Wednesday, February 28, 2007
The Count 2007
During February 2003 on diamond geezer I kept myself busy by counting things. Ten different counts, to be precise, in a none-too thrilling daily feature called 'The Count' (a sort of 28-day tally chart). It may be deathly dull to the rest of you, but I've continued to count those ten categories again, every February since, just to keep tabs on how my life is changing. Below are my counts for February 2007, accompanied by the previous statistics and some deep, meaningful pondering. Should you care, that is.
Count 1 (Blog visitors): Blimey, I've reached the giddy heights of 800-or-so visitors a day. That's ten times more than I had four years ago, back when I used to dream of having 100. But last February's massive total remains an unrepeated freak, thanks to a single mention on Blogger's front page. This year's February figure feels somehow more worthy.
Total number of visitors to this webpage in February 2007: 23082
(2006: 42277) (2005: 9636) (2004: 6917) (2003: 2141)
Count 2 (Google searches): I'm only counting these in case too large a proportion of my visitors are coming here 'accidentally' rather than deliberately. And they're not. So that's alright then.
Total number of Google referrals to this webpage in February 2007: 3919
(2006: 3473) (2005: 908) (2004: 947) (2003: 316)
Count 3 (Blog content): I'm always convinced every year that I'm writing far more than I was last year, but this turns out not to be the case. OK, so this is my most prolific February yet, but not by much. It looks like I'm really astonishingly consistent, generating about 500-600 words a day. Good, I'd hate to think my blogging was increasing out of control like an addiction or something.
Total number of words in diamond geezer in February 2007: 17102
(2006: 15817) (2005: 16016) (2004: 16214) (2003: 14392)
Count 4 (Spam): Still surprisingly low, given the avalanche of speculative drivel that clogs the world's inboxes. My ISP manages to block most incoming spam, thankfully, although numbers slipping through are sadly on the increase. Those new blurred-image messages for US stock options seem most difficult to stop at the moment, along with the usual badly-spelt willy-strengtheners. But I should be glad to be averaging only four a day.
Total number of spam emails I received in February 2007: 119
(2006:82) (2005: 54) (2004: 31) (2003: 30)
Count 5 (Nights out): Oh dear, I appear still to be an after-dark hermit, with 25 nights in this month and only three nights out. I've defined 'night out' to be 'sometime after 6pm', which has discounted a couple of otherwise appropriate contenders. And I've included sitting in an audience (eg at the cinema) as 'being sociable', even though it's not really. Otherwise my total would be down to just one, which is a bit grim really. Still, I'm expecting things to pick up from the middle of next month, maybe even approaching 2003 levels...
The number of nights in February 2007 I went out and was vaguely sociable: 3
(2006: 2) (2005: 2) (2004: 7) (2003: 21)
Count 6 (Alcohol intake): That's right, my entire alcohol consumption for this month consists of a single bottle of Becks, which was consumed before 5pm on the very first day of the month. It may be healthy to be nigh teetotal, but it's also a sign of how stay-at-home I've become.
Total number of bottles of Becks I drank in February 2007: 1
(2006: 7) (2005: 0) (2004: 17) (2003: 58)
Count 7 (Tea intake): Apart from one dodgy year when workplace kettle usage was banned, my tea consumption remains wonderfully consistent. As, incidentally, does my coffee intake (still zero).
Total number of cups of tea I drank in February 2007: 137
(2006: 128) (2005:81) (2004: 135) (2003: 135)
Count 8 (Trains used): Again, very regular and fairly high. You can tell I live in London, can't you?
Total number of trains I travelled on in February 2007: 100
(2006: 107) (2005: 117) (2004: 109) (2003: 103)
Count 9 (Exercise taken): I'd like to assure you that any apparent decline in escalator-climbing is due to the nature of my daily commute, not to any increasing levels of breathless unfitness. Honest. I still walk up every escalator I ascend (unless a fat tourist with an even fatter suitcase is blocking my upward progress, of course).
Total number of escalators I walked up in February 2007: 31
(2006: 35) (2005:38) (2004: 72) (2003: 73)
Count 10 (Mystery count): At one point earlier in the month I thought that the legendary diamond geezer Mystery Count was most definitely going to reach 2 by the end of February. And then I'd have had to tell you what I was counting, like I promised. But these expectations proved wholly unfounded, and so the Mystery Count remains zero. Bad luck. Maybe next year...
Total number of times that the mystery event happened in February 2007: 0
(2006: 0) (2005: 0) (2004: 0) (2003: 0)
posted 00:10 :
Tuesday, February 27, 2007When a sporting stadium is renamed after a big corporate sponsor, do you think "Ooh, I'd never heard of them before, but they must be a really fantastic company so I'll go out immediately and buy all their products"? Or do you think "sellout"? I know which one it is for me.
Here's a list of Britain's top 10 most sold-out stadia (unless, of course, you know better)
1) Ricoh Arena (Coventry City): You what? Ricoh are obviously a sponsor selected for their millions rather than for their name. Does "Ricoh Arena" make you think football stadium? Of course it doesn't. You probably can't even pronounce the name properly. I reckon Ricoharena sounds more like a seedy hotel complex on the Costa Brava, or maybe a dodgy Spanish dance involving smearing oneself over the nether regions of ones partner. But hey, Coventry have decided (in their shareholders' infinite wisdom) to name their new stadium after a photocopier manufacturer whose "software solutions are designed to enhance your document lifecycle". If this is the future of football, God help us all.
2) Emirates Stadium (Arsenal): Because there's nothing one associates more with top class football than long haul Middle East air travel, right? Wrong. Arsenal's chairman admitted to having mixed feelings about selling naming rights for the Gunners' new stadium to an airline, but said £100m was too good to resist. I bet it was. No wonder most true supporters continue to call the new place Ashburton Grove or, even better, Highbury.
3) Reebok Stadium (Bolton Wanderers): One of the first (and boldest) stadium rebranding opportunity scenarios. You wonder if Bolton fans are wholly delighted by their sci-fi-tastic modern stadium, or secretly embarrassed to be associated with a sportswear manufacturer who are not quite cool enough.
4) JJB Stadium (Wigan Athletic): Whatever happened to naming your stadium after the street in which it's located? Doesn't pay enough sponsorship money, I guess. In this case maybe Robin Park didn't sound quite serious enough, but it's still surely better than being named after a discount warehouse for hoodies.
5) KitKat Crescent (York City): Yes really. York's tiny ground at Bootham Crescent was renamed after a chocolate bar as part of a two-year sponsorship deal with confectionery giants Nestlé Rowntree. Who then promptly sacked 645 local factory workers. There's brand loyalty for you.
6) The Brit Oval (Surrey County Cricket Club): Surrey have always seemed willing to prostitute their naming rights to whoever pays them the most money. Over the last few years their world-famous cricket ground has been called the Fosters Oval (strewth), the AMP Oval (who?) and now the Brit Oval (after an insurance company you'd not otherwise have heard of, and maybe still haven't).
