diamond geezer

 Tuesday, September 30, 2003

The best of September (briefly)

TV programme of the month: Little Britain may only be showing on BBC3 at the moment (tonight, 9pm) but it's a cult-smash-in-waiting once it reaches BBC2 in January. Little Britain is a comedy sketch show written by and starring David Walliams (excellent website here) and Matt Lucas (George Dawes the drummer on Shooting Stars), and narrated by the legendary Tom Baker. "Little Britain attempts to explore British life in Britain as it is lived by Britons today in Britain." It's heavily character-based, and therefore very funny. Meet Emily Howard the unconvincing transvestite (I am a lady, you know), meet Marjorie Dawes the leader of the local Fat Fighters group (everyone loves a bit of cake), meet Dafydd the lonely Welshman in a croptop (I am the only gay-er in this village) and meet Vicki Pollard the borstal tearaway (stop giving me the evils). Ahhh, come join me on the bandwagon before everybody else does.

Film of the month: I used to go to the cinema at least once or twice a month, but recently I've become a bit of a celluloid hermit. In fact the last film I went to see was that Matrix thing way back in May. Has Hollywood gone off the rails, or have I missed out on something really good?

Gig of the month: Spiritualized at the Electric Ballroom. Review here.

Album/single/book of the month: Erm, no.

Radio 1 - a birthday linkfest

One radio station (launched 36 years ago today)
Radio 1

Two excellent websites packed with Radio 1 history
Radio Rewind; TV Cream (except drat, that's not working at the moment)

The first three records played on Radio 1
• Flowers In The Rain by The Move; Massachusetts by The Bee Gees; Even The Bad Times Are Good by The Tremeloes

The first four DJs on Radio 1
Tony Blackburn; Leslie Crowther; Keith Skues; Emperor Rosko

Five fine Radio 1 DJs blessed by comprehensive fansites
Kevin Greening; John Peel OBE; Chris Moyles; Chris Morris; Mark and Lard

A six minute montage of Radio 1 jingles
sheer nostalgia from Radio Ark

Seven million missing listeners
• Left because of this, mostly heading here.

 Monday, September 29, 2003

Famous places within 15 minutes walk of my house
Number 16 - the canals of East London

dirty Den was here?There are a number of canals in East London, and Bow is completely surrounded by them. To the West the Regents Canal, to the North the Hertford Canal, to the East the Lee Navigation and to the south the Limehouse Cut. All quite pretty in their own way, and a fine six mile circular walk is possible along the various towpaths.

Britain's first canals appeared in the late 18th century, the first successful method of transporting heavy cargo across the country. Four miles an hour may not have been fast, and numerous flights of locks slowed travel down even further, but for a few decades the canal was king. I could tell you more, but I'd rather not because I suffered canal overload while at primary school. My school was located less than half a mile from the Grand Union canal, and so we seemed to do a 'topic' on canals every single year. Duke of Bridgewater, coal, narrowboats, James Brindley, locks, bargemen, the coming of the railways... been there, done that, far too often.

In 1812 work began on the Regents Canal through North London, providing a link from Paddington Basin on the Grand Union direct to the Thames at Limehouse. This 8½ mile waterway became a landscape feature of the new Regents Park, designed by John Nash, who was one of the canal's major shareholders. The Regents Canal passes beside London Zoo, starts to drop 86 feet at Camden Locks, then dives underneath Islington through a towpath-less tunnel. Pickfords the removals company was originally based here at the City Road basin, complete with 120 barges and stables for 120 horses, able to deliver freight to Birmingham in 2½ days flat. The canal runs on through Hackney and through Victoria and Mile End Parks before finally reaching the old Regents Canal Docks, now the posh housing development of Limehouse Basin.

floating towpathThe River Lea has been an important navigable waterway into London for over 500 years, and during the 18th century the navigation was much improved with new cuts and locks. Barges travelling between the Lea and the Regents Canal were forced to negotiate the great loop of the River Thames round the Isle of Dogs, so two short canals were built later to link the two together and reduce journey times. The Hertford Canal runs along the bottom of Victoria Park and has one of the most picturesque flights of locks in the capital, but was never a commercial success. The Limehouse Cut is an arrow-straight channel direct from Bow Locks to Limehouse, less picturesque and eerily quiet. British Waterways installed the UK's first floating towpath here under the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road earlier this summer, complete with kingfisher styling and green lights in the footpath.

One less well-documented feature of the canals of East London is their miraculous healing power. It's possible to fall into the water complete with fatal gunshot wound and bunch of daffodils, and then to reappear 14 years later seemingly none the worse for wear. The BBC are screening a documentary tonight (BBC1, 8pm) recounting the story of a middle-aged EastEnd publican whose gangland exploits saw him supposedly assassinated beside a local canal back in 1989. Despite the discovery of a headless body and a full family funeral, this lucky man apparently survived his underwater ordeal and has been recuperating in Spain ever since. The BBC filmed Mr Watts' miraculous return beside the Grand Union Canal in Alperton in West London, and alas not here in E3. However, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see sick pilgrims now queueing to visit the restorative canals in the Bow area to take the waters and heal themselves. We might even become the Lourdes of the EastEnd. After all, everyone's talking about it.

