Friday, April 30, 2010

Daft Punk

The odd thing about the Czech Punk is that he looks so normal. I mean, utter pocket gay you could take as hand luggage on RyanAir without raising an eyebrow, but normal.

For a start, he works at an organic bakery in Chelsea. That's hardly spit and bin bags. He's wearing Abercrombie. But he keeps mentioning how he's a punk, and I just assume that he's picked the word up.

Later, I find out that tattooed across his back in the Sex Pistols font is the phrase "Punk is not dead" so I guess he must be.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Odd things in South Camden #317

A posh-looking woman is walking her dog by St Pancras.

It shits on the ground.

She carefully bags the turd.

Then throws it into the road.

A car rolls over it.

The bag explodes.

I'm staring at the woman.

"Fuck off" she says. And walks away.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Dawn chorus

So, early this week I was up. I'd gone to bed late, woken up at half two, and spent the night finishing "Murder, Maestro Please" - turned out to be quite a decent read, actually.

I was about to fall asleep when my second brain (my stomach) remembered that McDonalds opens at 5am for breakfast. What would that be like, I thought. So I went.

Trust me, there's no glamour. Although they do do a great cup of coffee. Possibly pressed from the souls of infants, but it's lovely.

The 5am staff were extraordinary - all posh leggy women with blonde hair and lovely manners. It was curiously like a MaccyD's run by Debs. The customers were mostly mumbly men. Not as many hot Polish builders as you'd hope. The odd thing was realising that there were two good old fashioned prostitutes still working outside the door.

Kings Cross has changed a lot. For years it's been lacking that "you want business?" feel that had the police searching our bins annually for diced hooker. Clearly, it's still there, they've just shifted the hours around a bit.

Anyway, I felt truly alive. I'd bought a muffin and a nice cup of coffee from a trainee yummy mummy and been propositioned for sex. And it wasn't even 6am.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Eurostar are coping brilliantly with being one of the only ways out of Fortress Britain. Either they've learned from their customer service disaster at Christmas, or they're just enjoying being the heroes of the hour.

Just a few months ago, St Pancras was full of sobbing French students surviving on M&S handouts. Now it's a shining palace of order and queuing. I spent an hour in a queue with some friends yesterday and it was the perfect English queue - snaking past some very expensive stores, with friendly staff wandering along checking everyone was allright, and, even more importantly, that everyone was in the Right Queue - for they had constructed many queues, even one to queue outside the shut ticket office (presumably for the chance to stare mournfully into its windows before moving on).

Everyone in the queue was having a jolly time of it. Cos we're British and like a queue. The only people not loving the queue were ... well, some foreigners who just didn't want to queue. Lawks, that's a bit UKIP, and I'm sure they've had some British people throwing wobblies - but yesterday there were just a few people from abroad with urgent trains to catch who were just baffled by the decision to form a calm and orderly line and wait for instructions.

An irate Japanese lady stood at the barriers, waving her iphone and her wheelie luggage and shouting at a policeman. "But there are so many people!" she screamed, "And the ticket machines are just over there!". He nodded, as though noticing the machines for the first time, and then placidly pointed her to the end of the queue. Her luggage squeaked in frustatration as she stropped down the line past hundreds of people rolling their eyes.

A German father tried shouting a lot. It didn't get him anywhere. I guess it's one of those British things. We have Irrational Faith in a queue. If we see one outside a shop, we know there'll be a good sale. If we see one outside a restaurant or G-A-Y we know that there's a 3% chance of Cheryl Cole. And, at times of transport crisis, there's some comfort in joining in an organised monobloc of shuffling and tutting and eye-rolling and making phone calls to friends to tell them that you're in a queue and it's going nowhere. A queue feels like it has purpose and somehow makes up for the frequently shoddy customer service you get with public transport.

Not that Eurostar's customer servie has been shoddy this time - it's been brilliant. This morning, I saw a grateful French lady try to press some Euros into the hands of one employee. He looked embarrassed. "We're not allowed to accept tips, madam. It's what we're paid for." So she hugged him instead.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Who to vote for this election?

