diamond geezer

 Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Top 10 reasons why Top of the Pops used to be better
(following the news that TotP is to be relegated to Sunday teatime on BBC2 early next year)

[10] The pop chart used to be released on a Tuesday lunchtime. If you missed it on the radio there was no internet or Ceefax to help you to catch up, there was just the chart rundown on Top of the Pops two days later. So everybody watched, just to see who was Number One, what they looked like and whether they could mime or not. Today's records (and videos and pop charts) are over-exposed.
[9] The whole family used to be able to watch TotP. Your dad could enjoy Pan's People, your mum could ask you what that terrible racket was, your gran could wait for Barry Manilow to appear and you could thrill to the live performance of some top secret new band that only you and a million other teenagers knew about. Nowadays your dad watches for Fearne Cotton, your mum watches for Ronan Keating, your gran is watching ITV and you're out having a life.
[8] Andi Peters should still be watching the show, not producing it.
[7] TotP went downhill as soon as they stopped letting Radio 1 DJs present the show. These DJs may generally have been idiots but at least they had screen presence. Compare Jimmy Saville, DLT and JohnPeel&KidJensen to whoever the anonymous grinners are who compere the show these days. No contest.
[6] TotP's true home is on Thursday night, not Friday night. When Top of the Pops was on a Thursday night, the following morning every school playground in the country would be buzzing with chatter about who'd been on, what they'd sung and what they were wearing. Once TotP shifted to a Friday night there was nobody left to share your opinions with the following morning, and the 'must see' televisual event of the week died.
[5] No programme, however successful, can compete against Coronation Street. Once TotP was moved to the deathslot opposite Vera Duckworth then its days at the top were numbered. Next year's move to Sunday teatime will instead pitch Top of the Pops against Last of the Summer Wine and Songs of Praise. Still doomed then.
[4] TotP is a show about singles. Alas, the single is dead (or at least fatally wounded) and nobody has ever successfully produced a show called Top of the Albums (imagine the Cullum/Twain/Anastacia hell of it all).
[3] TotP used to only play records that were climbing the chart (or at least not falling). If you fell, you weren't on. If you hadn't released your record yet, you weren't on. It was a simple but brutal format, and if that meant watching the Smurfs followed by the Boomtown Rats followed by James Galway then so be it. This worked because the British public picked the playlist, not the producer. Nowadays the producer picks the playlist weeks in advance, and quite frankly we don't care who he picks any more.
[2] The most important part of TotP should be the music, not all the peripheral fluff that's grown to smother the show over the last decade. We don't care if Britney is on tour in Las Vegas, or what Geri Halliwell's favourite colour is. We can get enough of that crap on Saturday mornings thankyou. We just want the music.
[1] Pop music is no longer the shared consciousness of the nation. 30 years ago everybody knew who David Essex was and could sing along to his Number One hit Gonna Make You A Star. No so today's bland chart-toppers. Our record industry has fractured to the point where audiences prefer to watch one of 50 separate digital video channels rather than one all-encompassing half hour show. Pops used to be short for Popular, and nothing is any more.

Popslinks
The official history, presenters and opening titles.
How TotP used to be
40-year critical review
My review of TotP's 2000th show, and last year's revamp
Pan's People

 Monday, November 29, 2004

RunLondon

The London Marathon always takes place on a spring morning in full daylight, usually in pleasant mild conditions. Not so RunLondon, which the marketing people at Nike this year scheduled for a late autumn evening in complete darkness. They branded the race Go Nocturnal, they dressed all 30000 athletes in fluorescent yellow jerseys and they set them running 10km around the streets of Southwark in temperatures notionally above freezing. Running's good for you, apparently, but last night I was glad I was only watching.

Swarms of dayglo competitors emerged from Canada Water tube station throughout the early evening, all heading for the mass start by Surrey Quays Shopping Centre. There were no pantomime cow outfits or people with purple hair dressed as fairies because this was a serious fun run. Five 'waves' of runners departed at half hour intervals, with Paula Radcliffe and friends in the first wave and the slower runners in the fifth. The start of each wave was preceded by a 10 minute mass warm-up, with some demented fitness trainer yelling "Are you ready?" from a big yellow stage to the flock of eager disciples spread out before him. The crowd raised their hands, flexed their calf muscles and then shuffled slowly down to the start where it took a good seven minutes to get everybody through.

This wasn't the most glamorous of routes. The streets of Rotherhithe are not renowned for their beauty, neither is Jamaica Road through Bermondsey a hotbed of attractive architecture. Thankfully the darkness covered up these visual weaknesses perfectly. The view improved somewhat around the halfway mark with a jog along the riverbank past City Hall, although I'm told the narrow streets through Shad Thames weren't exactly perfect for a mass running event. The most impressive section was undoubtedly over Tower Bridge, with streams of yellow athletes crossing to the north side before doubling back to return to Bermondsey for the muscle-sapping final leg. A sneaky footbridge placed a few hundred yards before the finish in Southwark Park convinced many that the end of the race was nigh. They used up their last reserves of strength in sprinting to the bridge, only to discover that the finishing line remained tantalisingly out of reach.

Southwark Park then took on the look of a surreal alien landscape as thousands of runners emerged from the finish funnel wrapped in silver foil. They glinted en masse in the darkness, panting but happy, and stumbled through the poorly-lit mud to try to find their friends in the mêlée. There were times to compare, medals to clutch and warm clothes to put on, and then a journey home to be made before leg muscles started to seize up. I got home at the same time as my yellow-jerseyed next-door neighbour, which was a good excuse to talk to her for the very first time. Well done to her, and to everyone else who ran London. Daylight would be preferable next time though, please.

 Sunday, November 28, 2004

Attempted consumption

I've been practising spending money. How am I doing?

i) My passport expires in January, so I thought I'd better renew it before George Bush introduces any new laws forcing me to slice off my fingertips and staple them to the back page. It's surprisingly easy to renew your passport online (you fill in your details and they send you a completed form to sign) but one thing never changes - the dreaded trip to the photo booth. These evil machines have become rather more modern than I remember 10 years ago, so the one I visited took my photo digitally without flashing which was a bit unnerving. It also spoke, which meant that everyone queueing outside the booth could hear me reject the first three attempted photos in favour of the fourth. I'm not chuffed with the resulting image, but at least I only have to show it to the occasional immigration officer over the next decade.
cost: £45 (passport renewal) + £4 (passport photo)
verdict: Essential (and a bargain at less than a fiver a year)


ii) Last week my old ITV Digital box started playing up, switching itself off at unexpected intervals, so I've been out buying myself a Freeview replacement. The old box only lasted three years but hey, that's longer than ITV Digital managed. My new box is a Sony VTX-D800U, a sleek little silver number which, by carefully plying the Aladdin's Caves of Tottenham Court Road, I've managed to acquire for rather less than the recommended price of £99. It may be top-of-the-range but it can't counteract my flat's appalling TV reception so I'm still left without ITV and Channel 4, and with certain other channels all blotchy and virtually unwatchable. QVC and bid.up-tv, alas, are crystal clear.
cost: £85 (fourteen quid off)
verdict: Pretty much essential (and impressive haggling)


iii) The only decent compilation album out this Christmas is Ultimate Kylie. Disc 1 covers the Stock, Aitken and Waterman years, while disc 2 chronicles the deConstruction interregnum and the subsequent Parlophone renaissance. Very few pop careers contain quite so many standout singles (the fab:dross ratio is very high) so I couldn't resist buying the album when I saw it in Woolworths yesterday for £3 off. And then, when I got home, I checked how many of these 33 tracks I already owned and it was nigh all of them. I could have burnt my own Kylie compilation for free and replaced "Especially For You" with "Your Disco Needs You" into the bargain, but I didn't. Have I got the hang of consumption yet?
cost: £12.99 (the same as Amazon, but without the delivery charge)
verdict: An absolutely lovely waste of money

