diamond geezer

 Saturday, July 31, 2004

10 reasons why I hate barbecues

1) Normally food is cooked in a spotlessly clean kitchen. At a barbecue food is cooked on a rusty grill which birds have probably used as a toilet on a daily basis since last summer.
2) Normally women do the cooking because men are rubbish at it. At a barbecue men insist on cooking, only to discover that they're still rubbish at it.
3) Normally food takes minutes to cook. At a barbecue the charcoal takes half the afternoon to ignite, then the food takes the rest of the afternoon to cook, and even then it isn't cooked.
4) Normally while food is cooking you can go and watch the television or read a book or something. At a barbecue you have to suffer endless small talk in the garden with the other ne'er-do-wells who've been invited to this neverending social event.
5) Normally food is sprinkled with a selection of seasonings, oils and herbs. At a barbecue food is sprinkled with flies and dead midges.
6) Normally food is edible. At a barbecue all food becomes coated by an impenetrable layer of jet black carbon.
7) Normally all food is fully cooked before eating. At a barbecue the middle of everything always remains stubbornly red raw, no matter how black the outside is.
8) Normally people eat a well-balanced diet including protein, carbohydrate and vitamins. At a barbecue people eat an unbalanced diet of fat, charcoal and more fat.
9) Normally food is eaten in a refined manner using cutlery. At a barbecue food is torn apart by sticky fingers then rammed into the mouth in an unappetising neanderthal manner.
10) Normally all the food you cook gets eaten. At a barbecue half the food you sweated buckets to cook ends up being thrown away because nobody can actually eat their full allocation of six chicken breasts, five jacket potatoes, four burgers, three kebabs, two bowls of salad and a large steak.

Barbecues eh? Who'd have 'em?

 Friday, July 30, 2004

Once In A Blue Moon

Definition
: A Blue Moon is the second Full Moon in a single calendar month.*

There was a Full Moon on 2nd July at 11:09 (GMT)
There is a Full Moon tomorrow at 18:05 (GMT)
So tomorrow's Full Moon is a Blue Moon.

Blue Moons are rare, hence the phrase "once in a Blue Moon" meaning 'not very often'.
Blue Moons are rare because Full Moons are 29½ days apart, which is only just shorter than a month of 30 or 31 days.
There cannot be a Blue Moon in February because it's too short.
There are more Blue Moons in October, August and July than in any other months.

Blue Moons happen roughly every 2½ years. That's about 41 times a century.
The last Blue Moon was on 30th November 2001, and the next two will be on 30th June 2007 and 31st December 2009.
Very occasionally there are two Blue Moons in a year. This happens where there is no Full Moon in February. This last happened in 1999 and 1961, and will next happen in 2018 and 2037.

Very very occasionally the Moon really does look blue. This is a different sort of Blue Moon. The blue colour is caused by dust or smoke thrown high in the Earth's atmosphere by, for example, major volcanic eruptions like Krakatoa, Mount St Helens or Mount Pinatubo.

A special message to readers in Australia, New Zealand and the Far East: you don't have a Blue Moon this month. Tomorrow's Full Moon falls just after your midnight, which therefore becomes the full Moon in August. So you lot have a Blue Moon on 30th August instead.

For much more information about Blue Moons check out this website, including a Blue Moon Calculator.

* Be aware that the generally-accepted definition of a Blue Moon (the second Full Moon in a month) isn't traditional at all and was actually invented by a journalist 60 years ago. The magazine in question has apologised for its error. Proper history here.

Blue moon, you saw me standing alone, without a dream in my heart, without a love of my own. Blue moon, you knew just what I was there for, you heard me saying a prayer for, someone I really could care for. Bom, bom bom bom, bom bom, bom bom bom. Bom bom, bom bom bom, a dang, a dang dang dang. A ding a dong ding. Blue moon!

 Thursday, July 29, 2004

Something old, something new, something Bow Road, something blue

Bow Road station is old, 102 years old to be accurate. Bow Road Station is new, or at least it will be if the current renovation work ever finishes begins. Bow Road is my local station, so I'm getting a little annoyed by it not being open all the time for no obvious reason. And Bow Road is blue, because almost every available surface has been covered by a protective blue wall.

There are eight blue walls at Bow Road station in total - two outside on the pavement, one in the ticket hall, three on the westbound platform and two on the eastbound platform. They vary in size from 'really quite short' to 'longer than a train'. And every single one of them has been covered with signage by some Transport for London safety operative with an obsession for risk assessment. Honestly, you'd think Bow Road station was the most dangerous place in the world given the number of safety signs that have been erected over the last six months. No matter that ordinary stations can get by with just a handful. And no matter that no obvious work seems to be going on to justify the enormous additional signage tally (nearly 200 at latest count).

Yesterday that tally increased. Three enormous new signs appeared, each on a different blue wall and spaced out along the platforms. Each sign is made up of 6 or 7 panels, each about two metres high and half a metre wide. Most of the panels depict big bold representations of hammers, screwdrivers and other construction tools, all made out of tube line graphics. Two of the panels namecheck 'Transport For London', to whom we the lucky passengers of Bow Road should be eternally grateful. And one board outlines all the good new things that are coming to pass at our station, like the installation of more seats (probably to replace the seats they took away when the blue walls were first erected). The bad news is that, apparently, work at Bow Road is due to continue until July 2005, nine months later than originally planned, so you're lumbered with my regular renovation updates for another year at least. Oh joy.

So today I thought I'd treat you to an obsessive list of all the signs and items of associated safetyware to be found on the blue walls of Bow Road station. Because I can. Because it gobsmacks me. And because nobody arrested me while I was recording it.

Key: [ad] London Underground advert, [adf] London Underground advert frame, [ap] Assembly point, [aph] Auto phone, [bc] directions to Bow Church DLR station, [BR] Bow Road roundel, [cse] Caution Site Entrance, [dv] All drivers and visitors must report to the site office, [fa] Fire Alarm, [fe] Fire Escape Keep Clear, [fp] Fire Point (with extinguisher), [fx] Fire Exit Keep Clear, [g] big bold graphic, [int] intercom, [map] London Underground map, [ns] No Smoking, [nu] No unauthorised persons admitted beyond this point, [o] orange safety light, [ru] renovation update, [sc] Surveillance cameras in constant operation, [sf] Safety helmets and safety footwear must be worn, [sh] Safety helmets must be worn, [sl] Storage licence, [slf] Storage licence frame, [so] Site office, [SS] Site Safety instructions, [sap] SAP, [tp] list of ticket prices, [wa] We apologise for any inconvenience caused, [TfL] Transport for London, [wo] Way Out, [wp] shabby word-processed message to site contractors, <doorway>, / corner.
n.b. Signs not yet erected, but whose eventual presence is indicated by a small white rectangular sticker, are shown in round brackets.
n.b. All signs are listed from left to right, and from top to bottom.