 Sunday, September 28, 2003

Top 20

Today's quiz was a musical top twenty for you to identify, with every song in the list recorded digitally. All the correct answers are now listed below, so thanks if you stuck a correct guess in the comments box.

  1) Every 1's A Winner, Hot Chocolate (1978, no 12)
  2) Song 2, Blur (1997, no 2)
  3) 3am Eternal, KLF (1991, no 1)
  4) Mary Of The 4th Form, Boomtown Rats (1977, no 15)
  5) Mambo No 5, Bob The Builder (2001, no 1)
  6) 6 Underground, Sneaker Pimps (1997, no 9)
  7) 7, Prince (1992, no 27)
  8) Sk8er Boi, Avril Lavigne (2002, no 8)
  9) 9pm (Till I Come), ATB (1999, no 1)
10) Perfect 10, Beautiful South (1998, no 2)
11) Love Missile F1-11, Sigue Sigue Sputnik (1986, no 3)
12) 12 Reasons Why, My Life Story (1996, no 32)
13) The 13th, Cure (1996, no 16)
14) (help!)
15) TVC 15, David Bowie (1976, no 33)
16) 16 Bars, Stylistics (1976, no 7)
17) 7 Teen, Regents (1979, no 11)
18) 18 Carat Love Affair, Associates (1982, no 21)
19) 19/2000, Gorillaz (2001, no 6)
20) 20th Century Boy, T Rex (1973, no 3)

As for 14, finding any appropriate record to ask about is still causing problems. Emma's suggested a couple of American hits (Fourteen days by Laura Love, and 14 Karet Fool by Buzz Clifford), but neither of those was a hit over here. Ian suggests 14 Hours To Save The Earth by Tomski (1998), which is fine if you consider number 42 to be a hit record. I was toying with the marvellous They're Coming To Take Me Away Ha-Haaa! by Napoleon XIV (1966, no 4), except the 14 there is in the artist's name and not in the title. And Scaryduck, well, he suggests something rather more devious which, whilst not strictly digital, is probably borderline acceptable. So, this is Scaryduck's idea, but not his choice of record. Can you guess:
14) Steps (1998, no 2)

 Saturday, September 27, 2003

London fashion weak

During the week in which London's top fashion designers have been showing off their latest collections on the capital's catwalks, the great British public have been slipping seamlessly into their autumn wardrobes. As usual the ordinary man or woman in the street has completely ignored the advice of Conran, Hamnett and Farhi, preferring a combination I can only describe as sportswear, street market and Matalan. A glance down any busy London high street this week reveals that this autumn's preferred colours are definitely blues - that's denim blue, navy blue, faded blue, bluey-black, bluey-white, bluey-grey, sportskit-blue, inflammable-nylon-blue, tacky-blue and generally-nondescript-blue. Every splash of bright colour has gone back into a drawer not to be glimpsed again until next spring.

However, there's one design that has made it into the general fashion consciousness all of a sudden, and that's the Burberry look. That sort of light brown tartan with a black and white grid and narrow red stripes, Burberry's now every-bloody-where. This brand was once an upmarket symbol of poshness and breeding, at least until the Burberry cap became part of the uniform of the modern sports-casual football supporter/hooligan. Now it appears that everyone wants to be seen in Burberry style - Burberry caps, Burberry wallets, Burberry handbags, Burberry scarves, Burberry jackets, Burberry umbrellas, even probably (pah!) Burberry wheelie suitcases. The counterfeiters haven't been far behind either, with not-quite-copyrighted tartans gracing t-shirts, Muslim-style hijab headscarves and even pensioners' shopping bags, all for under a fiver off your local market stall. In just a few short months Britain has become a land full of Burberry sheep. Alas, you've been fleeced, the lot of you.

Top of the Premiership
16 Aug: Blackburn Rovers P1 W1 D0 L0 Pts3 (top for seven days until...)
23 Aug: Manchester United P2 W2 D0 L0 Pts6 (top for one day until...)
24 Aug: Arsenal P2 W2 D0 L0 Pts6 (top for one day until...)
25 Aug: Manchester City P3 W2 D1 L0 Pts7 (top for one day until...)
26 Aug: Portsmouth P3 W2 D1 L0 Pts7 (top for one day until...)
27 Aug: Arsenal P3 W3 D0 L0 Pts9 (top for a mammoth 24 days until...)
20 Sep: Chelsea P5 W4 D1 L0 Pts13 (top for one day until...)
21 Sep: Arsenal P6 W4 D2 L0 Pts14 (top until at least next Saturday...)