 Saturday, November 27, 2004

Screen 1: The Incredibles
Plot: a family of former superheroes is forced to break cover to protect the world from an evil genius, and everyone becomes less superficial along the way.
I'd read a lot of superlatives over the information superhighway about this new Pixar movie, and I was ready to be disappointed. But no, this is two hours of superior entertainment. The animation is superb and the scriptwriter is a superstar. There are many creative layers superimposed here, from James Bond to Superman, and there's barely a superfluous scene. Cartoons used to only be for kids, but that rule has now been superseded. Super.

Bow Road update: It's becoming disturbingly clear what the modernisation of Bow Road station actually involves, and it's not renovation. The most visible change in recent weeks has been a proliferation of cables - along the platforms, up the stairs, across the ticket hall - everywhere. They're especially ugly cables, attached to walls by particularly ugly cable brackets, and they're doing nothing for the Victorian heritage of the station. I had been wondering what all these cables could possibly be for, but the answer has come in the form of short swatches of silver tape plastered all over the stairs and ticket hall, each with some special code scribbled on in biro. Some codes indicate new lighting (Light fitting above) and some indicate new electrical equipment (Unswitched fuse for V.E.I.D) but a surprisingly large number foretell the installation of new cameras. And lots of them.

According to the stickers Cam 14 is going at the foot of the eastbound stairwell, Cam 13 halfway up, Cam 12 round the corner at the top of the stairs and Cam 11 and Cam 10 together a few steps further along at the entrance to the ticket hall. Why one stairwell needs five cameras to watch over it is beyond me. If the dozy mare who sits in the booth by the ticket barrier looked up from reading her Metro occasionally, like when yet another teenager is escaping through the luggage gate without paying, we wouldn't need half as many cameras.

Most worrying of all, however, is the sticker at the foot of the westbound stairwell which reads CCTV Camera 43. It appears that tube bosses plan to install at least 43 cameras at this station! What the hell for? It's not an especially big station, but some safety bigwig appears to think that no corner of this station can possibly remain unsnooped. It's not an especially busy station either, with an average of just 5500 users each day, but it looks as though there's going to be at least one camera for every 125 passengers. What an incredible waste of money. This looks like tube surveillance overkill to me, organised by some profligate underground Big Brother figure. Sorry, but I don't feel any safer just because the station supervisor can sit in her new office and flick between 43 different video shots of me walking around her empty platforms. I'd just like some money to be spent on a decent functional station with a lick of paint and a 'next train' indicator that's less than 40 years old, please. Some time in the next four months would be nice.

 Friday, November 26, 2004

75 things to do on an inter-city train: climb aboard, find an empty seat, hog a four-seat table, ignore a reservation, block the gangway with your wheelie suitcase, fill the luggage rack, wipe the crumbs off your seat, stake out territory by spreading out your belongings, listen to endless announcements about the buffet car, ignore safety information, get out your thermos and sarnies, try desperately to find your ticket when the inspector approaches, ignore the passing drinks trolley, stand too close to the automatic sliding door, overtake lorries, cross water, speed through farmland, stare at cows, glance at horses, wave at sheep, sit for ages in a cutting, enjoy the view from an embankment, try to peer at other people's laptops, grimace at the behaviour of other people's children, grimace at the behaviour of your own children, listen in on other people's conversations, try not to listen in on other people's conversations, escape into your walkman, spot trains, spot trainspotters, pop your ears as you whizz through a tunnel, go to the buffet car, walk faster than the train, buy an overpriced bacon sandwich, walk slower than the train, try to walk in a straight line, spill your drink, squeeze past people people walking the other way, sneak into first class, watch your mobile phone reception fluctuate, listen to other people's ringtones, answer your mobile by saying "I'm on a train", scrutinise other people's gardens, spot houses that look nicer than your own, try to read the passing station names to work out where you are, stare at distant mist, birdwatch, squint into the sun, detect changes in the weather, check your watch, read the paper, re-read the paper, read the complimentary in-house magazine, read other people's newspapers, stretch, relax, yawn, sleep, wait for the toilet to become vacant, piss into the toilet bowl at an awkward angle, try to wash your hands without touching the tap, gawp at endless fields, pass light industrial units, trace the path of pylons, compare towns, watch Britain go by, learn geography, start packing up five minutes before reaching your destination, stand up two minutes before reaching your destination, queue by the exits, lower the window, turn the door handle, step out onto the platform, catch the replacement bus service.

X-30
Spot the Xmas TV Movie Classic
(updated)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Christmas Eve, ITV1, 12.50pm)
White Christmas (Christmas Day, BBC2, 2.10pm)
Gone With The Wind (Christmas Day, ITV1, 12.45am)
Mary Poppins (Boxing Day, ITV1, 10.50am)
The Wizard Of Oz (Boxing Day, five, 4.25pm)
The Sound Of Music (29 December, BBC1, 2.45pm)

 Thursday, November 25, 2004

Postman's Park

At the eastern end of the little street of Little Britain lies one of London's secret spaces. This is the churchyard of St Botolph's, Aldersgate - an irregular patch of grass, trees and flowerbeds hemmed in tightly by the church and other surrounding buildings. Here you'll find a fountain in a tiny pond, some benches and a litter bin, as well as the occasional headstone propped up against one of the walls on the southern side. It's the traditional British park in microcosm, only without the football pitch. Scores of office workers fill this narrow space during weekday lunchtimes, although when I visited at the weekend it was quite deserted. There used to be a big General Post Office round the corner, and its sandwich-nibbling sorters earnt this place the unlikely nickname "Postman's Park".

The park is also home to one of the capital's most unexpected and unlikely monuments. Well, I wasn't expecting to find it here anyway. Along one wall of Postman's Park stands a 50ft-long roofed gallery, conceived and funded by Victorian philanthropist George Watts. He wanted to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee with a memorial to the unsung heroes of London, and so he commissioned Royal Doulton to manufacture several glazed plaques in their honour. Each plaque tells the story of a life lost to selfless civilian valour, be it by drowning, through fire or as a result of some obscure industrial accident. I stopped and read the lot, and found the whole assemblage really quite heart-tugging. Here's a selection...

<adopts Tom Baker voiceover voice> "These truly are the people of Britain, the extraordinary men and women who made Little Britain Great."