I've been wary of politicians after the London Mayoral Election - when analysis of policies alone told me that as a single male cyclist with a pathological fear of bendy buses the only person I could vote for was Boris. I couldn't bring myself to, and so left London for the day.

This was cowardice, but my brain was going in two different directions:

1) Shame on you! You have to vote on the policies and not the personalities. And anyway, Boris is a cuddly Tory. The death camps will probably have Moulton Brown in the washrooms.

2) Shame on you! I mean, okay, there's something a bit worrying about Ken these days and the shouty gay made an utter fool of himself in that Time Out interview, but.... all the same.... Boris?

Turns out, slinking away from democracy wasn't that bad a plan, as Boris's big policies (Cycle lanes for all! Recycling! Green things! Instant death to the Bendy Bus....) well, they've all fallen a bit flat.

But what about the General Election?

So far, I've only received two pamphlets.

The first is from Frank Dobson. I've actually had cause to email him (over a friend's visa application). No reply. No reply to a follow up email. Therefore, he's not getting my vote.

The second is from The Green Party. Now, this one's interesting. Their previous newsletter tipped all local residents off to MegaCityOne that the Wellcome Institute is planning on building on the British Library car park. The latest newsletter features an interesting nuggest about the high speed rail link.

Now, up until I read this, I was all in favour of the high speed rail link. I like trains. I like the idea of travelling to Scotland very quickly. I *really* like trains.

Turns out, the Green Party have discovered a plan to bulldoze most of Somerstown (including my flat) to make way for a moving pavement between Kings Cross and Euston. Ouch! Also turns out, the Green Party are claiming to have thwarted this plan.

I'm grateful - but also curious. I mean, surely we'd have received some kind of letter from someone mentioning this at some point? The only thing I've heard recently from the council is a glancing mention of a new contract for window cleaning. I wonder....

I'll look into this. I'll also report back on any other political leaflets we get.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Fizz Index

Since I've started buying Tesco value pink fizz, I've noticed the price rocket. Is it the budget? Is it the election? Or proof of the recovery? Should I have got shares?

Whatever, it's soared from £3.99 to £4.12, £4.23 and now £4.29 in just over a fortnight. At this rate it'll be worth more than my house by July.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Glasgow Money Toilet

I've now got a holiday flat in Glasgow. It's next door to this:

I've been meaning to write about this for a while, but I've been busy with the Shoreditch Web Project (however did I used to cope with a day job and a life? I mean, really, how?).

Anyway, flat in Glasgow next door to a 30-foot neon sign. It's not much of a flat, but I love it. It's in an old warehouse, and has window boxes. It's a reposession, which makes it feel a bit weird, moving in somewhere that's fully furnished with someone else's microwave.

The whole idea was to go up for a long weekend at the end of February, tidy it up a bit and then go back when I wasn't working. It didn't quite work out like that. It ended up being the most expensive weekend of my life.

I remember ages ago someone cloned my credit card and spent nearly two grand on gambling in Venice and lingerie. And I remember thinking "just once, I'd like to spend that much money."

Turns out it's easy to spend that much money - just on stuff that isn't fun. For a start, when the bank removed their nice steel we-own-this door, they pulled the frame out, sealing the flat shut. So I ended up spending £100 just to get into the flat and £600 on a new door. This is not a stylish way to spend money, even though my locksmiths are lovely (they've invited me round to tea next time I'm up).

"It's a rough area," they said.
"Really?" I said. "It seems charming." And meant it.

Putting some rubbish out that night, I trod on something. It was a mouse. I wondered if I'd killed it.

The useful thing about living in the Barrowlands is that your rubbish just goes. I figured if I put out the dining table someone would sell it, but it was gone within minutes. Along with a candleabra, two cupboards and a coffee table. A novelty light made out of spinning twigs hangs around for a bit longer, maybe a quarter of an hour.

After clearing the living room, I look at the bedroom. It's eerily neatly made up like a dusty hotel room. I'm shattered, but I'm not going to sleep on someone else's sheets. But I fancy an early night, perhaps just change them and then.... I peel off the sheets... and find mushrooms growing out of the mattress.