Blue wall 1: Pavement, left of station entrance
[fx] <[fe][fe]> [o] [o][adf] [o] [adf] [o][adf] [o][ad] / [o][ns]

Blue wall 2: Pavement, right of station entrance (see photo above)
[o] [ad] [adf] [o] [o] [o] [sc][wa][dv][sf] [o] [o] / [o][so→] [o] [o][sl] [o] [o] / [o] [dv][sf][SS][ap][sap] <[fx][nu]> [wp]

Blue wall 3: Ticket hall, eastern wall
[sl][ns][ad] <(fx)(nu)(cse)> [tp](sh)(adf) / (wa)

Blue wall 4: Westbound platform, eastern wall
<(cse)[sh]> [sh] [sl] [TfL][g][g][g][g][ru][TfL] [bc][wo→] (we) [sh] <(fx)(nu)>


Blue wall 5: Westbound platform, middle wall (east of stairs)
[bc][wo→] [BR] [sl] [sc][sh] <[cse](fx)(nu)> [int] [ad] [ns] [ad] [wa] [fa]

Blue wall 6: Westbound platform, western wall (west of stairs)
[map] <[fx][nu][cse]> (sf)[sl] [ad] [ad] [bc][wo←] [ad] [ad] [BR] [map] [ad] [ns] [ad] [sc][wa] [TfL][g][g][g][ru][TfL] [bc][wo←] [ns][fa] [bc][wo←] [BR] [ad] [ns] [ad] [sl] <[fx][nu][cse] [sh]> [ad] <[fx][nua]> [ns] [bc][wo←] [ns] (sh) [bc][wo←] [BR] (wa)(sh) <[fx][nu](cse)> [ns] [BR] [bc][wo←] [fa] [sl] [ns] [wa] [bc][wo←] [BR] [ns] [aph]

Blue wall 7: Eastbound platform, western wall (west of stairs)
[sf] <[fx][nu][cse]> [slf][sh][sl] [ns] [bc][wo→] [ns][fa] [ns] <[sh][fx][nu][cse]> [ns] [BR] [ns] [bc][wo→] [wa] [BR] [wa][fa] [bc][wo→] [TfL][g][g][g][g][ru][TfL] [sl] [ns] [BR] [ns] [bc][wo→] [ad] [ad] [ns] [ad] [map] [wa][sc] [BR] [ad] [ad] [ad] [ns] [adf] [ad] [bc][wo→] [sl] [nu][fx][cse] <[sf]>[ad]



Blue wall 8: Eastbound platform, eastern wall (see photo above)
[wa] [map] [ns][sl] [ad][fp] [BR] [bc][wo←] [sh] <(fx)(nu)[cse]> [int]

 Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Number quiz: Here are twenty cryptic clues, the answers to which are the numbers from one to twenty. It'll help if you think words (one two three...) rather than digits (1 2 3). Can you calculate which number is which? (Answers in the comments box)

A) fen route?K) some of our letters
B) back of netL) not Celsius, in effect?
C) crazy sex niteM) it went yellow in part
D) half of it won'tN) the genie reappeared
E) is back with kissO) happening in observed
F) lost in the etherP) french pupil (northern)
G) thin tree sawn upQ) distance upward, topless
H) roman four in ironR) England boss takes ecstacy
I) reverse in openingS) Roxy synth player in reverse
J) two + eleven - oneT) shift it northeast three times

 Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Top 3 - end of July 1964 (it's classic)
1) A Hard Day's Night (Beatles)
2) It's All Over Now (Rolling Stones)
3) I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself (Dusty Springfield)
Also in the Top 10: House Of The Rising Sun (Animals), Do Wah Diddy Diddy (Manfred Mann), It's Over (Roy Orbison)
Number 1 album: A Hard Day's Night (Beatles)

Top 3 - end of July 1974 (it's laidback)
1) Rock Your Baby (George McCrae)
2) She (Charles Aznavour)
3) Born With a Smile On My Face (Stephanie De Sykes)
Also in the Top 10: Kissin In The Back Row (Drifters), Band On The Run (Wings), When Will I See You Again (Three Degrees)
Number 1 album: Band On The Run (Wings)

Top 3 - end of July 1984 (it's controversial)
1) Two Tribes (Frankie Goes To Hollywood)
2) Hole In My Shoe (neil)
3) Relax (Frankie Goes To Hollywood)
Also in the Top 10: When Doves Cry (Prince), What's Love Got To Do With It (Tina Turner), Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper), White Lines (Don't Don't Do It) (Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel), Young at Heart (Bluebells), I Won't Let The Sun Go Down On Me (Nik Kershaw), Love Resurrection (Alison Moyet) (sorry, I couldn't resist mentioning the whole top ten there - mighty fine!)
Number 1 album: Legend (Bob Marley & The Wailers)

Top 3 - end of July 1994 (it's bland)
1) Love Is All Around (Wet Wet Wet)
2) I Swear (All-4-One)
3) (Meet) The Flintstones (BC-52s)
Also in the Top 10: Crazy For You (Let Loose), Shine (Aswad), Let's Get Ready To Rhumble (PJ & Duncan)
Number 1 album: End Of Part One (Their Greatest Hits) (Wet Wet Wet)

Top 3 - end of July 2004 (it's geezertastic)
1) Dry Your Eyes (The Streets)
2) Lola's Theme (Shapeshifters)
3) Some Girls (Rachel Stevens)
Also in the Top 10: Satellite Of Love (Lou Reed)
Number 1 album: A Grand Don't Come For Free (The Streets)

 Monday, July 26, 2004

Routemaster 50

London's favourite bus is 50 years old this year, and to celebrate there was a grand gathering of Routemasters in Finsbury Park over the weekend. Lots of them. And crowds of bus enthusiasts came along to admire them all too. It's not every day you see 75 buses all lined up in a row (except perhaps down Oxford Street in the rush hour) so this was a rare photo opportunity not to be missed. And it was free, and it only rained for a few minutes. See the official website here, Inspector Sands' write-up here and Matt's photo report covering both days here.

The line of Routemasters stretched down the hill in Finsbury Park for as far as the eye could see. In amongst the buses on show were nine of the first ten Routemasters ever built, including RM6 (pictured here in special gold livery). Most of the vehicles on display had been lovingly restored and were in almost mint condition, although others seemed barely off the scrap heap. Many featured period adverts ("Ladies - always shop between 10 and 4!") and one had been dressed up as the purple triple-decker Knight Bus to promote the latest Harry Potter movie. All sorts of unlikely destinations were on show, from Windsor to the Wirral and from Canvey Island to Växjö (it's in Sweden).

There were stalls selling all sorts of bus memorabilia, including models, magazines, videos and photographs. I realised that some of the old 1970s London Bus maps I have stored away in my spare room must be worth at least, ooh, £2 to a willing enthusiast. I doubt I'll be selling them yet. And there were also free bus rides to be taken, not round the park but out on the real roads between Manor House and Seven Sisters stations. It was especially good to ride aboard an open-topped special all the way along route 259 from Tottenham to Kings Cross. Ah, the strange looks we got at bus stops from passengers expecting a more normal service to arrive.

And finally there were the bus afficionados themselves. Average age about 50, which was quite appropriate given the event, and almost all male of course. If you have any preconceptions of how a bus-spotter might look then let me assure you that only half of them looked like that, and not all of them were wearing beige. Many of these addicts walked up and down the line of buses jotting down serial numbers in their tattered notebooks, although I thought this was cheating somewhat because all the hard work had been done for them. One particularly gauche dad barked orders at his two young daughters as he led them round their worst nightmare ("No girls, move apart so my camera can still see the numberplate").