William Drake lost his life in averting a serious accident to a lady in Hyde Park (April 2 1869) whose horses were unmanageable through the breaking of the carriage pole.Frederick Alfred Croft [Inspector aged 31] saved a lunatic woman from suicide at Woolwich Arsenal station but was himself run over by the train (Jan 11 1878)John Cranmer [Cambridge, aged 23] a clerk in the London County Council who was drowned near Ostend whilst saving the life of a stranger and foreigner (August 8 1901)
Henry James Bristow [aged 8, at Walthamstow] on December 30 1890 saved his little sister's life by tearing off her flaming clothes but caught fire himself and died of burns and shock.Alice Ayres [daughter of a bricklayer's labourer] who by intrepid conduct saved 3 children from a burning house in Union Street Borough at the cost of her young life (April 24 1885)Robert Wright [Police Constable of Croydon] entered a burning house to save a woman knowing that there was petroleum stored in the cellar - an explosion took place and he was killed (April 30 1893)
Elizabeth Boxall [aged 17 of Bethnal Green] who died of injuries received in trying to save a child from a runaway horse (June 20 1888)James Bannister [of Bow, aged 30] rushed over when an opposite shop caught fire and was suffocated in the attempt to save life (Oct 14 1901)Elizabeth Coghlam [aged 26 of Church Path Stoke Newington] died saving her family and house by carrying blazing paraffin to the yard (Jan 1 1902)
George Frederick Simonds [of Islington] rushed into a burning house to save an aged widow and died of his injuries (Dec 1 1886)Mary Rogers [Stewardess of the Stella] (Mar 30 1899) self sacrificed by giving up her life belt and voluntarily going down with the sinking ship.David Selves [aged 12 off Woolwich] supported his drowning playfellow and sank with him clasped in his arms (September 12 1886)
Arthur Strange [Carman of London] and Mark Tomlinson on a desperate venture to save two girls from a quicksand in Lincolnshire were themselves engulfed (Aug 25 1902)PC Percy Edwin Cook [Metropolitan Police] voluntarily descended into a high tension chamber at Kensington to rescue two workmen overcome by poisonous gas (7 Oct 1927)Soloman Galaman [aged 11] died of injuries (Sept 6 1901) after saving his little brother from being run over in Commercial Street. "Mother, I saved him but I could not save myself"

more photos on my photoblog
history of the park and 360° panorama
more photos of the plaques
more photos from Gert

 Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The finest comedy series on television came to the end of its second series last night. "Yeah but no but yeah" It was only on BBC3 so you may not have seen it yet, but fear not because Little Britain is coming to BBC1 on Friday next week. "I am a lady" It's quite an honour for such a new (and outrageous) comedy to land in mainstream primetime, but someone in scheduling clearly has taste. "Computer says no" As a special treat BBC3 is showing the entire second series back to back next Sunday evening, so set your video recorder and that'll save you forking out £17 on the DVD next Christmas. "I want that one" They filmed a lot of the Andy and Lou stuff in Bow, you know. "Yeah, I kno-ow"

What you may not know, unless you were reading Jag's page a few months ago, is that Little Britain actually exists. It's a quarter-mile long street in the City of London, just to the north of St Paul's Cathedral, named after the Dukes of Brittany who once used to own the land round here. The street's unusual because it's split into in three very distinct sections, two very quiet either side of one rather busy. And here's how it looks:



Little Britain begins as a cycle path outside Smithfield Market, the site of carnivorous trading for more than 800 years. The vaulted market hall is 150 years old and, if you can manage to drag yourself there at 5am, it's well worth a butchers. Hidden behind a Tudor gateway lies the church of St Bartholemew The Great with its fine 15th century tower, and round here was also the site of London's annual Bartholemew Fair, a late-August medieval three-day knees-up. One further Bartholemew is St Barts Hospital (London's oldest hospital, founded 1123) which dominates the western third of Little Britain. It's all very functional and austere, especially Gloucester House which looks like the very worst 1950s social housing, but this is still very much a thriving hospital. "Please do not leave blood samples here. This is not Blood Transfusion. They moved last September."

Little Britain then bends south, for a few metres only, to become a busy main road. Head north on the one-way system from St Paul's Cathedral (for example on the number 56 bus) and you'll pass through here on your way to the Barbican. This is a brief modern intrusion on an ancient street, edged by Barts Anaesthetics Department on one side of the road and LA Fitness on the other.

But turn left and the street ends as a quiet narrow backwater flanked by a motley terrace of tall townhouse offices. This used to be the centre of London's publishing industry. London's first daily newspaper, The Daily Courant, was printed in Little Britain in 1702, as was the very first issue of The Spectator. A young Benjamin Franklin once lodged here (for three shillings and sixpence a week) while trying to make his living as a printer, Samuel Johnson stayed here as a sick three year old child, and Brothers Charles and John Wesley converted to Methodism in one of the houses here in May 1738. It's quite a street. I found Little Britain to be an unexpected mix of old and new, and just as charming as the TV series.

more photos on my photoblog
more photos from Jag
more tomorrow

 Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Being patient

For the last week my Mum has been resident in a 4th floor penthouse apartment. She has full board, waitress service, numerous house guests, a fully adjustable recliner and panoramic views of the Norfolk countryside. She also has a new hip, 23 get well cards, an interesting scar and a positive prognosis. It's the first time she's been in hospital since giving birth to me four decades ago, and not surprisingly she'd rather be almost anywhere else at the moment. But sometimes you just have to put up with that strange smell, the mind-numbing boredom and feeling like you've gone nine rounds with Mike Tyson, just for the chance to feel better and to lead a healthier life.

One of the hardest things about staying in hospital is the unfamiliar environment. Normally you get to eat, sleep, relax, wash and, er, other things, in the privacy of your own home. In hospital you get to do all of this in the company of randomly selected members of the public, most of whom are lovely but not all. That swishy curtain around your bed may block out your view of the mad staring geriatrics around you but it can't block out their wheezing, coughing or bedpan aroma, nor the artificial light shining from their bedspace throughout the night. However well you maintain your dignity during your lowest ebb, alas you have very little control over your privacy.

Above and beyond visiting time, you'll be glad to hear that the modern NHS affords its patients full connection to the outside world. Unfortunately that connection is called Patientline, and it costs. Gone are the days of coin operated payphones and the shared TV set - each bed has now a giant white pod that dispenses audiovisual entertainment on demand. Telephone calls cost £6 an hour 'out' (but up to £30 an hour 'in'), emails cost 4p (but infinitely more than the usual 0p), the television is free (but only for an hour over breakfast - otherwise it costs £3.60 a day) and the radio is also free (but you only get 'up to 6' channels). There are far more adverts for Patientline across the hospital than there are public health messages (of which there are none), and somehow it all feels very very wrong.

Most disturbing of all was the discovery that the higher tiers of the health service appear to close down at weekends. My Mum met her consultant last Tuesday, had her operation on Wednesday, recovered slowly on Thursday, took her first walk down the ward on Friday... and then bugger all happened on Saturday or Sunday. No doctors were in evidence, no specialists popped by to check up on her progress, neither were any serious attempts made to take her for another walk down the ward. Then on Monday morning everyone was back again, restarting treatment where they'd left off three days earlier, as if the entire weekend had never happened. I know that all medical staff need regular time off, but surely a sensible shift system could have prevented this unnecessary hiatus - and two wasted sleepless nights spent staring at the walls listening to hospital clatter. There is a limit to being patient.

