diamond geezer

 Wednesday, June 30, 2004

100 comments: There are an awful lot of blogs out there which I read a lot but don't comment on often enough. So today I thought I'd break that tradition and interact properly. My target is to comment on 100 different blogs by the end of the day (inbetween 'working at home' because of the tube strike) and I'm only allowing myself to comment on blogs updated in the last 24 48 hours, which will be a challenge. I'll link to each blog that I comment on, just so you can see how I'm progressing, but I wouldn't bother reading the comments though. Mike, you're first.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101
Phew, I did wonder if I was going to get to 100 earlier on this morning, and in the end I hit 101. There were lots of other blogs I'd have liked to have commented on but they either failed my 48 hour rule or didn't have a comments system enabled. But it has been great to explore a whole range of blogs I've never read before. Highly recommended.

Gig of the Month: the Mull Historical Society at the ICA (last night)
Only three icons of any cultural importance have ever come out of the Scottish island of Mull - Tobermory the Womble, the children's TV programme Balamory and Colin MacIntyre. Colin's the singer of the Mull Historical Society, a refreshingly ordinary yet extraordinary guitar band, playing last night at the long white arty building up the top of the Mall. Support was provided by the astonishing Alice McLaughlin, a wild-eyed marionette who sang heartfelt jazz/soul ballads with breathtaking conviction. And then our Colin was on, showcasing his latest album This Is Hope as well as audience-pleasing favourites from previous singalong classics Loss and Us. The stage should have featured a 15 foot fibreglass dog in a wig (does any band have a better logo?) but alas it had been stolen earlier. Colin threw himself into the performance with innocent gusto, leaping round the stage, sweating buckets and managing somehow at one point not to topple headlong off the piano stool into the audience. The new songs suggest he's not lost his songwriting sparkle, but the older songs still won the night for me. Well worth beating the tube strike to see, and ten times more inspiring than that other anodyne concert held up the Mall recently.

 Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Britain's newest National Park: the New Forest East End

Dot Cotton, the Urban Affairs Minister, today announced her decision that the East End is to become a National Park. The new East End National Park will be the smallest in the country, covering just 20 square kilometres. This remote Cockney wilderness lies to the east of the City and contains some hills topping almost ten metres in height. Most of the area is covered by concrete, and new planning regulations will restrict the amount of green open space in order to preserve this urban blight for future generations. Scenic streams of sewage flow beneath the streets, while air pollution levels above ground are amongst the most outstanding in the country.

The East End National Park offers significant opportunities for outdoor public recreation, fully in line with the natural resouces of this unique location. Visitors are welcome to attend and take part in one of the following local cultural events:

Knees Up Mother Brown: Join a gang of pre-teen street robbers beating up local pensioners outside the post office.
Don’t Dilly Dally On The Way: Keep walking, don't turn round, that could be a mugger behind you.
The Old Bull & Bush: Come drink at the local boozer named after Anglo-American relations.
Show Me The Way To Go Home: Social group meets every night at 11:30pm outside the local pub, then 15 minutes later in the local gutter.
On Mother Kelly’s Doorstep: Final resting place of the pile of inebriated drunkards found previously in the gutter.
Boiled Beef N’Carrots: Nothing they serve up round here any more, but you can get a nice curry instead.
Underneath The Arches: Where to come for all the best drug deals, please bring cash.
Roll Out The Barrel: Leave your barrel in the street next to the supermarket trolley, the rotting sofa and the binbag full of used hypodermics.
Get Me To The Church On Time: Hop on the new bendy bus to Bow, assuming one ever turns up.
Daisy Daisy: Ride a bicycle made for two down the Mile End Road, taking care not to fall beneath the wheels of one of those bendy buses.
Any Old Iron: Bare knuckle fighting takes place round the back of the pie and mash shop every Thursday night.
My Old Man’s A Dustman: That's his cover story anyway. In real life he's heavily involved in a secret life of gangland crime and kneecapping.
Me And My Shadow: Canary Wharf wrecks TV reception for half the residents in the area.
The Lambeth Walk: Take a historic stroll to another nearby borough, only to discover that conditions there are even worse.
Maybe It's Because I'm A Londoner: That I love living here despite all of the above.

 Monday, June 28, 2004

Please enter your password below
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I hate passwords. I know we have to have them but they're always so difficult to remember. I can remember a few passwords without any problem, but what I can't always do is remember which password goes with with login. I could write all my passwords down somewhere, but that would be dangerous. I could try using the same password for everything, but that would be even more dangerous. And they don't let you use the same password for everything - some sites are happy with only 4 letters, some require 8 and some demand mixed alphanumeric characters. Usually I rely on my browser remembering all of my passwords for me, which is great until one day I load up a webpage and discover that it's forgotten too. So sometimes I find myself staring at a blank log-in page wondering exactly which email address I used to set up the account and with which password, shut out until I eventually stumble across the correct combination.

People are generally rubbish at selecting passwords. Many choose the default word 'password' as their password, which must be the most hackable way into anyone's bank account. Names are popular too, either one's own or one's partner or one's pet, again eminently guessable (especially by one's partner or one's pet). Favourite football teams, place names, birthdays - all are nice and easy to remember but therefore just that bit too easy to crack. No, what you need is a password that's impossible to deduce, like jaJwutH2fap0w. Perfect, except that it's also nigh impossible to remember. You might want to scribble it on a post-it note and stick it to the front of your computer so that you won't forget it, except that neither will any passing snooper. And do take very special care typing in that long sequence of gibberish because you're only allowed three mistakes before the system locks you out completely.

