diamond geezer

 Saturday, November 30, 2002

The best of November

TV programme of the month: I'm Alan Partridge. He has the third best slot on Radio Norwich, and he's been away from our screens for too long. Great to have him back, a-haa. Of course not everyone in Norfolk is that dull, loud and opinionated, although the Norfolk councillors now complaining about the show certainly seem to be doing their best to live up to that stereotype.

Football result of the month: AS Roma 1, Arsenal 3. Back of the net!

Film of the month: 28 Days Later. OK, so I nearly chose Harry Potter, but the last five minutes shunted that film down into second place. Instead I've gone for this excellent portrayal of a post-apocalyptic Britain, full of mad red-eyed zombies. Much like the East London I know and love, then.

Pop celebrity comeback of the month: Mark Owen. Former boyband member turns out to be a nice person with a winning personality. Who'd have thought? Or is it just that all the teenage girls who once voted him Smash Hits Most Fanciable Male have since grown up and now reckon he's perfect husband material?

Album of the month: This category is suspended until at least February. Because.

get your miniBUFFSEED at minibuffs.tk!get your miniBUFFSEED at minibuffs.tk!Gigs of the month: There are going to have to be three of these this month, because they're too hard to choose between. Vega 4 at the Water Rats in Kings Cross, The Cling at the Metro Club in Oxford Street, and Kieran and Neil from The Buffseeds live and acoustic at the Enterprise, Chalk Farm. That's Kieran and Neil, by the way, in miniature. Oh, go on, I think the Buffs win again. An excellent performance in an upstairs room decked out like a cheap Greek restaurant, and you should hear Kieran's unaccompanied Genie In A Bottle...

Google search of the month: I've been getting a lot of visits recently from people searching online for the mysterious combination of Chip Hawkes and The Monkees. Now I'm sorry if you've arrived at this page expecting to find out something about the former lead singer of the Tremeloes and the 1960s version of S Club 7, but I know nothing of any importance about these people. This page's appearance on Google is merely a coincidence, because I once happened to write about a chip van, Chesney Hawkes and the last train to Clarksville. Of course, now I've written this post, I'm sure I'll be even higher up the search list than before. This can have its downside, as some people have found to their cost by innocently asking what all this current fuss concerning Mr Beckham is all about. However, I suspect I'll be fine... just so long as I never mention Br*tney Spears and chicken bre*sts in the same sentence.

 Friday, November 29, 2002

Skating on thin ice

My parents came down from Norfolk for the day, and we spent most of our time failing to buy any Christmas presents. Not that there weren't lots of shops selling things, because there were, but there weren't any shops selling anything worth buying. Or, perhaps more importantly, there weren't any shops selling anything worth opening on Christmas morning and pretending to be excited about.

So, instead, we headed down to Somerset House to look at the ice rink in the courtyard there. It opened for the winter yesterday, and it's already busy throughout the day with people willing to make complete fools of themselves. Every hour a new group of about a hundred budding skaters is sent out onto the ice. They emerge sheepishly, clutching onto the handrail and shuffling slowly round the edge of the rink. Most look as if they've never been skating before, which of course they haven't. Our intrepid on-the-spot reporter took this picture. Eventually the punters risk their first short skate across the ice, at which point half of them fall over, look up in an embarrassed way and attempt to pick themselves up without getting too cold. After a few falls or near misses most people slowly gain in skill and confidence, and 45 minutes later they're skating round the rink with ease. Unfortunately this is the signal for the ice marshals to announce 'time up', and usher everyone back to the changing rooms. At this point a huge ice-vacuum-cleaner comes out to pick up any severed limbs, or maybe just to smooth over the surface of the ice, and then the whole cycle starts again with a new group of ice virgins. See you down there?

tall and greenIf you've looked upwards in London recently, you'll have have noticed one striking new building taking a dominant position on the City skyline. One minute there was just Tower 42, the old Nat West Tower, and then suddenly there was this 40-storey cigar-shaped skyscraper with green-lit windows.

It's the Swiss RE Tower, otherwise known as 30 St Mary Axe, already better known to Londoners as the Gherkin. Architect Sir Norman Foster was previously responsible for nearby City Hall, also known as the 'glass testicle'. I'm sure it won't be long before this new tower gains a ruder, matching nickname.

Last night they topped off the Gherkin. To celebrate the final steel beam being lifted to the top of the building they set off a 15-minute light and laser show, visible across London. Very impressive it all looked too, even from my 7th floor office a couple of miles away. I already have a stunning view over London as a backdrop to my daily grind, but a gherkin has just improved it.

 Thursday, November 28, 2002


you say pot-ah-to, we say pot-ay-to
you say tom-ah-to, we say tom-ay-to
you voted Bush, we voted Blair
you follow baseball, we don't care
you eat french fries, we eat chips
you eat huge portions, we don't give tips
you drink mocha lattes, we drink teas
you make movies, we make turkeys
you sailed from Plymouth, we all stayed here
you have no history, we have no power
pot-ay-to, pot-ah-to, ir-ark-i, ir-ack-i
let's call the whole thing off

• 1 litre of orange juice - 78p
• 1 litre of orange juice with added calcium - £1.09

Side by side in my local supermarket sit two identical drinks sold in identical cartons, except that one contains a bit of calcium. Less than a tenth of a gram of calcium has been included, but that's added an extra 31p to the cost. At these prices, I reckon one kilogram of calcium would set you back over £4000. Calcium may indeed be good for your bones and teeth, but it seems the supermarket's profits will be looking healthy well before you do. When's Watchdog on next?

 Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Underneath the Arches

Just down the road from here is the Bow Flyover, a less-than glamorous concrete wasteland where the A11 and A12 meet. There's an overpass, an underpass, a roundabout, a lot of traffic lights, and usually four snarling queues of very angry traffic.

A couple of months ago, workmen came to clear away some derelict land on one corner of the roundabout. They took their time removing the debris, removed some high metal fences that blocked the view and slowly levelled the site. Last weekend the only evidence of any construction taking place were a few basic foundations and a couple of workmen drinking tea. Then this evening I walked past and, all of a sudden, a whole new building has sprung up complete with roof. It's by no means an enormous building, and only a single storey high, but it already has doors, furniture and windows. There are a lot of windows at one end, none at all at the other end and, on the side nearest the main road, just the one single window. On closer inspection there's the beginnings of a paved roadway all round the building, with that window on the driver's side, and a number of cling-wrapped plastic tables sat inside. And just visible on one small black pipe sticking up out of the ground is that oh-so-familiar golden arches logo. Ronald McDonald is giving birth.

I read in the paper last week that McDonalds is finally suffering from the global downturn in the economy, or maybe it's just that people don't fancy eating reprocessed cow in a sesame seed bun any more. The corporation are closing 175 restaurants in 10 countries, including six under threat in London. They used to open over 2000 sites worldwide every year but, in this brave new era of cholesterol-inflicted lawsuits, they only plan to open 600 this year. One of that total of new so-called-restaurants will soon be just a couple of minutes walk from my house. I promise not to visit too often, because I prefer real food. Honest.