My Mum's just heard that she escapes the ward tomorrow. It's a long road to full recovery, which may still be months away, but she's looking forward to being able to do the simple things in life again like gardening, shopping and going out for a walk. And, in the more immediate future, sleeping in privacy. Thank you nurses, you do a wonderful job, but I do hope that (after tonight) my Mum never spends another night in your company.

Video killed: I'm off down to Dixons to snap up three spare video recorders before they stop selling them. I have quite a few videotapes, mostly recorded off the TV, and I still want to be able to watch them in 30 years time. The trouble with DVD players is that they only do pre-recorded not time-shifting, and I want to do time-shifting not pre-recorded. And yes, I know there are clever new hard drive devices that can record anything, but that doesn't save my 1980s collection of Treasure Hunt videos, does it? Maybe I should stock up on five spare audio cassette players too while I'm at it...

 Monday, November 22, 2004

I'm not normal

Blimey, maybe I am normal after all. You agreed with me on 6 out of 10 of the 'abnormal' topics I posted about yesterday, which suggests that perhaps my views weren't quite so abnormal after all. I must say that this surprised me. Are there really a majority of people in this country who hate pets, driving, gardening and using the telephone? Somehow I suspect not. Maybe it's blogworld as a whole that's abnormal, and meanwhile the rest of the population continue to buy dogfood, belch exhaust fumes, grow weeds and ring people up out of the blue as usual. I did note that some of you weren't quite as hardline as me on certain topics (for example, some of you would choose to drive if you lived outside London whereas I'd choose never to sit behind the steering wheel again), so maybe there are just shades of normality here. But I'm feeling a little more mainstream today, for which I thank you.

The results
You coffee: "Coffee is not normal, but I love it with lots of steamed milk and a little sugar. (Is it really dessert?) Most people have to go through an induction process, someplace where there is peer pressure to look adult (like at university). It's silly, but there you have it. Diamond Geezer, you must not have a high need to fit in." (Linda)
You DVD: "DVDs: Slim, silver and sexy. How can I not collect them? I've just reviewed my DVD/ VHS collection, and have worked out that, if I were to watch non-stop everything I've taped - but not yet got around to watching - and if I gave up sleeping - then I'll have seen everything by approximately noon on Sunday 27th February 2005." (Nigel)
You don't animal: "I did animal once, 5 cats and a dog. The cats bought fleas in, and they were impossible to completely get rid of, and dog made the house stink, no matter how clean he was. We, of course did not notice the "dog" smell...but others did and it was amazing what a deterrent it was." (grocerjack)
You don't car: "Driving scares me rigid. I passed my test to get everyone off my back, and promptly stopped. My judgement of speed and distance is already diabolical enough as a pedestrian, thank you, plus there's my extreme lack of concentration to deal with. Instead, I live in the city centre and only have to walk 10 mins to the office." (mike)
You don't DIY: "I used to DIY but I don't anymore. It's much easier just to learn to like it as it is." (peter)
You don't garden: "Not only did we buy an old house, but we bought one with a garden. I now realise that gardens are much like pets... much more enjoyable when someone else does the hard work of looking after them. I hate our garden. The next place we move to is a new apartment with a balcony. No pets, no DIY, no gardening. Brilliant." (lori)
You holiday: "i don't go on holiday to relax. that's what work is for (usually). i travel to see new places, things and people. cos hopefully they will affect me and make a change to my life." (dave)
You don't phone: "At last I have found other phone-phobic people! Absolutely detest the things. Thank god for email, and texting. Will do anything at work to avoid using it. I am so relieved I am not the only person who feels this way!" (DOLnet)
You don't consume: "When you have to pack up and move continents, you finally begin to understand just how much *crap* you own and that you need about 10% of it." (Chz)
You worry: "For a moment there, I considered adding my vote to the 'I don't worry' comments. But then I realised that you read my site, and it would take you approximately a tenth of a second to know that I was lying through my teeth. I worry as a profession." (Vaughan)

I received a staggering number of comments for yesterday's post (nearly 400), for which I thank you, and I recommend that you flick through these ten fascinating mini-debates if you haven't done so already. It looks like I may have stumbled upon a seam of blog gold here, so you can expect me to return to this subject again in the future. Just not yet though, because I don't do predictable.

 Sunday, November 21, 2004

I'm not normal

At least I think I'm not. That's because I don't always do the things that most normal people do. Partly for your interest, and partly as a personal confession, I've listed details of ten of these things below. But it is just possible, I guess, that some of these ten things aren't quite as abnormal as I think they are. I'd like to check, so I wondered if you could tell me whether you do or don't do each of the following. I'd be much obliged if you'd leave a quick comment in the appropriate boxes (or at least some of them).

I don't coffee: I never understood the allure of coffee. Not when there's tea available instead. I'm perfectly capable of waking up in the morning without the need for a caffeine kickstart and, unlike many of you, I don't make a daily pilgrimage to some extortionately-priced coffee shop in search of my next bean-based buzz. I may adore the smell of freshly ground coffee but you'll never catch me actually drinking the stuff. I realise that this is not normal.
I don't DVD: I know that most people have shelves of digital Hollywood on DVD (and even more shelves of videos that they never watch any more because they're only videos), but I don't. I don't want to fork out £17 to rewatch a film I saw only six months ago at the cinema, because I already remember the plot thanks. And I have no need to own the deluxe boxed set of some ancient TV series that now costs more than the annual 1974 licence fee, because trying to plough through the entire collection will eat up hours of my time and then I'll stick it back on the shelf and never watch it again. Total waste of both time and money, I reckon. I realise that this is not normal.

I don't animal: I'm quite happy living without four-legged companionship. I don't need my living space invaded by some smelly animal that leaves hairs everywhere, wrecks the furniture and needs to be shipped off to a petsitter every time I want to be out of the house for more than 12 hours at a time. I don't require the presence of some supposedly cute cat which I'd then only ever see when it returned home to use the litter tray and then be filled up again with Whiskas. And I have such negative opinions of dogs that I'd really best keep them to myself. I realise that this is not normal.