If you do forget your password you may be asked to answer a secret question in order to proceed. To be honest these worry me even more than passwords. The secret question is generally something like 'What is your mother's maiden name?' which is a really good question because it's not something any online hacker is likely to know. No online hacker except your mother, that is. I do hope your mother hasn't been rifling through your bank account, your blog and that slightly dodgy website you use sometimes that's based in Amsterdam. And I do hope hope you didn't type your password into that box at the top of the post, otherwise it probably wasn't your mother checking out your online affairs, it was me...

 Sunday, June 27, 2004

Flaming June

The Olympic flame came to London yesterday for the first time since 1948. It rained, but that didn't extinguish the fire or dampen the watching public's enthusiasm. The Torch Relay organising committee had thoroughly enjoyed themselves putting together the programme for the day, including sections carrying the torch by taxi, riverboat, London bus, rowing eight and on horseback. But the main body of the journey was made up of 140 runners each running 400m, some famous, some worthy and some both. I decided to go and watch the torch arriving in my home borough of Tower Hamlets, just to see how my council tax was being spent, and then caught up with the flame again a few more times along the route.

Around 2pm I was part of a small crowd gathered on the slipway at the very foot of the Isle of Dogs. Teams of mercenaries from the two companies sponsoring the Torch Relay busied themselves amongst the spectators handing out numerous small flags for us to wave. A young lady from Samsung tried to thrust a blue flag into my hand, then seemed very hurt when I didn't want to be part of her evil marketing strategy. I turned down a pair of her giant blue inflatable icepops as well. The flame was late, although it was clear from the twirling acrobats hanging from the rigging of the Cutty Sark over the river that it had at least reached Greenwich. Fireworks heralded the launch of a fire-bearing riverboat whose captain showed off by spinning round several times in the middle of the Thames before heading straight towards us.

A grinning Kriss Akabusi disembarked from the boat and ran up the slipway holding the torch aloft, cheering almost as much as we were. And then he was gone, round the corner into Island Gardens where Tower Hamlets had 15 minutes of community entertainment laid on. Five lycra-clad girls performed gymnastics suspended from five coloured hoops, accompanied by ethnic drumming. It may have been symbolically blatant but at least it was cheap. Rather more of my council tax went up in smoke in the ensuing firework display, before various council dignitaries queued up for a lengthy photo opportunity with the flame. This eventually passed to one of the non-famous runners who set off through the crowds towards Docklands, preceded by police motorbikes, a bus full of torchbearers and more sponsored flag distributors.

I reached Canary Wharf in time to see the flame run past in the capable hands of top oarsman Matthew Pinsent. He set fire to a fountain in Cabot Square while a choir dressed in plastic raincoats sang Amazing Grace. Possibly too symbolic that one. Alas I was too slow getting to the Mile End Road to see the flame pass at its closest to the possible site of the Olympic Games in 2012, and to my house. I hope it doesn't rain like this in eight years time.

Never mind, my next chosen vantage point was City Hall where surely our Ken would put on a good show. I could see the flame crossing Tower Bridge, although I was rather too far away to see it was Gandalf carrying it. At City Hall I was prevented from entering the courtyard by a jobsworth security guard who demanded that I keep behind a line of bunting, despite the fact that half of London seemed to be standing on the other side. He was probably trying to keep me out of the path of the 93-year-old Sikh marathon runner who soon swept by. Thousands of Olympic-coloured balloons were released into the sky and the elderly athlete ran straight back down to the main road. The visit of the flame was all over and done in under a minute. Sorry, not impressed.

My final viewing attempt was along Oxford Street, a location where I seem to have spent far too much of my Saturday. I took up position behind the railings outside the exit from the tube station, surrounded by an ever increasing crowd of shoppers and eager families. The sponsored flag-givers were out in force again, as was the rain. We all got very wet waiting for the helicopters overhead to edge nearer, and for the snail's pace queue of ordinary buses to finally end. At last the proper torch-bearing London bus came along, but alas there was no sign of a flame on the open upper deck. Some spectators mumbled and cursed and prepared to slink away disheartened. But no, the torch was still on foot at this point, and there hidden directly behind a number 25 bendy bus came a smiling Roger Black. He stopped right beside me, as you can see, before dashing off to the other side of Oxford Circus where the flame finally ascended to its rightful place on the top deck of a red London icon.

Enough of fire-chasing. I was home in time to see the BBC pretending to show live what I'd just seen for real at Oxford Circus an hour earlier. And in time to see possibly the blandest pop concert ever to limp onto our TV screens, live from the Mall. Great idea, miserably executed. A handful of musical greats allowed to sing no more than two songs each and a bunch of pop wannabes lip-synching their latest hits to an audience too far away to even care. All that media hype for a televised concert lasting just 90 minutes, only half of which featured music, not even half of which was any good. I'm mighty glad I turned down the ticket that was offered to me, even if those present saw rather more acts than appeared on air. But, despite the weather, I'm more than glad I caught the Olympic flame passing through town. And I hope I'll see it again, just up the road, in 2012. In blazing sunshine.

 Saturday, June 26, 2004

Round the bend

The 25 is one of London's busiest bus routes (absolutely jam-packed it is, even on a Sunday afternoon), following a pretty much arrow-straight route from Ilford to Oxford Circus (via my house). 'Busy and straight' are the perfect conditions for a takeover by huge 18m-long bendy buses so, as of dawn this morning, the huge 18m-long bendy buses have taken over. Overnight the Mile End Road has been hijacked by road-hogging articulated vehicles that can't manouevre particularly well. There's more space inside than on the old double deckers but there are now fewer seats. Passengers have a choice of three doors to board through but they have to buy a ticket before boarding or else they get kicked off. It's all a bit scary. I've been out for a Saturday morning ride on these new urban monsters, just to see how they and the travelling public are coping, and initial reports are not good.