7) Walkers Stadium (Leicester City): It could have been worse. Leicester's new stadium was nearly called the Walkers Bowl, which is both hideously American and far too easily satirised (a "bowl of crisps"? please no). Leicester supporters with a modicum of self-respect prefer to call their new stadium Filbert Way, so I'm told, which at least doesn't make anyone think of over-perky jug-eared potato munchers.
8) Grattan Stadium (Bradford Bulls): That's a rugby ground named after a mail-order catalogue full of lingerie, ladies shoes and garden furniture. Good grief. I'll let the stadium's PR give the case for the defence... "Known the world over as the home of the awesome Bradford Bulls, Grattan Stadium is a unique and unforgettable destination ideal for a wide range of on-field and indoor sporting, cultural and corporate events." They just don't get it, do they?
9) Madejski Stadium (Reading): I suppose it's acceptable to name a football stadium after the chairman if he's poured millions into the club and brought it rare success. But it's still sheer unbridled megalomania, isn't it?
10) The McDonalds Double Quarter Pounder Stadium (2012 Olympics): It's OK, I've made this one up. Seb & Co have yet to announce the key domestic partners for the London 2012 Olympics, and the IOC wouldn't allow such blatant advertising anyway. But I bet some deranged PR executive somewhere is trying to change the rules to make it happen.
posted 07:00 :
Monday, February 26, 2007I SPY LONDON
the definitive DG guide to London's sights-worth-seeing
Part 17: Hampton Court Palace
Location: East Molesey, KT8 9AU [map]
Open: 10am - 6pm (closes 4:30pm in winter)
5-word summary: 500 years of royal magnificence
Time to set aside: a day
You've probably never considered visiting Hampton Court during the winter months. The gardens aren't at their best in February, the renowned flower show is still months away and the palace isn't centrally heated throughout. But this might just be the best time to visit, mercifully free from packs of tourists and staircase-blocking coach parties. Plus there's absolutely tons to see, far more than you probably expect, and it's not all bluff Tudor monarchs and armoured codpieces. Hampton Court wasn't originally a royal palace, not until Henry VIII confiscated it from his disgraced archbishop Thomas Wolsey in 1528. But over the last five centuries it's been repeatedly embellished, extended and rebuilt, so that the palace now comprises several different architectural styles. It certainly has a turreted chimneypot skyline like no other [photo].
Most visitors start their exploration of the palace from the central Clock Court [photo], maybe meeting up with a costumed guide, or else following one of the many audio-wand walks around the building. One of the oldest surviving parts of the palace is close by - the Tudor Kitchens. This mass catering establishment has been recreated for today's visitors as if preparing for a genuine 16th century banquet. The roast boar and savoury pies cooked here would have been served in the Great Hall upstairs, and gobbled down beneath the richly decorated hammer-beam roof. Nextdoor are Henry VIII's state apartments (or at least those which Sir Christopher Wren left alone when modernising the rest of the building a couple of centuries later). Palace guides enjoy leading hapless visitors through the gallery supposedly haunted by Henry's headless Wife-number-5, and this is also where the famous oil painting of The Field of the Cloth of Gold is hung. Close by is the magnificent Chapel Royal, where Henry married his last wife and baptised his only son, and which is still used for regular Sunday services to this day.
And that's only a small part of what there is to see. The southern and eastern sides of the palace, around the Fountain Court and cloisters, house the state apartments of King William III and his wife Queen Mary. You know the sort of thing - chains of vast rooms and long galleries packed with panelled walls, stern-looking portraits, giant tapestries and ornate 4-poster beds, all set out beneath impossibly ornate roofs. And, if you're willing to climb up several rear staircases to reach them, you might be able to take a look inside one of the old grace and favour apartments on the upper floors, close to the seat of the 1986 fire which devastated several of the historic rooms beneath (now restored).
Don't rest yet, there's still loads to see outside. There's Capability Brown's Great Vine for a start, not especially impressive in winter but still the oldest productive vine in the world [photo]. Inside the Lower Orangery are nine priceless (but overlooked) Italian Renaissance canvases depicting the Triumphs of Caesar (I suspect the security guard stationed in here gets very lonely). Round the corner is the famous Royal Tennis Court - a wooden chamber where Henry VIII used to play, and the oldest surviving tennis court anywhere in the world [photo]. And then there are the gardens [photo], acres and acres of them, beautifully laid out in a variety of imposing formal styles. Some lead down to the Thames, others run alongside an artificial channel through the grounds. Look east into the Home Park (above the heads of the swans on the Long Water) and you can just make out the Golden Jubilee Fountains shooting water 100 feet into the air some three quarters of a mile away.
The infamous Hampton Court Maze is located in the northern part of the palace grounds. This was Britain's first hedge maze, planted as long ago as 1690, and crams half a mile of paths into a third of an acre. The labyrinth is considerably more complicated than the sign pictured here suggests, although not so complex that you need fear getting trapped inside forever. Study the map by the entrance as much as you like - it won't help you much once you get disoriented inside. The sanctuary of the centre never seems too far away when viewed through a patchy yew hedge, but selecting the correct route at each junction is far harder than you might expect [photo].
"Harris asked me if I'd ever been in the maze at Hampton Court. He said he went in once to show somebody else the way. He had studied it up in a map, and it was so simple that it seemed foolish – hardly worth the twopence charged for admission." Jerome K Jerome, Three Men In A BoatExpect to have to fight your way past yelping children and scattered families, and maybe enjoy directing them down one of the dead ends just for a laugh. Listen out too for a permanent audio art installation called "Trace" which has been embedded around the maze, playing various enigmatic sound effects as you pass by. Just try not to be too disappointed when you finally reach the centre only to discover a few occupied benches, a big tree and far too many over-pleased mummies with pushchairs. It's much easier to get out, thankfully, through a simple exit gate back into the surrounding gardens. You might be ready to go home at this point, but I bet you still won't have seen everything this a-maze-ing palace has to offer. [sorry, I couldn't resist it]
by train: Hampton Court by bus: 111, 216, 411
posted 07:00 :
Sunday, February 25, 2007Power points
Why are homes still built with too few electrical sockets? My flat is less than 10 years old, but it's still woefully under-supplied. Take my main living room, for example. Whoever fitted out my flat decided that six wall sockets (in three pairs) would be sufficient. They were wrong. As you can see from the following audit of my plugged-in electrical appliances, I've already used most of these sockets several times over.
Socket 1 → 4-way adapter → TV set
Socket 2 → 2-way adapter → Freeview box
Socket 3 → → → → → → → → → hi-fi
Socket 4 → 4-way adapter → laptop
Socket 5 → → → → → → → → → computer
Socket 6 → 4-way adapter → monitor
That's a total of 16 electrical items powered by six sockets - an average of nearly three appliances per plughole. And my current set-up leaves no room for temporary plug-ins, such as recharging my mobile or powering my vacuum cleaner, which often proves a bit awkward. At least I haven't (yet) been forced to plug a 4-way adapter into a 4-way adapter in order to satisfy my craving for power, but that day may come.