I don't car: Some people live and breathe cars. They can tell an Aston Martin from a Laguna, they spend every weekend polishing, waxing and tinkering under the bonnet, and they drive everywhere. Not me. I've only owned a car for 2½ years (when it was absolutely essential for my job) and I was thrilled to be able to get shot of the thing when I moved to London. The roads of Suffolk are much safer as a result, and my life expectancy has probably doubled. I haven't missed owning a car once since. I realise that this is not normal.
I don't DIY: When I look round my flat I see functional magnolia walls. If I were normal I'd see redesign opportunities. Perhaps repainting, or wallpaper, or new light fittings, or a dado rail, or some new shelves. I could rip my carpet up and install wooden flooring, I could knock through from the lounge to the bedroom, I could give the windows a lick of paint or I could replace all my furniture with something co-ordinated and modern. But, quite frankly, I can't be arsed. Why should I waste every weekend in the queue at IKEA or replastering walls when I'm perfectly happy to stick with featureless magnolia? I realise that this is not normal.
I don't garden: You won't be surprised that I also see gardening as a waste of time. Spending every daylight hour out amongst the creepy crawlies, fighting a losing battle against nature just so that I can see some pretty flowers from my window or grow a couple of gnarled carrots, it's not me. I can find much nicer grass in the local park and much better vegetables in my local supermarket. I get a sense of achievement from not having a garden, and I've always tried to live somewhere that doesn't have one. I realise that this is not normal.
I don't holiday: Some people seem to spend their entire life planning their next getaway. They see holidays as a necessary escape from normal life, their only chance to relax and have a good time. I'm relaxed enough already thankyou, without the need to squeeze all my worldly goods into a suitcase, struggle through airport security, check into some unhomely hotel and sit bored out of my skull on some sunkissed beach all day. As for fun, I can get quite enough of that inside the M25 without risking malaria, diarrhoea and sunburn. Sure it's good to go away occasionally, and I do, but given the choice I'd much rather stay at home. I realise that this is not normal.
I don't phone: I know that telephones are the perfect way to keep in touch with friends and family, but I rarely choose to use them. In fact BT thought my last phone bill (£1.99) was so small that they invited me to join their Light User scheme. It's rare for me to pluck up the courage to ring anybody for an impromptu conversation because I'm always fearful of interrupting them in the middle of something important. This perceived indifference probably explains why few people ever choose to ring me up either. I realise that this is not normal.
I don't consume: If the world was populated by people like me, the commercial sector would have gone bust long ago through lack of use. I can walk down Oxford Street without buying anything, I can flick through a gadget catalogue without needing to purchase anything contained therein, and I can sit at home perfectly content with my existing worldly goods without feeling the urge to replace them all at six monthly intervals. It's a great way of saving money, but I'm never quite sure exactly what I'm saving that money for. I realise that this is not normal.
I don't worry: There are many things in life that can or could go wrong, and it's possible to spend the whole of one's life fixated on potential problems, disasters, heartbreak, chaos and unhappiness. I prefer to take a more positive view. Sure some things might go wrong but, until they do, I don't worry about them. Most predicted problems never materialise anyway, so what's the point in getting unnecessarily stressed and depressed about a mere probability? Life's much better when you're an optimist, and only a pessimist will tell you otherwise. I realise that this is not normal, but I don't care.
I'm up in Norfolk visiting my Mum in hospital this weekend (she's doing just fine, thanks), so you've got until Monday evening to register your opinions. Then I'll come back and check up on just how abnormal I am. Or not.

 Saturday, November 20, 2004

10 reasons why I love London's 2012 Olympic bid

a) For a fortnight in 2012, the eyes of the world will be on my backyard.
b) I live less than five minutes walk from the Olympic zone, so I can walk to the opening ceremony (Friday 27th July, 19:30-22:30).
c) The proposed route for the marathon goes right past my front door...
d) ...which probably means Paula Radcliffe will stop and sit on my doorstep for a good cry before dashing off to run the last mile in record time and win gold.
e) When the Games fail to sell out, they'll probably give free tickets for the synchronised diving to us local residents.

f) The rest of the country's taxes are going to pay for the redevelopment of my local community (selfish I know, but thanks).
g) They're planning to clean and widen all the local waterways, plus restore three acres of wetland habitat for wildlife, which has to be better than the silted-up industrial wasteland I currently live in.
h) By the time the Games are finished, my local transport links will be world class.
i) Property prices round here can only go up (drat, I wish I'd bought this place rather than renting).
j) When Paris wins instead, my London 2012 promotional biro will probably be worth at least £2 on eBay.

Lottery Balls - Mystic Meg Speaks

The spin fortune for and .

is spelling out the letters and and the names and .

A man wearing who owns a and a woman who keeps her ticket in a will be a bii-ig winner.

, and will be celebrating too-oo.

 Friday, November 19, 2004

It wasn't you - 10 years of the National Lottery (a clickable guide)

Seven facts about the very first draw (19th November 1994)
(1) 48,965,792 tickets were sold at £1 each.
(2) There were lots of "It could be you" adverts with that big pointy hand. You remember.
(3) The first BBC1 lottery programme featured Noel Edmonds, Anthea Turner and Gordon Kennedy, and was watched by 20.2 million people.
(4) The first draw used machine Guinevere and set of balls A.
(5) The first winning numbers were 3, 5, 14, 22, 30 and 44, and the bonus number was 10.
(6) 7 jackpot winners (rather more than usual) each won £839,254 (rather less than usual), while more than a million people won a tenner.
(7) I won nothing.

Seven lottery TV shows
(8) The National Lottery Live (1994, Anthea Turner)
(9) The National Lottery Big Ticket (1997, Patrick Kielty)
(10) The National Lottery Amazing Luck Stories (1998, Carol Smillie)
(11) National Lottery Winning Lines (1999, Simon Mayo)
(12) National Lottery Red Alert (1999, Lulu)
(13) The National Lottery Jet Set (2001, Eamonn Holmes)
(14) The National Lottery In It to Win It (2002, Dale Winton)

Seven unlikely lottery presenters
(15) Jimmy Tarbuck (3rd August 1996)
(16) Gary Barlow (28th June 1997)
(17) Shirley Bassey (20th December 1997)
(18) Rolf Harris (27th December 1997)
(19) Ant and Dec (3rd January 1998)
(20) Julie Goodyear (12th September 1998)
(21) Dolly Parton (19th September 1998)

Seven lottery draw facts
(22) The luckiest ticket is [01 07 22 25 31 47] which won the jackpot on 26th August 1997 and matched 5 numbers and the bonus ball on 9th October 2002 - total winnings £2,536,765
(23) The number 38 is the most popular (drawn 142 times) and 20 the least popular (drawn 90 times)
(24) Yellow balls (40-49) have been drawn more often than balls of any other colour.
(25) 19 has only been the bonus ball seven times, whereas 21 has been the bonus ball four times as often (including last Saturday).
(26) The number 28 once appeared in five consecutive draws, starting on 9th September 1998.
(27) Each lottery ball weighs 80g and is 5cm in diameter. The number is printed 16 times on each ball. Balls are made of solid latex rubber and are manufactured by the Beitel Lottery Equipment Company in Pennsylvania.
(28) There have been 155 rollovers, including 13 double rollovers and one triple rollover.

Seven odds of winning
(29) 6 numbers: 1 in 13983816 (typical prize £2 million)
(30) 5 numbers + bonus: 1 in 2330636 (typical prize £100,000)
(31) 5 numbers: 1 in 55491 (typical prize £1500)
(32) 4 numbers: 1 in 1032 (typical prize £65)
(33) 3 numbers: 1 in 57 (typical prize £10)
(34) winning something: 1 in 54
(35) winning nothing: 1 in 1.019

Seven lottery-funded successes
(36) Eden Project (£55.4m)
(37) Tate Modern (£53m)
(38) Commonwealth Games and Salford Quays redevelopment - Manchester (£123.5m & £64m)
(39) Millennium Stadium - Cardiff (£114m)
(40) National Cycle Network (£43½m)
(41) National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns (£340000, and cheap at the price to annoy the Daily Mail)
(42) Camelot shareholders (½p out of every £1 you spend)

Seven lottery-funded disasters
(43) the Millennium Dome (£628m for one year of underexcitement followed by five years of nothing)
(44) National Centre for Popular Music, Sheffield (£11m - closed after 16 months)
(45) Earth Centre, Doncaster (£42m, now closed to visitors)
(46) the Winston Churchill papers (£12½m to the Churchill family to prevent these greedy toffs from selling the family archive at auction)
(47) Mike Bassett: England Manager (£620000) and Sex Lives of the Potato Men (£750000)
(48) National Botanic Garden of Wales (£21m, and not quite dead yet)
(49) Mystic Meg (a big crystal ball and a few cheap trinkets)

 Thursday, November 18, 2004

My Mum's on the mend after her operation, you'll be glad to hear. She's just rung me from her bedside phone (39p per minute off peak, 49p at all other times) to tell me all about the other (rather loud) patients on her ward and how she's sort of feeling better nearly. She also got to see a printout of all your comments yesterday, which was rather touching, so thank you for your kind words.