 Friday, September 26, 2003

      The diamond geezer textmap of central London


 Thursday, September 25, 2003

Happy anniversary

That's happy tin wedding anniversary to my brother and sister-in-law who got married in light drizzle ten years ago today. That means it's also ten years since the only time I've ever been a best man, and also a decade since my mum last wore a hat. Special occasions, weddings. I suspect that the happy couple will be celebrating today by taking the children to swimming, or ballet, or brownies, or whatever it is they do on Thursdays. It's a far cry from the pre-school pre-nappy pre-family world of 1993, the day their future began. For better, for richer, in health and unparted.

Based on my admittedly limited experience, I'm pleased to be able to offer the following tips and advice for a happy and successful wedding day. And if any of those here present can show just cause why these tips may not lawfully be complete, let them now speak in the comments box or else hereafter for ever hold their peace.

Make sure the weather's nice. Ahh, if only weddings could be booked the week beforehand when the long-range weather forecast might actually be reliable. But no, you have to book months or even years early and then risk an unexpected downpour in mid-August or freak snowfall in May, and the forlorn looks on the faces of the bridesmaids as their tiaras droop and dresses wilt. The rain just about held off ten years ago, which was just as well because no marriage should dissolve that quickly.

Get your hair cut beforehand. The bride and bridesmaids spend practically the entire week before a wedding at the hairdressers. Alas I didn't, and so I appear in all the wedding photos with a haircut that even Gary Rhodes would have refused. I'd failed to realise that those wedding photos would be framed, albumed, videoed and generally revered at regular intervals for the rest of my life. Mistake. As for the hired morning suit complete with cravat and matching buttonhole, alas, there was nothing I could have done about that.

Make sure the wedding video captures the spirit of the day rather than dictates it. There's nothing worse than a wedding you can't see in real life because some jumped-up media student is attempting to hijack proceedings in the name of art. My brother's wedding video was fairly inobtrusive on the day, but if anything it's been more obtrusive since. Still, by leaving the room at the appropriate time I've managed only to have to sit through the whole thing once. So far. And nobody's recorded the Vicar of Dibley over it. Yet.

Hold your peace. It's not funny to put your hand up or cough or shout at that point in the wedding service when the vicar asks if the bride or groom have a bit on the side they've not yet told anyone about. It's bloody tempting, but it's not funny. And you'll never get as far as that free meal at the reception if you do. The only unwanted face from the past at my brother's wedding was Tanya who he'd had a bit of a scene with on the stag night, but then she was inflatable and we didn't want to let her down.

Don't read the best man's speech from a script. Is there anything more cringeworthy than a series of unfunny childhood anecdotes and blatant sexual references strung together in a monotone drawl (pause for laugh)? No, be brave and deliver the speech of your life from a set of notes, dropping in ad libs about the events of the day where possible. It helps, of course, if the happy couple grabbed the wrong hands during the ring ceremony and then flew to the reception in a big chopper. And if your brother first met his wife at a Christmas fancy dress karaoke night while dressed as a turkey, well, that's comedy perfection innit?

Try to avoid 'that' question. I must have been asked 'that' question scores of times at my brother's wedding. "So, when is it your turn then?" Come prepared with numerous comedy replies, like "Maybe in 20 years time when the bridesmaids are older", "What a shame you're already married auntie" and "Ooh, they're playing Lady in Red again, do you fancy a dance?"

Beware 'Oops upside your head'. Wedding DJs have a collection of records that no self-respecting person could ever like, except that after two glasses of champagne, half a bottle of wine and three hours at the free bar they suddenly sound like musical classics. At this point you'll find yourself on the dancefloor amongst a crowd of relatives old and new, singing along to Agadoo or the Timewarp or worse. Hope and pray that the media student with the video camera has gone home long before everyone sits down on the floor and starts rowing.

Don't think about how much it's all costing. It may be one of the most expensive days of your life but, well, you only do it the once eh? Hopefully. Plus you get to end the day with all the toasters, fondue sets and crystal decanters you could ever want. And, if you stay together long enough afterwards, the money you save through the married couples' tax allowance will more than pay for the dress, the church, the vicar, the reception, the honeymoon and getting the car repainted after some idiot writes 'Just married' on the back using nail varnish.

Love one another. Because that's the point, isn't it? Happy anniversary.

 Wednesday, September 24, 2003


Those nice people at Camelot have just launched a new daily lottery game in an attempt to raise more money for good causes shareholders. It seems that we've all got a bit bored with the main twice-weekly game, and Camelot's answer is lots more lotto. But do you have a better chance of winning or is it still just a load of balls? Time for another diamond geezer consumer guide...

Daily Play (born 22 September 2003)
: pick 7 numbers from 27.
Play: every day except Christmas and Sundays.
Prizes: £30,000 for all seven correct, down to £5 for four correct, and a free extra go if you don't match any numbers at all.
Your chance of winning the big one: A 1 in 888,000 chance of winning thirty grand. Not good at all.
Your chance of winning a free extra go: Only 1 in 12.
Top prize won on Monday: £300, won by just 51 people who got six numbers correct. No jackpot winners.
Expected performance over 20 years (£1 stake): You spend £5724, including 520 free extra goes. You win 270 £5 prizes, 28 £30 prizes, and one £300 prize. Overall loss: £3234 (56½%).
Better value for money: hiding your money under the mattress. The last 20 years of UK inflation would have lost you only 53%.