Six sockets just aren't enough to support basic electrical needs in 21st century Britain. Even were I to cut back to absolute essentials (TV, video, Freeview, aerial booster, hi-fi, laptop, wi-fi, telephone) that would still be too much to plug directly into my walls without running out of sockets. My kitchen's supply isn't much better, neither is the single socket beside my bed adequate for all I'd like to use it for. Goodness knows how the true gadget freaks amongst you cope with what you have.
Why can't builders install a sufficient number of power outlets in our homes, as standard? It might help us to avoid the wired hell of tangled flexes and electrical spaghetti that currently clutter our living spaces. Surely a few more holes in the wall would make practical sense, and make our lives a little safer too? Because as technology advances, this current imbalance can only get worse.
posted 09:00 :
Saturday, February 24, 2007Silver discs (February 1982)
A monthly look back at the top singles of 25 years ago
My ten favourite records from February 1982 (at the time)
Soft Cell - Say Hello, Wave Goodbye: If you're of a certain age, this bittersweet warbling ballad no doubt tugs uncontrollably at your heartstrings and brings an emotional tear to the eye. If you're rather younger, you've probably only ever heard David Gray's coffee table version. Your loss. [ToTP]
"Standing in the door of the Pink Flamingo crying in the rain"
XTC - Senses Working Overtime: The only Top 10 hit from one of my very favourite bands, lifted from the quintessential English Settlement album. Here Andy Partridge looked at the everyday world through fresh eyes (and fresh ears, fresh noses, etc). Swindon never sounded so good. [video]
"And all the world is football-shaped, it's just for me to kick in space"
The Jam - A Town Called Malice / Precious: Not so much a double A side as a double A+ side. The band were even allowed to perform both songs on the same edition of Top of the Pops which was unheard of, but then they had just crashed straight in at number 1 in the era before records smashed in regularly at number 1. [video]
"To either cut down on beer or the kids' new gear, it's a big decision in a town called Malice "
Depeche Mode - See You: By rights the band should have faded after Vince Clarke left, but they had another unexpected songwriter up their sleeve and so survived. A bit twee maybe, but this puts all their later darker stuff into proper contrast. [Tube]
"You can keep me at a distance if you dont trust my resistance, but I swear I wont touch you"
China Crisis - African and White: Soft, hook-laden propaganda direct from the dark continent (ie Liverpool). This, the first of their mostly-underrated single output, stalled at number 45 in the charts.
"Afrikaner, african and white, you're closer than you really ever know"
Bow Wow Wow - Go Wild In the Country: All praise to Malcolm McClaren for rescuing 14-year old Annabella Lwin from her after-school job in a dry cleaners and creating this nugget of angry pop energy. Woof! [video]
"Swinging from the trees, naked in the breeze, but I got no boiled chicken, I wanna go hunting and fishing"
Thompson Twins - In the Name of Love: This storming track from the South London collective took US dance clubs by storm, but we Brits proved harder to impress. The opening synth fanfare found its way into the middle of Love On Your Side a year later, but only a few of us remembered where we'd heard it first. [live]
"Hey you, I've seen your face before, it's you in the picture which hangs on my bedroom wall"
Leisure Process - Love Cascade: I'm probably the only person who remembers this turntable hit, from a briefly-flowering electro-duo much loved on evening Radio 1 at the time. The band featured session saxophonist Gary Barnacle, later to perform behind Level 42, Kim Wilde and Jamiroquai.
"Make way, here comes our love cascade, our triumphs on parade, why were we so afraid?"
Blue Rondo A La Turk - Klactoveesedstein:A ridiculous yet charming audio trifle, although people were no doubt too embarrassed to ask for it by name in record shops which probably is why it faded without trace. The band were named after a jaunty Dave Brubeck jazz track which, to be honest, was probably much better.
"I've gotta find out what it means, it's got to mean something, it's not just a dream "
Funboy Three and Bananarama - It Ain't What You Do It's The Way That You Do It: Siobhan, Sara and Keren piggy-backed into the limelight on the back of this finger-clicking 1939 jazz classic, and never went away again. The trio became the UK's most successful all-girl band ever, and the song title has entered the vernacular. [video] [ToTP]
"You can try hard, don't mean a thing, take it easy and then your jive will swing"
10 other hits from 25 years ago: The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Tight Fit), I Can't Go For That (Hall and Oates), Centrefold (J Geils Band), Maid of Orleans (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark), Easier Said Than Done (Shakatak), Fool If You Think It's Over (Elkie Brooks), Cardiac Arrest (Madness), You're The One For Me (D Train), Queen of the Rapping Scene (Modern Romance), Theme From Hill Street Blues (Mike Post) ...which hit's your favourite? ...which one would you pick?
posted 00:25 :
Friday, February 23, 2007I couldn't possibly comment
One of the best things about reading blogs is being able to answer back. Not that you want to answer back every time, but it's good to know that you can. If someone writes something on their blog that you feel the urge to respond to, then respond. Open up the comments box (or click onto the comments space on the page) and type away. Sometimes the comments are the best bit of a blog, a place where entertaining debate and conversation can flourish. Comments are rare and precious things, always earned, never to be taken for granted. Oh yes, the ability to interact is one of the things that makes reading blogs worthwhile.
So it's a bit annoying to come across a blog where you can't answer back. Sometimes it's the decision of the blogger themselves not to allow comments, in which case fair enough. But more often than not it's the decision of the blogging platform instead. You want to leave a comment? Bad luck you can't, because you're not a member. It's members only round here. We're a community we are, so you can only leave a comment if you're one of us. So either sign up and join us, or bugger off and leave us alone. It's not exactly friendly and inclusive, is it?
I discovered a new gated blogging community yesterday. They're called Vox, and they're a new-ish part of the Six Apart stable. I discovered them via a seriously large promotional plug in yesterday's Metro (all over most of page 21) in which the newspaper announced the launch of their own Metro UK Vox blog. Ooh how exciting. There's only one post on Metro UK at the moment, which is a heartfelt plea to the paper's readers to sign up and join the Metrospective community. Only 4 people have bothered so far but hey, it's early days yet. And look, you can only leave a comment on the Metro blog if you're a Vox member.Want to post a comment?Not much chance of me, or you, or anybody from the outside world ever commenting on anything, then. Other blogging communities can be just as restrictive. Want to leave a comment on a Yahoo! 360° blog? Sorry, members only. Want to leave a comment on a MySpace blog? Sorry, only if you've signed in. Want to leave a comment on a LiveJournal page? Sorry, LJ-ers only. [And will the bastards at LiveJournal allow me to sign up for an account? Will they hell. Their ridiculously overprotective software has somehow decided that my IP address is home to a pre-teenage child, and I can therefore only open an account if "my parents" give their consent via an ID check using a credit card or photocopied birth certificate. Fat chance, corporate suckers... so that's my usage of the LJ service permanently barred. Sigh.]