Bloggers A-Z: I wonder if it's possible to construct an A-Z of blogs. Good blogs, that is, blogs that are actually worth reading. More to the point, I wonder if it's possible to do this for London blogs, UK blogs and world blogs. I'm sure it is. Can you help me out?

London: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Rest of UK: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Rest of World: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

5 links
53 cute little games
Thinking chess - with visible strategy
10 Hypothetical and Plausible Deaths in London
A guide to the alleys, courts, passages and yards of London
wetroads.co.uk - an online guide to every UK ford, watersplash and tidal road

 Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Your Good Health - 10 new laws for a fitter Britain

1) Smoking to be banned everywhere*.
*Necessary exclusions from this blanket ban include pubs, bars, nightclubs, super casinos, Newcastle, the House of Commons committee rooms, the leper carriage on trains, behind the bike sheds and lung cancer wards in hospitals.

2)
Tobacco advertising to be banned completely*.
*Necessary exceptions include Grand Prix sponsorship, David Coulthard's helmet, the commercial break during Coronation Street, school exercise books and 'Benson and Hedges' (the BBC's new pre-school educational series).

3)
Processed foods to be clearly labelled to indicate fat, sugar and salt content.*
*Please note that only one of the above labels will be required so that, for example, Coca Cola may be labelled fat-free, cigarettes may be labelled salt-free and a full cooked English breakfast may be labelled sugar-free.

4)
TV adverts for junk food to be permitted only after 9pm*.
*Advertisers wishing to sell sweets, burgers and fizzy drinks to children should note that, for the purposes of this Bill, 5pm is deemed to be twenty hours after 9pm.

5)
School dinner services to provide healthy meals for children*.
*In larger secondary schools this target can be met by forcing obese students to walk to the chip shop and back every lunchtime.

6)
Children to be encouraged to cycle to school*.
*This will be achieved by giving fewer pupils places at the school of their choice and sending them instead to some bog-standard comprehensive ten miles away.

7)
An independent task force to look at the best ways to prevent obesity*.
*Their report will recommend compulsory bulimia, supergluing together the lips of anyone weighing over 15 stone and a return to chocolate rationing.

8)
Alcohol labelling to include warnings to encourage sensible drinking*.
*Meths drinkers, for example, will be encouraged to hide their bottle inside a paper bag, while lager drinkers will find the words 'Other Way Up' on the underside of each can.

9)
Every Briton to be encouraged to lead a healthy lifestyle*.
*Those refusing to sign up to a ten-point plan including gym membership, marathon running and daily broccoli will be excluded from NHS services and forced to spend a fortune on health insurance instead.

10)
Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to be paid adequately for propping up a tumbledown, underfunded healthcare system*.
*Especially the staff who have my Mum under the knife in a Norfolk hospital this morning. Hip hip hooray to the lot of you.

 Tuesday, November 16, 2004

X-40
The "Oxford Street Lighting Spectacular"


I was strangely drawn to Oxford Street last night to experience the switching on of the annual Christmas lights. It was clear that these were going to be unusual lights when I saw a series of black painted gantries stretched across the street at roughly 400 yard intervals. No obvious fairy lights like South Molton Street, no giant cartoon characters like Regent Street, no recycled compact discs like Carnaby Street, just featureless boxy arches with no Christmas theme whatsoever.

By 6pm last night the road outside Selfridges had been barriered off, and then barriered off again. I stood inside the enclosure at the back of the crowd, well above the average height of those around me, and waited for the first celebrities to appear on the platform. Unfortunately we got Jono and Harriet from the Heart FM Breakfast Show instead. They plugged their radio station at regular intervals whilst hyping up the crowd into a state of mild indifference, before Ken Livingstone eventually emerged to orate about the day's Olympic bid. Rather more welcome was young Emma Watson, that nice Hermione girl from the Harry Potter franchise. She was here to boost the number of children in the audience, and because this event was "in partnership" with the new Prisoner of Azkaban DVD (released Friday, as we were constantly reminded). Finally on the celebrity conveyor belt came Sir Steve Redgrave and the 4x100m men's Olympic relay squad. Steve inspired the crowd to shout for the 2012 Games in the same way that Ken hadn't, and then all five sportsmen waved their gold medals about. Tickertape began to fall. 5-4-3-2-1...

On came the lights. Four giant white spotlights were illuminated from the top of each gantry, pointing upwards towards the sky. And then they waved about a bit, and then they pointed along the street, and then they turned four different colours. The crowd failed to gasp in amazement. Four powerful floodlights may look quite pretty dancing in the distance 200 yards away but alas they're virtually invisible directly above your head. These illuminations don't illuminate, they just glow a bit. As you can see from my photograph, the most impressive illuminations in Oxford Street this winter appear to be the traffic lights.

It's not all bad. The four different colours used are the Olympic colours, which is quite clever, although presumably they've had to use London's sodium-orange sky to represent black. And if you stand away from Oxford Street the lights look quite impressive, scanning the sky like wartime searchlights hunting out the Luftwaffe. From Wardour Street, for example, the towering beams perform a blazing ballet behind the rooftops, while from Waterloo Bridge it looks as though a major light sabre battle is being fought in the West End. It's only in Oxford Street itself that the whole performance is a little underwhelming.

As if to prove the point, the last act to appear on stage were 'opera sensations' Il Divo. They crooned, they melted menopausal hearts and they massacred Unbreak My Heart (in Italian). It was all far too middle-of-the-road, so I stepped swiftly back onto the pavement and headed off into the darkness.

 Monday, November 15, 2004

Dear International Olympic Committee,

Please find enclosed London's bid for the 2012 Olympics. It's dead good and has not been cobbled together in a rush. We all really really want the Olympics to come here in eight years time, even the people who say they don't, mainly because we hate the idea of the French winning the Games instead. Please ignore all the less than good bits in our bid and let us win so that we can overspend our taxes in the name of International Sporting Endeavour.

London loves the Olympics. You can tell this because we've painted some buses blue and because the whole city is draped in curtains featuring the Olympic logo. Our 'Back The Bid' campaign has whipped the population into a frenzy of optimism, so much so that they all plan to leave the capital in 2012 to leave more room on public transport for visiting Olympic officials.