The next day is match day. My locksmith has solemnly warned me - don't be on the Barrowland streets after 2.30. Celtic are going to lose. It'll be nasty. However, come 2.30, I've lost all track of time and am wheeling a new memory foam mattress through the Barrowlands. The only thing that happens is that someone helps me lift the mattress in. Which is kind of them. I notice a police van drive past. It's covered in riot shielding. I don't care. I'm just thrilled I found a memory foam mattress for under £200. Well, as thrilled as you can be at spending money on a mattress.

I'm still sleeping on the carpet. Which really needs to be cleaned. A man called Gordon comes out. He hisses through his teeth. "This Gibson Street?" he says. I shrug. "What do you mean?"

"Nothing," he says, and parks the van. "It's just... well, if I'd known then maybe I wouldn't have come out."

"Oh," I say. "But everyone's so friendly. Mind you, that man there is going through that bag of rubbish I just put out. Can't think why."

Gordon hisses again. "He's seeing what boxes you've thrown out so they know what you've just bought for the flat."

"Oh." I say. I help Gordon carry his carpet cleaner up the stairs.

"Nice mirrors," he says, pointing at the stairwell's mirrored wall. I nod. Personally, I think they're a bit 2-star Dubai hotel, but hey. Gordon hisses through his teeth again. "I don't want to worry you," he says, "But it's so that you can see if there's someone waiting round the corner to jump you."

"Oh." I say.

Gordon cleans the carpet. "No needles," he says, with quiet surprise. He looks at my door. "Been burgled yet?" he asks.

"No," I say.

"I don't want to worry you," he whistles, "But just pray you're out when it happens."

I help carry his carpet cleaner back down the stairs. "Well, they've not taken your van," I say. He frowns. "Oh they would if I was any longer," he says. He scowls suspiciously at a nearby cafe. Inside are two old ladies. Clearly he means them.

I go to Ikea. The cab driver is lovely and she tells me all about her kids and her regular hospital visits. She pulls up on a street. "There you go, pet." She says.

I get out. "This isn't my street." I say.

"Yes it is, Gibson Street," she says.

I protest. I live on the other Gibson Street. She stares at me as if that's an impossibility. "But this... this is a nice area." And it is. It's very leafy. A couple are wheeling a pram like they're in an insurance advert. We leave Glasgow's trendy West End and head East. The market is in full flow. The nice cab driver snorts with horror. "I'll stay with the car," she says, "But I've got my eye on you. You'll be fine. Go!"

I unload a bag of cutlery and tealights like I'm in a war zone.

Truth to tell, it's all rather nice. It's a bit run-down, but I'm used to that with Kings Cross. I'm a five minute drunken stagger from the Merchant City. I spend my evenings sat in the Polo Lounge. I don't talk - I'm just shattered, and I smell a bit of oven cleaner. I go back to the flat, and sit on the floor, watching Honor Blackman Avengers and drinking Scotland's own Glen's Vodka.

In the mornings, I wake up, go to one of the cafes downstairs and get a bacon roll. The market's great - it's got DVDs and primroses. I'm suddenly fascinated by primroses as I've now got window boxes.

There's also a crack in the bedroom wall, but I'm not Amy Pond, so I don't care.

Monday, April 05, 2010

No news...

I really, honestly will update again properly soon, but am trying to juggle Shoreditch Web Barn and Fun Deadlines For Fun Stuff.

... and a sudden fondness for Tescaux £3.99 pink fizz. Where has it been all my life? It tastes of bubbles and sour, which is about all my fag-raddled palate can cope with.

If anyone cares, I am currently reading a penguin crime called "Murder Maestro Please" in which a couple of tandem-riding alcoholics try and solve the murder of Johnny Corcoran before a Harpsicord recital. It suits my mood admirably.

PS: Can *anyone* explain the Bank Holiday Jonathan Creek to me? I loved it while it was on, then woke up this morning going "huh?"