The 25 starts its ten mile journey into civilisation just opposite the Oxfam shop on Ilford High Street. I hopped on through the rear door, just for the novelty value, and perched on a raised seat near the bendy bit in the middle. The bus smelt like the inside of a freshly purchased new car, deceptively spacious but still clean and gleaming. Hydraulics tilt the bus slightly towards the pavement at each stop to increase accessibility, the bell rings with a satisfying non-artificial ding, and none of the on-board Oyster card readers beside the second and third doors are yet functional. It was clear that our driver wasn't used to driving a 60 foot snake, so he edged gingerly round the narrow bends on the Ilford one-way system. "You've just got to keep thinking thin," he said to the bus company operative keeping a careful eye on him.

At the second stop outside Ilford Library a young Asian lady tried to board without having bought a ticket. The driver sent her back to the machine on the pavement and kindly waited while she tried desperately to stick a pound in. "It's only a machine, you only got to put money it!" said our driver, helpfully. Except this machine wasn't working properly and it took ages for her to extricate a small piece of paper from the slot at the bottom. By the time a second passenger had gone through the same rigmarole we were already running four minutes late. The driver learnt his lesson and whenever ticketless passengers tried to board later in the journey he sent them packing and drove off without them.

The bus chugged on through Manor Park and Forest Gate, slowly filling up with Saturday morning shoppers. Soon all the seats were taken and it was standing room only, although nobody seemed to want to stand on the bend in the middle for some reason. Passengers hadn't quite got the hang of being allowed to board through all three doors and so most queued up at the front door, only to squeeze on and discover that most of the remaining space was right down at the back. It's a long and difficult walk down a crowded aisle full of strap-hangers, eventually an impossible one, and as we approached Stratford the bus soon became front-heavy. It wasn't the most pleasant travelling experience for those forced to stand.

All this waiting around while passengers try to board isn't helping the buses to run regularly. The 25 is supposed to run every 6-8 minutes but instead these bendy buses appear to be bunching up with big long gaps inbetween. They seem to be running in pairs most of the time, the second emptier bus too cumbersome to overtake the first. At one stage I saw no buses passing the other way for about quarter of an hour, then six buses all within two minutes. The photo below shows four 25s queued up outside Bow Church, like a solid wall of red approaching the flyover. The front bus was packed, the second busy and the rear two almost empty. What a way to run a service.



Along the route a number of Transport for London employees were standing around in special red baseball caps handing out leaflets, generally at the least busy bus stops. One of them poked her head in to ask the driver if he'd tried out his ramp yet. He hadn't. In fact our only semi-disabled passenger had boarded at the rampless front door then struggled to hobble on crutches down the gangway, muttering "'kin assholes" under his breath. Given the speed that the swish new electric doors slam shut I wouldn't be surprised if these buses create more wheelchair-bound passengers than they transport. A ticket inspector climbed aboard along the Whitechapel Road, failing to find anyone who'd sneaked on without paying. It won't last.

We sped through the City, always deserted at weekends, until we were diverted off down an awkward sidestreet behind St Paul's to avoid major roadworks. Our driver took it slowly and thought thin. Down Oxford Street we joined the usual bus-jam, our now half-empty juggernaut taking up vastly unnecessary roadspace. The Olympic torch would be passing this way later in the afternoon, holding up the traffic even more. At Oxford Circus we followed the new 25 route left into Regent Street (because these lumbering buses aren't very good at turning right) before pulling to a final stop outside John Lewis. It felt a very long way from the Oxfam shop in Ilford, and a very long way from the horse-drawn omnibuses that used to drive into London down the Mile End Road 150 years ago. I took the tube home - I fancied a seat.

 Friday, June 25, 2004

A brief history of public transport down the Mile End Road
(extended to cover the three miles from Aldgate through Whitechapel to my house in Bow)

12th century: The main road from London to Essex passes over the newly built Bow Bridge.
14th century: Small villages grow up along the road, including Mile End and Bow. Nobody has yet invented public transport.

17th century: Stagecoaches depart from coaching inns in Aldgate, each heading out weekly to various destinations in East Anglia. "The Waggons from Chelmsford in Essex come on Wednesdays to the sign of the Blue Boar without Aldgate."
18th century: More stagecoaches run to lots more towns, more often. "Harwich coach, Sarazen's Head Aldgate, Tuesday, Friday." "Barking coach, Three Nuns Whitechapel, every Day."
1837: Charles Dickens was a regular visitor to the Bell Inn in Whitechapel, and it was from here that he sent Mr Pickwick off on a coach journey to Ipswich (poor bloke) in the Pickwick Papers. "And away went the coach up Whitechapel, to the admiration of the whole population of that pretty densely populated quarter. `Not a very nice neighbourhood, this, Sir,` said Sam, with a touch of the hat. `It is not indeed, Sam,` replied Mr. Pickwick, surveying the crowded and filthy street through which they were passing."

mid 19th century: The first horse-drawn omnibuses thread the streets of the capital, run by the London General Omnibus Association. Route 3 (green) runs to Bow and Stratford "from Oxford Street: Regent Street, Charing Cross, Strand, Fleet Street, Cheapside, Bank, Whitechapel. Each omnibus requires 8 to 10 horses to work it. To be readily distinguishable, vehicles are painted in conspicuous colours, and have upon each their destination, and the names of the more important streets in their route."

late 19th century: Horse-drawn trams arrive in London in 1870, and the second route to open runs between Aldgate and Stratford. The tramlines pass either side of Bow Church - photos here. "Colour, Blue. —Route— Whitechapel, Mile-end-rd, Bow, and Stratford-high-st. From Aldgate every 4 minutes from 6.40 a.m. to 12 midnight. From Stratford every 4 minutes from 6 am. to 11.5 p.m. Fares—to Bow Station, 2d. All the way, 3d. Outside, 2d. any distance."