Sign in or Join Vox to post a comment
So, every interesting Vox, MySpace, Y!360° or LiveJournal post that I read must remain forever uncommented. These big blogging platforms are stifling debate by restricting interaction only to those already on the inside. Great if you're writing a blog you want only your five best mates or your Auntie Jane to read, but bloody useless for anyone with higher aspirations. If you want the wider world to stumble upon what you've written and maybe acknowledge its innate creative brilliance then you don't need protective social networking, you need open comments. Like what most of the rest of us have. I love that fact that anybody can leave me a comment, even an anonymous comment, on the spur of the moment without having to register a carefully verified online identity.
So I'm sorry Metro, but I suspect that your chance of creating a vibrant Vox-powered network of urbane opinionated commuters is virtually zero. And if you disagree perhaps you'd like to leave me a comment here and tell me so, because I can't leave you one.
posted 07:00 :
Thursday, February 22, 2007London's most popular
Just released, figures which reveal London's most visited tourist attractions. And what do you know - the Tate Modern is the most popular attraction in the capital with nearly 5 million visitors last year (that's an impressive 13600 visitors a day or, if you like, 26 visitors a minute). According to the official list, a total of 14 attractions welcomed more than a million visitors in 2006 (up from 13 the year before). And right down at the bottom of the pile was the Theatre Museum, whose visitor numbers were so feeble that the place was forced to close down last month. Great headline-grabbing stuff, this rank-ordering.
London's Top Tourist Attractions 2006 Attraction Visitors
Tate Modern 4,915,000 13600 free British Museum 4,837,878 13400 free The National Gallery 4,562,471 12600 free Natural History Museum 3,754,496 10400 free Science Museum 2,421,440 6700 free Victoria and Albert Museum 2,372,919 6600 free Tower of London 2,084,468 5800 £15 St Paul’s Cathedral 1,626,034 5200 £9.50 National Portrait Gallery 1,601,448 4400 free Tate Britain 1,597,000 4400 free National Maritime Museum 1,572,310 4300 free Kew Gardens 1,357,522 3700 £12.25 British Library 1,182,393 3300 free Westminster Abbey 1,028,991 3300 £10 London Zoo 905,303 2500 £12 Houses of Parliament 890,455 2500 free/£12 Imperial War Museum 712,321 2000 free Hampton Court Palace 473,013 1300 £12.30 Cabinet War Rooms 296,656 820 £11 Kensington Palace 273,566 760 £11.50 HMS Belfast 268,774 750 £9.95 Kenwood House 194,408 540 free Theatre Museum 178,013 700 free
But hang on a second, there must be more than 23 visitor attractions in London, surely? Where's Buckingham Palace? Where's Madame Tussauds? Where's the London Eye? It turns out that the above list is restricted only to attractions with current membership of ALVA - the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions. If you didn't take part in the organisation's latest survey then you're not on the list. It's not exactly definitive is it? I'm perfectly willing to believe that Tate Modern is the genuine number 1, but I have very little faith that Tate Britain is really number 10.
Still, at least the visitor numbers are fascinating. It's striking how much more popular the National History Museum is than its scientific neighbour. It's instructive that the Tower of London is the only attraction in the top half of the list which charges for admission. It's mysterious how the Houses of Parliament seem to have so many visitors when they're only open to the public during the summer recess. And blimey, more people visited my blog last year than visited HMS Belfast - surely that can't be right?
The full ALVA list also contains attractions outside London, which means that even the Tate Modern is eclipsed by the success of Blackpool Pleasure Beach - Britain's most-visited in 2006, with 5.7 million dropping in. All the rest of our top attractions are still in the capital, however, right down until Edinburgh Castle appears as the UK's number 14. Meanwhile, at the very bottom of the full UK list, a rather more folorn picture is painted:
National Wool Museum 17,535 50 free National Museum of Costume 10,717 50 £3
It's quite sad that only 50 people a day head down to deepest Camarthenshire to "discover the spellbinding story of the Welsh woollen industry". Similarly it's a shame that only 50 people a day head for a small village south of Dumfries to "open the door on fashion and society through the ages". That's as many visitors daily as the Tate Modern gets in two minutes. For every mega-attraction in central London, it seems there are several carefully-crafted mini-museums in the provinces which never get the support they deserve. Let's hope that a few more tourists frequent these overlooked treasures in 2007.
posted 07:00 :
Wednesday, February 21, 2007I am a leafletoholic
I confess. I have an unnatural desire to collect leaflets. Not the sort that low-paid migrants attempt to force into my hand in the street. Not the sort that tumble out of the middle of magazines and newspapers when I open them. Not the sort that local curry houses and pizzerias poke through my letterbox three times a week. But the sort of public information leaflets that are often left lying around in libraries, stations and hotel foyers - the sort that I select for myself rather than having them thrust upon me. Ooh I love leaflets.
I don't know why, but I find it very difficult to walk past a stack of leaflets without at least looking to see what they are. Maybe there'll be a special 2-for-1 offer in there, or a useful map, or a suggestion for something to visit or somewhere to go. I always keep my eye open walking through tube stations to see if London Underground have brought out anything new and interesting (er, no, just the usual engineering work info and Oyster promos). I'll often make a diversion into a tourist information centre just to see what freebies they have for me to take away (I may have no intention of visiting Stonehenge in the near future, but some information about it might be useful). It's amazing how many leaflets you can stuff into a pocket or bag before people start giving you funny looks.
I throw half of these leaflets away when I get home. They turn out not to be really interesting after all, or completely irrelevant once the event they're describing has passed, or advertising somewhere twee that I shall never visit. But that still leaves an awful lot of leaflets lying around which I can't bear to dispose of. I have piles and piles of maps (the most useful of which are probably the 19 free London Cycle maps which between them provide full street by street coverage of the capital). I have full details of all the tourist attractions in the Eastbourne, Stornoway and Bedford areas, just in case I should ever return and have a couple of hours to spare. And I can tell you all about the special arrangements on the tube for next weekend, or on Millennium Eve, or during the Queen's Coronation (one of you sent me that last leaflet, I didn't pick it up at the time, honest).
What I really need is a decent filing system so that I have some hope of locating a leaflet from my assembled collection should I ever need it. How will I ever find that special Olympic leaflet in amongst the museum mini-guides and steam railway timetables? How will I ever stumble upon that must-visit historic monument if its leaflet lies buried in a heap of craft village vouchers and regional tourist maps? I guess I could try to replace as many of these leaflets as possible by their online pdf equivalent, but somehow an electronic Adobe-powered leaflet is never quite the same. And I'd really miss the thrill of collecting even more semi-useless glossy pamphlets the next time I'm out and about. Because I am a leafletoholic. And proud of it.
posted 00:10 :
Tuesday, February 20, 2007PANCAKE DAY - a Government Health Warning
Shrove Tuesday is a traditional Christian feast day, celebrated all over the world for several centuries. Everybody loves a good pancake, not least because they're the perfect food for using up all your excess milk, butter and eggs before the 40-day fast of Lent begins. But be warned. Frying pancakes on Shrove Tuesday may endanger both you and your family. Because pancakes can kill. Take heed, citizen.