CBB: Back at the start of Celebrity Big Brother this blog came out in support of Goldie, because he was a diamond geezer, and Anne Diamond, because she was a Diamond. Alas, that seems to have been the kiss of death for both of them. In which case, I'd like to transfer my 'support' to Les and Melinda. Except that, sadly, neither of them are up for eviction tomorrow.

 Tuesday, November 26, 2002

10 easy ways to think up an idea for today's blog post

• Watch the TV news, pick out the most obvious story, and comment on it.
• Read the newspaper, pick out a really quirky story, and laugh at it.
• Write something vaguely controversial and see if it gets any comments.
• Pass judgement on whether Sue or Anne will leave Big Brother tonight.
• Read someone else's blog, pick out an interesting post, and rewrite it.
• Go to b3ta, find a really good link to another website, and include it.
• Find an unsuspecting boyband or pop singer and ridicule them savagely.
• Tell everyone how good/bad your day/work/journey has been today.
• List some of the mad Google searches that have ended up on this page.
• Write a list to show how easy it is to think up an idea for today's blog post.

 Monday, November 25, 2002

our finest hourSo, Winston Churchill has been chosen as the Greatest Briton ever voted for by a middle-class BBC audience at the start of the 21st Century. That I can cope with, and I'm just about OK with Brunel being second, but Princess Di third? That can't be right - surely there must be some other blue-eyed adulterers far more worthy of the title?

what's small, slow, old and green?I was nearly home tonight when a police car sped by, sirens blaring and lights flashing, closely followed by the rare sight of a Green Goddess fire engine. Two minutes later the same convoy reappeared on the other side of the road speeding in the opposite direction. Gave me a huge amount of confidence in the current emergency arrangements, that.

only one month to ChristmasSorry to worry you, but there's only a month to go until Christmas. I find it particularly frightening that a French episode of Only Fools And Horses is expected to be the festive TV highlight, that the two rival Popstars groups will be battling it out for the Christmas number one, and that S Club Juniors are daring to release a single called Puppy Love/Sleigh Ride. Any chance of November going on a bit longer this year?

 Sunday, November 24, 2002


Gadgets and inventions are very much a part of modern life. Many things that we take for granted today weren't even around ten or twenty years ago, but for many of us life is now unthinkable without them. Some people just have to have the latest gadget, else their life is incomplete. These people can be found kerb-crawling on Tottenham Court Road trying to haggle down the price of some pocket-sized electronic miracle, or else they're queueing outside the Bang & Olufsen shop waiting to purchase the latest overpriced slab of brushed-chrome gadgetry. Meanwhile the rest of us just prefer to wait a bit longer until the technology improves and the price comes down.

I will confess to needing wide screen television, compact discs, mobile phones, the internet and broadband in order to survive. However, there is one really common-place gadget that I have never ever felt I needed or wanted. This gadget may only have been around for five years or less, but I still get strange looks when I admit to not having one of them. I confess. I do not own a DVD player.

Now, don't get me wrong, I can see the point of video recorders. A nation's TV viewing changed overnight with the advent of the video recorder, because at last you could watch a programme even if you were out when it was shown, or if there was something else on you wanted to watch at the same time. I love being able to record what I want and to watch it when I want. I'm even pretty good at remembering to watch what I've recorded before I accidentally tape something else over the top of it. However, it appears that most people prefer the other use of the video recorder - the ability to play back pre-recorded videos, as hired or bought from the shops. That's not me. Over the course of the last 20 years I've accumulated a massive collection of just 23 pre-recorded video tapes. And, as I've said, zero DVDs.

The DVD player, like the CD player before it, is the perfect opportunity for entertainment corporations to reissue product you already own, in the hope that you'll buy it again. You may already own Star Wars on video, but we can sell it to you again with better picture quality, and then can we sell it to you again with three minutes of extra footage we didn't think was good enough to put in the original film, plus a commentary by the director that's probably almost worth listening to once, plus a couple of teletext-type pages of biographical information just to pad the menu out. DVDs also have this annoying habit of 'going back to the beginning', so you have to watch the intro again plus the warning not to show this film on an oil-rig, before trying to remember exactly where you were in the film before you accidentally pressed the wrong button. And don't get me started on the great regional-DVD corporate scam to stop people from buying more cheaply abroad, although thankfully this plot does appears to have failed.

So, why don't I do DVDs? It's because I have this annoying thing called a memory, which means that when I've seen a film once I tend to remember the plot and so it doesn't hold up to repeated viewing every Saturday night for a year. I'm happy to wait three years from a film's first showing at the cinema and then watch it when a TV station tells me I ought to. Or, of course, I can video it instead. OK, so the picture quality isn't quite as good, and you can't freeze-frame that one moment where your favourite movie star gets their kit off, but the plot doesn't get any better just because the film's on DVD, and neither does the acting. And I'm not forking out £20 a week, or a grand a year, on a whole wall of shelving at home covered by films I'll only watch once, if that.

So, my apologies if you are the sort of person who's bought all the Star Trek DVDs and arranged them in order so that the spines make up a picture of Captain Janeway, or if there's a rickety pile of plastic cases balanced so precariously on your floor so that you can never find The Matrix even though you know it's in there somewhere, probably twice. I hope you won't ostracise me just because I'm a DVD-less deviant. Who knows, if you ever came round to my place we might even be forced to have a conversation.

 Saturday, November 23, 2002

Four things I'd rather not have known:
DIY dentistry - what not to do with a pair of pliers when attacked by a luminous green and pink fly.
Celebrity hell - seems Melinda's running out of clean knickers and Sue's burst a large spot on her face.
Harry Skywalker - has J K Rowling been stealing her plots from another highly successful fantasy saga?
Saints3, Arse2 - the footballing depression continues, even if we are still somehow top of the Premiership.

Emma Clarke is the woman who provides the voice for the recorded announcements on the Victoria, Bakerloo, and Central lines. This train terminates at Hainault, via Newbury Park. She also does a lot of voiceovers for adverts, websites, and may even be that voice you get on the phone asking you to press the star button and then hold. Please mind the gap between the train and the platform. It's a pity Emma doesn't do the Hammersmith and City line as well because, unlike the current voice, I bet she could pronounce Bow Road and Plaistow properly. The next station is Green Park. Change at Green Park for Piccadilly and Jubilee lines. Emma was recently interviewed by the folks at b3ta, and comes across as considerably more human than her inanimate underground voice might suggest. Waterloo, how does it feel to have won the war? I shall be smiling more often on the tube now that I know a little more about the personality behind the voice.

 Friday, November 22, 2002

The BB House

I live very near to the BB House. That's the Channel 4 BB House. In fact, that's both of the Channel 4 BB Houses. Or rather, sadly, both of the former Channel 4 BB houses.

I moved to this part of London last year, just after the end of Big Brother 2. The BB House where Craig and Brian reigned supreme was just down the road at Three Mills, and all the housemates' weekly shopping came from my local Tesco nextdoor. I was looking forward to being within walking distance of Big Brother 3, but alas the Channel 4 bosses had failed to get long-term planning permission and the BB House had to be demolished. Now, on the site where Helen and Paul almost snogged each other and Nasty Nick was unmasked, there's just a grassy wasteland. No plaques, no tourists with cameras, just a nature trail for local schools and a great view of the local gasworks. Channel 4 have decamped to Borehamwood, only a few hundred yards away from that other legendary East End location - the set of Albert Square.