The whole event appeared to be a homage not just to the Routemaster but also to digital photography. No matter which way you walked, someone was pointing a lens across your path trying to snap yet another picture of an old bus. I tried to be polite and keep out of people's viewfinders but it was an impossible task most of the time. Then I'd spot the perfect angle for a photo myself except that there were hordes of people in the way, usually taking photographs of something different, so I'd hang around for ages in case all of them moved out of the way simultaneously which alas they never quite did. And there just behind us, over the fence outside the park, a steady flow of modern red London buses plied their scheduled routes up the Seven Sisters Road. And not one person took a photograph of any of them, which I think summed up the whole event perfectly.

 Sunday, July 25, 2004

St Swithin's update (day 10)

July 15th:        
July 16th-25th:

The Twelve Tasks of Hercules Terrace - Richard Herring (Latchmere Theatre, SW11)

The Edinburgh Festival approacheth, and London's comedians are busy sharpening up their acts in readiness for a month of Scottish exposure. Which is great, because it means we southerners get to see top Fringe shows at half the price and without having to travel up North for hours to stay in overpriced accommodation. Which is why I was over in Battersea last night sitting in a tiny theatre above a pub along with 100 other comedy misers. Onstage was Richard Herring, the half of Fist of Fun that didn't go on to write Jerry Springer The Opera, but more importantly the only half to write a daily blog that appears in my sidebar.

Normally when I review a cultural event or something I can rely on the artist not reading my review. However it is possible that Richard will swan in and read what I've written, particularly if you lot all clink on this link and go and read his blog called 'Warming Up' which is bloody good. And I shall also offer some suggestions on how the show could be even better, but only because Richard is still perfecting writing it, and because I was too socially inept to hang around the bar after last night's performance to discuss it face to face. Here's the press release summary of this latest comedy masterpiece.
Comedian Richard Herring is going through a mid-life crisis. Depressed and disorientated after having split up with his girlfriend, moved house and been stricken with writer's block, he resolves to take inspiration from the bust of Hercules that graces the front of his new home and perform twelve impossible or arduous labours in the hope of giving his 37 years on this planet some kind of meaning. Will the small, fat man from Somerset prove that he is a match for the bronzed and toned Roman demi-god? Or, more likely, will he not?
Regular readers of Richard's blog will be familiar with the concept of CPNS (Consecutive Number Plate Spotting). This is the glue that holds the performance together, the frankly insane challenge of spotting all of the numbers from 1 to 999 on car numberplates in the correct order. CNPS is a surprisingly good comedy topic and I was laughing along with the rest of the audience, despite my guilty secret that I too have played this game, right through to its conclusion. It took me four years, although Richard is now just 14 numbers from the end after just 20 months. If only I'd thought to keep my own obsessive notebook of cars, addresses and parking spaces then maybe I could have finished sooner too (although I will confess to having occasionally taken a different route home just to spot a particularly awkward number, just like Richard).

The show also recounts twelve separate challenges, each loosely based on one of the twelve fabled Herculean tasks, and each worthy of a lengthy sub-routine. The joy of Richard's tasks is in the detail - the virgin he chose not to sacrifice to the Loch Ness Monster, the rowing accident that nearly blinded an opposing oarsman, the realisation that elephant dung smells like a certain Weight Watchers product, and so on. His attempt to date 50 different women in 50 consecutive evenings is probably rich enough to merit an entire show of its own. Alas here all twelve tasks have to be fitted into the straightjacket of a one hour performance. One hour, twelve tasks - that's five minutes each. Add in a ten minute introduction and a two minute conclusion and that's just four minutes each. And it's not enough. Richard was able to relate only the first five tasks of Hercules Terrace before his time was up, which was a shame because we could have happily sat there and listened to another hour at least. We heard only sketchy details of his parachute jump, his tennis disaster, his nude Spanish protest and his tussle with Argos head office, plus a quick read through of the frosty letter he received this weekend from Germaine Greer. Our loss.

I suspect that this anecdotal surplus is a consequence of Richard being a comedy blogger. In writing over 600 daily blogposts he's composed so much quality material that it's almost impossible to thin it down to a sixty minute show. To do justice to all the possible content would take at least a six episode Radio 4 comedy series. Thankfully all of us online can read the fully detailed background stories on his blog, but in the theatre we were just left feeling as if we missed out. So Richard, ditch the stuff about how good and worthy the rowing and the marathon running were because that was just getting admiration, not laughs. Four minutes per task, that's all you've got to play with. But you did manage to make me laugh out loud, and believe me that's a lot harder than you might think. Now go conquer Edinburgh.

 Saturday, July 24, 2004

Fountain of Strife

They've closed down the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain again. Again. Again. They closed it down on its second day after unseasonably heavy rain caused the area inside the fountain to flood. They closed it down in its second week for what they told us was routine maintenance, but which seemed a bit too quick to be routine. And they closed it down on Thursday because it's dangerous and people keep falling over. It's still closed. It's a bit of a fiasco really.

I visited the fountain with my nephews and niece on what turned out to be one of its few functioning days. The fountain exerts a hypnotic influence on children who are irresistably drawn to remove their shoes and socks and go paddling in the water. After a minute or two splashing about in situ they decide to go for a walk all the way around the fountain, just because they can. Off they splash exploring all the different textures underfoot, paddling through the shallows, wading through pools and climbing mini waterfalls. And it's great fun. And then they fall over. And then they cry.

My niece was the first to slip. She didn't fall too badly and merely got rather wetter than originally planned, but this was the signal for our party to exit the fountain and attempt to dry off. We watched a small boy slip on the granite just a few feet away from us, then quickly pick himself up and continue his circuit rather more cautiously. And then another girl fell over. She'd come down to enjoy the fountain with her posh mother on what must have been the au pair's day off. Thwack, over went the little princess into the water and a few minutes of bawling and sobbing ensued. Such great entertainment, although probably not the serious tribute that was planned.

I'm not at all surprised to hear that three visitors slipped over on Thursday and had to be taken to hospital. Hard rock, running water, excitable children - what did the designers expect? It's sadly appropriate that a memorial to a nasty accident is now busy causing accidents of its own. Diana once said she wanted to have something worthy like a hospital wing named after her. I'd like to suggest that they set up a Princess Di Memorial First Aid Hut here instead. Assuming anyone ever takes a trip again.

 Friday, July 23, 2004

IM online

Blogging is two-way online communication, of a sort. I write something, you lot comment on it. Then I might comment back and sometimes a sort of conversation starts up. Admittedly there are a lot of other blogs where the conversational aspect applies far more than here, but even then it's not true two-way interaction because blogger and reader are never quite equal. You might choose to email me instead if you have something particularly strong to say, although that's the online version of letter-writing and there are long pauses between replies. Or you might want to pick up the online equivalent of the telephone and start up a conversation using Instant Messaging.

IM is great, as you'll know if you use it. You can talk to someone down the road or on the other side of the world without paying for any more than your existing internet connection. You can communicate as fast as you can type, but you also have the opportunity to pause and think of a suitable response before replying with your next comment. You can keep in touch with people you might never ring up and actually speak to. And with broadband you have an always-on connection to people you really want to talk with. My best mate moved from London to San Francisco last year but we still chat virtually virtually every day. I know when he's having lunch and he knows what time I go to bed. Sometimes he even waves back.

