene I never participated in, but I do sometimes fantasize about what it must have been like to be alive and partying in new york in the 70s.. maybe living in Brooklyn?

I must remind myself of course that utopias never persist for long, if they even exist at all, and it did all get quite nauseatingly rank in the dark days of its twilight. As cretinous as as Steve Dahl's 'Disco Sucks' campaign was, the cheesier excesses of the Bee Gees and Abba are enough to induce a gag reflex in anyone, and are rightly reviled.

And even these days, that stigma lingers, though what with everything being so post-modern and everything, it's getting better. And of course, some people understand, with disco having advocates in some very surprising quarters. One of the best disco jocks I ever saw was a dude called Big Rob, who was big, had corn rows, and looked like he should be back-spinning MOP joints, rather than the sublime 70s plastic he was serving up. Special mention must also be made of Stu and the Love The Action crew back up north, who'd be guaranteed to give you a firm nod of approval anytime you fancied cueing up a Quincy Jones track.

OK disco rant over. Any non-believers should track down a copy of Kenny Dope's 'Disco Heat' where he edits together and seamlessly mixes up a range of records that you'll probably recognise from the house tracks that sampled them. Either that or get over to (not actually that weekly as far as I can see) and get plugged in to 'The Sound Of Philadelphia' trio of mixes.

5. My favourite mode of transport is walking, and I think I'm pretty good at it at a fairly mateur level. One of my favourite wastes of time (and I've a few, believe me) is just walking round town to my favourite places, checking things out en route. It's a fantastic way to explore and see things you wouldn't catch from the tube or even the bus window. Just occasionally I'll suddenly find I've wandered on to a slightly rough looking estate, and start counting bin bags in trees and leashless dogs to try and quantify the danger, but really, what's life without a little excitement? Sorry if that sounded like a broadcast from the Ministry of Walking.

Anyway.. that wasn't so bad. Hope I didn't bore any of you. Now the not-so-hard-part (there aren't that many blogs I read really). I nominate:

Lord Bunty Chunk

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Just spotted: comedic tag team Punt and Dennis in the Pret A Manger on Wardour Street. Just now. Literally. If you run you might still catch them (though not if you're coming from Stockport).

*When I loosely apply the term 'celebrity' I'm referring to anyone alloted more than the standard 15 minutes of fame, who I've seen on TV more than once, and considering the rampant bar-lowering by shows such as Celebrity Big Brother as to what constitutes a celebrity, I reckon even I count as famous by now, so there.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The weekend, The Running Man, Tuesday.

After a slightly stressful Friday evening maniacally tabbing contract documents where the person who'd set it up hadn't bothered to name any of the layers, I escaped about half seven to meet friends in the Theatre Bar on Charing Cross Road, for Kay's Birthday.

We had a few drinks, then ducked out when everyone went for karaoke. Sorry, but I just can't go for that, even if they do have Hall and Oates.

Saturday met up with Ben at the corporation in Shoreditch, who was over from Ireland to see his gran. Alright place the corporation. Interestingly shaped first floor bar, anyway. It was very busy, and there seemed to be quite a few lesbians there, though not the lipstick sort who write advice columns for mens magazines such as Loaded.

Wound up at It's bigger than, where we were regaled with a set of squidgy house by a DJ in a trucker cap. I couldn't be bothered shelling out for the after party, so caught the 35 home. A couple of my housemates were up, and I sat with them for a while in Marv's room. He managed to get an inky oil paint fingerprint on my Adidas jacket when giving me a drunken hug, which is the second item of clothing of mine he's managed 'clart up' in as many weeks, along with my Stussy shirt he splattered with red wine just before New Year *sighs* "Ma-arv..".

On Sunday went round to Helen's new place in Brixton for dinner, which Will cooked. We popped out for a drink at the pub round the corner – The Effra, which is one of those places you would probably never stumble across if you didn't live locally or get taken there, sitting as it does just off the beaten track. Interesting mixed crowd and gloriously down-at-heels pubby-ness. Dan Sarabji was over from Cypress, which he's planning on leaving soon for Paris, having decided to leave the Archeological profession. There are only so many things to dig up, in so many ways, it would seem.

Watched Verrhoven's 'The Running Man' last night, which I always enjoy. There's something crudely effective about his films, a streak of visceral nastiness he doesn't attempt to disguise, and rather glories in instead. It pushes buttons for me. Big early nineties ones.