1900-1930: Electric trams and motorbuses gradually replace horse-drawn transport. Bow Garage opens as a tramshed in 1908. Tram route 63 runs from Aldgate to Mile End, Bow, Stratford, Forest Gate and Ilford - photo here.
1931-1958: Trolleybuses and more motorbuses gradually replace trams. Bow Garage is converted to trolleybuses in 1938. Trolleybus route 663 runs from Aldgate to Mile End, Bow, Stratford, Forest Gate and Ilford - photos here. Other trolleybuses down the Mile End Road are the 661 and 695, and buses include the 10, 25, and 96 (withdrawn 1958).
1959: The last trolleybus down the Mile End Road runs on 4 August 1959, to be replaced by bus route 26 and additional Routemasters on route 25. Bow Garage is converted to motorbuses only.

1966: The 26 is withdrawn, leaving just the 10 and the 25, plus new nightbus N98 (Victoria to Ilford).
1988: The 10 is withdrawn, and the one remaining bus route down the Mile End Road (the 25) loses all its Routemasters. Bit grim.
25 June 2004: Today is the last day of double decker service down the Mile End Road, ending about 150 years of history.
26 June 2004: The arrival of the dreaded bendy buses on route 25. Report tomorrow.

A statement from the board of English Euphoria plc

Notice is hereby given of the suspension of shares in English Euphoria plc. The company's first quarter results were announced yesterday but failed to live up to expectations. An emergency meeting of the board took place in Lisbon but overall performance proved disappointing and penalties were imposed. The chairman missed a golden opportunity to reach his intended goal and the team failed to hit expected targets. Bankruptcy was announced at 10:29pm by company spokesman John Motson who announced to assembled shareholders that "English Euphoria expires" (he did, he really did). Reserve stocks of 'National Pride' have therefore been drained and your shares are now worthless. Sorry, but that's the risk you take playing on the global field.

Come on, what did you expect? There were 16 teams in the competition, of which there were always going to be 15 losers. The odds were never in our favour, even if we'd been good. Which we weren't, not enough of the time anyway. We were not robbed, we were rubbish. It's like this every time we get involved in a major tournament - hype, hope and disappointment. Adding another flag to the top of your car doesn't make the team play any better, it just clouds your better judgement. You're all a bunch of hopeless optimists, hanging onto your shares because you believed England would continue to do better. Which, ultimately, they were never going to do. Congratulations to 'Le Bob' for being the only pessimist to sell, and therefore the only shareholder to make a profit. The rest of you dry your eyes, you've got to walk away now, it's over. Come on, let's all enjoy Tim Henman's imminent Wimbledon triumph.

 Thursday, June 24, 2004

  English Euphoria plc   Sharecheck
TimePriceEvent
07003.00Portugal have no chance
19003.10England expects
19453.20Kickoff (ere we go, ere we go)
19474.00Owen's golden touch, 1-0!
20103.50Rooney off with foot injury
21003.30Hanging on desperately
21232.50Portugal equalise, bugger
21301.50Campbell goal disallowed
21401.80Nail-biting extra time begins
22000.50Portugal fire into the lead
22062.00Late England equaliser, phew!
22151.80Penalties, oh boy oh boy
22180.80Becks misses by miles
22190.60Portugal hit their first home
22200.80Owen finds left corner of net
22210.70One more for each team
22221.00Portugal miss, we're level
22241.10One more each, it's 3-3!
22251.20One more each, it's 4-4!
22271.30One more each, it's 5-5!
22280.30Vassell misses for England, ulp!
22280.00Portuguese goalie scores to win
2229: John Motson announces "English Euphoria expires"
[Shares suspended]

roonerama
the wayne fanzine
online edition 1

Welcome to Wayne's World! roonerama is the new number 1 online mag site for the world's new number 1 player. We have all the news, all the goss and all the biz on England's new megastar. Move over Becks cos Wayne is here and he is well boss. If not well fit.

WAYNE ROO-LES
Soccer god Wayne was born in a manger in a shed in Liverpool which is near Bethlehem. That night three wise pundits came visiting and brought him gifts of top skill, magic boots and a cheeky grin. At school Wayne won the Croxteth Under 11s tournament single handed when all his teammates were struck down by the Ebola virus. He kicks like a mule, but more accurately. He is also kind to sick animals and has a pet girlfriend called Colleen.

ROO-BELLA
Want to get that special Roo physique? Here's a genuine Roo recipe to help you to get in shape.
Take one tube of Pringles and one pizza.
Unpop the Pringles.
Scatter liberally over the top of the pizza.
Serve with lager and a side-helping of lard.
VICIOUS ROO-MOURS
Wayne has signed a £1m contract to be the new face of Walls sausages. Residents of Beckham Close in Redditch have voted to rename their road Rooney Crescent. There are plans to introduce a new bank holiday on October 24th every year to celebrate Wayne's birthday. Wayne is the youngest player ever to be revered as a minor deity by the Chinese. Only 43 English babies were named Wayne last year, but next year that'll be 7506. In a recent survey more Britons believed in Wayne Rooney than believed in God. Wayne's favourite pizza topping is pepperoni and his favourite colour is blue. Wayne goes to the toilet several times a day and breathes air.

THE ROO BETS
Evens Wayne to join Chelsea next season
2-1 Wayne to have Xmas number 1 record
5-1 Wayne to shag Posh Spice
25-1 Wayne to be revealed as Pele's secret lovechild
100-1 Wayne to live up to initial promise

IT'S WAYNE-ING AGAIN
There's lots more top quality speculation and opportunistic froth where this came from. Why not sign up now for edition two of this top online mag? Quickly, in case England lose tonight, the tabloids lose interest and we go bankrupt.

 Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Euro 2004 quiz: It had to happen. Here are clues to the names of each of the 16 teams competing in Euro 2004. How many can you identify?
1) fat  9) blackbird continent
2) left you girl10) northern vegetable
3) a vital change11) lantern shed rebuilt
4) elderly womble12) someone who hurries
5) Watts & Fowler13) found in hospital, you know
6) southern agony14) where to find pancreatic juice
7) arouse my anger15) verify work by Plato (or New Order)
8) wild lizard newts16) filthy rogues and not clean either, initially
(Answers in the comments box)

  English Euphoria plc   Sharecheck
TimePriceEvent
07002.80Where did the summer go?
19002.70Wimbledon 100% rained off
[share price updated tomorrow]

fivelondonlinks
Classic Cafes - London's greatest vintage Formica caffs, for that perfect dining experience. Fab.
Hackney Lookout - newish blog from the streets of a godforsaken London borough. Fab.
alwaystouchout - a complete list of all London's impending transport projects. Fab.
Honestly I'm Sober - beautifully redesigned blog, written by a Gooner too. Fab.
Geofftech - new iPod owner, and holder of tube-station-visiting record. Fab.

 Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Random borough 2: Islington (part 2)

Somewhere Big Brother: 27B Canonbury Square
This is a picture of the very first Big Brother House, tucked away in the southeast corner of Canonbury Square. You're looking for the ground floor flat with the faint green disc to the right of the door - a tiny plaque to show where it really all began. This is also another Islington house lived in by Mr Blair, although in this case we're talking Eric Blair, better known as George Orwell. Sixty years ago Canonbury Square wasn't the prestigious address it is now, and when Orwell moved into this rundown apartment in 1945 he was inspired by its imposing shabbiness. It was here that he started to write his classic satire Nineteen Eighty Four, basing Winston Smith's home 'Victory Mansions' on this very flat. It all looks much more upmarket these days, but listen carefully outside and you can still hear the clocks striking thirteen.
The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. At one end of it a coloured poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enormous face, more than a metre wide: the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black moustache and ruggedly handsome features. Winston made for the stairs. It was no use trying the lift. On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.
Somewhere retail: Camden Passage
I've spent far too much of my life being dragged round antique shops. Dank musty emporia stacked high with useless objects, the sort of stuff your gran used to have before she threw it all away in favour of something modern that actually worked. Rusty metal picture frames, wooden tables with deep authentic scratches, a selection of hideous porcelain voodoo dolls, all for sale at vastly inflated prices. If you have a penchant for antique shops then there's no greater concentration anywhere in the country than in Camden Passage, a maze of narrow lanes off Upper Street. Just don't go on a Sunday like I did because they're (almost) all closed. Upper Street itself is full of more modern boutiques selling equally overpriced must-have items, interspersed with a frighteningly large number of places to eat and drink. Halfway up you'll also find legendary estate agent Hotblack Desiato, the name used by local resident Douglas Adams for the lead singer of rock band Disaster Area in the HitchHiker's Guide To The Galaxy.
by tube: Angel

Somewhere sporty: Highbury
Few major sporting stadia are tucked away in the middle of respectable suburbia quite like this, but Arsenal's home ground lurks almost unnoticed amongst the quiet residential streets of Highbury. That is until you turn into Avenell Road and see the huge Art Deco facade of the East Stand looming up over the local neighbourhood. Forget Old Trafford, Anfield and other lesser arenas, this is the true field of dreams. Well I think so anyway. It did feel strange to stand here on a crowd-free non-match day with the streets deserted, although that may have been the fault of the drenching rainstorm playing out overhead at the time. Alas in a couple of years it'll always be this quiet round here as a brand new Arsenal Stadium is due to open just over the railway at Ashburton Grove. I'm sure it'll be state-of-the-art, but the thought of new housing going up around the old pitch feels somehow sacrilegious. Seaman Street, Wenger Way, Rice Road and Double Drive anyone? I'm sure you can come up with better.
by tube: Arsenal

Somewhere random: Zoffany Road
This final photograph shows the ultimate London address. Oh yes. Turn to the very end of the index at the back of the London A-Z and there you'll find Zoffany Road, a tiny residential street nestling deep in Upper Holloway, N19. It's not even 100 yards long, containing six trees, two streetlamps, one new car, 21 old cars, and one abandoned brown armchair decaying quietly on the pavement. The north side of the road is taken up by the concrete playground of a centre for children with special needs. It's hideous on the outside but no doubt inspirational on the inside, and the site has recently been rescued from evil property developers. On the opposite side of the road you'll find a single terrace of eight identical and very ordinary houses. The residents do normal things like getting in their cars and driving to the shops or popping out in the middle of a thunderstorm to drop bulging binbags outside their front door. Wonderfully average. Unlike the other eight places I visited on my random day out, this is where the real residents of Islington live.
by tube: Archway

  English Euphoria plc   Sharecheck
TimePriceEvent
07003.30England in 'quite good' shock
19003.00Henman only scrapes through
[share price updated tomorrow]

 Monday, June 21, 2004

Random borough 2: Islington

So, yesterday I ended up in northeast London in the randomly selected borough of Islington. I could have ended up somewhere a lot worse, I guess. I gave myself an hour to research the borough on the internet, then spent the afternoon wandering around. And yes, I did get very wet in the process. There was so much to see that I'm splitting my report in half - first part today, the rest tomorrow.