London loves sport. Well, London loves football, which is not quite the same thing. Nobody in London gives a toss about Olympic football because we don't take part but, believe us, we'll pretend to have a passion for beach volleyball, taekwondo and badminton if it helps. We are particularly talented at shooting, however, although not necessarily of the Olympic type.

London loves the world. We're a multicultural global city, where people from all nations gather together to take on underpaid overnight cleaning jobs in high rise offices. You can travel here by air, by boat, by rail, or in a secret compartment in the back of a container lorry. And we're knee-high in tourists already so a few more foreign athletes should fit in perfectly.

Most importantly, London would love to be a better place. It's amazing how hosting a few running races can suddenly inspire governments and businesses to pour money into rundown communities that have been forgotten for decades. There are whole swathes of East London that will be reborn if the Olympics come to town, leaving a legacy of hope (and a nice swimming pool) for future generations.

See you all for the inspection visit in February. We'll show you round the grim industrial wasteland in Hackney where we want to build the field of dreams. And don't worry, we'll show all your wives round Harrods instead.

Yours sincerely,
Seb (and every person in London, honest)

 Sunday, November 14, 2004

Produced by Trevor Horn (part 2)
A Prince's Trust concert


Did I mention I had the best seat in the house? Not over on the royal ledge but right up at the front (well, just 9 rows back) and right in the middle. Close enough to be able to see every overacted gesture, every ill-fitting costume and every self-satisfied smirk without needing to gawp up at the huge video screen behind. And close enough to be able to check out precisely who'd aged well and who hadn't. Let's start the second half with one of each.

Pet Shop Boys: Neil has always looked 40, and still does. Chris on the other hand has always looked 20, and so it was extremely unnerving to see his gaunt face hidden beneath cap and glasses looking at least 60. Musically both were as ageless as ever. Left To My Own Devices (no 4, Nov 1988) remains one of their finest works, almost classical in nature, and especially so with a full orchestra belting out behind. The boys were joined on stage by the opera singer who'd performed on the original recording, who it turned out they'd never previously met, and she beamed for a full five minutes while she waited to sing her one four-note phrase (twice). She was then permitted just one whooping arpeggio on It's Alright (no 5, Jul 1989), but the perfect nostalgic re-creation was complete.
Lisa Stansfield: Look, it's the Lisa Stansfield. Yes, you know, her who had all those big hits in the early 90s. I wonder which great old hit she's going to perform for us? Ah, none of them, it's Say It To Me Now, some 2004 Trevor-produced album ballad instead. Never heard it before. There again, isn't her voice still absolutely fabulous? When Shirley Bassey finally retires, Lisa has the voice to replace her.
t.a.T.u: And then there were the two supposedly lesbian supposedly Russian supposedly schoolgirls. They appeared on stage in extremely short denim mini skirts and knee-high leather boots, then proceeded to touch each other occasionally, presumably to wake up all the dozing bank managers in the front row. It was more like a pop video than a performance, but All The Things She Said (no 1, May 2003) remains an unexpected slab of perfect pop.
Seal: Few artists are as loved by mainstream Britain as Seal (you've got one of his albums tucked away somewhere, haven't you?). This was evident when the entire audience (royalty excepted) rose to its feet during the opening notes of Killer (no 1, Apr 1990), then proceeded to stand and sway during Kiss From A Rose (no 20, July 1994) and Crazy (no 2, Dec 1990). He gave an outstanding vocal performance and the crowd were 100% hooked. Seal thanked Trevor for working on all of his albums, and no doubt the audience will thank Seal by rushing out and buying his new Greatest Hits album for Christmas.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood: You probably remember FGTH as Holly Johnson plus four scallies. We only got the four scallies, plus a replacement singer who did a darned fine job but wasn't quite Holly. The audience were already on their feet so they stayed there, despite Welcome To The Pleasuredome (no 2, Mar 1985) not being a natural crowd-pleaser. Paul Rutherford was having the time of his life hamming it up on stage, and continued to bounce around to Two Tribes (no 1, Jun 1984) (a song still surprisingly relevant 20 years on). And then, how else to close a Horn-y show but with Relax (no 1, Jan 1984)? It's a fantastic song and by the first chorus even Camilla was joining in, tapping her right hand up and down on her thigh in time to the music. By the second chorus she was being a slapper on both thighs, and even Prince Charles (happy 56th birthday Your Royal Highness) had one hand on the go. Bit of a triumph to get the future king of England beating along to a song about sex and orgasms, I reckoned. Relax was a fitting climax to the show, leaving the audience on a euphoric high. Trevor apologised that there was no time for an encore, thanked the world for coming (not literally, after that last song, you'll be glad to know) and sent us away smiling. His is a rare and humble talent, and I doubt Simon Cowell will be packing out stadia in 25 years time. But if Trevor ever plans a 50th anniversary concert, I'll be there.

some blurry photos
further reviews by those present

 Saturday, November 13, 2004

Produced by Trevor Horn (part 1)
A Prince's Trust concert


Last time I went to Wembley Arena it was back in the early 1970s for some 'Holiday on Ice' spectacular. Videos hadn't even been invented, let alone killed the radio star. On Thursday I went back to remember a man who's been a seminal figure in British pop music for the last 25 years - Trevor Horn. A cavalcade of top artistes had been conscripted in his honour, and for three hours they (and we) were transported back to an age when Pop Idols actually had talent. It was a fascinating and eclectic mix of performers, some still at the peak of their profession, others just happy to be given another five minutes in the spotlight. At times it was like being back at an 80s school disco organised by your balding teachers. At other times it was arm-wavingly air-thumpingly brilliant.

The audience was noticeably older than the Arena's usual crowd of screaming girls waving their knickers at the lead singer of Busted. There were a lot of grown-up introspective 80s teenagers, mostly male, plus a fair few middle-aged couples present only because this was a big charity night deserving of their support. And there, up on the comfy seats stage right, sat a particularly well known middle-aged couple who'd been let in for free. Prince Charles smiled professionally and watched the concert with some bemusement. Camilla Parker-Bowles sat three seats away, her blond hair under the dimmed stadium lighting somewhat reminiscent of Krystle Carrington. A memorable night was in prospect.