Tuesday now. London's rush hour traffic is back up to speed, or lack of, and now costs more than ever to participate in. The servers are down at work. All of them. Which isn't really surprising as this is the land that IT forgot. This sort of gives me an excuse to wander round the internet, idling away the hours, but I'm also aware that there's loads of work lurking in the wings, which I'll just have less time to do – or more time to do in the evening, which in spite of overtime, I can't really be bothered with right now.

Film night tonight, which the Sun and Doves website tells me is a Jean-Pierre Melville film, Le Doulos. I may go, or might be working on Point of Sale. Couldn't really say, though I know what I'd prefer to be doing.

Anyway. Anyone got any tips for removing oil paint stains from acrylic sportswear? Answers on a postcard to the usual address..

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


It's Thursday the fourth of January, and I'm back at work. Indeed I started back on the second. Perhaps ironically I'm back at Start in Soho. What more fitting way to commence the year than this.

I don't think I've worked on the second of January since, well, ever. Returning to work is always something of a shock, but doing it this abruptly feels as brutal an introduction to the new year as being woken from sleep by crashing through a skylight into a pool of ice cold water, perhaps on the back of a giant concrete pigeon. Two weeks off seems just long enough to forget, utterly, what work is like (someone tells you what to do, you do it, a short while later a sum of money is deposited in your account).

Januarys truly are the Monday mornings of the year, and by that reasoning it's going to be three-point-seven weeks before lunchtime, when I can at least pop out for a sandwich from Marks and Spencers. The cheery, alcoholic bonhomie of Christmas has evaporated, ethanol-like, and once more the Londoners resume the daily grind, commuting in the gloom, hands feverishly questing for copies of the Metro, iPod earbuds inserted.

Although Christmas oficially ends on Twelth Night (the sixth of January) I really can't be doing with Christmas decorations after New Year's Day, and spying them is a bit like smelling a liquer you drank until sick in your teens: faintly nauseating. The corporate decorations above regent street will probably be here until March (it's just the way these things work) but otherwise most places seem to be shedding their tinselly skin pronto: good.

January is named after the Roman god Janus—the god who looks both ways—presumably as even then it was seen as a time for both reflection of the year past, and anticipation of the year to come.

Last year was.. ok. Some good things happened, but there were also a lot of disappointments I can't really be bothered dwelling on. I don't really go in for New Years resolutions, but apart from the usual guff (drink less, smoke less, be amazing) I am going to try and be a bit more proactive (whoah there!) and perhaps make a bit more effort to stay in touch with certain people. This has been the first Christmas in a while when I didn't see a couple of people I usually see at that this time of year, and it's all to easy to drop off people's Christmas card lists, so to speak.

As for New Year's Eve.. it was fine. After some Mexican food, much Cava, and a game of Pictionary (which my team WON) we walked round the corner to a party at a squat overlooking Burgess park, that seemed to be mostly populated by Spanish people. It was a nice flat too, apart from some predictably wonky new age graffiti of suns and moons, and a hole in the shape of Africa someone had carved into the kitchen ceiling. We had fun and my housemate Cecilia got more drunk than I've ever seen her before.There were a couple of DJs, including a Japanese guy who looked a bit like Towa-Tei because of his beret and oversized sunglasses (despite it being past midnight). He proceeded to play a couple of boxes of funk seven inches, badly if that's possible, though the tunes were good. There was someone else playing dub too, which made for a nice change. I eventually left when the house band came on and started jamming in a Spanish stylee. The rhythm was a bit fuzzy as the drummers and accompanying clapping kept slipping out of phase, and it was a bit like trying to dance to hail.

We sat up for a bit at home, where Marvyn tried to get people to rap along to Nas, some with limited success, but eventually the food and booze tooks its toll, and I crawled up to bed.

In years past, New Year's Day was generally something of a hedonistic affair, and I'd often be in the pub (or more likely The Bar in Chorlton) from one in the afternoon onwards, quaffing european lager with my partners in crime. Not so this year, as what with working on the Tuesday n' all, it wasn't really practical. Instead we went for a few beers in the evening at the Hermit's, then trotted off home for two hours of soaps.

And this week's been fine, really. Not much traffic on the roads, and the kids are still off school, so getting to work's a relative cinch. I'm reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman and really enjoying it. No real plans for this weekend, but it's Kay's birthday, so am meeting her for a drink in the Theatre Bar on Charing Cross Road tomorrow. Other than that, who knows?

CELEBRITY SIGHTING UPDATE: Ian Hislop in the offices of Private Eye in Soho on Tueday (so no real surprise there really).