Planning your Shrove Tuesday menu: First of all, ask yourself do you really want to cook pancakes? Sure they taste yummy and sweet, but think too of all the vein-clogging that lies ahead. Wouldn't it be better to forego these stodgy batter treats this year and plump for a healthier meal instead? Perhaps a nice carrot, or a some tasty salad, or even a crunchy Ryvita biscuit. The Food Standards Agency is already in negotiations with the Church of England to have today renamed either Pineapple Day or Coconut Tuesday. Wish us luck.
Preparing the ingredients: Pancakes are made using a very simple recipe, requiring minimal preparation. But have you considered the nutritional advantages of replacing some of the ingredients with a healthier alternative? Instead of ordinary plain flour, try brown rice flour - it's full of bowel-loosening fibre. Instead of full-fat milk, slim down to the tasteless skimmed stuff. Instead of butter, use a low-lipid salt-free vegetable oil or margarine. And instead of eggs, acknowledge the undoubted benefits of a soft paste made from hummus and aubergine. Shop carefully - it could save your life.
Cooking the pancakes: You never can be too careful when cooking pancakes. Do not under any circumstances leave your children alone in the kitchen with a big non-stick frying pan, in case they sneak this vicious weapon outdoors and use it to initiate murderous street violence. And do not under any circumstances flip too vigorously when tossing your pancakes, in case one sticks to the ceiling and you end up falling off a stepladder while trying to retrieve it. Always complete a full risk assessment before attempting to initiate in-house pancake generation.
Garnishing your pancakes: A squeeze or two of lemon on your pancake is a good thing (and, in large enough doses, counts as one of your five daily servings of fruit and vegetables). But don't be tempted to use artificial Jif from a yellow plastic receptacle because this contains several spoonfuls of evil carbohydrate. And don't sprinkle extra sugar over your pancakes either, because there's already enough sugar in that maple syrup you've just smothered everywhere, and your teeth will surely rot, and all your local NHS dentists have already run out of money this financial year. Plain is best.
Eating your pancakes: Don't. Just don't. It was a lot of fun cooking them, but don't under any circumstances allow these fat-filled concoctions to enter your digestive system. You might as well just roll up each pancake and insert it down a major artery. Sorry, not even running in one of those pancake-flipping race events will expend sufficient calories to cancel out a batter-bloated stomach. So play safe, and just chuck the lot in the bin. Oh go on then, maybe just one pancake. But if your waistline expands and you drop dead seconds afterwards, don't say we didn't warn you.
Please note that other religions are available - many of which only promote feast days based on the principles of healthy eating. When selecting a religion for your family always consider the importance of nourishing the soul via a fully sustainable diet regime - preferably not including pancakes, chocolate eggs or (especially) roast turkey.
posted 00:01 :
Monday, February 19, 200710 places in Kensington and Chelsea that now cost drivers £8 to visit
1) Hyde Park (we'll all think twice about popping down to the Serpentine with our Fortnum & Mason hampers now)
2) Portobello Road market (how is one expected to carry polenta and antiques home without forking out for a taxi?)
3) That lovely boutique on the Kings Road which sells bijou objets d'art (increased delivery charges will surely put essential services such as this out of business)
4) The Royal Albert Hall (thankfully the charge applies only to matinée performances)
5) Rupert and Olivia's private school (how will the au pair ever be able to afford to pay the newly-extended Congestion Charge every day?)
6) Sloane Square (obviously one could use public transport instead of one's car, but buses and trains are full of common people)
7) All the museums in South Kensington (does Mayor Ken not realise that the price of school coach trips will now have to rise?)
8) The Notting Hill Carnival (it's a damned shame the charge doesn't apply on Bank Holidays, because we'd rather those noisy sound systems and steel bands stayed away)
9) Harrods (although anybody who shops here can easily afford to pay £8, so it's not much of a disincentive to drive is it?)
10) Connaught Square (ha, that's slipped Tony Blair's new house just inside the zone with only a few months to spare)
10 places to which Kensington and Chelsea residents can now drive once they've paid their £8
1) Mayfair, 2) Marylebone, 3) Westminster, 4) Soho, 5) Southwark, 6) Lambeth, 7) Covent Garden, 8) Bloomsbury, 9) Clerkenwell, 10) the City
(so traffic in the original zone is now sure to increase, because it doesn't cost K&C residents anything extra to drive there. Damn)
10 places to which we can still drive for nothing
1) Paddington, 2) Park Lane, 3) Victoria, 4) King's Cross, 5) Tower Bridge, 6) Elephant and Castle, 7) Vauxhall, 8) Earl's Court, 9) Shepherd's Bush, 10) the rest of Britain (for now)
new map of extended Congestion Charge zone [pdf]
new bus map showing CC zone and surrounding area [pdf]
posted 07:00 :
Sunday, February 18, 2007New 2s
Only one TV channel has ever perfected the design of its pre-programme idents, and that channel is BBC2. It's now 16 years since BBC2 introduced its series of animated 2s (you know - the paint-splattered 2, the falling-blade 2, the spinning-shadow 2, and so on), and these are generally accepted as the best TV ident branding ever. Channel 4's coloured bars probably ran it a close second, but everybody loved the wit and clarity of the BBC2 twos. So much so that the series ran for a full 10 years, with additional animations introduced at regular intervals. Many of these new 2s were even better than the originals - the squeaky-jumping 2, the radio-controlled wheelie 2, the exploding 2, the fly-zapping 2, the doner-kebab 2, etc etc. Through such simple yet powerful branding, everybody knew that BBC2 stood for creativity, mischief and innovation. And it was never a chore to sit through the ten seconds before the start of each programme while the announcer told you what was coming up next.
Other channels have tried to emulate BBC2s idents, but never quite so successfully. The BBC1 balloons were loved by many but hated by others, while the BBC1 dancers left most generally unimpressed. Channel 4 has never quite regained the impact of its initial logo, and its latest 3D landscape compositions may be impressively epic but on repeated viewing feel over-clever and over-long. And ITV has tried increasingly desperately to mimic the branding success of the other channels but always fallen far short of cool. No, BBC2's 2s were unbeatable.
And then in 2001 BBC2 updated its image. Some chief executive, in her wisdom, decided that the old 2s were looking tired and needed updating for the 21st century. A new set of 2s were introduced, this time on a widescreen yellow background and each acting out some short vignette. Domino-toppling, fish-swimming, spot-scrubbing and rubbery-bouncing were all featured, and each ident was an expensive animated mini-masterpiece. Unfortunately, however, they were all a bit same-y and the channel's charm rapidly dissipated. So the new 2 could do acrobatics - who cared any more? And that's how BBC2's on-screen identity has been for the last six years - slightly underwhelming and lacking in impact.