Lotto (née The National Lottery) (born 19 November 1994)
: pick 6 numbers from 49.
Play: every Wednesday and Saturday.
Prizes: Millions (maybe) for all six correct, down to £10 for three correct. You know how this one works.
Your chance of winning the big one: A 1 in 14 million chance of winning the jackpot. Quite awful.
Your chance of winning at least a tenner: Only 1 in 54.
Top prize won last Saturday: £187,508, won by just 9 people who got 5 numbers and the bonus ball correct. No jackpot winners.
Expected performance after 20 years (£1 stake): You spend £2087. You win 37 £10 prizes, two prizes of about £65 for four numbers correct, and nothing bigger. Overall loss: £1587 (76%).
Better value for money: buying a TV licence every year for the last 20 years would have cost you only £1580.

Thunderball (born 7 June 1999)
: pick 5 numbers from 34, and one Thunderball from 14.
Play: every Wednesday and Saturday.
Prizes: £250,000 for all six correct, down to £5 for one correct plus the Thunderball.
Your chance of winning the big one: A 1 in 4 million chance of winning the jackpot. Miserable.
Your chance of winning at least a fiver: 1 in 18.
Top prize won last Saturday: Quarter of a million, won by just 4 people. Usually there are no top prize winners.
Expected performance after 20 years (£1 stake): You spend £2087. You win 64 £5 prizes, 48 £10 prizes, two £20 prizes, one £100 prize, and nothing bigger. Overall loss: £1147 (55%).
Better value for money: becoming the chief executive of Camelot would have earned you over one million pounds in salary over the last 9 years.

Lotto Extra (born 13 November 2000)
: pick 6 numbers from 49.
Play: every Wednesday and Saturday.
Prize: Scoop the entire jackpot for all 6 correct. No other prizes.
Your chance of winning the big one: A 1 in 14 million chance of winning the jackpot. Pitiful.
Your chance of winning something: 1 in 14 million. Absolutely abominable.
Top prize won last Saturday: Nothing at all. Nobody won any prizes on Lotto Extra in June, July or August.
Expected performance after 20 years (£1 stake): You spend £2087. You win nothing. Overall loss: £2087 (100%).
Better value for money: sending two grand to me, cheques gratefully accepted.

 Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Autumn Equinox (11:47am BST)
To mark the start of the season of falling leaves, can you name these twelve trees?
(Answers in the comments box)

 Monday, September 22, 2003

don't stare at this for too longThe life of Riley

More than 30 years ago my Dad took me to see an exhibition of Bridget Riley's paintings at a top London art gallery. Last weekend, sandwiched inbetween our Open House visits, he took me again.

It was way back in 1971 that I was dragged along to the Hayward Gallery on London's South Bank for my first look at Riley's op-art paintings. Her black and white geometrical designs appealed to a young child in short trousers, looking much more like optical illusions than traditional paintings. Her work was full of black stripes on a white background, or was it white stripes on a black background, it was hard to tell. This being pre-adolescence, I also rather liked the canvases smothered in greasy black spots. After a quick shuffle round the gallery I went back to my childhood and Bridget evolved into colour.

And then this weekend, with me now older than my dad was back then, we returned to view her work again. The Tate (Britain) is holding a Bridget Riley retrospective, starting off with the black and white paintings I'd seen before, and then bringing the portfolio up to date. Bridget's next works featured coloured stripes, repeated like barcodes but on a much larger scale. Some were all straight like a deckchair pattern, others were subtly curved and waved. She clearly had a thing for stripes because there were rooms of the things, eventually losing the black and white altogether. After about 20 years of doing lines, Ms Riley developed into multi-coloured overlapping parallelograms, and from there into her current obsession with curvy-section things. And circles.

Bridget never paints anything herself any more, she just gives precise instructions to her assistants telling them where all the geometrical shapes are going to go (and if you look carefully you can still see the pencil marks). One room of the exhibition was given over to her sketches and preparatory work, all scrupulously carefully drawn, with numerous colour-changes and notes scribbled in the margin. The whole show was precise and mathematical, but full of subtle light, warmth and feeling. Where else can you stand in a large room, stare at the wall and feel woozy for under a tenner (except in most pubs, of course). Me and my Dad, we'd both recommend a visit, but the exhibition closes next Sunday so you'd better hurry. Who knows, your next chance might be in 2035.

It's exactly two years today since I moved out of Suffolk, to
Life, lifestyle, living, lots of stuff to do;
Oxford Street, Old Father Thames;
Nine centuries of history, now, new;
Diversity, design, discovery, delight;
Oyster cards, Open House; Olympics;
Nightlife, no tractors, no going back.