Somewhere special: London Architecture Biennale
London has some fantastic architecture, and this week the streets of Clerkenwell are hosting the very first celebration of London's architectural fantasticness. It's all part of Architecture Week 2004, a national excuse to go out and look at nice buildings. Pictured right is the Farmiloes building, until 5 years ago the headquarters of a Victorian lead & glass merchants but currently headquarters to the ridiculously-named Biennale exhibition. Inside I found a fascinating mix of old and new, including an atmospheric 'collection of splendid artworks' in the company's dark cluttered offices, and details of redevelopment plans for a number of new capital projects. Enough to keep me busy while the rain beat down on the grassy road outside (there's not normally turf in the street but on Saturday they drove a herd of cows down here - it's that sort of festival). There are still another seven days for you to catch the exhibition or one of the many Clerkenwell events, and I'd recommend a visit if you're in the area.
by tube: Farringdon/Barbican

Somewhere famous: 1 Richmond Crescent
Somewhere infamous: 25 Noel Road

Here are two three-storey Islington townhouses each with a very different history. The first is tucked away in a leafy corner of Barnsbury, a prime residential location and once home to our current Prime Minister. Tony Blair moved here with his family back in 1992 when he was a mere shadow Home Secretary, and the Granita restaurant where he thrashed out ambitious leadership plans with Gordon Brown was just down the road. Five years later Tony moved into Downing Street and sold up here making a tidy profit. The house today looks quiet and spacious, although there isn't a plaque on the front because Mr Blair isn't dead yet. Merely wounded. There is a plaque on the second floor of the other house because its most famous occupant is very dead indeed. Joe Orton and his boyfriend Kenneth Halliwell moved here in 1959 and kept themselves busy by defacing the books in the local library. Joe became a really famous playwright in the mid 60s ('Loot', 'Entertaining Mr Sloane', etc) but his success merely caused Halliwell to get jealous and depressed. One morning in August 1967 Ken smashed Joe's skull open with a hammer, like you do, before taking an overdose himself. Joe had kept a candid diary which was later turned into a highly readable book - Prick Up Your Ears - the film of which was shot in this very flat.
by tube: Angel

Somewhere historic: Canonbury Tower
Canonbury Tower was built by William Bolton, a 16th century nutter who believed the world was going to flood and stocked his new tower with enough food to last him two months just in case. I suspect he may have been five centuries too early. In 1616 Sir Francis Bacon moved in, a genius who was definitely Lord Chancellor, probably had a legitimate claim to the throne and possibly wrote the entire works of Shakespeare. Or probably not. Other famous authors to have lodged here include the Irishman Oliver Goldsmith and the American Washington Irving (he wrote Rip Van Winkle, don't you know). 1952 saw the setting-up in the grounds of the Tower Theatre, the only fully licensed non-professional theatre in London, but they moved out last year and the building looks rather rundown already. The main tower building is home today to a Masonic Research Centre and the grassy lawn outside was home yesterday to a rather damp-looking garden party. Hope they rolled their trousers up.
by tube: Highbury & Islington

Somewhere pretty: London Metropolitan University Graduate Centre
The Holloway road is a grim grey artery filled with traffic pollution and lined by non-descript retail outlets. It comes as quite a shock, therefore, to see this startling spiky silver building looming up halfway along the northern side. This is the latest project for architectural megastar Daniel Libeskind, designer of the Jewish Museum in Berlin and the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester, and recent winner of the competition to redesign the World Trade Center site in New York. His 3-month-old Graduate Centre for the London Metropolitan University may not be terribly big on the inside but it's having a great impact on the neighbourhood outside. Anything has to be better than the faceless concrete towers of the original main university buildings, which hopefully nobody will ever notice again now that there's far something better to stare at.
by tube: Holloway Road

Tomorrow: somewhere Big Brother, somewhere retail, somewhere sporty (bet you can guess where) and somewhere random

  English Euphoria plc   Sharecheck
TimePriceEvent
07002.00All this and Wimbledon too
19002.10Ooh, the antici..... pation!
19452.25Kickoff - England expects
19491.25Croatia fill a gaping goalmouth
20242.15Scholes' goal's an equaliser!
20302.75Roontastic!! 2-1 up!
21103.33Wayne swirled!!! 3-1 up!
21153.00Croatia pull one back
21213.40Lampard scores a fourth!!!!
21353.50Through to the quarter finals
[share price updated tomorrow at 7am]

 Sunday, June 20, 2004

Random borough: It's been three months since I last took a random trip to one of London's 33 boroughs, and a very pleasant day out it was too. I've nothing special planned to do today so I thought it was time I dipped into my jamjar full of folded slips of paper again and picked out another one. Could be anywhere - north, south, east or west, or maybe somewhere in the middle - who knows? Just won't be Merton, because that's the borough I ended up in last time. I'm going to visit some of my randomly-chosen borough's most interesting places, assuming it has any. I'm going to try to visit somewhere famous, somewhere historic, somewhere pretty, somewhere retail, somewhere sporty and somewhere random. And then I'll come back tomorrow and tell you all about it. Ulp, let's see where I'm going this time...

The diamond geezer textmap of Great Britain
(London textmap available here)

                W I C K
              H I G H
            L A N D
          I N V E R N E S S
        F O A B E R D E E N
        R T W I L L I A M
        G R A M P I A N
      A R G D U N D E E
      Y L L P E R T H
          G L A E D I N
        S G O W B U R G H
        B O R D E N E W C
              R S A S T L E
            L A K E S D U R
            B L A C K H A M
              P O O L Y O R K
              L I V L E E D S
        R H Y L M A N L I N C
      C H E S T E R D E R B Y N O R
        A B E R Y B I R L E F O L K
      S W Y T H M I N G I C S S U F
    S W A N S E A H A M C A M E S S
      C A R D F F O X F O R D E X
          B R I S T L O N D O N
    D E V O N D O H A M P K E N T
  C O R N W R S E T S U S S E X
A L L

  English Euphoria plc   Sharecheck
TimePriceEvent
07001.80More hooligans sent home
[share price updated later]

 Saturday, June 19, 2004

Home is where the Art is

Loyd Grossman was down my way yesterday evening. He was reopening the Bow Arts Trust, a huge studio space for 90 local artists carved out of an old nunnery. Yes, nunnery. We have proper history round where I live, remember? The front of the studio building used to be a drab slab of rundown Victorian brickwork. Not any more. A precisely constructed array of jet black planks has given the front of the building a striking new look, while a series of glowing fluorescent tubes now dangle over the lane down the side. Just a few thousand pounds of carefully placed design work has given a real lift to the street on which I live.

