Sunday, 12 October 2008

100 things to do in London on a Saturday night.

Go to the theatre.   Go to The Walkabout.  Decide not to go into The Walkabout because it's too crowded.  Catch the last Tube home. Reach Kennington.  Wait for ages at Kennington for a train. Get told that there are no more southbound trains because of signal failure. Try to get a bus.  Watch 25 police arrest a suspected gunman across the road from the bus stop.  Watch police pin down the gunman on the pavement.  Watch a policeman put his knee on the gunman's head.  Watch onlookers try to pull the police off the gunman.  Notice how the onlookers are trying their best to start an incident.  Notice how restrained the police are. Notice how nervous the police are. Try to get a taxi. Realise that taxis don't come into this area.  Force yourself onto an already overcrowded nightbus.  Acknowledge the drivers' pragmatism in not checking tickets.  Watch drunk people stumbling in front of the moving bus.  Notice the driver's skill in avoiding them.  Watch a man doing press-ups out of his living room window.  Watch a woman vomiting over a car bonnet.  Get off the bus.  Go into the 24 hour Tesco. Buy pork pies, chocolate and pickle.  Get home.  Eat pork pies. Eat chocolate.  Eat pickle.  Go to sleep.  

Just another Saturday night out. 

Monday, 1 September 2008


I went to the Zimfest last Saturday.  It was a great day - hot and sunny and I bumped into loads of people I know.  We sat on the grass, drinking Zimbabwean lager, eating Zimbabwean food and listening to Zimbabwean music and just for a second or two we could almost imagine we were back in Harare.  

All the laughter and fun, however, couldn't hide the fact that we weren't there because we chose to be.  We were there because if we'd remained in Zimbabwe, we'd be dead, dying or facing a grim daily struggle for basic survival.   

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Sorry Neighbours!

I am a Bad Neighbour.  There!  I feel better already for getting that off my chest! Let me elaborate...

Recently a couple of friends came round for dinner.  It was a warm summer's evening so after we'd eaten and had a couple of glasses of wine, we decided to go and sit outside on the balcony.  My block of flats directly faces the next block so when you're on the balcony you can see directly into people's kitchens and living rooms. It can get a bit 'Rear Window' at times, but we all surreptitiously observe each other. They watch me doing the washing up & having lunch & I watch them on the computer & sitting in front of the TV.  My neighbours haven't done anything particularly outrageous (yet) but I live in hope.  

Anyway, we were sitting there, slightly (ok very) drunk and my mate W starts asking me about who lives in which flats. Directly opposite me are a couple of girls sharing - one of them has a child.  'COOL!' He bellows, 'LESBIANS!'  I'd forgotten, in my drunken state, how the sound can bounce off the two blocks and amplify.  

I know, I know - for what it's worth, I'm still cringing... It, er, gets worse...  

These two girls disappear for a bit & return in their pyjamas.  One of them then starts kissing the window and then they begin having a pillow fight RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE WINDOW!  Not only that but they kept stopping and looking round at us!  We were so drunk that it took about five minutes before it dawned on us what they were doing and why!  Like I said, I'm still cringing and big respect to those girls for having a sense of humour. 

Now, when I go and sit on the balcony, everyone immediately closes their blinds. I'm thinking of hanging a banner off the balcony saying, 'SORRY NEIGHBOURS.  I WAS DRUNK, OK?'  

Under the circumstances, I think it's only fair that I award myself 'Villian of the Day.' 

Monday, 4 August 2008

Plain crazy or worse?

Recently I was working with a German colleague.  Now, this guy is nice enough but weird.  We were working outdoors and it started to rain so I put on my Wellington boots.  I was wearing cut-off cotton trousers that came just below the knee so, with my wellies on, there was no gap between the end of my trousers and the top of the boots.  

My colleague, (remember - he's German) looks this outfit up and down and mumbles, almost to himself, 'You look like my grandfather', then continues, 'He was a Nazi'.  As I was staring at him, literally lost for words, he leans in to me and says confidentially, 'I've got the photos to prove it'!!!!!

...Er, ok...  I'm not sure whether he's a 'Villian of the Day' or just plain scary...