The first online messaging system I ever used was IRC, a channel-based connection tool with rather a techie feel to it. You could never ever call it user-friendly, with arcane rules and inbuilt hierarchies, but at the time (1988, and for me 1997) it was cutting-edge revolutionary stuff. The discovery that there were other people online and that you could talk to them in real time gave the internet one of its first killer applications. Changed my life anyway, completely and utterly. And then in 1995 there was ICQ, a squeaky pop-up messaging programme, adding colour and sound effects in an attempt to build an international online community. Remember the little green flower logo? My ICQ number is way up in the 86 millions, but that still makes me an early adopter. Both IRC and ICQ have fallen by the wayside in recent years, the former now full of Germans and the latter absorbed by up-and-coming AOL.

These days we have three big messaging clients - MSN, Yahoo and AIM. The global corporations are in charge, enticing us to set up an account with them and sign away our souls. The three systems are incompatible, naturally, so to talk to everybody you have to register with all three. Me I went one better and downloaded Trillian, an ingenious portmanteau program that allows me to chat to users of all three systems (and more) simultaneously via just one application. Highly recommended for avoiding multiple window overload and the surreptitious advertising that's creeping in on the official portals these days.

But you probably know all this already because you use online messaging services yourself. Fancy a chat? I've spoken to some of my readers already and very pleasant it's been too. I posted three of my Messenger IDs on here last Saturday and a number of you were kind/daring enough to add me to your list of online contacts. I'd not say no to a few more of you signing up if you were interested (MSN: dgeezr, Yahoo: dgeezr, AIM: dgeezr). Don't expect me to reply straight away because I'm offline all day while I'm at work, but we might fit in a chat some other time. I would say a special hello to Kev and Anni and Uncle H and Alan and Peter and Andy and Storme and Dave and Maddie and Jag and Chz, but I don't need to say hello on here because they said hello to me on there. Hello to the rest of you?

 Thursday, July 22, 2004

I blog therefore I am

Blogging is getting serious. It's not just a bunch of people publishing their thoughts online as part of a hobby-type activity thing, oh no. It's a bunch of people publishing their thoughts online and being analysed by academics, oh yes. Blogging must be at least semi-important now because it's become the subject of research.

Last Saturday a big conference was held at the University of London, an austere seat of learning tucked in between Russell Square and the British Museum. The Literary London Conference investigated, amongst other things, "the changing cultural and historical geography of London" and "how the pluralism of London literature is reflected in London society". I'm sure you've all discussed these weighty issues down the pub recently. These topics were properly dissected by fellow blogger James Blogwell (aka Ralph) who delivered a fine paper to the conference entitled "London Blogging: Weblog Culture and Urban Lives". You can read a copy here. And here's a brief extract:
The notion of a community is important in considering the overall significance of London weblogs. I’d like to suggest that the typical interconnectedness of weblogs make them particularly appropriate as a form to the complex communal space of the contemporary city. London, as a multicultural, global city, linked in ever more complicated ways with the world outside as it is linked internally, demands media that can offer their own congruent forms of interconnectivity. Any weblog, being part of a virtual network of websites, including other weblogs, offers distinct advantages as a form of representating and mediating London as itself a kind of network society.
Ralph argues that London weblogs are a dynamic new way of representing the city, reshaping traditional notions of 'literary London'. He contends that London weblogs are "able to represent London itself as process: a city continually changing, a city in flux." And he uses a small selection of London blogs to illustrate his hypothesis, including this one. I'm honoured. As are Jag, Lisa and Tom. Apparently we each participate in "what one critic has called ‘electronic flânerie’— cruising the city (as well as the internet) like a flâneur, in search of novelty and edification." I plead guilty. Cheers Ralph.

Like all good academics Ralph also quotes from other researchers. He refers to one recent study which considers the reasons why bloggers blog in the first place. So, dear reader, which of the following five categories best represents your motivation for blogging? Your reply doesn't have to be 8000 words long with full bibliography. I think I'm a 2 with a bit of 4 myself.
    1) Life-documentation
    2) Commentary (on environment, news, media, internet, etc)
    3) Catharsis (or the purging of negative feelings)
    4) Thinking by writing (using a weblog as a thinking tool)
    5) Construction of community (many weblogs allow the sharing of help, support, and friendship from known and unknown readers)

Select academic works
• Parfect, Ralph, 'London Blogging: Weblog Culture and Urban Lives'
• Blood, Rebecca, 'Weblogs: a history and perspective'
• Nardi, Bonnie A. et al, '"I'm blogging this": A Closer Look at Why People Blog'
• Herring, Susan C. et al, 'Bridging the Gap: A Genre Analysis of Weblogs'
• Geezer, Diamond, 'London Geezer'

 Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Sports Relief: Where has all the sport gone? Usually we're dripping with it, but this week the back pages of the nation's newspapers are struggling to fill their allocated space. Which is odd because it's the height of summer, the weather's perfect for sport and there's plenty of daylight. There's just no sport around. I refuse to count endless speculation about the football transfer market as sport because it's really business instead, and very boring business at that, but take transfer deals away and there's virtually nothing left. There's athletics, but that's just a lot of British non-entities trying desperately to qualify for the Olympics. There's cricket, but even a top test match fails to register in the public consciousness these days. There's cycling, but that's just a bunch of dull blokes swapping jerseys on a month-long French holiday. There's racing, but then there's always racing and it's not called the 'flat' season for nothing. There's a Grand Prix on the horizon, but that's just a lot of expensive cars in a circuitous traffic jam. How clever of the Open Golf tournament to shoehorn itself into last weekend when there was bugger all else happening. The dullness of Troon hogged all the sports headlines by default, whereas on almost any other weekend it would have been drowned by something more interesting. Can we survive this sporting drought for another couple of weeks until the double whammy of the new football season and the Olympics hit with a vengeance? I suspect so. Enjoy the peace while it lasts. And maybe spend the next fortnight reading the paper from the front for a change.

Today's Special: Channel 4 is running a very short series of very short films about London's classic caffs. Last night we were treated to a peek inside the Copper Grill and the Piccolo near Liverpool Street, both of which sadly closed last month. City redevelopment, pah! Tonight (7:55pm) it's the turn of the New Piccadilly, Soho's finest formica temple. Read and revere here, here and here. Sausage, beans and chips, anyone?

 Tuesday, July 20, 2004



Crossrail is finally set to get Government backing today. But not Government money. Someone somewhere is going to have to raise £10 billion to fund this sub-London pipedream. Here are a few fundraising possibilities - although you may have additional ideas...

a) Get multinational companies to sponsor each of the new stations, perhaps renaming them (from west to east) British Airways, Selfridges, Virgin Megastore, Sainsbury, Lloyd's, Whitbread, HSBC and Poundstretcher.
b) Divert one of the western branches to Chelsea and ask Mr Abramovich to pay up.
c) Hire students to walk up and down tube carriages for the next decade carrying large buckets and pretending it's Rag Week.
d) Increase the Congestion Charge for BMWs to £10, for 4x4s to £100 and for black ministerial limousines to £1000.
e) When Crossrail trains are finally ready (sort of 2013-ish) set up an onboard trolley service serving up overpriced coffee and flapjacks - should make a fortune.
f) Charge every 2012 Olympic visitor a special £500 surcharge to build a rail system that won't be ready until well after the Marathon has finished.
g) Ask every business in the City to donate 0.001% of its annual share capital, or maybe get some fat suits to forego their annual bonuses for a few years.
h) Ask every Londoner to contribute 40p a day for the next 10 years. I don't mind giving up buying the Evening Standard every day if that's what it takes.