The Bow Arts Trust throws its doors open for one weekend every June for an 'Open Studios' event. We local residents were specially invited to last night's 'Private View', mainly so we didn't complain too loudly about the racket a guitar band was going to make in the courtyard until midnight. I missed seeing Loyd open proceedings in the Nunnery gallery, which was probably just as well, but I took the opportunity to look round the premises all the same. There were artists tucked into every cranny of that old building, lurking behind plasterboard partitions and hidden up rickety staircases in attic rooms. A swarm of Hoxtonites swept through the exhibition like locusts, fags and lager in hand, devouring each installation with faint praise.

I was able to see what entry-level modern art looks like, from sculpture to photography to drawing to glasswork to stonemasonry to mysterious twirly plastic phallic objects drooping from the wall. And paintings too, lots of them, some beautiful, some bland, some clever, some featureless, some inspiring, some slapdash, some devotional, and some so dull that even I could have painted them. Wish I had actually, there was an £850 price tag on one of the really poor ones. But I was impressed by much that I saw. Joseph Joy's portraits had an appealing simplicity and Anniken Amundsen's textile jellyfish floated my boat. Praise too for Mark Brogan's physical installations and Jonty Lees' turntable spirals. I was very much taken by Danny Cuming's bold graphic art and Zoe Marsden's contoured cartography. And I was enthralled by Tanya Millard's photographic montage showing every London bus from 1 to 100 arranged in ten rows of ten (photo here), but then I would be wouldn't I?

The relaunch of the Bow Arts Trust heralds the beginning of the development of an 'arts hub' round where I live, apparently. Bow Church is already floodlit and hosts the occasional arty show. And now, I kid you not, there are plans to restore the dilapidated Victorian public toilets on the traffic island outside the church and open them up as an exhibition space. Those toilets have been chained up for years, the original "terrazzo floors, glazed tiles and carved architraves" decaying slowly beneath the pavement. Soon there could be a Turner-nominated artist installing a mini-gallery among the urinals. I look forward to attending the opening night. And so close to my house too - imagine the convenience.

  English Euphoria plc   Sharecheck
TimePriceEvent
07002.10Holding steady
[share price updated tomorrow]

 Friday, June 18, 2004

  English Euphoria plc   Sharecheck
TimePriceEvent
07002.00Anyone can beat Switzerland
19002.10Anyone can beat Croatia too
[share price updated tomorrow]

I suspect you fall into one of these three categories. Do please tell me which.

Did you see the football yesterday? I did. I left work early so I could see it all. I'm like that me, I just have to be watching. I bet the roads were really quiet at 5pm because everyone was either at home or down the pub. It was a match we really had to win, wasn't it, otherwise we'd be on our way home and that would be well sad. They're not the toughest team Switzerland, but even a weak team can beat you on an off day can't they? My heart was in my mouth when we kicked off. But oh dear we were playing like wusses to begin with. When Rooney got booked I nearly stormed off to my local shopping centre and threw a brick through the window, but I thought better of it. And then he scored! I was almost as excited as Wayne but I can't do a flying handstand like he can. And then he scored again! That boy's a record breakingly young genius, even if he has got a mighty hairy chest for an 18 year old. Suppose it was only fair Gerrard should get the third and that was it, a right thrashing for the Swiss. Gave me a right patriotic hard on that did. It may not have been a great game but it's the result that counts isn't it? Quarter finals here we come. Just so long as Croatia don't beat us on Monday. I think I need to get a few more crates of lager in.
Did you see Big Brother yesterday? I did. I was up really late watching it on E4 and I saw it all I did. I thought it was great how they kept Emma and Michelle in that 70s bedsit for nearly a week, they were going mad they were. And then they stuck them back into the house hidden under a table which was genius. Marco and Nadia shrieked didn't they but Jason and Victor were really pissed off to see them back you could tell. And then it all kicked off. I knew that dozy Emma wouldn't be able to keep her mouth shut for long. There was yelling and punching and screaming and all because of a pathetic food fight. They are so juvenile some of those housemates. That gang of immature little children needs a good kicking just to shut the bastards up. And then oh my god people started threatening to kill each other which is a crime and it got really nasty and they had to send the security guards in. It's calmed down a lot in there since but wow what great telly that was. Have you read that Ben Elton book 'Dead Famous'? I think it's all coming true. Producers were asking for trouble sticking 12 unstable nutters in the house this year in the first place if you ask me. Bet the advertisers are delighted though. Vanessa for the eviction tonight she's a cow.
I really couldn't care less about either of them.

 Thursday, June 17, 2004

  English Euphoria plc   Sharecheck
TimePriceEvent
07000.75Fresh start. Come on England!
17000.80Kickoff - there's always hope
17231.25And Rooney scores!!!
18302.00And Rooney scores again!!!
18372.25And Gerrard scores!!!
18482.50Full time - an easy win
[share price updated again at 7am]

dgTunes

dgTunes is now available in the UK. dgTunes is your new online music delivery service. dgTunes helps you to find new music that perfectly suits your style and mood. The dgTunes Music Store is open for you to spend money 24 hours a day. dgTunes tunes cost just 79p each, which means you can construct your own 17-track compilation CD for only £13.43. dgTunes tunes are encrypted to stop you copying them too many times, because that would be naughty. dgTunes tunes are small packets of digitised data with no sleeve notes, but who wants to read those anyway?