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

In just over three hours the Zimbabwean dollar fell from Z$1.2 trillion to Z$1.3 trillion to the £ sterling.  The same meal will now cost more than it did at lunch time.

Zero Tolerance

Today the Zimbabwean dollar stands at Z$1.2 trillion to the £ sterling.  That's Z$ 1,200,000,000,000 to one pound or to put it another way - 10 million per cent inflation.  ...all those zeros and you still can't buy a single meal.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Deadly serious

Zimbabwe has collapsed - the official inflation rate is over 2 million per cent, hundreds have died in political violence, a month's salary won't even buy one meal, the country has no leadership after the single candidate 'election' so what counts as news for The Herald ( the government's propoganda paper)?  Why the government's battle against a plague of red locusts of course! 

For those of you fortunate enough never to have read a government mouthpiece, it's certainly a laugh, even if only for the surreal, head-in-the-sand approach.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

The internet is a strange place

The internet is populated by some odd people and they all seem to record their actions for posterity.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Justice for the common people

Love 'em or loathe 'em, celebrities form the background to our lives, taunting us with their perfect bodies and shiny, shiny hair and their impossibly complicated love lives.

Now ladies and gentlemen, courtesy of Photoshop and some creativity, a form of justice can be metered out...

Imagine, if you will, Elizabeth Hurley after a few months in front of the television, eating Doritos...

Less glamorous, international jet-setter and more secretary at the annual office Christmas party.

Mr. Jolie - Brad Pitt, actor and all round hunk becomes Dave, plumber from Essex and white van driver...

There!  Feel better now?

Saturday, 12 July 2008

The perils of liking Razorlight and other uncool music

Music, for all it's freewheeling, libertarian image can be a rather narrow-minded, parochial business at times.  Certain music is deemed 'cool' and certain music isn't.  If you don't understand what I mean, try telling a scruffy haired, N.M.E. reading, indie kid that you have a penchant for Celine Dion.  See?

It can be a treacherous and sometimes puzzling path, trying to navigate the line between trendy toons and Dad rock, with no real indicators as to what's what...  Sometimes a band can switch from being cool to being uncool merely because they sell a lot of records.  Look at the case of Razorlight.  Popularity, you see, is Not Hip.  This, however, isn't a hard and fast rule - witness Radiohead's baffling success, for example.

I don't know why it's so, I don't make the rules.

Before we continue, let me state for the record - I love music; many different types of music, both cool AND uncool.  There!  I feel better now that I've got that off my chest.
Purchasing terminally unhip music can be more nervewracking than buying condoms as a teenager.  A couple of days ago I was browsing the racks in Zavvi when I came across 'Rhinestone Cowboy - The Best of Glen Campbell' for next to nothing.  Glen Campbell, you see, is Not Cool.  Normally I wouldn't have cared less but the guy at the checkout really was cool.  And hot as hell.  I had to spend the next twenty minutes trying to find something else to buy so that I could sandwich the offending CD between them.  I ended up buying two extra DVD's and spending nigh on £20 instead of the original £3 that the CD cost.

Altogether now...'Galveston oo Galveston...'   

Bad Lines being drawn

The twentieth teenager has died in a fatal stabbing in London this year and the media continues to whip itself up into a moral panic, blaming everything from 'hopelessness' to 'a lack of good role models'.

Maybe popular culture should stop celebrating violence and under - achievement. You can't tell kids that it's cool to be a thug then recoil in horror when they actually become one.  

Friday, 11 July 2008

Well, it is tricky...

Overhead in the checkout queue in Sainsburys.

Depressed housewife #1 (surveying shopping basket full of fruit and veg); ' I'm trying to get my son to eat more vegetables'.

Depressed housewife #2;  'Ooo, I've given up trying to get my son to eat healthy.  I can't even make him stop fighting at school and getting suspended.'


Shampoo and Set

Just as I've decided to occasionally award a 'Hero of the Day',  so I shall also have to award an occasional 'Villain of the Day'.