5 links
This Is Not London - New blog on the block alert. Various detailed facts about the capital, all of which turn out to be untrue on closer inspection. Sort of thing I wish I'd thought of first. Go see. (via leptard)
John the White Rapper - Imagine Eminem meets Audio Bullies meets the ugly one from East 17. My favourite downloadable tracks are 'Girls Don't Like Me' and the Britney-sampled 'Old Snobz'. Parental Advisory - explicit content. (via Observer music mag)
Old railways map - Ever wondered where all the stations in the UK used to be before Dr Beeching shut half of them down? This up-to-date-looking map can show you (although it's work in progress and the North of England and Scotland aren't covered yet). It's a very large pdf, but well worth the effort.
The Incredibly Evil Machine - Watch little stickmen being thwacked around your screen in perpetual motion. Other netheads have run with this smart mini-concept at b3ta, so a big woo yay to them. (via In4mador)
The complete guide to Isometric Pixel Art - ie how to draw convincingly using dead simple Paint-type programs. I'd never have the patience to do it myself. (via things magazine)

 Monday, July 19, 2004

Screen 1: Spiderman 2
I watched the first Spiderman movie in New York, on its opening night no less. After the film finished I wandered out into 42nd Street where it was easy to imagine a lycra-suited superhero swinging overhead between the skyscrapers. And then I returned to my overnight lodgings via the Roosevelt Island cablecar which the Green Goblin had just destroyed totally in the film's finale. Thankfully it was still working. I watched the second Spiderman movie over the weekend in Tottenham Court Road. It's not got quite the same local atmosphere, to be honest, and our arachnid hero would have real difficulty getting around with just Centre Point and a few lampposts to hang from. But the film was dead good anyway.

S2 sees endearingingly geeky student Peter Parker struggling to come to terms with his superhero alter ego. And girls. Oh it's a tough decision to have to make - save the metropolis from crime or sleep with Mary Jane - and Spidey takes 2 hours to make up his mind. Inbetween we get a lot of soul searching, a lot of emotion, a lot of sharp comedy and a smattering of top quality action to keep us entertained. Plus we get a scientist with evil mechanical arms just for good measure ("He's called Octavius and he winds up with eight limbs! What are the chances?"). The buildings of New York take quite a beating and nearly disappear in a fusion fireball. And Peter's mask keeps disappearing in public, rather too often for my liking if they want the sequel to hold water.

The star of the piece isn't Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, although he's extremely good and desperately believable. The star isn't Alfred Molina as Doc Ock, although he makes his comicbook villain unexpectedly three-dimensional. The star isn't female, although both Kirsten Dunst and 'Aunt May' manage to escape the clutches of the human octopus without screaming the house down. The star isn't the special effects, although the action shots are seamless and the film manages to make wall-climbing look everday and commonplace. No, the star is director Sam Raimi, of Evil Dead fame, who's managed to mix the comic and the comic book in just the right proportions. You'll laugh just as much at the elevator scene as you'll gasp at the runaway train sequence. Script and screenplay are both very carefully constructed, and the whole film is a strongly recommended web sight. Marvel-lous.

Screen 2: Ju-On: the Grudge
Meanwhile, probably not showing at a cinema near you is this oriental horror flick. It stormed the box office in Japan but I suspect this subtitled slow-paced creeper is unlikely to pull any crowds here. There's this evil house on an ordinary street with a croaking white-faced secret in the attic, and everyone who visits eventually dies a horrible death. With the emphasis on the 'eventually'. There are a few genuinely shocking moments, and Sam Raimi really rated the film apparently, but your best bet is probably to wait until the Autumn when the Hollywood remake with Sarah Michelle Gellar is released. And then ignore that too.

Visitor 100000: They say a man with one watch knows what time it is, but a man with two watches is never sure. I have a similar problem with my two stats trackers. One tells me that I had fewer visitors yesterday than on any Sunday so far this year, whereas the other reports that I had my best Sunday in the last three months. Unfortunately the former is my 'official' tracker, the one that's been counting since 2002, and which has recently started miscounting by tallying my visitors only intermittently. So, despite the fact I had more than enough visitors to top 100000 yesterday, the official counter is still some 70 visitors short. I now expect the milestone to be passed sometime later this morning, by which time I'll probably be on a train to Doncaster and will miss seeing exactly who it is. Not that it really matters, given that they won't really be the 100000th visitor after all. Not that it really matters full stop. But my congratulations if it's you.

 Sunday, July 18, 2004

Hundreds and Thousands

Yes, it's true. diamond geezer's 100000th visitor is due to drop by late on Sunday evening or early Monday morning. It could be you. And I'm deeply humbled. I never thought when I started blogging that I'd ever get an audience, let alone a regular one. I have sufficient daily readers these days to fill a couple of carriages on a crowded rush hour tube train (which beats reading the Evening Standard any day). Although, viewed another way, my daily audience is lower than the population of a tiny Suffolk village, an insignificant site which few people in the rest of the world have ever heard of.

I say 100000th visitor, but what I actually mean is '100000th unique visitor registered by my stats tracking site' which is not the same thing at all. I have two different stats trackers which keep very different tallies of the number of visitors to my site. I suspect my main long-term tracker has been unreliably undercounting of late in which case the real milestone visitor slipped by unnoticed a few weeks ago. And a lot of my visitors don't mean to come here at all, they just arrive via Google (11% of visitors) or some other search engine (3%). A worrying large number have arrived from Google's incompetent image search, vainly expecting to find photos that aren't actually here. So maybe the undercounting and overcounting sort of cancel each other out.

About half of my visitors have arrived after clicking here from other sites. Which makes this a good time to update my semi-regular 'league table' of top linking blogs, ordered by volume of visitors clicking here from there. Over the last 20 months the following 20 bloggers have pushed more than fifteen thousand visitors my way, and I'd never have reached today's total without them. Cheers to the lot of you.
1) arseblog (approx 2000 visitors)
2) blue witch (1500)
3) scaryduck (1250)
4) casino avenue (1050)
5) my boyfriend is a twat (880)
6) by a woman (720)
7) linkmachinego (680)
8) route 79 (650)
9) mad musings of me (640)
10) troubled diva (620)
11) funjunkie (610)
12) samizdata (600)
13) big n juicy (560)
14) coopblog (520)
15) bitful (510)
16) london underground (500)
17) my ace life (490)
18) getting on (470)
19) swish cottage (460)
20) london calling (450)
And here's how the chart continues: 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 (250) 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 (160) 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 (120) 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 (100). There are some crackers in there. Why now click on a few yourself and take a look?

But a full third of my 100000 visitors have arrived here under their own steam, clicking from their personal list of internet bookmarks. You lot have nobody to blame but yourselves. Thanks for coming, thanks for reading, and thank you all for coming back. Here's to the next hundred thousand. Now, all I have to do is find some more stuff worth writing about...