 Sunday, September 21, 2003

London Open House Weekend

Every year, for a couple of days in the middle of September, the doors of about 500 of London's public and private buildings are thrown open to the public. This is London Open House weekend, a time to enjoy and celebrate the capital's varied architecture and history. From the 11th century Westminster Hall to the 21st century City Hall, you can take a peek inside buildings you'd normally only see from the outside, or maybe never even knew existed in the first place. Thanks to all the volunteers who make it all possible, and here's a list of some of the places I managed to visit this year...

insure your supertanker hereLloyd's of London: It's that dramatic futuristic building in the middle of the City, the one with twelve lifts on the outside, designed by Richard Rogers and opened in 1986. Us lucky visitors got to see their collection of old Lord Nelson ephemera, the enormous underwriting room full of hundreds of tiny desks where all the trading happens, the eleven-storey glass-windowed atrium, and the Lutine Bell that rings to bring news of lost ships (one ring bad, two rings good). Nice escalators too. Favourite fact: Edward Lloyd was never an underwriter, he merely owned Lloyd's coffee shop where the first maritime underwriters used to meet. Starbucks clearly still have a long way to go.
Tour: well-structured and impressive, 8/10. Guide: knowledgeable, friendly, 8/10.

still a place to eatBanqueting House: Not just another non-descript building down Whitehall, but an ornate Jacobean dining hall with huge painted ceiling. Many sumptuous banquests for nobles and heads of state have been held in this magnificent room. However, this weekend they'd set up a trestle table in one corner selling tea, Kit Kats, slices of swiss roll and Mr Kipling's cherry bakewells. A far cry from the building's glorious past. Favourite fact: The hall was built for King James I in 1622, but became the site of his execution in 1649.
Tour: brief and touristy, 5/10. Guide: just a video, 3/10.

the glass front bitChannel 4 Television: It's always a lottery on Open House weekend which tour guide you get. Some know their stuff inside out, while others have clearly never set foot in the property before. Here at Channel 4's HQ I got to the front of the queue just in time to miss the really well-informed guide, ending up instead with the token volunteer merely present to make up the numbers. She took us up in the scenic lift, which had nice views over, er, part of London. She told us that the C4 building had two sort of arms. She took us along the curvy walkway on the third floor behind the glass front bit, held up by the joint things. And we went out onto the terrace at the back, made of some kind of wood I think. Favourite fact: there's an ironing board in the Channel 4 boardroom, complete with iron, inbetween the flipchart and the widescreen TV.
Tour: not quite worthwhile, 4/10. Guide: wet blanket, 1/10.

John Prescott works here26 Whitehall: This morning you'd have found me queuing for an hour trying to gain entry to a tall posh building down Whitehall, otherwise known as the Ripley Building, otherwise known as the offices of the Deputy Prime Minister. This impressive Georgian building has been home to the Admiralty for nearly 300 years, and top navy men still meet to make important decisions in the wood-panelled Board Room on the first floor. John Prescott's ministerial team are now based in the building, although we were assured that the solitary Jaguar parked in the courtyard this morning wasn't his. Security was high (we're currently on 'Black Special', if you're interested) and we had to surrender our mobile phones and cameras on the way in. Favourite fact: Lord Nelson's body rested here on the night before his funeral, having been stored in a barrel of alcohol during the long voyage home from the battle of Trafalgar.
Tour: bit short given the long wait, 5/10. Three guides: one very good, one ok, one dire, average 5/10.

tower of East LondonLimehouse Accumulator Tower: If you've ever travelled on the DLR from Limehouse to Westferry, you may have seen a fifty-foot octagonal brick tower right beside the railway tracks. It's not an old signal box, it's actually pioneering Victorian technology - a tower that once provided hydraulic power for raising heavy cargo at Regent's Canal dock. The tower has recently been restored as a viewing platform, although recent housing developments at Limehouse Basin have reduced the view somewhat. Sadly the tower is only open very occasionally which is a great shame because, on a sunny day like today, the view from the top is great. Favourite fact: To reach the top requires climbing two spiral staircases, the first inside the tower and the second inside the chimney.
Tour: classic industrial archaeology, 9/10. Guide: keen engineer, 8/10.

Also visited:
Talkback Productions: award-winning big comedy, award-winning small offices.
St Pancras Midland Hotel: except there were queues round the block, so I was glad I saw it last year instead.
West India Quay Impounding Station: pumps the Thames into the Docklands docks, using original 1929 technology.
House Mill, Bow: this is one of those famous places within 15 minutes walk of my house, so I've already written about it. Surprisingly big, impressively restored.

 Saturday, September 20, 2003

Pieces of eight

Time for the results of Thursday's diamond geezer treasure hunt. You were invited to find the out-of-time post with the treasure chest picture lurking in my archives, and to leave a message. Several of you found it, back in January. As a prize I said I'd plug the websites of the first eight people to find the chest, so here are the eight winners and their websites, along with an "extract" from each. Not the most exciting prize in the world but hey, I think these are well worth reading.