Until this morning. Today (at 10am) a brand new series of BBC2 idents is launched. And hurrah, the proper 2s are back. There's a 2007 twist which is that each 2 is now "a window on the world". The camera pulls back each time to reveal that the 2 is actually the flap in a tent, or the mirror in a car, or a hole in a wave-sploshed breakwater, or even some chocolate sprinkled on the top of a cappucino. It could all be over-pretentious lifestyle rubbish, but I'm hopeful that some of the magic of the original branding will return. You can see a sneak preview of the seven new idents on the BBC2 website, and also here, here and here. Plus they've put together a special printable BBC2 idents wallchart (which sounds like it should be great, except they've somewhow managed to select all the wrong idents and missed the ones we really loved). But hurrah, the proper 2s are back (fingers crossed).
BBC2 logos 1991-2001: here, here, here, here
BBC2 logos 2001-2007 (if you care): here, here, here, here
BBC2 logos 2007- : here, here, here, here
Watch classic BBC2 idents: here, here
10:00 Cappucino: Chocolate sprinkled through a wobbly metal grating to form a brown speckled 2 atop frothy coffee - then lovingly destroyed by a teaspoon-wielding hand (brown is an improvement on yellow, but grated chocolate may eventually grate)
11:30 Seascape: Epic offshore wave action, continuing slightly too long before pulling back through a 2-shaped hole in a wooden breakwater (that's somebody throwing a bucket of water through the gap, surely?) [watch]
12:00 Zoetrope: An updated Metropolis-esque skyscape is revealed to be a sequence of images in a spinning magic lantern [watch]
13:25 Chase: Trendily-shaggy action man runs up forest path, then escapes his captors by diving through a 2-shaped rocky portal (closely followed by a dog, awww, look, it's a cute ickle collie, awww) [watch]
15:00 Mirror: Raindrop illumination turns out to be headlamp reflected in oddly-positioned wing mirror as car speeds through night-time London (that looked like the Rotherhithe tunnel, and I definitely spotted Tower Bridge too) [watch]
16:35 Tent: A lot of unzipping finally opens a wholly impractical 2-shaped door in the canvas, allowing us to look out at a snowbound polar explorer (apparently there are alternative versions which feature a beach and an open-air pop concert) [watch]
23:50 Sunroof: Looking upward through a slowly-opening 2-shaped sunroof as a car drives beneath a a sunny canopy of idyllic green leaves (and the occasional lamppost) [watch]
posted 09:00 :
Saturday, February 17, 20075 things to do this weekend
1) China In London 2007: The Year of the Pig starts tomorrow, which is excuse enough for Mayor Ken to spend our taxes on a big oriental party. The main events are a grand parade around Chinatown (starts on the Strand at 11am), lots of dragon dances and Chinese arty stuff in Trafalgar Square, plus a couple of firework displays in Leicester Square (2pm and 5pm). And see how everything's been carefully timed to allow you to finish off your visit with a meal of saucy pigbits in a local Chinese restaurant? Cunning that.
2) Blue Badge Guide Walking Weekend: London's Blue Badge guides are a treasured resource. They know all there is to know about the capital, its heritage and its history, and normally they charge you lots of money to tell you about them. Not this weekend. Today and tomorrow they're offering their services for free, running eight guided walks around the centre of town (every hour on the hour from 11am to 3pm). No need to book, just turn up and enjoy a 2-hour stroll with intelligent commentary. I went on two of the walks last year and can heartily recommend the one through the City (starting at Liverpool Street) which was considerably more packed with historical fascinatingness than I was expecting. The London Bridge one this year, I think.
3) Hot Fuzz: It's a film (before you start worrying) from the team that brought you Shaun of the Dead. Simon Pegg plays over-successful police officer Nicholas Angel, reassigned from the Met to duties in the sleepy Gloucester market town of Sandford. Which turns out not to be quite as sleepy as it seems, because country folk are a strange protective bunch. This is an American cop film translated into rural England, which means Neighbourhood Watch vigilantes, gun battles in a local supermarket and death by hanging basket. There are cameo appearances from an unexpectedly wide range of mature British actors, and there's also an emotional depth to the plot which really shouldn't work but does. It's smartly amusing throughout and refreshingly different, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. [trailer]
4) Primeval (ITV1, tonight, 7:20): By law, every UK-based science fiction series must contain at least one story set on the London Underground. ITV's new dinosaur-hunting drama achieves this target in just its second week. Tonight we're promised giant scuttly insects emerging through a time portal to frighten commuters, and the team have only a lot of guns and their Oyster cards to despatch the lot of them. If episode 2 is anything like episode 1 it'll be a lot of enjoyable hokum, but it'll also give tube geeks endless opportunities to shout at their TV sets. "But Aldwych hasn't been open for 13 years!" "But there aren't any disused tunnels at Regent's Park" "But that bit of the District line isn't underground!" etc etc
5) Or just go and do whatever you were going to do this weekend anyway. You've probably already agreed to repaint the bedroom, or go visit Auntie Sheila in Coventry, or queue in IKEA for half the afternoon, or fly off to Copenhagen on a mini-break, or take the kids to the local park where they can meet up with their hoodie mates and practice knife-wielding skills. Your loss.
posted 08:00 :
Friday, February 16, 2007First!!!!!!
kenzie | Email | Homepage | 16.02.07 - 7:04 am
Bella-Jane | Email | Homepage | 16.02.07 - 7:04 am
Damn, kenzie beat me to it!!!
Bella-Jane | Email | Homepage | 16.02.07 - 7:05 am
spencerama | Email | Homepage | 16.02.07 - 8:25 am
I used to live in West Drayton. I remember when it was all fields and trolleybuses.
Bengo | Email | Homepage | 16.02.07 - 9:01 am
But I think you'll find that trolleybuses never went to West Drayton.
mr flibble | Email | Homepage | 16.02.07 - 9:45 am
I know it's off-topic, but BlueHangman has written a must-read post about the blight of pan-European trade legislation on his blog http://straight-bananas.com
Chief Whip | Email | Homepage | 16.02.07 - 10:12 am
what mr flibble said. with nobs on.
bigroostergirl | Email | Homepage | 16.02.07 - 10:38 am
The standrad of english in some of these coments is apalling
Jeppard | Email | Homepage | 16.02.07 - 11:25 am
But I think the issue is one of self-censorship. It's only by confronting the past that we can truly challenge the future. David Cameron has a lot to lrean.
Ken Harris | Email | Homepage | 16.02.07 - 12:39 pm
Sorry, I meant "laern".
Ken Harris | Email | Homepage | 16.02.07 - 12:40 pm
Damn, I maent "learn".
Ken Harris | Email | Homepage | 16.02.07 - 12:41 pm
Ken Harris | Email | Homepage | 16.02.07 - 12:42 pm
Not exactly relevent here but check this out:-
I may have to go & lie down quietly somewhere, this is just too funny.