That still left one more major Channel 4 location round here, the lock-keeper's cottages used by the Big Breakfast. Home to Chris and Gaby, and Johnny and Denise, this garishly-painted building by the Bow River hosted a breakfast TV revolution for almost ten years. Had I ever been awake enough I could have wandered up to Old Ford Lock and hung over the fence to gawp at C-list celebrities giving D-list interviews and playing Z-list games. Alas, Channel 4 bosses decided that the Big Breakfast's days were numbered and the show was to be terminated. Never mind that the show's replacement, RI:SE, was to be vacant drivel watched by nobody, it was time to consign Zig and Zag to the scrap heap. After an emotional final show last Easter the vacant house was mothballed, ready to be put up for sale for an estimated £1million. And then, earlier this month, the cottage mysteriously burnt to the ground, undoubtedly in an arson attack and definitely not as part of any Channel 4 insurance scam.

I used to live very near to the BB House. Alas, I now live within walking distance of nothing more than memories.

lakeside: I've bin aht up Essex Cafedral, uvverwise known az Laikeside shoppin centa. the ole place wuz fulla locals aht buyin chrissy prezzies n lookin ard. i wuz opin ta buy sum prezzies of me own but there wernt nuffink worf gettin, just a lot of overpriced tat. looked ta me like all der geezers in sarf essex av no hair wile all der birds av far too much. all da girlz wer angin round Claires Accesries buyin scrunchies n ringin their matez on their moby, meanwile all the ladz fort they wuz dressed like gangstas in the 'hood, xcept they all just looked like fat bastardz in hoodies. ok, so i admit i did liv in sarf essex meself fa a few monfs, but i saw da error of me ways and i ope i got aht just in time. dya reckon?

 Thursday, November 21, 2002

Our survey said...

I'm always suspicious of surveys in the media masquerading as news. There's always one somewhere in every newspaper, an advertising campaign dressed up as serious research.

When a survey was published recently suggesting that carbohydrate-loaded lunches are to blame for 40% of the total UK workforce suffering from "afternoon apathy", it came as no surprise to find that that this research was sponsored by Ryvita. It just had to be a survey by a bedding manufacturer that found that one in six workers aren't sleeping enough because they work from their beds, and that if you sleep with a partner it's best to use separate duvets to minimise the disturbance created by the other person's movement. And one suspects that the Girl Guide movement knew all along that their survey into teenage girls' life skills would uncover that 40% of the girls questioned had never even boiled an egg.

Today a survey sponsored by the Halifax reports that office staff spend an average of 13 minutes of their working day planning their finances. Hey presto, that's another advert they've sneaked into the newspaper without paying for it. Of more interest is that their finding that the average office worker also spends 54 minutes gossipping, 14 minutes surfing the internet and 16 minutes flirting. Apparently men flirt for 17 minutes a day compared with only 15 for women. I guess that means the men are spending 2 minutes a day flirting with each other...

CBB: So, Anne's lost her diamond earrings, Goldie has a blond wig, Sue's an expert at Connect 4, and half of them are Virgos. It's all utterly, utterly trivial, and over 7 million of us are watching already. Unbeatable.

 Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Celebrity Big Brother

Apologies, but I am about to be hooked for ten days. Six celebrities and their egos shut away in a big house with only a few million viewers for company. It's all for charity, honest, and not merely a blatant attempt to boost Channel 4's disappointing ratings and rescue a few flagging careers. Let's hope someone else follows in Vanessa Feltz's footsteps and suffers a nervous breakdown live on air. I'll try not to go on about it too much, honest.

The six contestants:
Goldie: Disappointingly this Goldie is the top drum 'n' bass DJ and not the Blue Peter dog that Simon Groom used to puppy-walk. Could get my vote, because he's a geezer with diamond teeth...
Anne Diamond: ... however, Anne has to be a Diamond Geezer's top choice. The smiling queen of daytime telly, she'll be right at home on the Big Brother sofa.
Sue Perkins: One half of comedy duo Mel and Sue, once loved by students for their Light Lunch, but since resigned to advertising sliced bread.
Melinda Messenger: Two-for-the-price-of-one, her appearance is clearly a shameless attempt to attract an audience of Sun-readers. Alas, being November, the outside jacuzzi and sun loungers are unlikely to be her location of choice.
Les Dennis: 100 people were asked 'Name someone who really gets on your nerves." In the absence of Bob Monkhouse and Max Bygraves, Les Dennis has made it into the Celebrity Big Brother house instead.
Mark Owen: Formerly 20% of top pop group Take That, he once sold a million love songs, but everything changes. Can this show relight his fire so he's back for good? Sure.

Mobile health clinic

Mobile phones have replaced cigarettes as the must-have status symbol for teenagers. Just like cigarettes, mobile phones slip into your pocket, look good held near the mouth, make you look older than you really are, use up most of your pocket money, and will probably end up killing you except that nobody will admit this for the next 30 years.

I think it's time for health warnings to be placed on all mobile phones - how about the following?

Warning: Your ringtone is nowhere near as amusing as you think it is.
Warning: It would be much cheaper to use that BT phone you’re sitting next to.
Warning: Your boss now thinks that you're fully contactable 24 hours a day.
Warning: Yes, we know you're on a train, thankyou, we can all hear you.
Warning: txt messages r puttn govt LiterRC targets unda 4midable thret :)
Warning: Don't step off the pavement in front of a bus while out txt-ing, it'll hurt.
Warning: Is your partner using his/her mobile in order to be unfaithful to you?
Warning: Your left hand is for the gear lever, your right hand is for the steering wheel.
Warning: Don't forget to turn off all sound before going to your mate’s dad’s funeral.
Warning: How will you notice if this phone is slowly destroying your brain?

 Tuesday, November 19, 2002

My astronomy page

The Leonid meteors in the fog, 4am.

The great Cornish total eclipse of the sun, August 1999.

 Monday, November 18, 2002

State of Emergency?

It was just another normal morning, at least to begin with. Over London the first fog of autumn hung heavily in the air, which should have been an omen for what was to come, but it went right over our heads. We all filed into the tube stations across the capital, heading for work. Sure we'd read the warnings in the paper, either our own or from the headlines held by the woman across the carriage, but we thought nothing of it. Normality had to go on, at least for a few more minutes.

And then the train entered the station. The station, the one whose name will be infamous for decades. We were expecting a slow, silent killer, but we weren't expecting that noise. It was a sudden, unexpected sound, out there beyond the platform, echoing through the narrow tunnels like a bullet down the barrel of a gun. A look of dawning terror spread across the carriage as the blast rumbled on, louder than the train. A cloud of thick smoke came billowing onto the platform, drowning the waiting passengers in choking smoke. And our train sped up, drove on, the lifeboat that never stopped, carrying its human cargo to safety at the next station up the line.

Except it wasn't safe. There was something else in the air, not just the smoke. It was something you couldn't see, at least not yet, but it was there all the same. The rush of trains through tunnels had carried it far from its fiery source, across the system, deep into the lives of tens of thousands. And this time there was no escape.