 Saturday, July 17, 2004

Interactive blogchat experiment...
Hotmail Messenger: dgeezr
Yahoo Messenger: dgeezr
AOL Instant Messenger: dgeezr

Bow Road update: Change is afoot at my local tube station. No, really, I know I've been saying this for the last six months, but really it is. Not that I've yet seen any tangible evidence of anything actually being renovated, but we do now have some proper scaffolding erected beside the pedestrian bridge across the railway line. Who knows, maybe one day soon some workmen will actually stand on the scaffolding and regenerate the adjacent surfaces, and I'll be able to look up from the platform and see the results of their labours. Or maybe that's still expecting too much. Whatever the case, you can be assured that this non-story will continue to update daily in the comments box below.

Pheeeeeeew: OK, so Blogger's not looking quite as bad as it looked yesterday. Things were very bad indeed, but they appear to have tidied up a few gremlins and rectified a few bugs. I'm not suffering extra blank lines at the bottom of posts any more and I'm not having all my HTML changed to something complicated while I'm not looking. No longer are extra line breaks being thrown in willy nilly, neither is my browser suffering a fatal error every time I change windows. And the software gurus have added a cookie that remembers which of the two windows I like to post in, with the result that I need never end up in the flash new 'Compose' box ever again. Result. Of course the interface still isn't perfect, and the coding is still over-complicated, and the tiny non-resizeable post window is really really annoying, but at least everything is workable again. At least I'm no longer sobbing my heart out in the corner of the room. And maybe next time they roll out a new instant upgrade they'll debug it properly beforehand.

 Friday, July 16, 2004

Noooooooooo!

Those technical wizards at Blogger have suddenly decided to introduce a new 'post editor' interface. And it's a nightmare. Literally overnight, blogging is no fun any more. The entry window is tiny (it takes up just 12% of my 17 inch screen) and cannot be resized. We're now able to type in a 'what you see is what you get' post, or else we can choose to enter normal HTML as before. The new dumbed down option looks like it's been designed to make posting easier for 12-year-olds, and produces hypertext with extremely ugly and lengthy HTML coding. And the original option of entering your own HTML is far harder to follow than before. Bold text used to be denoted by the very simple <b>text</b>, which was rather cosy. About a year ago we were forced to use the 'more correct' <strong>text</strong>. And now they've gone the whole hog and introduced the madness that is <span style="font-weight:bold;">text</span>. Bastards.

Most scarily, the new default option is the dumbed down option. Write a post, save it and then return to the edit window and you're dumped unceremonially on the 'Compose' tab. When you click to go back to the 'edit HTML' tab you'll discover that your carefully crafted HTML has been rewritten to match what Blogger thinks the HTML should be, which is rather more complicated. And, depending on your internet browser, Blogger may well have added a few extra blank lines and line breaks all over the place just to destroy the formatting you so carefully constructed. There always seems to be an extra blank line at the bottom of each new post too, whether you want it or not. I am, not to put too fine a point on it, majorly pissed off by this appallingly thought-through over-technical interface. Please please please give me the ability to turn it off, or I may go and sit in the corner and cry in sheer despair.

The History Boys by Alan Bennett (National Theatre)

You just know that an Alan Bennett play will be brilliant. Erudite, comic, touching, well-observed, literary and insightful too, but especially brilliant. And so it proved. His latest play is set in an anonymous all-male northern grammar school in the early 1980s and follows an unruly bunch of sixth formers trying to gain a place at Oxbridge. Some work colleagues and I joined yesterday's matinée audience at the Lyttleton Theatre. We were the youngest people present by some considerable distance (reminder to self: on retirement, join the matinée set). I suspect I was the only person in the audience actually to have been a sixth former in the early 1980s, let alone a grammar school boy and Oxbridge candidate. But my school was never quite like this one.

The cast sparkle as much as the script. There's "an unruly bunch of bright, funny sixth-form boys in pursuit of sex, sport and a place at university" (played by a fine ensemble cast who I'd have loved to have had as classmates). There's "a maverick English teacher" (played by Richard Griffiths, who I've always rated, and who brings just the right amount of passion and compassion to the role - which can be difficult when your character is a motorbiking child-fiddler). There's the "young and shrewd supply teacher" (whose teaching methods smack of Thatcherism, not that Bennett is ever quite blatant enough to say so). There's "a headmaster obsessed with results" (about 20 years ahead of his time I think, played by a Tebbit-like Clive Merrison). And there's "a history teacher who thinks the head’s a fool" (the marvellous Frances De La Tour, revelling in the most cynical lines in the script).

The play isn't afraid to explore some erudite and intellectual themes, but intertwines them successfully with the comic and the tragic. It's simply but effectively staged and the audience lapped it up, all nearly-three-hours of it. We grinned, we nodded, we laughed, we applauded and we left feeling richly satisfied. I think it was only me noted the proper 1980s-style yellow socks and graffitied hessian rucksacks though. 95/100 A+

 Thursday, July 15, 2004

London's Drowning

St Swithin’s Day, if it does rain, full forty days it will remain,
St Swithin’s Day, if it be fair, for forty days t’will rain no more.


This baseless meteorological superstition dates from the late 9th century. A group of over-zealous monks decided to dig up the grave of Swithin, former Bishop of Winchester, and move it to a more prestigious location inside the cathedral. Legend tells us that this botched exhumation caused it to rain for forty days and forty nights. Common sense tells us that this legend is rubbish, and has continued to be rubbish for every single one of the last 1133 summers. Having said that, given how appalling this summer has been so far, this might be the year that finally proves the rhyme.

So just what is up with the weather at the moment? It feels like it's been damp, cool and cloudy all summer. A telltale tanline round my watchstrap suggests that we have had a few scorching days, but they've been few and far between, and nigh non-existent of late. Maybe this is global warming kicking in. The government's chief scientific adviser is certainly worried, and has just given a speech suggesting that it won't be long before melting ice caps cover the globe with rather more water than a few shower clouds can produce.

London is one of the world cities with the most to fear. Should the Greenland ice cap ever melt then sea level would rise by nearly ten metres and a large part of the capital would be flooded. Never mind all those piddling security risks to the Houses of Parliament I listed earlier in the week - rising sea level would completely submerge the lower floors of this riverside building. It'd be also be farewell to Westminster Abbey, 10 Downing Street, St James Park and the Tower of London, and that's just for starters. A huge swathe of London lies below the ten metre contour (see map), including Fulham, Chelsea, Docklands and Stratford north of the river, and most of Wandsworth, Lambeth and Southwark south of the river. The City and the West End would remain safely above the rising waters, although the tube network would be flooded out. And my flat in Bow would be transformed into a valuable riverside apartment on the banks of the three-mile-wide Thames, but I'd need scuba gear to go shopping at my local Tesco.

We continue to pump excessive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere like there's no tomorrow, and for London maybe there isn't. Future generations will pay the price of our materialistic greed, and not enough important people yet seem to care. But I suspect our recent wet weather has nothing at all to do with global warming and is merely a symptom of the wildly variable British climate. Last summer was record-breakingly hot, this one's depressingly damp and that's just the way our weather works. It's unpredictable and that's why we love to talk about it.

St Swithin’s Day 2004 is looking decidedly wet already. I shall be keeping a tally over the next forty days to see whether the next forty days it will remain. Come back on August 24th and see if London's still under water.

 Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Bastille Ville quiz: For Bastille day I've taken the names of 20 French towns and cities and written an anagram of each. Then I've run the anagrams together in pairs to give 10 clues, but it's up to you to determine where one anagram stops and the next starts. Combien de villes pouvez-vous trouver? (Answers in the comments box)

  (1a/1b)   pairs be longer
  (2a/2b)   only a rude box
  (3a/3b)   I'm sane old user
  (4a/4b)   no laser go miles
  (5a/5b)   almost see intent
  (6a/6b)   her veal real slime
  (7a/7b)   any bone on Gavin?
  (8a/8b)   go on blue chub Roger
  (9a/9b)   triple lemon grass turbo
(10a/10b)  Bert's central nerd form

01 for London: One of London’s most potent symbols always used to be the 01 phone prefix. London took the premier easiest-to-remember code, in line with its national status, while the rest of the country put up with the leftovers. For example, Consett in County Durham took the insignificant 0207 prefix, while Bodmin in Cornwall was lumbered with 0208.

Then in the 1990s came an explosion of fax machines and second-, third- and fourth- phone lines, particularly in the capital. This forced an expansion of the phone numbering system, brilliantly mismanaged by OFTEL. They first assured Londoners that a split into 071 and 081 areas would be perfectly sufficient, then that the less-than-memorable 0171 and 0181 codes were urgently required, and finally that 0207 and 0208 were absolutely necessary. Londoners were forced to reorder new stationery three times in ten years, and many businesses around the capital still have out-of-date phone numbers engraved prominently on their shop-fronts. Meanwhile, in Consett and Bodmin, the behind-the-times shops now display current London numbers.

Yesterday we discovered that the supply of 0207 numbers is already drying up so yet another new London dialling code is required. OFCOM will be introducing 0203 numbers next summer (as used less than ten years ago in darkest Coventry). The 0203 code will only be used for new lines, not existing ones, and won't be restricted to either inner or outer London as before. And yes I do know that the official code for London is actually just 020, not the four-digit 020x, so there is some rationale behind the introduction of 020 3. Maybe one day the signwriters in the capital will notice this fact and businesses will learn to split up their phone digits correctly. But somehow London's not the same now that almost everywhere else's number starts with good old 01.

 Tuesday, July 13, 2004

MI5 Security Update: Palace of Westminster

Dear Tony,

I'm delighted that you liked our latest security review of the Houses of Parliament. That's the report containing the bleeding obvious observation that a well-aimed terrorist might cause Big Ben to topple onto the Commons chamber. I'm pleased that this report has deflected the political spotlight off your crumbling reputation slightly during this most difficult week. And I'm happy to provide you with the additional security advice below which you requested to try to keep journalists off your back for another 24 hours.

Love and kisses,
Eliza Manningham-Buller (Director General, MI5)

Risk 1: A terrorist attack might cause Big Ben to topple onto the Commons chamber.
Solution: Swap the Commons chamber with the Lords chamber, then nobody will care.

Risk 2: A suicide bomber could drive a truck full of explosives into the side of the Houses of Parliament.
Solution: Replace all those concrete barriers around the perimeter by a wall of open-topped sightseeing buses full of American tourists.

Risk 3: Terrorists could approach the Houses of Parliament by river, perhaps aboard a pirate ship armed with heavy cannons.
Solution: Drain the Thames and fill it with the lifeless bodies of the 104,000 civil servants Gordon Brown sacked yesterday.

Risk 4: Terrorists could approach the Houses of Parliament from the sky, perhaps lobbing a large grenade out of the basket of a hot air balloon.
Solution: Hang a very large pair of bombproof net curtains from the top of St Stephen's Tower.

Risk 5: Terrorists could attempt to detonate 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellars beneath the Commons during the State Opening of Parliament in an attempt to kill the monarch as well her elected representatives.
Solution: No problem, we foiled that particular plot with ease last time.

Risk 6: Any terrorist could discover Parliament's location merely by looking on a tube map.
Solution: Swap the station names "Westminster" and "West Ruislip" on the tube map - that'll fool them.

Risk 7: A disgruntled member of the public could gain entry into the Strangers Gallery and lob a condom full of purple flour over the MPs below.
Solution: Remove all the condom machines from the House of Commons lavatories.

Risk 8: The Houses of Parliament have been carelessly located in the middle of a densely populated area.
Solution: Invent time travel, go back to 1066 and persuade Edward the Confessor to build Westminster Abbey on the outskirts of Colchester.

Risk 9: Something terribly unlikely but really very nasty that we haven't planned for might happen somewhere in the vicinity of the Parliament building.
Solution: Seal off all nearby roads, divert all nearby traffic and piss off all local residents, a bit like the Americans have done round their Embassy in Grosvenor Square.

Risk 10: The British public might be stupid enough to elect a warmongering Prime Minister whose thoughtless actions in the Middle East endanger the security of the nation.
Solution: Resign. By the end of the week you may have no choice anyway.

 Monday, July 12, 2004

Lotsa lovely lolly

Haven't ice lollies changed? Over the last few decades I mean. Ice lollies used to be fun, but they're now part of a corporate marketing customer brand strategy and they're not half as nice. Ice lollies used to come in myriad forms with sprinkles, gooey jelly centres and a variety of carcinogenic artificial colourings. Queue for an ice lolly now and your choice is limited to just a few premium-rich confections - one juicy, one creamy, one choc-covered and one a mixture of all three. Ice lollies used to be for kids, but now they're targeted at exactly the same generation of kids but 30 years older. It all used to be so different.

It's exactly 50 years since the Orange Maid and Strawberry Mivvi first arrived to brighten up the British summer. Corner shop cabinets were soon stocked with a variety of fruity lollies, waiting for us little urchins to trot up, pull back the glass cover and reach inside for our favourite. Much more fun than the modern equivalent of wobbling into the kitchen, opening up the fridge freezer and breaking into a Magnum multipack. And ah, those golden years in the mid 70s when the last bite of your lolly meant revealing the punchline to a particularly weak joke on the hidden half of the lolly stick.

If you'd like to bring those memories of long-lost summers flooding back, may I recommend this marvellous page that catalogues (most of the) Lyons Maid ice lollies manufactured since 1950. Fab! Which do you remember? Here are ten of my favourites:

Zoom (1964) Shaped like a rocket with three fruit flavours in horizontal stripes. The first lolly with picture cards under the wrapper and the first to cost as much as sixpence.
Fab (1967) Strawberry fruit ice with vanilla ice cream, dipped in chocolate and coated with hundreds and thousands. A real product of the swinging sixties, possibly named after Lady Penelope's numberplate, and still going strong today. I still buy them regularly, mmmm.
Mr Merlin's Magic Purple Potion (1972) I bought far too many of these when I was a kid, which probably stained my tongue purple and rotted my teeth but I didn't care at the time.
Haunted House (1973) A classic. When you ripped the wrapper off you found one of eight special pictures underneath etched in edible colouring, including Frankenstein's Monster, a spook, a skeleton, spider and web, some bats or a wicked witch.
Lolly Gobble Choc Bomb (1974) I was addicted to these magnificent creations as a child because lurking inside the strawberry flavoured lolly was a chocolate bar. Well, chocolate-ish, anyway. Cost me a shilling a go, and I got multi-coloured sugar balls too. Bring 'em back.
Merlin's Brew (1975ish) 'Minty chocolate flavour', which tasted so much better than it sounds. There was a wizard wielding a wooden spoon on the wrapper, next to an owl in a bow tie. I wonder if they slipped anything hallucinogenic into the ingredients too.
Space 1999 (1976) I managed to collect most of the special Space 1999 picture cards, probably because it was such a hot summer, but the pictures looked absolutely nothing like the real actors. Lime, vanilla and strawberry flavour with a soft centre, if you were wondering.
Jubilee (1977) The red, white and blue lolly, along with picture cards depicting every English monarch who'd reigned for 25 years or more. I risked permanent tongue-dyeing to collect the full set, which I still have somewhere. Wonder how much they're worth.
Star Wars (1978) A chocolate ice lolly with chocolate flavour coating. They really knew the way to a child's heart didn't they? Can't imagine Darth Vader ever eating one though.
Cider Barrel (1980) At last an illicit taste of adulthood, because this one was made with real alcohol wasn't it? If you ate three you'd become a bit tipsy, probably. A friend of a friend ate five and he couldn't walk for a week. Or so we told ourselves in the school playground.

 Sunday, July 11, 2004

Fairly Scrumptious

Yesterday, for the second time in a week, I found myself crammed behind rows of spectators just off Regent Street straining for the occasional view of a Grand Prix racing car. I was tantalisingly close to a selection of famous faces, the noise was deafening, and there were at least 20 minutes in the middle of the event where I saw absolutely nothing. But no, this wasn't a rerun of Bernie Ecclestone's farcical Formula 1 parade, I was attending a matinee performance of the musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium. Uncles tend to be asked to do these sorts of things when the the nephew/niece contingent comes down from Norfolk to London for the day.

We managed to fit in a whistlestop tour of Greenwich before taking our seats in the leftmost extremeties of the Palladium's Upper Circle with minutes to spare. There was a reasonable view of most of the stage, so long as the child in the seat in front wasn't sat bolt upright trying to see past the six-foot mum in the seat in front of them. An international family audience was in attendance, anxious parents hoping that their offspring could stay seated, quiet and tantrum-free for a full three hours. We resisted buying any of the vastly overpriced souvenirs, and avoided the half-time ice creams that must have been the worst value per spoonful in the world ever. And we spent the afternoon in the company of Gary Wilmot, Christopher Biggins and Lionel Blair. Lucky us.

As for the musical, well, you know all the songs because you've sung along with them all on the telly every Christmas since you were little. And you know the story. Car meets man. Car meets woman. Woman meets angelic kids. Family picnic interrupted by nightmare trip to eastern Europe. Everyone falls in love. The plot works great for a film but less well for a West End play because there are far too many characters who only manage to appear in two or three scenes. The evil Child Catcher is a case in point, with poor old Lionel Blair left sitting in his dressing room for 99% of the first half and a good two-thirds of the second. His brilliantly dark performance got a loud panto boo from the audience every time he appeared, but the fast-paced linear story meant that he couldn't stalk the stage often enough. And all to soon he was gone, although he did leave the stage in a net on the end of a very long rope through a hole in the auditorium roof, which was nice.

But the real star of the show was Chitty herself. We didn't see the car often enough, with rather too much "Oh we've just left Chitty round the corner" throughout, but its rare appearances at the end of each half had the appropriate wow factor all the same. I was fully prepared to be underwhelmed, with obvious strings or some automated mechanism clearly visible underneath but no, the presentation was immaculate and highly convincing. All in all an entertaining afternoon full of singalong favourites and rock-solid acting. The very special effects won over the hearts of my nephews quite convincingly ("We liked the car best"), although I'm assured by the more adult members of my entourage that the whole Lion King experience is much much better. Oh Chitty, you Chitty, pretty Chitty Bang Bang, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang we sort of loved you.

 Saturday, July 10, 2004

Readers' postbag

It's always a pleasure to receive mail from one's readers. I've had quite a bit recently (well, more than the usual couple a month), so I thought I'd share some choice correspondence with you. I get more proper email than spam these days - it's great.

Great Aunt Annie wrote from New Zealand with her wartime memories of a V1 bombstrike on SW London.
"My mother, sister and I were sleeping on a double mattress on the sitting-room floor, my father was dozing in an armchair, and my other sister was sleeping, Harry Potter style, in the cupboard under the stairs. I woke up to hear my mother telling me not to move because there was glass everywhere. The blast from the bomb had blown out all the windows but my mother had pulled the covers over us. Thankfully we were all uninjured. I moved my head just a fraction and heard glass tinkling on the pillow. I think we must have stayed where we were until the all-clear sounded. The next thing I remember is us all walking down the main road, heading for the school shelters. To my six-year-old mind, the most bizarre aspect of the situation was being out in the street in my dressing-gown and slippers in the middle of the night. It was eerie; no street lights, no traffic, just the five of us trudging along in the moonlight, like an L S Lowry painting."

James Blogwell wrote because he's delivering a literary conference paper about London Blogging and is planning to include my site amongst the six or seven London blogs he's featuring. Me, academic source material? Much honoured, Sir.
"The conference is at Senate House on Friday and Saturday 16-17 July. Unfortunately it's a miserable £50 to get in, though obviously for that you get much more than my twenty-five minutes - you get about 100 papers with titles like 'A Society of Gardeners: Writing and Gardening in Eighteenth-Century London' and 'Kicking the Dog Will do: J.G. Ballard's Peripheral Vision of London'. Details are here. I'm on just after midday on the Saturday."

Anne wrote to my Gmail address to tell me that my blog has been banned in Korea.
"It all started on 24 June when the video of Kim Sun-il's murder started circulating. The Korean Ministry of Information and Communication (Orwellian or what?) closed access to internet sites showing it. They could only manage it by the bluntest of means - by closing access to the hosts. As you are with blogspot, and they are one of the hosts of an offending site, Korean access to Diamond Geezer is denied. The same is true for all Blogger blogs and Typepad. OK, so there are lots of far more desperate human rights issues round the world, but I thought you might be interested since your blog is involved, and be able to spare a moment to sign one or both petitions."

Tanya Millard wrote after I'd praised her '100-square of bus photos' currently appearing at my local art gallery. I'd also really liked a series of photographs of London greens - a sort of Dulux colour chart of turf close-ups with matching streetnames (this is 'Stepney Green') - and wondered if that was her work too.
"Yeah, the greens are mine too. That project was more problematic as not all the greens in London have a sign saying the name of the green, and not all of them are actually grass, some are road names."

Mr Kim is also local.
"Congrats on site. You seem to have most of my interests!!! What about a section on local pubs? (Or is that thought just TOO depressing?) I took attached pic from my window...do you recognise location?"
Sorry Mr K, I'm not impressed enough by my local pubs to run a series on them, although I have written a post about one of them before. And yes, I recognise which window in which nearby block of flats that picture must have been taken from, but I shan't let on where it is.

Can I also thank Brian for his newspaper cutting (no, I haven't recently been ordained), thank Terry in Indonesia and MikeMK for their kind comments, and apologise to George that there isn't an RSS feed of my blog available, just an Atom feed that appears to have stalled in early February. And thank you all for bothering to write, it's appreciated.


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