Dibber | Email | Homepage | 16.02.07 - 2:09 pm
PLEASE DON'T READ THIS. You will get kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However, if you don't post this comment to at least 3 blogs, you will die within 2 days. Copy and paste this, to be saved.
moxy | Email | Homepage | 16.02.07 - 5:21 pm
I start new blog
Maybe you like
bootybling | Email | Homepage | 16.02.07 - 9:44 pm
Keep your girl delirious with pleasure
Authentic Vi@gra direct: http://hardrock.info
Free same-day worldwide shipping and inflammation
poker casino | Email | Homepage | 17.02.07 - 10:58 am
Sigh. I wish I had this many comments.
NuBlogger | Email | Homepage | 17.02.07 - 8:41 pm
I know I'm a bit late, but I used to live in West Drayton too. Anyone else?
Sid Harding | Email | Homepage | 30.11.09 - 9:33 pm
posted 07:00 :
Thursday, February 15, 2007Cool update
Damian, one of the three presenters of Cool In Your Code (see Tuesday), has made the mistake of asking Londoners what they think of his Web TV handiwork. Here. And Londoners, as represented by members of the Fridaycities online community, have been rightly scathing in their replies. Mob justice can be enjoyable, but Damian (aka scribbler) has so far proved rather more thick-skinned than perhaps he deserves.
For a much better stab at cool I can recommend le cool - a brand new weekly email magazine for Londoners. The first edition was published today and features a selection of "carefully-filtered" cultural events and leisure activities. It may be a lot more twenty-something than forty-something, but I found the contents distinctly more relevant and savvy than Damian's Hoxton musings. You can read this week's edition of le cool here (and maybe sign up to the weekly email here).
posted 18:00 :
In today's two puzzles...
No row contains more than one tick
No column contains more than one tick
No diagonal contains more than one tick
Puzzle A: Tick four more squares
[Please don't post the answers in the comments box, but do tell us how you get on]
posted 07:00 :
Wednesday, February 14, 2007Liveblogging the Brits
Hurrah! After nearly two decades of broadcasting the Brit Awards "tomorrow", the organisers have finally agreed to televise tonight's ceremony "tonight". Maybe they read my rant here last year and finally saw sense. At long last I can watch the event on the correct evening and hope that I see something great (rather than having to watch the next day and knowing that I won't). Will Russell Brand soar or flop? Will the producers manage to bleep out all the swear words in time. And will the list of winners end up looking identical to the Radio 2 playlist, again? Let's find out...
8:04 Late start. Hmm, maybe the programme's not live at all - maybe it's running with a 4 minute time delay.
8:06 The Scissor Sisters kick off the show with some cunningly-silhouetted creative choreography. Blimey that was clever.
8:10 Russell Brand looks slightly uncomfortable reading topical jokes off the autocue, but just about pulls it off.
British Live Act (voted for by Radio 2 listeners, most of whom probably haven't been to a gig this century): Muse (ho hum)
8:16 Snow Patrol perform Chasing Cars, and then Fearne Cotton enthuses slightly too enthusiastically.
8:21 What do you think they do in the hall during the adverts? Maybe that's when Russell tells all the filthy jokes.
British Breakthrough Act (voted for by Radio 1 listeners): The Fratellis (their acceptance speech includes tonight's first sound-dip)
International Breakthrough Act (voted for by MTV viewers): Orson (quick, time to make a cup of tea)
8:34 Amy Winehouse gives a soulful performance which could easily have graced the Brits 1967 (had there been one)
8:37 Russell deftly slips in a joke about photographs of the Queen's private parts well before the watershed.
British Male Solo Artist (in future to be renamed the 'James Blunt Memorial Award'): James Morrison
8:42 Fearne plugs the text vote for Best British Single. Eagle-eyed viewers may have spotted the on-screen smallprint which warns voters to end their text with "NO INFO" if they don't want to be sent marketing spam.
International Male Solo Artist: Justin Timberlake (who uses the excuse of 'being on tour' to not turn up)
8:50 The Killers perform the only song everyone will still remember them for in 20 years time.
British Female Solo Artist (from a super-abundant shortlist - no need for Bush or Lennox this year): Amy Winehouse
8:58 Just time for a quick "vagina" before nine o'clock - well done Russell.
International Female Solo Artist: Nelly Furtado (Amy's speech sounded so much more genuine, I thought)
9:02 Take That patiently conquer the assembled crowd (but they look like they're evolving into the BeeGees)
9:10 Russell hurls a diatribe of intelligent insults at Sun journalists. I'm liking him more and more.
British Band: Arctic Monkeys (who've dressed up as Wizard of Oz characters rather than turn up in person - it almost worked)
International Album: The Killers - Sam's Town (watch this rocket up from #30 in the album chart on Sunday)
9:11 The Red Hot Chili Peppers demonstrate convincingly that some tattoos look better clothed.
International Group: The Killers (as not voted for by the public, just faceless music business execs)
9:28 Russell introduces svelte singing starlet Corrinne bleep sound-dip Bailey rude-word censored Rae.
British Single (voted for by txting viewers): Take That - Patience (they also won in 1993, 1994 & 1996 - what a comeback!)
British Album: Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (now dressed as the Village People - are they trying to tell us something?)
9:40 Backstage Fearne asks Take That stupid questions, then gets over-moist anticipating Oasis.
9:45 "What a bloody show it's been, bloody hell." I think that about sums it up, Mr Brand.
9:46 Russell introduces Oasis at some length, telling lots of anecdotes but failing to mention that they make great music.
Outstanding Contribution (ie a group who'll never win another award for their current stuff, but whose entire back catalogue is now available in all good record shops): Oasis
9:56 Oasis perform, and manage to make their three songs sound underwhelmingly similar. Probably because they are.
10:00 Sorry ITV, I'm not stayed tuned for your excessively-promoted lame new sitcom, I'm switching to BBC2 for Never Mind The Buzzcocks (the one where Preston strops off halfway through). Now that's music television.
posted 20:00 :
♥ The VD guide to a healthy heart ♥
5 reasons why being single is good for your health 5 reasons why being coupled is good for your health 1♥ It's impossible to book a table in a restaurant on Valentine's Day, not that anybody ever invites you out for a three course dinner in a restaurant anyway. 1♥ That charming Mediterranean restaurant in the high street can serve up a much healthier Valentine's Day meal than anything you could cook at home. 2♥ Nobody ever (ever) buys you a box of chocolates. 2♥ It's much better to share a bottle of wine than attempt to drink it all yourself. 3♥ Oysters, truffles and other aphrodisiacs are really bad for you. 3♥ Regular sex burns 5 calories a minute, and keeps you fit and agile too. 4♥ You're willing to spend ages at the gym attempting to look fit enough to attract a partner. 4♥ You always try hard to keep yourself in good shape for your partner's sake. 5♥ You can play football on a Sunday morning without your partner insisting you stay home and retile the kitchen instead. 5♥ You can stay in bed on a Sunday morning and still get plenty of exercise. 5 reasons why being single is bad for your health 5 reasons why being coupled is bad for your health 1♥ It's never worth cooking for one, so you eat far too many ready meals and takeaways. 1♥ It's too much trouble to cook yourselves a decent meal every night so you eat out much too often. 2♥ You spend too many nights indoors slouching on your sofa watching the telly with nothing to do but eat crisps. 2♥ You spend half of every Saturday morning sat in a coffee shop with your beloved sipping cappucinos and nibbling on a muffin. 3♥ Not having a relationship risks sending you spiralling into gloomy pizza-eating depression. 3♥ The break-up of your relationship will one day send you spiralling into gloomy pizza-eating depression. 4♥ Nobody cares what you look like, so why bother going to all the effort of keeping yourself fit? 4♥ You've already found your partner, so it doesn't matter if let your body go to seed a bit. 5♥ If you ever suffer a heart attack, there's nobody around to notice and ring for an ambulance. 5♥ The stress of living with someone else greatly increases the risk that you'll suffer a heart attack.