They say maybe the Underground will run again one day. Not in my lifetime.


No, surely it could never happen. The people of London have lived with the threat of terrorism, war and destruction for tens, hundreds, even thousands of years. And, no matter what has been thrown at it, London has always soldiered on, unyielding to attack. Anyone stupid enough to plot to shut down the capital through fear and panic has picked the wrong location.

The 30-year IRA bombing campaign never in fact killed huge numbers here, although the threat felt ever present and they did manage to get every litter bin removed within a two mile radius of St Paul's Cathedral. The Great Fire of London only killed six people, and no Vikings have been seen invading up the Thames for at least a millennium.

World War Two was another matter altogether. Nearly 30,000 Londoners were killed in the Blitz and over 50,000 injured. Bombs rained down on London, particularly across the East End, but the locals were more likely to complain about the weather than the destruction. Large areas of the capital were reduced to rubble, with thousands forced to take refuge in air raid shelters and Underground stations. A direct hit on Bank station in 1941 killed 56 taking shelter there, while 172 people died in a stampede at Bethnal Green station after the air raid siren sounded one night in 1943.

The latest scare stories about terrorist attacks on the Underground should be therefore be taken in perspective. The spirit of the Blitz lives on, and London life must and will go on. However, I bet I get a seat on the tube tomorrow...

 Sunday, November 17, 2002

The chart rundown

Many people have a regular religious experience on a Sunday. For some it's a church service, for some it's a nightclub, for some it's a 6am pitch at the car boot sale, while for others it's the EastEnders omnibus. For me it's tuning in religiously to the weekly Top 40 chart show on Radio 1. Well, it's that or Songs of Praise and the Antiques Roadshow for heaven's sake.

Nothing quite beats the gradual unveiling of the nation's musical taste, record by record. How high will that new record enter? Who on earth is buying that rubbish? Who will be number one this week? If that record's at 3, and that one's at 2, then can I work out who's left? Of course, the charts are far less of a surprise than they once used to be. Midweek chart positions get leaked heavily in advance, so any change at the top of the charts is now heavily signposted beforehand. Records hardly ever climb the chart any more, they just crash in high and plummet like a stone. And if you miss the rundown, now there's teletext and the internet to fill you in, rather than having to wait until the repeated highlights or the newspapers on Monday morning. Twenty years ago you either tuned in your transistor at the time or you missed it.

In true chart style, here's a reverse rundown of the Top 5 longest-serving singles chart show presenters of all time:
5) David Jacobs (5 years, 1957-61, 1963) It may be hard to believe, but he really was hip and trendy in his day.
4) Tom Browne (6 years, 1972-78) He was so laid back you thought you were listening to Radio 2, or even Radio 3, instead.
3) Bruno Brookes (7 years, 1986-94) Real name 'Trevor' - heaven knows why he thought Bruno would be an improvement.
2) Mark Goodier (9 years, 1994-2002) Has reached the grand old age of 40 and so has been pensioned off to Classic FM.
1) Alan Freeman (10 years, 1961-62, 1964-72) The great grandad of Pop Pickers, and the definitive presenter - not half!

Tonight is Mark Goodier's last time presenting the new Top 40 chart on Radio 1, so it's the end of an era. He may not have been the most exciting DJ in the world, but on a show like the Top 40 a lack of personality actually helps. It'll be a sad day when the DJ is more important that the records, a lesson the commercial radio Network Chart would do well to learn.

I wonder who starts next week?

A terrorist plot to target the London Underground? I take back everything I said about taxis...

 Saturday, November 16, 2002

Here's my two favourite verses so far from the Guardian text poetry competition:

The escapologist asked me
to check his locks and chains
before he plunged into an icy lake.
I did and to my credit
he drowned.

it is vital that we as a nation
learn to spell and do away with abbreviation
and silly childish word truncations
in text messages on mobile inventions

Googled: A few more people have stumbled upon my diamondgeezer website by typing obscure requests into search engines and ending up here. You are cordially invited to question the sanity of the following:
clive dunn grandad we love you tv theme
I need to find a bar called nirvana in leicester square
i want to buy chocolate advent calendars
french tourists commenting about london
bound housewife invasion
sarah brightman harry potter

Disbelief: Some people don't believe in God, some people don't believe in democracy, some people don't believe in extra-terrestrial life, and some people don't believe in covering their mouths before they sneeze. Personally I don't believe in taxis. More to the point, I don't believe in taxis when there's a perfectly good public transport alternative at a fraction of the cost. I turned down two taxi rides on Friday but accepted one, which sped me home a whole seven minutes quicker than the tube would have done but at ten times the cost. In fact, given that I have a travelcard already, that would be at infinitely greater cost. For my money I got to career through the streets of late-night London along a route that could not in any way be described as a straight line, stopping at a high proportion of the 50 traffic lights between Tottenham Court Road and home, being driven by a geographical incompetent in a manner not dissimilar to that of a fairground ride, veering randomly from one blocked bus lane to another, and all without the added excitement of the post-pub drunken kebab-munching passengers you normally get to watch on public transport. Same time tomorrow night then?

 Friday, November 15, 2002

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (PG)

Review will appear here. Wizard.

 Thursday, November 14, 2002

50 years of the pop charts

It's exactly 50 years ago today since someone first had the bright idea of sticking the UK's favourite records in order every week and publishing the results. The charts began in the NME on 14th November 1952 as a Top 12, evolving from previous weekly listings of top-selling sheet music. Today the singles charts are everywhere; on the radio, in the news and at the heart of a multi-million pound record industry. They're also a fascinating source of in-depth statistical trivia - or is that just me? Seems not. Anyway, hang on while I get my anorak...

