Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I did not see Dracula last night

The great thing, we were saying yesterday, is that in London you can do something AMAZING every night of the week. Why would you want to live somewhere else? For instance, last night there was a screening of the 1958 Dracula in a cool bar in Dalston. How great is that?

The problem, as always, is getting to Dalston. I've finally admitted that the London Overground is basically a large model train set, not a serious railway. It's always broken, as if the trains constantly get pushed from the tracks by a giant toddler called Boris.

When I turned up at the Overground station, there was a woman stood doing a SobShout. It's a London thing. When you've taken all you can, and suddenly something just breaks. She was stood outside the ticket office SobShouting: "I have been waiting an hour <sob> An hour <sob> That's not right <sob> It's not right <sob> An hour. <sob>"

In this case all she really needed was for the person in the office to give her a hug and a jaffa cake. Instead he shrugged and shut the window. None of us offered her a hug after that. She may have had knives.

People kept on filing in, staring at the board and groaning "NOT AGAIN." We did not go anywhere, as if by sheer stubborn willpower, we could think up a train.

It was left up to one TFL worker to man the barricades. "It's my first day," he said through his megaphone, "So imagine how I feel." We nodded. We've all been there. "There's just no trains," he continued. "I'm not sure what else I can say." He then gave people who came up to him directions. Through the megaphone.
"Yes, go down past Sainsbury's and try for a bus there..."
"It's a long walk down the hill but take the second left..."

In the end I got on a bus, which slowly circled around the Overground station as though reluctant to let the idea go. The Overground is a brilliant notion. But it's really just a nice bit of graphic design.

Someone has simply played a lovely game of join-the-dots with things that bear little relationship to each other. I could do the same with Sainsburys, Lidl and Tesco on the grounds that they're all shops. According to the map you can even sail from Euston to Stratford. DO NOT TRY THIS.

Apparently people use the Overground to commute everyday. This proves how brave Londoners are, or, like survivors in a zombie film, how numb they become to the agony of daily living.

I sit on my bus, circling around the station in a crafty sidle like a toddler planning a break away in BHS. Eventually, Caledonian Road happens. Then my phone rings.

"Don't bother," says my boyfriend. "They've got the wrong disc. It's not the Hammer Dracula. It's Bram Stoker's Dracula." Understandably, I get off the bus. I go home. We talk about moving to Scotland.

Monday, June 24, 2013


Years ago I dated a sort-of call centre worker / ketamin dealer / naked cater waiter. Looking back on it, you'll be surprised to know It Did Not End Well.

Anyway, he's now living in Brighton, and is all grown up and marvellous. For many years he's had a lovely boyfriend who has been A Good Thing. It's actually insane to think we ever made pasta together, let alone went out.

And now the odd thing about modern relationships. Social media means that, even though you don't talk regularly, you can intuit stuff from your Facebook timeline. Is there a card for "Sorry he left you for God"?

Monday, June 17, 2013

On owning an e-reader

Last week I bought an e-reader. I also bought a lot of books. Paperback books. The world didn't end.

Yes, yes, how very 2010, but I've spent the last couple of years thinking my iphone was a good enough e-reader. And it is splendid. But, those Nook things are only £29 – how bad can they be?

Actually amazing. They look so much like paper I made three attempts at peeling off the welcome screen. They make consuming books so wonderfully easy – Lady Molly Of Scotland Yard has sat on my iphone for over a year, but she solved her last crime in a little over an hour.

There is a problem – I have never been a monogamous reader. I always feel guilty when there are more than four books by the bed. But my nook has made cheating sinfully easy. After a day I caught myself actively punishing books. If something happens in them that I don't care for then zip! Off to something else. If those nuns are in trouble, then farewell! Too many pages in Italics? Then I'll call you back, Dan Brown.

I'm sure there's a phrase for this phenomenon, but I can see a time when my e-reader is little more than a collection of banished suitors. Thomas Hardy is going to be a bugger to finish on an e-reader. I wonder if I'm alone in this? I wonder if future editors will tell writers “You're going to lose people here...” as readers become channel surfers, bailing on books when the hero does something annoying, or a beloved character dies?

As well as Dan Brown (yeah, I was back within 5 minutes), I've also been reading Jamaica Inn. In paperback. It's a brilliant example of a book that doesn't stand a chance on my e-reader. It's a skilful exercise of the “Don't go into the spooky house, Doris!” variety. When I'm not cheering on the heroine, I'm yelling at her – don't hide in the parlour! Don't go off with him! Don't sell that pony! I wouldn't have finished this book on an e-reader. I'd also have had to buy a new one. My lovely old Penguin has been thrown angrily into a corner twice.

While they're busy changing the way new books will be written, they're a fantastic way of unlocking old ones. I love my classic crime, and there's a whole host of obscure detectives suddenly within my grasp (seriously, Lady Molly of Scotland Yard). But still... searching Project Gutenberg is never going to replace the joy of nosing around a second hand bookshop. Perhaps we'll just get better at deciding what deserves space on our shelve. The physical books we buy will be the ones that proclaim loudly “This is who I am”.

One thing I would change about e-readers would be an option to change the cover on them so that it tells people exactly what you're reading. Perhaps in the style of an old Penguin. Why yes, I am reading that. No, wait, I've changed my mind, I'm reading this. No, oops, now it's 50 Shades.

But it is not my ideal world. I can tell this because cats do not have the vote, steam trains don't run over the grave of Dr Beeching, and it is not compulsory to watch Daleks 2150 AD once a year. So perhaps that's a good thing. And, at the end of the day, e-readers are about people making their own decisions.

I was doing some research into Penguins recently, and was told that, until Allen Lane invented them, ordinary people by and large didn't bother with books. Bookshops were scary places and books were serious things. Then along comes Penguin and books are suddenly all the rage and tremendous fun. So maybe, e-readers are today's Penguins. Just not orange.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Help for Heros

There was graffiti on the Mosque. You get a lot of graffiti in Somerstown. Recently there's been a lot about a girl called Tracy. Apparently she's a no-good grass who hangs around with quite the wrong sort of gentleman.

I'm sure it's all quite upsetting for Tracy and her various boyfriends, but this weekend the graffiti went up a notch.

Someone had graffiti'd on the mosque: "Fuck Islam. Help for Heros. EDL". It's quite a thing when you can't even spell the cause you're appropriating for your own sick ends. But still, away they'd gone, fucking Islam and helping them heros quite a few times.

We walked past it. We were at a loose end (having just missed a play by Aeschylus because we have no sense of direction. Oh yes, we're that gay). So, we decided to do something about it.

We went home and filled a bucket with soda crystals and hot water and grabbed some brillo pads ("After all," I said, "It's good practice in case the kids on the estate paint 'Paedo' on our door someday") and went to work.

We hadn't got very far before we were surrounded by a gang. A proper, quietly intimidating gang. They stood and watched us. "Fuck' em," one said about us, "They're defacing the mosque. That's wrong."
"Wait," said another, "They are cleaning it."
They stood back and watched us for a bit. Then went away.

It only took five minutes.  Someone came out of their house and watched us quietly. A couple of people walked past us into the mosque. They didn't say anything to us. I'm quite glad about that. I'm not really sure there's appropriate small talk for this situation. Clinton's don't do a card for "Sorry about your hate crime".

Anyway, two gays stood scrubbing a mosque clean and then quietly tiptoed home. And maybe, the next time someone says something about poor Tracy and her men, we'll clean that up too.