1) Darren (Linkmachinego): "[just the links] Angle-Grinder Man (This is the Web-Site of Angle-Grinder Man, the U.K.’s first wheel-clamp and speed camera vigilante cum subversive superhero philanthropist entertainer type personage); Dirty Comics (Although it may come as news to you, there is a long tradition of sequential artworks in celebration of the human love-act); Dawn of Dilbert (original dilbert submission package); Flashblog (Flashblogging is a Blog Mob set up to visit random blogs upon email announcement and place comments in those blogs, click on links, leave messages, and have fun); london.localfeeds (Articles published in London, UK in the last 48 hours)"

2) Bushra (fudge it): "i want to blog about this job, i want to blog about the five weeks i spent in that stupid stupid court, i want to talk about all the crap i live with at home but i can't. i think- oh wait. meeting. i'll update this post in a bit. but i will tell you i saw one of the defence lawyers in woolworths on saturday. someone needs to tell him that his stripey top didn't really work at all."

3) Jag (Route 79): "Tonight it was my turn to cook. Only I hadn’t prepared for it. So I raided the fridge. What did I find: 2 decaying peppers: one green, one red. 1 decaying red onion. 2 cooked chicken thighs from safeway. 1 decaying carrot. 2 ripe tomatoes. 2 ripe sweetcorn cobs from the Indian shop on the High Street. So - I hit upon an idea …" (there follows a marvellous step-by-step photo recipe)

4) Jeff (UK top forty): "For British pop chart fans, Sundays wouldn't be fun days without the Top 40 chart show, which now goes out on Radio 1 FM stereo between 4pm and 7pm, but this hasn't always been the case. My first memories are of Alan Freeman's Pick of the Pops Top 20 countdown starting at about 5.50pm in FM and AM (all mono) - but note the following changes: 1st October 1972 - Top 20 starting at 6pm in stereo (although once the show came from Scotland in mono...)"

5) Nic (Planarchy): "Well, as I'm sure you'd have expected, I took a lot of piccies whilst en France. Many will surface at some point I'm sure. But, in the meantime here is my current favourite..... it's a Hummingbird Hawkmoth AKA Macroglossum stellatarum, not native to the French Alps but a migrant from warmer climes further south. Apparently these inch long specimens sometimes get as far as England, though I've never seen them!. To get this far probably uses up all of the three generations that they can manage in a good summer... and all for what? Puts my humble summer trip by car into perspective anyway."

6) Mark (londonmark): "Football is not a funny old game. Let's get that clear right now. Football is very serious indeed. It has the power to reduce grown men to tears for the only time in their lives. It has the power to turn decent, rational, shy men into absolute gibbering Neanderthals, capable only of grunting, howling and pointing. It has the power to make men believe that a pair of socks which have been unwashed for twelve years have some kind of 'magic' or 'lucky' properties. Serious."

7) Dave (Guild Players): "The Guild Players are an amateur drama group based at Finchley Methodist Church Hall in the London Borough of Barnet (Ballards Lane, Finchley, London N3, UK). Our next major production will be a traditional family pantomime The Wonderful Story of Mother Goose by Norman Robbins. Performances 10th - 13th December 2003." (ooh, a real website, not a blog)

8) Tony (except Tony hasn't got a website so that leaves one last space for...) Dave (clear blue skies): "London bus rules: "When the bus finally leaves the stop you look out of the back window and see another two buses coming down the road, both of which will leapfrog yours and get to your destination long before you do. Halfway to where you want to go a big group of lads will get on the bus. Some of them will try to evade paying the fare and the bus driver will refuse to move until they do. The lads will then sit all around you and all start playing the ringtones on their mobile phones very loudly to see whose is best."

 Friday, September 19, 2003

Parental advisory

If you're thinking of going to the cinema this weekend, the film censors have been busy trying to help you to decide what to watch. All 12A certificated films now come with a strapline telling parents exactly why they might not want their sensitive pre-teenage offspring to view the film. However, I suspect these warnings have completely the opposite effect. Take a look at these 12A films currently showing at the UK box office and see which film(s) instantly take your fancy merely from the plot summary:
(contains one use of strong language)
(contains strong language and violence)
(contains moderate language and brief injury)
(contains moderate horror and action violence)
(contains moderate action violence and fantasy horror)
(contains mild slapstick and nudity and moderate violence)
(contains nudity and sex references and implied soft drug use)

I wonder if the same concept should be applied to U and PG films as well, just to warn us discerning adults that a film might not contain anything juicy and worth shelling out nearly a tenner on. Here are a few suggestions for some older films - see if you can guess which before you click on the link, and feel free to suggest some more:
(contains restless nuns and lonely goatherds and Nazi sympathisers)
(contains a non-stop string of over-exploited marketing opportunities)
(contains historical inaccuracy and lengthy overacting and mild irish dancing)
(contains fake East End accents and sufficient sugar to rot teeth at thirty paces)
(contains violent meteorolgical effects and unconvincing scenery and a yappy dog)
(contains excessive fantasy detail which may inspire your offspring to become anorak-clad obsessive fans in later life)
(contains no use of strong language, no horror, no nudity, no sexual references and no violence moderate or otherwise, so why bother?)