It’s never been easier to browse through and sample the inventory of an online music store. It's never been more convenient to download past classics and fresh talent to your hard drive. It's never been simpler to spend money on something which only a few weeks ago you were downloading illegally for free. It's never been more urgent that you prop up greedy record executives before all of them go bankrupt. The future of music has arrived, and it costs money again. Please sign up now before their vast bloated profit margins begin to suffer.

Instructions for use: Click on loudspeaker icon. Wait. Click again. Click a couple more times. Don't be surprised if nothing's happened yet because the launch of our new service really is jolly popular. Click again, more desperately now. This is progress, you know. And that's five clicks so far which is £3.95 you've spent already. Thankyou. Please don't worry if the download window hasn't opened yet. You probably bought this very same track on CD about ten years ago. You could even go and play it if only you could be bothered to walk across the room to your record collection. But we're counting on you not remembering that.

dgTunesOnline music directory (13 tracks now available)
Kim Appleby - Don't Worry (79p)
Kajagoogoo - Big Apple (79p)
Appleton - Fantasy (79p)
Perez 'Prez' Prado - Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White (79p)
Gladys Knight and the Pips - Midnight Train To Georgia (79p)
Elvis Presley - Crying In The Chapple (79p)
Stranglers - Golden Delicious (79p)
Jucio Iglesias - Begin The Beguine (79p)
Billy Pippin - Day And Night (79p)
Buzzcox - Ever Fallen In Love (79p)
Bramley & Monica - The Boy Is Mine (79p)
Diana Ross - Upcider Down (79p)
Dave Edmunds - Girl Stalk (79p)

Also available: dgTunes Online Ringtone Store
For those people who want to spend three times as much on a barely recognisable track with no lyrics, less than a quarter of the proper length and which you're only going to cut off after five seconds anyway because its polyphonic dischords are so tastelessly embarrassing.

 Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Bloomsday 100

If you want to write a successful book these days, one of the bandwagons you might want to jump on is the 'book of the year'. Pick a year, write about it. There's a book called 1979 (in which Rhona Cameron relates life growing up in a small Scottish fishing village). There's a book called 1968 (in which the world comes to terms with sex, drugs and social upheaval). There's a book called London 1945 (in which the capital struggles into peacetime austerity). Then there are books called 1812, 1759, 1603, 1421 and 1215. Not forgetting 1984 and 2001 of course. If you ever plan on becoming a top-selling author it sounds like you'd better pick your year now and start writing before the whole millennium gets snapped up.

However, one of the greatest works of modern fiction wasn't a 'book of the year' but a 'book of the day'. James Joyce's famous novel Ulysses was played out on the streets of Dublin exactly 100 years ago today on 16 June 1904. The story, such as it is, follows two upstanding citizens as they wander the streets of the city doing nothing much. Nevertheless an awful lot of nothing much happens. Not that you care, because this is one of the most impenetrable books ever written, combining erudite vocabulary with Greek myth and a frightening lack of punctuation. Admit it, it's one of those worthy books you have no plans ever to read. Never mind, now you can hold your own in scholarly conversation by using this handy bluffer's guide to one of the world's toughest novels.

1) Joyce's main characters in Ulysses are teacher Stephen Dedalus and salesman Leopold Bloom. Their paths cross infrequently during the novel, and they end up urinating together in Bloom's back garden.
2) The plot, such as it is, mirrors Homer's epic Odyssey. Which you've never read either.
3) You can read a brief summary of the plot of Ulysses here. However, knowing my readership, you'll prefer the cartoon version with stick men. You can also try reading the whole unabridged book here, but I bet you don't make it even a quarter of the way to the end of the first chapter.
4) Joyce set his book on 16 June 1904 because that was the day he went on his first date with Nora Barnacle, the hotel chambermaid who later became his wife.
5) The people of Dublin have celebrated Bloomsday every year since 16 June 1954. Any excuse for a drink. There are especially big celebrations this year. Further details about 16 June 2004 in a special one-day-only Bloomsday blog.
6) In Chapter 4 Bloom buys fresh offal for breakfast, dining on "grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine." Unfortunately this is the section of the story that tends to be recreated every Bloomsday. This and the drinking.
7) Chapter 10 is the only chapter not based on the Odyssey, containing 19 stories of Dubliners out walking after lunch. Joyce once said "I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book."
8) The final chapter is a 63-page punctuation-free monologue delivered by Bloom's wife Molly. It contains a few rude bits which helped to get the book censored in 1922 for "unmitigated filth and obscenity".
9) The book ends on page 933 with a famous 'Yes'. Like this... "and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes."
10) The novel Ulysses has nothing at all to do with Ulysses 31, a shallow Japanese cartoon series from your childhood featuring a blue alien girl called Yumi and a red robot called No-No. No.

  English Euphoria plc   Sharecheck
TimePriceEvent
07000.60Should beat the Swiss tomorrow
19000.50Might not though, what then?
[share price updated at 7am]

 Tuesday, June 15, 2004

  English Euphoria plc   Sharecheck
TimePriceEvent
07000.40Ah well, it's only a game
19000.30No, it's far more important
[share price updated at 7am]

BB Selecta

Ahmed:
Dan:
Emma:
Jason:
Kitten:
Marco:
Michelle:
Nadia:
Shell:
Stuart:
Vanessa:
Victor:
(maybe you have some more to contribute...)


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