posted 00:14 :
Tuesday, February 13, 2007Cool In Your Code
The Times newspaper's website updated last week. It was an absolute dog's breakfast on the first day, but the intended lime-green multimedia environment later emerged. One of the website's special new features is an online audio/video section entitled Cool In Your Code. This is a web TV extravaganza in which three energetic young presenters travel around London, postcode by postcode, reporting back on what they find. "We've walked the streets, toured the bars and poked our noses into the homes of London's most vibrant districts to find the places which make the capital special." This is most definitely not The Times of old. But the newspaper must be very proud of Cool In Your Code because they're promoting it with special adverts on tube trains. So I wondered what they'd made of my postcode, E3, and I thought I'd check it out.
Ah, Cool In Your Code hasn't got to E3 yet. Nor have they reached W8, SE1, NW1 or even W1. So far they've only covered Hoxton, which is sort-of N1-ish, and absolutely nowhere else. Great start, guys. We'll have to make do with Hoxton then. There are three Hoxtonesque video snippets to choose from - one on property (ie estate agents), one on culture (ie art and shopping) and one on nightlife (ie bars and restaurants). If you click carefully enough, one of them might even load (I had no luck in Firefox and had to start up Internet Explorer instead). Look, moving pictures! The future, alas, is not text-driven.
The three Cool In Your Code presenters could be straight out of Saturday morning TV, and they're really really keen to show us everything that this postcode has to offer. Well, just the tiny area around Hoxton Square, because that's where the only Cool in Hoxton seems to be. Each broadcast is flash, hip and snappy, with a nagging jazz soundtrack underneath. Let's whizz round a gallery and meet some artists, let's chat to a chef working in a restaurant kitchen, and let's ask a nightclub owner what makes his nightclub so great. Everything is dynamic, everything is "vibrant" and everything is upbeat. Presumably this is because the film crew had to seek permission from the owner of each establishment they entered, and therefore there are no negative comments about anything whatsoever. Yes, this is really just a lot of hyped-up PR disguised as editorial, and more fool us for watching it.
And where is Cool In Your Code going next? The site lists a few teaser previews to whet your appetite: Marylebone W1 (home to "London's most fabulous kitchen emporia"), Borough SE1 ("a cornucopia of delight") and Crouch End N8 ("crossroads of culture"). At least they're breaking out of Zone 1 predictability with that last location, but I think it could be a long time before the cheesy threesome come to see what Cricklewood, Thamesmead or Bow have to offer. Not enough boutiques, bars and property investment opportunities, I suspect. And what do the millions of Times readers living outside London make of all this, I wonder. Will there ever be a Cool in Your Code for Bootle L20, or Scunthorpe DN15, or Stornoway HS1? I think not.
So Cool In Your Code isn't cool, and it isn't in your postcode. Apart from that, it's perfectly named. But if you're an aspirational Londoner with money to burn and time to kill, then it might be right up your street. Just as soon as they reach Chelsea SW10, that is.
posted 07:00 :
Monday, February 12, 2007What's your blog's Mission Statement?
As every serious blogger knows, the key objective behind regular blogging is the acquisition of wealth. It may be cool to earn the respect and adoration of one's online peers, but at the end of the day it's the financial rewards which make blogging worthwhile. So today, with the need to monetize always uppermost, I'm going to be asking myself the crucial question "What's my blog's Mission Statement?". I'm sure you'll all learn something profitable from my expert analysis and perceptive musings. And then I hope you'll all link to today's post on your own blogs, and Digg it so that my thoughts are broadcast to the global audience they so clearly deserve.
A Mission Statement, as we all know, is a summary description of an entity's purpose. All businesses have a mission statement, and employees always find them to be motivating and inspirational. So why doesn't your blog have one? Without a Mission Statement your blog will surely continue to blunder blindly down some online cul-de-sac, unfocused and unable to meet key financial targets. What every professional blog requires is a single brief statement of intent, preferably scribbled on a Post-It note and affixed to the edge of a computer screen where it can't be overlooked. You know it makes sense.
I'm certainly keen to climb aboard the brand-marketing bandwagon myself, because this can only help to facilitate value-added empowerment through the accumulation of high-yield click-through ad-wealth. But there'll be no meaningless buzzwords in my Mission Statement, oh no. Here's my first attempt at generating a succinct summary to describe why my blog exists."The diamond geezer mission is to enjoy writing stuff about life in London and other places and things, and to publish my views and opinions."It's a good first effort, but there's no mention of money. I mean, come on, it's surely the sole reason for any blog's existence, and it needs to be at the heart of any core statement of intent. Let's try again."The diamond geezer mission is to enjoy writing stuff about life in London and other places and things, to publish my views and opinions, and to make lots of money."That's better, but it's still all a bit sprawling and unfocused. The opening phrase needs tightening up to concentrate on just one key area. To make it big in the blogosphere, only a narrow topic focus is permissible. I need to write only about London, and to abandon everything else I currently waffle on about. How otherwise will first-time visitors instantly understand my blog's intrinsic professional focus?"The diamond geezer mission is to enjoy writing stuff about life in London, to publish my views and opinions, and to make lots of money."But whether or not I enjoy writing about London should be totally irrelevant. What really matters is that my readers keep coming back for more, like greedy text-whores, because every pageload is a potential ad click. Audience is everything, so the publication of quality linkbait is essential."The diamond geezer mission is to write entertaining stuff about life in London, to publish my views and opinions, and to make lots of money."As yet I've not mentioned one of my key blog characteristics, namely that I publish daily. My regular and predictable posting format means that customers can make diamond geezer part of their regular surfing routine. Make it a habit, keep them hooked."The diamond geezer mission is to write entertaining stuff about life in London, to publish my views and opinions every day, and to make lots of money."Nearly there, but it needs to be snappier. Why waste several words on an important concept if that idea could be summarised in one or two? Shorter means more memorable, and my blog's Mission Statement needs to be simple enough to be at the heart of everything I write. Like so."My views on life in London: Entertaining, Exploiting, Every day."That's great. See how the core values of my blog are now summarised in three alliterative keywords - the 3 Es. One last tidy-up should do it."life viewed from London E3"Perfect. Now all I need do is publish my new Mission Statement somewhere prominent - say at the top of my sidebar - and every visitor will know exactly what I stand for. Why don't you follow suit?
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