1952: The UK's first official Number 1 record is Here In My Heart by Al Martino, a nine-week chart-topper from November 1952 until the following January, and therefore the only record ever to have been number 1 for a whole year.
1953: Frankie Laine manages a never-to-be-broken-not-even-by-Bryan-Adams chart record of 18 weeks at number 1. His song I Believe is later murdered by Robson and Jerome, who keep Oasis's Wonderwall off the top of the charts in 1995.
1954: The Top 12 is extended to a Top 20, featuring such classic artists as Max Bygraves, Jimmy Young, Vera Lynn and Winifred Attwell.
1955: In January Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley creeps into the charts at number 17. It returns to top the charts in November, and things will never be the same again...
1956: The Top 20 is extended to a Top 30, just in time for the arrival of a debut single called Heartbreak Hotel. See, I told you things would never be the same again.
1957: Elvis Presley is the most successful chart act of the year with ten hits, seven of them in the chart simultaneously in early November. The music world is All Shook Up.
1958: Cliff Richard's Move It kick starts an unprecedented chart career, with number 1's in the 50s (Living Doll, ...), 60s (Summer Holiday, ...), 70s (We Don't Talk Any More), 80s (Mistletoe and Wine, ...), 90s (Saviour's Day, ...) and so nearly the 00s (The Millennium Prayer missed by a fortnight).
1959: Buddy Holly's It Doesn't Matter Any More becomes the first record to reach number 1 after his death. It won't be the last. In 2002 Aaliyah and George Harrison will have two consecutive posthumous number 1s.
1960: The Top 30 is extended to a Top 50. In the first week of December, seven of the records between 31 and 40 are instrumentals. Only chart anoraks notice things like that, of course.
1961: Jolly pianist Mrs Mills is the first chart act to include her own name in the title of her Christmas class Mrs Mills Medley. One day all the top mixing DJs will follow her example.
1962: Love Me Do is the very first hit by the Beatles, the most record-breaking chart-record-breaking band of all time...
1963: From Me To You starts the Beatles' unequalled string of eleven consecutive number 1s, which will falter only when Englebert Humperdink keeps Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields stuck at number 2 four years later.
1964: Top of the Pops begins, hosted by Jimmy Saville live from an old church in Manchester. The Beatles appear at number 1 and number 3, and the legendary Singing Nun holds firm at number 7 (but she doesn't sing on the show).
1965: Tom Jones has the number 1 record on the day I'm born. It's Not Unusual? He's so very wrong...
1966: For three consecutive weeks in March, the record at number 4 falls to number 7 and the record at number 12 drops to number 17. My chart anorak has a fur-lined hood, you know.
1967: In the second week of June, during the so-called Summer of Love, there are two tube stations in the Top 20 - Waterloo Sunset and Finchley Central. Meanwhile a new entry from Petula Clark at number 34 advises us Don't Sleep In The Subway.
1968: Louis Armstrong is the oldest artist ever to reach number 1, at the age of 66, with the wonderful It's A Wonderful World.
1969: Je T'aime... Moi Non Plus by Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg is the first number 1 to be banned by the BBC. Relax, it won't be the last.
1970: The first number 1 of the 1970s is Two Little Boys by Rolf Harris. This rather sets the seal on the decade to come...
1971: ... Clive Dunn takes Grandad to the top of the charts. See, I told you so.
1972: Little Jimmy Osmond is the youngest solo artist ever to reach number 1, four months shy of his tenth birthday, though he seems a little young to be singing about long-haired lovers. Worryingly, Jonathan King is in the charts at the time singing Shag.
1973: Four records go straight in at number 1 during 1973 - the greatest total until this became commonplace in the mid 1990s. Three of them are by dyslexia-afflicted Slade (Cum On Feel The Noize, Skweeze Me Pleeze Me and Merry Xmas Everybody) and the other is by Gary Glitter (I Love You Love Me Love).
1974: The Faces' number 12 hit You Can Make Me Dance Sing Or Anything (Even Take The Dog For A Walk, Mend A Fuse, Fold Away The Ironing Board, Or Any Other Domestic Shortcomings) has a record-breaking 115 letters. Meanwhile the group with the most weeks on the chart in this year is the immortal Wombles.
1975: Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody reaches the top for the first time, destined to be the British public's favourite record for the rest of time...
1976: ... unless of course Yesterday by the Beatles is the British public's favourite record of all time. Unbelievably the song was first released as a single as late as 1976 and only reached number 8 in the charts. Far more believably, Paul McCartney first wrote the song using the lyrics Scrambled Eggs.
1977: Rumours by Fleetwood Mac starts a record-breaking 477-week run on the album charts although Dreams, the highest charting single from the album, only reaches number 24.
1978: The Top 50 is extended to a Top 75. Three of the top 10 best selling records of all time in the UK are from this year - two by Boney M (Brown Girl In The Ring is 5th and Mary's Boy Child is 10th) and one by John Travolta and Olivia Newton John (You're The One That I Want is 6th).
1979: January is a big month for costumed heroes, with the Village People at number 1 with YMCA, and smaller hits for the theme from Superman, the theme from Dr Who, Sarah Brightman losing her heart to a Starship Trooper, and not forgetting Elton John.
1980: Going Underground by the Jam is only the tenth record in the history of the chart to go straight in at number 1. From 1995 onwards, there isn't a year when less than ten records enter the charts at the top.
1981: Abba's Lay All Your Love On Me reaches number 7 in the charts, giving them a chart career with singles peaked at every number from 1 to 7. Later in the 1980s the Eurythmics will manage exactly one single peaking at every number from 1 to 10 except 7.
1982: The biggest ever jump to number 1 inside the Top 40 is made by Happy Talk from Captain Sensible, shooting straight to the top from number 33, back in the days when an appearance on Top of the Pops actually meant something.
1983: In 1983 Prince first releases the song 1999 (number 25), then re-releases it in 1985 (number 2), re-releases it again in January 1999 (number 10), and re-releases the earlier re-release in December 1999 (number 51).
1984: Wham's Last Christmas sells a million copies but fails to reach number 1 because Band Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas is there instead. This year also sees three consecutive million-selling number 1s from Frankie Goes To Hollywood, George Michael and Stevie Wonder.
1985: You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) by Dead Or Alive takes 15 weeks to climb the Top 75 to the number 1 position. Later in the year Jennifer Rush takes one week longer to get there with The Power Of Love.
1986: A Levi's commercial helps Reet Petite by Jackie Wilson to the number 1 slot, a record-breaking 29 years and 6 weeks after it was first released in 1957.
1987: From 4th October the Top 40 is now announced live on Sunday evening's Radio 1 chart rundown, rather than being released on the following Tuesday. By topping the charts either side of this change, Pump Up The Volume by M|A|R|R|S becomes the only record ever to spend exactly twelve days at number 1.
1988: In January AC/DC reach number 12 with Heatseeker, their highest ever chart placing. No other act has had as many as 27 hits with ever achieving a Top 10 record.
1989: Jive Bunny become only the third act to reach number 1 with their first three singles, following in the footsteps of Gerry And The Pacemakers and Frankie Goes To Hollywood. This record is later demolished by Westlife, whose first seven singles all debut at number 1.
1990: In September, the chart compilers are unable to separate the Steve Miller Band and Deee-Lite for the number 1 position based on identical weekly sales. They apply an obscure rule placing The Joker above Groove Is In The Heart because it has had the greatest increase in sales, although this rule is later revoked to allow records to hold equal chart positions in future.
1991: Everything I do (I do it for you) by Bryan Adams spends a record-breaking sixteen consecutive weeks at number 1. During those 16 weeks I leave my job, apply for a mortgage, attempt to buy a new flat 50 miles away, which falls through, then buy another flat next door, and move in. Yes, it felt like Bryan was number 1 forever.
1992: Indie band The Wedding Present release one hit record each month through the year, equalling Elvis's 1957 record of 12 hit singles in a year.
1993: Mr Blobby is the first chart act to have a number 1 with an eponymous single. Four months later Doop repeat the feat. Both records also share the feat of being 100% rubbish.
1994: Wet Wet Wet spend 15 consecutive weeks at number 1 with Love Is all Around, one week short of Bryan Adams' record. They are knocked off the top spot by Whigfield with Saturday Night, the first ever debut hit by an artist to enter the chart at number 1.
1995: Robson and Jerome become the third act to take Unchained Melody to number 1, following Jimmy Young and the Righteous Brothers, and followed by Gareth Gates seven years later. The two Soldier Soldier boys achieve the ninth best selling single of all time (...and, be very afraid, Gareth's mate Will Young is currently 12th in that list with Evergreen)
1996: During the World Cup, the Fugees and Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds take it in turns to replace each other at number 1. First Killing Me Softly replaces Three Lions, then Three Lions returns to the summit, and finally Killing Me Softly wrestles the title back again. Three Lions will be back for a further three weeks at the top two years later.
1997: Candle In the Wind 97 is the best selling single of all time. Performed live by Elton John only twice, it sold 4.86 million copies in the UK and 37 million worldwide.
1998: The Spice Girls say Goodbye to a brief but meteoric chart career. The most successful all-girl group of all time achieve eight number one records in less than three years, while their only other hit (Stop) is a number 2.
1999: One-hit wonders The Wamdue Project have a hit with the longest chart title not to repeat any letters - the 14 different letters of King Of My Castle. Is this anorakky enough for you?
2000: From 24th June to 9th September, every week sees a new record top the chart. This 12-week stretch is the longest of such instances in chart history. This year also holds the record for the most number 1s in a year, all 42 of them (or 43 if you count Westlife's Christmas offering which dribbled across two millennia).
2001: Pure And Simple by Hear'say is the fastest selling single ever released by a group, shipping over half a million copies in its first week. The group later spontaneously combust and can probably now be found cleaning floors in burger restaurants.
2002: Elvis overtakes the Beatles as the act with the most number 1 records (18) and then, just this week, Westlife move into fourth place in that list behind Cliff Richard. It seems particularly appropriate that the 50th anniversary number 1 is as bland and sugary a ballad as was Al Martino's first. Here in my heart and Unbreakable - sounds like the perfect description of the pop charts to me.

 Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Pop the question

Last night saw the weekly Pop Quiz at the Retro Bar. If it's Tuesday, then there must be 20 tough pop questions to be answered, and a potentially large pot of money to be won. This week's quiz was set by my friend Ian (not that he told me any of the answers in advance, as long as that's understood?)

The questions tend to come from 1970-1990, and if Ian's setting the quiz they often cluster around 1981, not that that's necessarily a bad thing. Ian's quizzes invariably feature both M and the Human League somewhere, although sadly never as answers. Tonight I was able to use all my skill and judgement to put four Cliff Richard songs in chronological order (thanks Mum), to identify six records produced by Giorgio Moroder, and to remember that Princess Anne played souzaphone on the Bonzo Dog Band's legendary Intro Outro.

Alas, our score of 18 wasn't enough to beat the 100% perfection of the winning team, but it was high enough to be part of the tie-breaker for second place with another team of regulars. Alas, again, I couldn't identify the Three Degrees to save my life, so Mark's team walked off with the runners-up prize. However, given that their prize turned out to be the latest dire Westlife single, maybe it was a lucky escape after all.

I had far more luck the last time I was involved in a tie-breaker, naming an obscure one-hit wonder from 1987 in five seconds flat, helped out by the unlikely coincidence that my cousin used to go out with their lead singer. Still only won a Robbie Williams calendar for all that effort though.

So, Arsenal limp feebly through to the next round of the Champions League. I'm sure we'll do fine in the next round, just so long as we're not drawn against such top-class European teams as Everton, Sunderland or Blackburn...

 Tuesday, November 12, 2002

New dawn

OK, so there are still teething problems, but welcome to the new site - www.diamondgeezer.blogspot.com

I thought it would be a good idea to try a blog address that actually included the 'diamond geezer' name.
I was going to try www.geezer.blogspot.com but it had been taken, presumably by a fan of the Matrix with absolutely nothing to say.
I did consider www.diamond.blogspot.com but it was taken, presumably by an American teenager in need of a psychologist.
I was thinking of trying www.geeza.blogspot.com but it was taken, presumably by a Welsh alcoholic with no life worth reporting on.
I was even looking into www.geez.blogspot.com but it was taken, presumably by a nutter with a cheeseburger fetish.

I hope www.diamondgeezer.blogspot.com will be more interesting. At least it has more than three posts already.

 Monday, November 11, 2002

Greatest Hits

You can tell Christmas is coming, because record stores are suddenly clogged up by newly-released 'greatest hits' compilation albums. Given that the music industry has given up on nurturing new singing talent unless its under 20 and it stammers, the only way left to for them to make money is to repackage their back catalogue and hope we fall for buying it all over again. The musical past is an easy purchase for the Christmas present.

Recently we've been treated to 'greatest hits' albums from the likes of Elvis Presley, David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, U2, Nirvana, Manic Street Preachers, Stone Roses, Stevie Wonder and Fleetwood Mac. Released today we have Elton John and even, god help us, Westlife. Coming next week there's Kylie Minogue, Pulp and the Lighthouse Family and after that, as a sure sign that Western civilisation is close to collapse, it's Charlotte Church and Lionel Richie. Hits that grate, rather than greatest hits, I think.

Now that mid-November is upon us, all the big blockbusters have already been released, lurking on dispay in the shops for the next six weeks hoping that your auntie will buy just one of them. Not one new original record will be released in the month before Christmas, just to increase that key selling period, and not one new original record will be published in the month after Christmas, because we're all skint. So, batten down the hatches, search through your record collection for an old album you really love, stick it on auto-repeat for the next two months and hide behind your headphones until the storm of festive blandness has passed. See you in February.

 Sunday, November 10, 2002

50 places to see before you die

There are a lot of lists around at the moment. Whenever there's an hour or three of dead TV or radio airtime, what better than to survey the great British public, then make a programme about the results, then get the list covered extensively in the media as a leading news story.

Channel 4 used to be the experts at this, filling entire Saturday nights with archive TV clips in a variety of interesting and amusing orders. Now the BBC have got in on the act, big time. Just who was the Greatest Briton, and how much media hype can be whipped up arguing why the current leader in the poll shouldn't ever have made the shortlist in the first place? Just what are the UK's 100 favourite number one songs of the last fifty years, and did Radio 2 listeners really go into musical hibernation somewhere around 1985?

And now tonight we've been treated to the 50 places to see before you die, courtesy of the BBC's Holiday programme. Disney World is right up there at number 3, while Rome only makes number 35. And they say the BBC is dumbing down? I've only been to four of the top 50 - that's 9, 15, 27 and, er, oh go on then, I'll admit it, 3. However, I hope this particular list is true and accurate, because at this rate I'll be forced to stay alive until the 25th Century in order to see all of them.

Strike a light

Things to do during another 4-hour power cut on a wet Sunday afternoon: surf the internet, write blog, watch video, watch television, listen to music, have hot bath, cook lunch, talk to neighbours for the first time this year, go shopping, give up.

I live within sight of the old Bryant and May match factory, site of the great matchgirl strike of 1888. The factory employed some 1,400 workers, mainly young women under the age of 15. They worked in appalling conditions for up to 13 hours a day and many suffered through handling the poisonous phosphorous used in match production. When journalist Annie Besant exposed the conditions in the factory, the management sacked three women simply for talking to her. The matchgirls then all walked out on strike, launching a golden age of Victorian trade union unrest.