Buggles: First up was the band that started it all. Trevor Horn took centre stage for Video Killed The Radio Star (no 1, Sept 1979), staring out into the crowd through his trademark spectacles like a startled rabbit in oncoming headlights. He followed up with Plastic Age (no 16, Jan 1980) (ahh, I still have this on luminous pink cassette), again a slightly creaky performance but apparently this was the first time the group had ever played live so it wasn't half bad. I loved every second, although I suspect I was very much in the minority.
Dollar: Gasps of amazement (and secret pleasure) from the audience greeted the entrance of David and Therese. They'd lost none of their professional edge over the years, although David seemed to have put on as much weight as Therese had lost. They played Mirror Mirror (no 4, Nov 1981) and Give Me Back My Heart (no 4, Mar 1982), the latter with a well-polished grin. An end-of-the pier cabaret career beckons.
Grace Jones: Wow, heeeeeere's Grace. She strode on stage wearing a striking black spiky headpiece, and held the audience in the palm of her hand throughout, what else, Slave To The Rhythm (no 12, Oct 1985). She was magnificent, recreating studio perfection with aplomb. She kissed Trevor on the cheek on the way out (I feared she might spear him in several places) and bade the audience farewell with a string of obscenities. A real highlight.
Belle & Sebastian: The endearing Scottish shamblers were hamstrung by having to perform their Horn-produced work, and so mystified the audience with their more recent material - I'm A Cuckoo (no 14, Feb 2004) and Step Into My Office Baby (no 32, Nov 2003). Competent and charming, but alas completely out of place on a line-up such as this.
ABC: On ran Martin Fry, still the perfect showman after more than 20 years. We revelled in three tracks from the classic album Lexicon of Love, kicking off with the excellent Poison Arrow (no 6, Feb 1982). This woke up the audience who made their first attempt at a singalong. The orchestral break at the end of All Of My Heart (no 5, Sep 1982) was extended, allowing some freak guitarist in a black leather kilt to overact while Martin popped off for a costume change. And yes, here he was back for The Look Of Love (no 4, May 1982) in his trademark gold lamé suit, just a couple of waist sizes larger than I remembered. Fab.
Art of Noise: Who'd have thought that one of the 80s ultimate synth records, Close (To The Edit) (no 8, Nov 1984), could ever be recreated live on stage. But it was, and unexpectedly brilliantly. Full marks to keyboard mistress Anne Dudley (although there was no sign of co-conspirator Paul Morley).
Propaganda: Another shining jewel from the ZTT stable, and a personal favourite. The band had reformed for the evening, with Claudia Brücken (or was it Paula Radcliffe?) taking centre stage in a sensible black trouser suit. We were only permitted the full-on onslaught of Dr Mabuse (no 27, Mar 1984), which was a shame because Duel would have worked much better under the circumstances.
Yes: Trevor Horn came late to this legendary 70s band, which at least meant he was significantly younger than the ageing rock dinosaurs who shuffled onto the stage just before the interval. Guitarist Chris Squire reminded me of Dr Emmett Brown from Back To The Future (although this was more Back to The Extinct), while fellow strummer Steve Howe was straight out of Phoenix Nights. They belted out some deafening prog rock overture before ending the first half with the classic Owner Of A Lonely Heart (no 28, Nov 1983). Oh yes.

 Friday, November 12, 2004

And so ends diamond geezer's second annual tube week. I don't normally get more than 200 comments in five days, so I'll take that as a success. What is it about the London Underground that so fascinates even people who live nowhere near it? Be warned that I've still got enough ideas up my sleeve for yet another tube week next year. It looks like this annual season is just the ticket.

Tube watch (10) Ten more tube links
Tube map superimposed on satellite image of London
Temperatures on different tube lines (it's bollocks, obviously)
AllZones - the London Transport Museum website for all your designer Christmas shopping needs
More facts than you could ever want about tube investment over the next 5 years (huge pdf)
3D tube map (by Corey)
Animals on the Underground (16 discovered so far)
What the numbers on your tube ticket mean (from This Is Not London)
New Johnston - the London underground font
The London Transport Users Committee (where to complain)
Pictorial solution to last year's Tube quiz (5)

Tube quiz (10) Name that station (just one more to go)
1) It has only one platform (Chesham, Heathrow Terminal 4, Mill Hill East, Shoreditch)
2) It has only one platform used by tube trains (New Cross, New Cross Gate, Kensington Olympia)
3) It's the only station in its zone (Chalfont & Latimer - zone C)
4) It has the same name as a New York subway station (Kew Gardens, ???)
5) It has the same name as a Paris metro station (Temple)
6) It contains all five vowels (Mansion House, South Ealing)
7) It's one word long and starts and ends with the same letter (Eastcote, Edgware, Hammersmith, Hornchurch, Neasden, Southfields)

Tube geek (10) Quick change
A small black circle on the tube map indicates an interchange between lines. Some of these interchanges involve easy cross-platform walks, while others involve at five minute hike through a labyrinth of tunnels. I've tried to come up with a list of the ten most useful and ten lengthiest line interchanges on the Underground. Feel free to help me out in the comments box if you know of anywhere more appropriate to include. (n.b. only interchanges marked by a circle on the tube map are included)

10 11 best tube interchanges
Mile End: cross-platform saunter between District and Central lines.
Finchley Road and Wembley Park: doddle of a platform-hop between Metropolitan and Jubilee lines.
Baker Street: mini-tunnel between Bakerloo and Jubilee lines.
Finsbury Park: tiny walk between Piccadilly and Victoria lines.
Stockwell: short crossing between Victoria and Northern lines.
Ealing Common, Acton Town, Hammersmith and Baron's Court: same-level interchange between Piccadilly and District lines.
Oxford Circus: brief tunnel dash between Bakerloo and Victoria lines.

10 worst tube interchanges
Bank/Monument: They used to show this on the tube map as a wiggly line marked 'escalator link', which was at least honest. Now they've shifted the circles closer together, disguising the lengthy assault course facing passengers who choose to change here. Never try to swap between the Central and Circle lines here unless you have a strong heart and ten minutes to spare. (Dave recommends going via the Northern line instead)
Green Park: Possibly the longest foot tunnel in the world is hidden between the Piccadilly and Victoria/Jubilee platforms. It's probably quicker to ascend to the ticket hall and come back down via the main escalator instead.
Waterloo: When they added the Jubilee line station here they forgot to position it anywhere near the Northern line platforms. It's so far from one to the other that they've installed a travelator, like what you always find at airports.
Paddington: There used to be two different Paddington tube stations, one (Bishop's Road) on what is now the Hammersmith & City line and the other (Praed Street) on the Circle, District and Bakerloo. The two stations were given the same name in 1947, just to trick people into believing they weren't miles apart.
Hammersmith: On the tube map it looks as if you can change easily here between the District and Hammersmith & City lines. Not so. What the map doesn't show is that the two stations are on opposite sides of Hammersmith Broadway and you have to walk through a shopping mall and across two pedestrian crossings to get from one to the other.
Charing Cross: The Bakerloo and Northern line stations here used to be completely separate until 1979 when the Jubilee line arrived slap bang inbetween. In 1999 they closed down the Jubilee line station again, but they kept open the scarily long passageway between the remaining two lines.
Canary Wharf: The nearest DLR station to Canary Wharf Jubilee line station isn't Canary Wharf but Heron Quays. One's a five minute walk from the Jubilee platform and the other's four, which is pretty poor for such an important transport hub. At least the view's nice on the trek inbetween.
Camden Town: No problem going north on the Northern line, because there's a High Barnet platform and an Edgware platform. Try going south, however, and your train could depart from either of the two platforms so you end up hovering at the foot of the two escalators watching the platform indicators, waiting to dash one way or the other as appropriate.
Euston: Euston is a breeze between the Victoria and the Bank branch of the Northern (so long as you want north to north or south to south), but a pain between either of those and the C+ branch. (Thanks Chz)
Kings Cross St Pancras (while rebuilding work continues): If you want to change from the Northern/Piccadilly/Victoria lines to the Circle/Hammersmith & City/Metropolitan lines at certain times of the day they block off the short cut that would lead you directly to the top of the stairs down into the C/H/M lines area and make you walk the long way round. (Thanks pixeldiva)


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