Seen at the supermarket tonight...
73 sh***ing days to go: adve*t c**endars.
97 sh***ing days to go: xm*s p*ddings, xm*s c*rds, t*ns of bisc**ts, min** pi*s, wra**ing p*per, t*bs of p**nuts.
(... and now less than 100 days to wait: cr*me *ggs)

 Thursday, September 18, 2003

London Flash Mob ##3 - A novel experience

London has a new local library. It may only have opened for fifteen minutes, earlier this evening, but more books exchanged hands in that time that would normally be exchanged at your local library in a week. Welcome to Soho Square.

down at the local library

About four hundred expectant bibliophiles trooped down to Soho this evening, each of us clutching an unwanted book. All we'd been told was where to be and when, and that we might want to register our book at bookcrossing.com because we'd probably end up giving it away. We were grouped in six pubs by starsign, and I wonder how the Cancerians and Scorpios felt to find themselves in a rather pricey gay bar on the north edge of Soho Square. Me, I headed to the Dog and Duck in Frith Street along with the other Pisceans and tried to buy a drink at the tiny bar. This being London's third flash mob, I recognised and chatted to a few people who'd been before. Getting sad, isn't it?

Round came the small slips of paper listing our instructions and it was evident that, on their third attempt, our organisers were to be congratulated. A simple concept this time, one that could be summarised in just four words - swap books and applaud. Nothing complicated about mobile phones and letters of the alphabet, just go and stand in Soho Square from 6:30 and swap a book with a stranger. Every time you swap a book, smile for 3 seconds. And every time you see someone else swapping a book, applaud. At 6:45 leave. Simple. effective. So off we went.

We were invited to stand in a different corner of the square according to the type of book we'd brought with us - one corner for fiction, one for non-fiction, another for science fiction, the fourth for romance, and Harry Potter in the middle by the Tudor-style groundsman's cottage. I'd brought along a newish novel that I really couldn't get into and would be glad to get rid of, and so headed for the jam-packed fiction corner. Here was a sight to delight any jaded librarian, a huge crowd of people intent on literary betterment. And so the bartering began, to rapturous applause.

[take along Dead Air by Iain Banks] So, who was going to get my brand spanking new book? I hunted around for a decent replacement. [swap Dead Air for Dracula by Bram Stoker - applause] Bit of a classic, but probably not something I still wanted to be left with at the end of the evening. [swap Dracula for Nature of Australia - weak applause] Mistake. The cover looked nice, but this natural history book was no literary classic. It had to go. [swap Nature of Australia for a Japanese cartoon novel - wild applause] Result! This one looked brand new, with a cover like a bright washing powder packet. But... [swap Japanese cartoon novel for Women's Tennis Association handbook 2001 - gasps of disbelief] Why did I do that? My new book was clearly a booby prize, the literary equivalent of 3-2-1's Dusty Bin. Quick, only a few minutes left! [swap Women's Tennis Association handbook 2001 for a children's book called Look! - mocking applause] Not much better really, Twenty pages, mostly pictures. [swap Look! for Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton - applause - applause] Phew.

And so I came home with a book worth reading. Even better, it had a bookcrossing label in the front so I was able to find out who had brought it along in the first place. Cheers deano! I'm still waiting to see if anybody logs in to say they ended up with my book. All in all, a great success. An original idea held in a public space, with added sound effects and enough bemused passers-by to look over and wonder what the hell was going on. And everyone left smiling (except, presumably, whoever was unfortunate to walk away with the Women's Tennis Association handbook 2001). The next mob's planned for October. I wonder if I'll have finished my new book by then. I'm 30 pages in, and it's already much better than the film...

The diamond geezer treasure hunt

I've written two posts this morning. You're reading one of them, but I've changed the date of the other so that it appears on one of my archive pages instead. Could be lurking anywhere in the last twelve months, although it wasn't there before today. (New Blogger functionality, don't you just love it?)

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to hunt down that mystery post lurking somewhere in the diamond geezer back catalogue. As a clue, you're looking for another post with a treasure chest picture. I'd like to offer a tiny prize to the first eight people who manage to leave a message in the comments box on that mystery post. I'm afraid I can't offer exciting mouse mats, mugs or money as prizes, but I will give your website a plug at the weekend instead if that's reward enough. Now, where might I have hidden that mystery post? Which month are you going to investigate first? (If you can be bothered to look at all, that is...)

 Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Amazing Grace

Last night I went to a Spiritualized gig. Now, this fact is probably of interest to no more than three of my readers (they're a band, by the way), but I thought I should review the experience all the same. So I've decided to write three reviews for the price of one. One for true fans, one for me, and one for the generally disinterested. Those three categories again - . You'll get the hang of it.