That old match factory is now Bow Quarter, a rather posh development of titchy flats complete with sauna, gym, swimming pool and very high security fence. The inhabitants now all earn consideably more than a shilling a week, although I doubt if even half of them are members of trade unions.

I've spent much of this afternoon stumbling around my flat in the dark with a box of Bryant and May matches, lighting candles and igniting the gas on the cooker to brew a cup of tea. I could see the old match factory gently twinkling in the distance, a reminder that the Victorian conditions I was experiencing were nothing compared to the real thing, just a few hundred yards away.

 Saturday, November 09, 2002

Please understand that I'm not in any way worried by the recent bungled Home Office national terrorism security warning, but have you noticed that today really is 9/11?

Things to do during a 4-hour power cut: surf the internet, write blog, watch video, watch television, listen to music, have hot bath, cook lunch, recharge mobile and talk to friends, talk to neighbours for the first time this year, give up, go shopping.

 Friday, November 08, 2002

txt poetry

SMS1[The Guardian has launched its 2nd text poetry competition. All you budding artistic thumb-pressers are invited to text in your entry in 160 characters or less.]

SMS2[Last year they had 7500 entries, with all contributors invited to vote for the best... by text of course. I sent in an entry, which made the website but not the shortlist:]

SMS3[next 4 txt
language is e-volving,
u get the messge?
mobile words, letters deleted,
but not characterless?
communic8, abbrevi8, in2a new 4m@]

SMS4[I'm one of those rare text pedants who insist on sending messages with correct punctuation, spelling and capital letters. My language hasn't e-volved at all.]

SMS5[I also firmly believe in using every one of the 160 characters, given that each one has cost me one-sixteenth of a penny, even if that means cutting off in mid-]

I have a TV aerial again :)
I have TV reception again.
I have TV again.
I have sound again.
I have terrestrial digital TV again.
I have Freeview.
I have bloody Fame Academy streaming live on two channels.
I wonder how I can disconnect my aerial again...

 Thursday, November 07, 2002

Three misguided football arguments

1a) My team has lost too many matches recently, therefore the manager should resign.
1b) If the current manager resigns, my team will immediately find a better manager.
1c) Under the new manager, my team will start winning again.
1d) Once my team starts winning again, a new golden age will dawn.
1e) Once the golden age dawns, my team will win the Premiership.

2a) I have strong opinions about the way in which my team should play.
2b) The team would do well to listen to my opinions on tactics and team selection.
2c) If I shout loudly enough at the TV when my team is playing, their performance will improve.
2d) Once my team's performance improves, a new golden age will dawn.
2e) Once the golden age dawns, my team will win the Premiership.

3a) My team has been knocked out of the Worthington Cup.
3b) As a consequence, the Worthington Cup is a pointless competition of no national significance.
3c) With a clearer fixture list, my team will now be able to concentrate on more serious competitions.
3d) With more time to recover between matches, a new golden age will dawn.
3e) Once the golden age dawns, my team will win the Premiership.

3-2? Worth-less.

 Wednesday, November 06, 2002


I was looking forward to a visit to the cinema in the West End tonight.

Leicester Square is usually pretty quiet on a Wednesday evening, although tonight the whole place appeared to have been turned into a rather upmarket car park. Dodging the limousines, we made our way to the one Odeon cinema that wasn't hosting the opening of the 46th London Film Festival. We wanted three tickets, but we confused the girl at the till by buying them singly so that she had to keep asking us which seats it was she'd already issued to us. The auditorium could have seated about 800 people, although only about 25 of the seats were taken. We only just outnumbered the usherettes, but they still insisted on showing us to our correct three allocated seats in the centre of the main stalls. With 775 seats remaining to choose from, a Korean couple were then dumped into the seats immediately next to us. They talked too much and insisted on eating their giant one-hour-forty-minute box of popcorn all the way through the film, especially during the really quiet parts. It soon became apparent that we had accidentally stumbled upon the weekly screening of the film with subtitles for the hard of hearing, so we were forced to watch the whole film with words everywhere and each sound effect laboriously explained. Finally, with 773 seats still remaining, a 6-foot-plus gentleman chose to sit directly in front of me, blocking out the middle of the subtitles so that only the start and finish of each sentence remained.

As for the film, well, it wasn't bad, but I refuse to believe that an alien invasion of earth could be stopped by a glass of water.

Have you met weebl and bob yet? Pie, anyone?

 Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Pub toilets

I don't know if you've ever noticed but, by law, all pubs must be separated from their toilet facilities by at least two doors. Presumably this is so that you can't see blokes standing at the urinals while you're at the bar sipping on your weak yellow lager.

I've noticed, from bitter experience, that there appear to be a few other unwritten laws concerning pub toilets.

• All pub toilets are poorly signposted. This is so that, when you first feel the need to pay a visit, you haven't got a clue which way to go, so you head initially in the wrong direction, then have to turn round embarrassingly after you walk accidentally into the alcove behind the cigarette machine.
• All pub toilets are situated on a different floor to the pub itself. This is to force you to attempt to negotiate a set of narrow stairs whilst in a drunken state, usually downwards, and risk losing your footing and ending up at the bottom in a heap with a bemused smile on your face.
• All pub toilets have supposedly witty names on the doors, like 'Ducks' and Drakes', or 'Laddies' and 'Gentlewomen'. This is to encourage you to walk into the wrong convenience by mistake, much to your eternal shame, and because the landlord mistakenly believes that these names are funny.
• All pub toilets are cold, damp, poorly maintained, with puddles on the floor and lacking in toilet paper. This is because landlords know that, after five pints, you'll be so bladdered that you have no choice but to use the facilities provided, however miserable, and so there's no point maintaining them to any acceptable standard.
• Whenever you visit the pub toilet, so does the creepy bloke from the bar that you'd rather never ever be alone with, except that you now are, and you're standing next to him, and you'd rather be absolutely anywhere else, except that there are important biological reasons why you can't leave the urinal for the next 45 seconds. This is because life's a bitch.

Or am i just going to the wrong pubs?

Let the fireworks begin!

 Monday, November 04, 2002


It's November, so I shouldn't be surprised to see Christmas encroaching everywhere on the High Street. Disappointed maybe, but not surprised. There are glittery dangly decorations all over BHS, and have been for weeks. Argos started its TV advertising campaign last month, just to give us plenty of time to save up for a cordless drill and matching screwdriver set. And Santa has arrived in Harrods, especially for all the Arabs celebrating Christmas this year.

However, Tesco appear to be overdoing their in-store promotion of Christmas somewhat. Little messages are appearing all over the store, attached to the shelves, to remind customers of items they might like to stock up on for the festive season. These three messages particularly worried me:

Recycle your Christmas cards here: I don't know anyone who's even bought a Christmas card yet, let alone written one, let alone sent one, let alone received one, let alone opened one, let alone stuck it on the window sill for three weeks, let alone thought about throwing it away in an environmentally friendly manner. On closer inspection, this special recycling offer starts at Tesco on January 6th. The advertising's just a couple of months premature, then.