The first villain's award will have to go to the girl who washed my hair in the hairdresser's yesterday.  I sat down at one of those bowl things - you know - you lean against the bowl thing and the girl stands behind you whilst she washes your hair and all the water runs down the bowl and not onto your shoulders.  There's probably a technical term for them, I just don't know what it is.

Anyway, I digress...  I sat down and the girl asked if the height of the bowl thing was ok. 'Yes,' I said, 'It's perfect'.  It was. 

She then promptly pulled the bowl up by about a centimetre.  This was now not perfect.  It was bloody agonising.  It was cutting into the back of my neck and it made me start to see stars.  

I bore the pain stoically for as long as I could (about a minute) before I asked her if she could lower the height.  'Yea,' she said as she pushed down with both hands and all her strength on the bowl.  I had to abruptly slide right down the seat in order to avoid being compressed to the size of a garden gnome.  

'Is that ok?', she chav-drawled.

... er... Let's think about this...  I'm practically horizontal in the seat, with my neck at a 90 degree angle...  Do I look ok?  But of course, I didn't say this.  She was clearly crazed and/or simple and I didn't want to enrage her.  I mean, she had me in a vulnerable position there, she could squirt shampoo in my face or something.  'That's fine', I replied and spent the next ten minutes gripping onto the arms of the surprisingly slippery chair, trying not to slide off it completely, whilst she vigorously lathered my hair.

I didn't give her a tip but perhaps I should have - "Practise saying 'Would you like to Super-Size that?'  You're gonna need it"

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Cool game

Try this game.

It's a Sim game which allows you to experience what it's like to be a refugee.

Photo opportunities

I just can't stop looking at the photographs flooding in from Zimbabwe.  I don't want to but I can't stop.  Hundreds and hundreds of photos, broken, bloodied bodies.  The woman beaten so badly that her buttocks have been reduced to a mass of shredded flesh - the man beaten on the soles of the feet - the six year old boy with the swollen, bruised face -  the decomposing body of the MDC driver shot in the back with his trousers round his ankles.  On and on it goes and I can't stop looking.  I gorge unwilling, on the blood, the flesh and after a while the images merge into one.  Maybe if I keep on looking, the pain will subside and they'll just become pictures.

It's the ordinary, everyday details that really jar.  See the picture of the man with his fingernails removed?  He bought his shirt from the Farmer's Co-op... I can't believe they're still selling those shirts!  Look at Tendai Biti, shackled and manacled in prison... he's wearing an Arsenal top just like the man in the greengrocers down the road!  Check the photo of the man lying dead on the ground with that stick still embedded in his torso...  those huts in the background look just like the huts on the way to the lake!  The mundane details of life become infused with horror.

On and on and on it goes.  I walk down the High Road to the post office and I look at the faces of the people on the street and I wonder - if this madness was happening here, in Britain, in London, who would be the torturer and who would be the tortured?

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Everyday heroes

I've decided to occasionally award people with ... well, an award, when I think that they've done a little extra something to make my day just a tiny bit easier.   

The first award is gonna go to the bus driver who waited for me at the bus stop while I thundered the 100 or so metres down the road, in the rain, to the bus stop.  He didn't even laugh when I stumbled, sodden, on to the bus, mascara running and caught my umbrella in the door.

So, Mr Arriva Bus Driver, thank you!  I salute you.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Take a look at this...

I'm not sure that I agree with all the sentiments shown here - I'm not even certain what they're actually advertising but it's beautifully made and definately worth a look.  

Love the use of the Buffalo Springfield track.


Sometimes 'fashion' just makes your jaw hit the ground in disbelief.

Alexander McQueen has sent us this little gem via Paris Fashion Week.  

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you 'The Mankini'...

Is this a case of the emperor's new clothes?

Monday, 7 July 2008

What a job!

It's been a quiet day today.  

Yesterday was pretty full on.  I was working at the Grand Prix.  When I say 'working', I mean that in a loose sense.  We turned up on Thursday and loaded in all the lighting gear for the party after the race then stayed on site until Sunday, just partying and watching the qualifiers.  Not bad at all.  Full pay of course.  Naturally it rained but that's par for the course in an English summer.