» It's been a most unusual February, so far. The month's only four days old but I've already spent three nights out being sociable (Count 5 = 3). Admittedly most of those were in a Yorkshire hotel bar, where 'going out' merely meant stumbling down a long corridor, but don't knock it. My alcoholic beverage tally is also well up on normal (Count 6 = 9). I've downed nine bottles of German lager already, which is three times what I drank during the whole of February last year. This sociable period won't last, obviously, but I'm making the most of it while it lasts.
» Better late than never, I've been to see The Museum of Everything in Primrose Hill. Artist Sir Peter Blake is an avid collector of 'stuff', and roomfuls of his top-classephemera are now on display (for free) in an old building behind Chalk Farm Library. A corridor of photographed midgets, a grotto packed with seaside shell boxes, a complete set of Punch & Judy puppets, that sort of thing. There are plenty of circus freakshow references, like posters of bearded ladies and banners inviting punters to see the amazing two-headed cow (alive). Some sideshow art from Carter's Steam Fair fills an upper gallery, while another room showcases Ted Wilcox's erotic embroidery. As a finale we get to step inside the curious world of Walter Potter, creator of stuffed animal tableaux. Visitors to his Sussex museum enjoyed casefuls of card-playing squirrels, athletic toads and criminal sparrows, amongst others, at least until the collection was sold off. Hats off to Sir Peter for buying so many, and for sharing a lifetime's clutter with us all. Hurry, next weekend's your last chance.
» Don't some people get over-excited about rugby? They were showing the Six Nations in the pub last night, and blimey some people got all wound up over it. Most of them were roaring on England, in a sort-of transfixed way as if their lives depended on it, whereas any Welshmen in the crowd were keeping their emotions more to themselves. It always amazes me how some people treat these once-a-year pitch battles with almost religious reverence, as if the outcome somehow matters, but I guess they'd be equally amazed by my complete indifference.
» One of the specialist subjects on Mastermind last night was The History of the London Underground (I guess it had to come up one day). Why not see how many points you'd have scored? I got one more than trainee actuary Andrew, but then I was sitting at my laptop in my dressing gown eating a bowl of Shreddies, not facing John Humphries' icy glare under hot studio lights.
» Do you remember the days when government ministers used to announce stuff, and then the newspapers and TV news would report on it afterwards? Not any more. Every ministerial announcement these days seems to be forwarded to the media in advance, so that you can read precisely what they're going to say before they say it. "The prime minister will criticise.." "David Cameron will argue... " "...he will say." Is this because the government fears its message won't get out if people have to wait until tomorrow morning to read it? Are ministers worried that the media won't report a speech properly if they don't have the script in front of them? Or has making speeches become irrelevant in our modern world, where a press release is all you need to get your message across?
» Travellers at Whitechapel station will have noticed that two of the District line platforms have been boarded off, as a first stage of the station's Crossrail upgrade. Platforms 1 and 4 are no longer accepting trains, with all services running through 2 and 3 in the centre. What you may not be expecting is that it's platforms 2 and 3 which will be disappearing. They'll be combined across the existing central tracks to make one mega-wide District platform, and trains will ultimately stop where platforms 1 and 4 used to be. [No scheduled Hammersmith & City line train will ever terminate at Whitechapel again - they'll go at least as far as West Ham, where a new turnround siding has just been opened] The rebuilding of Whitechapel station will take several years, because there's tons to do. In particular, if you're local, steel yourself for having to use a temporary entrance to the station round the back in Durwood Street between 2014 and 2017.