Cereal for Christmas morning: That'll be just in case you don't have a box of cereal in your kitchen anyway, presumably. Maybe Tesco are hoping we'll suddenly want to snap up a festive packet of Pinecone Flakes, Ice Krispies or PermaFrosties. Of course, if should you be planning on spending Christmas morning with any small children, trust me, cereal is the very last thing on their mind at 5am. Spend the cereal money on a couple of extra rolls of wrapping paper instead.

Save a mince pie for Santa: Children love to leave food out on Christmas Eve, just in case a hungry old man should wander into their bedroom in the middle of the night. However, saving a Tesco mince pie until Christmas Eve may not be a particularly good idea, given that all the mince pies available today had a sell-by-date of December 9th. It's lucky that Santa doesn't exist, otherwise he might end up dead from food poisoning in seven weeks time.

 Sunday, November 03, 2002

Single life

If it's three minutes past midday on November 3rd, then I've been single for exactly three years.

A recent survey found that 66% of UK adults are currently in a stable relationship, leaving the remaining one third of us currently unattached. Some might say that we single people are missing out, and maybe we are, but I'm convinced there are lots of positive points to being single:

Single: You get the whole duvet to yourself.
Coupled: You don't need a hot water bottle.

Single: There's half as much ironing to do.
Coupled: There's somebody else to do the ironing for you.

Single: You can watch whatever TV channel you like, without arguments.
Coupled: There's someone to talk to about the TV programme you're watching.

Single: You can get home from work at whatever time you like.
Coupled: There might just be a meal waiting for you when you get home.

Single: You get to eat the whole ready meal for two yourself.
Coupled: It takes just as long to cook for two as it does for one.

Single: There are no important birthdays or anniversaries to accidentally forget.
Coupled: Somebody actually remembers your birthday.

Single: You have can still have a riotous social life in your 30s.
Coupled: You can still have a riotous social life in your 60s.

Single: You don't keep catching every sniffle, cold and flu bug off your partner.
Coupled: When you suffer a major cardiac arrest, somebody notices and dials 999.

Single: You have no friends to go out with because they've all partnered off and are staying in.
Coupled: You don't have to go out with those annoying friends you had while you were single.

Single: Nobody sees what you look like first thing in the morning.
Coupled: Somebody loves you despite what they see first thing in the morning.

Single: You can lie in bed in the morning for as long as you like.
Coupled: There's a good reason for lying in bed in the morning ;o)

Single: You never catch your partner shagging in a Cotswolds hotel with another bloke.
Not that I'm in any way bitter, you understand...

 Saturday, November 02, 2002

20 years of Channel 4

It's hard to believe that only 20 years ago we lived in a world with only three TV channels. Then along came Channel 4 on 2nd November 1982, supposedly with a brief to be cutting-edge, avant-garde and radically different. However, the first programme on the channel was the first ever edition of Countdown, which is about as safe and comfy as television ever gets. I missed the launch of Channel 4 because I was out having a driving lesson at the time. However, there have been thousands of Countdowns since then, perfectly filling that great afternoon teatime void, and all structured exactly the same...

• Show begins with whirling clocks, flying letters and extremely catchy theme music.
• Richard appears, wearing garish stripy tie and a jacket made from deckchair material.
• Richard smiles broadly, tells us what the date is and flirts mildly with Carol.
• Richard re-introduces this week's D-list celebrity resident in dictionary corner.
• Richard introduces 12-year-old contestant, and makes several weak puns about his name.
• Richard introduces the housewife from Yorkshire who's about to be humiliatingly defeated.
• First contestant selects five consonants and four vowels.
• Catchy music plays for 30 seconds while cameras zoom in on contestants looking pensive.
• You've only managed a 4-letter word, so you convince yourself you weren't really trying.
• Housewife announces 5-letter word, so you feel even more intellectually sub-normal.
• 12-year-old announces 6-letter word and smirks knowingly at Mum sitting in the audience.
• Smug celebrity announces 7-letter word provided by hidden computer technology.
• Token glamorous librarian tells us the meaning of obscure word using tiny pen camera.
• Richard attempts to make the one-sided score sound exciting.
• Big second hand on the Countdown clock spins back to the top while nobody's looking.
• Repeat letters rounds as necessary until it's time for the numbers round.
• Chosen contestant selects one from the top row and any other five please Carol.
• 12-year-old puts down his pen after 3 seconds, while housewife still looks baffled after 30.
• 12-year-old discovers he's used one of the numbers twice, and tries very hard not to cry.
• Carol says 639 is a very difficult total to make, but she'll have another go during the break.
• Celebrity tells feeble anecdote, greeted by rapturous laughter from the geriatric audience.
• Commercial break, featuring adverts for stairlifts, funeral plans and Werther's Original.
• Repeat words and numbers rounds as necessary until it's time for the Conundrum.
• 12-year-old correctly guesses jumbled-up nine-letter word within half a second.
• Richard congratulates victorious child and tells him he'll be back at the end of the series.
• Housewife receives feeble goodie bag containing job lot of cheap Countdown merchandise.
• Richard asks tomorrow's contestant in the audience whether he guessed the Conundrum.
• Richard, Carol and D-list celebrity smile broadly and hope to see you tomorrow.
• Credits roll while Yorkshire TV employees poke the audience to get them to applaud.
• Production team still have four more shows to get in the can today, so everything restarts.

And three million people wouldn't have it any other way.

 Friday, November 01, 2002

Stratford - urban metropolis of the future

England is well known the world over for historic Stratford-on-Avon, home of Shakespeare and ye olde genuine tea shoppes. However, I live just down the road from the other Stratford, home of cheap market stalls and a gridlocked ring-road. Stratford straddles the Greenwich Meridian, with the newly renovated station in the Western hemisphere and the cavernous shopping centre just a pedestrian crossing away in the Eastern hemisphere. Stratford could not under any circumstances be described as a cultural centre, a decent retail centre or even a place worth visiting. However, plans are afoot to change all that...

The one thing that Stratford does have is excellent rail connections. Trains run from here to Liverpool Street, Docklands, East Anglia, Neasden, Ruislip and, when the Channel Tunnel Rail Link arrives in 2007, Paris. It may not be the greatest place to live, but it is definitely a great place to travel away from. Property prices round have risen so quickly that, had I bought a flat in Stratford last year, I could probably sell it today at a profit exceeding the gross national product of a small African country.

Stratford's new Eurostar station is planned to be at the heart of a billion pound regeneration scheme, bringing new homes and a huge metropolitan, business and retail centre to the area. It's got to be a huge improvement on one Woolworths, one Argos and a Pizza Hut, which is as good as it gets at the moment.

Today a report has suggested that Stratford should be at the centre of a UK bid for the Olympics in 2012. In ten years time the whole international world of sport and athletics could be arriving on my doorstep, although quite frankly we have a big enough drug problem round here as it is.

Sydney, Athens, Beijing... Stratford? I'm really looking forward to living somewhere potentially bigger than Shakespeare.

I hate to worry you but:
• it's Christmas next month.
• the sun sets at half past four this evening.
• the sun will be setting before five every day until February.
(Apologies to two of my SADdest friends there)

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jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

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my special London features
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E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
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great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
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capital numbers
east london line
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unlost rivers
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ten of my favourite posts
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my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
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ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
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harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
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london's lost rivers
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watch with mother
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war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
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