Spiritualized are an rock band fronted by the Jason Spaceman. Our Jason writes like an , his music perhaps best described as . You no doubt the band's 1997 album Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, or perhaps the 1995's Pure Phase. Just last week Spiritualized released their latest album, Amazing Grace, . This into the album charts at a number 25, probably reflecting the .

Last night's concert took place in the Electric Ballroom (a Camden rock ), just one venue on a world tour stretching as far as . The audience were , with the fans right up at the front awaiting the arrival of their . The lighting was really so it was quite hard to tell who was actually on stage, particularly given that Jason merely sat in one corner of the stage never once facing the audience. The band played little from the back catalogue, with most of the set given over to the new album.

After a first half, the later songs built to an , making members of the audience shake like they were . Jason's melodies , and the band perfectly. Stand-out track:. The whole experience was and I'm .

 Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Good and bad things about inter-city rail travel (for example between London and Leeds)

Bad: you now have to name the time of your train when buying your ticket, unlike the good old days when you could just turn up and travel; in order to be sure of catching your named train you have to leave your house half an hour early, just in case you miss it and end up paying £60 more; you have to reserve a seat; when you reach your reserved seat you discover it's completely hemmed in by other people who've reserved a seat; if you hadn't reserved a seat you could have sat at that nice empty table down the carriage; your seat reservation appears to have been selected purely to ensure that there is no decent talent within your field of view; there isn't a window next to your reserved seat, just a whopping great mirror in which the view is nowhere near as good as the passing countryside; the amount of legroom provided is appropriate only for those under five foot tall; the man at the table opposite is attempting to conduct his normal office business in an extremely loud voice by mobile; there aren't enough tunnels along the route to block out phone reception; there are wheelie bloody suitcases everywhere; the distant smell of cigarette smoke drifts through from the next carriage; you can't sit in your seat undisturbed reading a book because every ten minutes a steward comes along and tries to serve you tea or coffee; the liquid he calls tea is in fact merely brown water; your ticket would cost noticeably less than the exorbitant amount you had to pay if only the train company didn't employ someone to come round serving 'free' beverages all the time; the on-board trolley contains feeble snacks at twice the price you would pay for them in any supermarket; the woman next to you has heeded this and brought a marmite bagel on board which she proceeds to nibble at for a full thirty minutes; the camp inflection that the catering supervisor adopts when inviting you to the restaurant car suggests that he has more than a breakfast sausage on his mind; when the steward offers you a complimentary 'newspaper' he is in fact only offering you a copy of the Times; should the train ever grind to a halt unexpectedly the conductor will be on the internal intercom within 30 seconds telling you that he doesn't know why you've stopped but that he'll keep you updated on how much he doesn't know as the delay continues; the eventual cause of the delay will be repeated every time the train arrives late at each subsequent station, just so that you go away blaming Railtrack and not the fine, upstanding train company.

Good: Leeds was lovely; and the journey back was quite pleasant.

Bookcrossing: I've been trying to dispose of my paperback copy of Dead Air by Iain Banks for a few weeks now. Looks like the perfect opportunity is coming up in Soho on Thursday evening, and it'll be gone in a flash...

 Monday, September 15, 2003

Word search: While I head off up North for the day, see if you can find the 14 Yorkshire towns hidden here before I get back. Answers in the comments box.


Monday music quiz: Double quiz fun today. Again, answers in the comments box.

1) Boomtown Rats (1, 1979)
2) Bangles (2, 1986)
3) Mamas & the Papas (3, 1966)  
4) Step On (5, 1990)
5) New Order (9, 1983)
6) Duran Duran (9, 1984)
  7) Rolling Stones (3, 1967)
  8) Undertones (11, 1980)
  9) David Bowie (16, 1999)
10) the Cure (6, 1992)
11) Elton John (7, 1973)
12) Blondie (1, 1979)

 Sunday, September 14, 2003

London for the first time

view east from the eye

I can't remember the first time I visited London. I grew up at the end of the Metropolitan line, so being taken into the capital was almost second nature from an early age. Certainly when I was four I took my mum on the Underground on a journey to Putney Bridge because I was more sure of the route than she was (thank goodness they hadn't invented blogs when I was four - I'd have been unsufferably precocious). Big Ben and St Paul's Cathedral have always been real places to me, not just visions seen in a book or on TV. For many children (and adults) around the rest of the country, London is merely a figment of their imagination, perhaps a town of opportunity where the streets are paved with gold, or maybe a scary rat-infested hotbed of crime.

Yesterday my nephews and niece (combined age 20) came down to central London from Norfolk for the first time. They were taken on a ten hour whistlestop tour of the capital, trying to experience as much as possible without overdoing it. From Docklands to the Eye and from David Blaine to Buckingham Palace, they saw the lot. Couldn't have picked a better day for it either. First impressions?

Lots of people for the first time: There are seven million people in London, ten times as many as in Norfolk crammed into an area a quarter of the size. And there are people everywhere here, squashed next to you on the bus, walking in front of you in the park, crowding around you down Oxford Street or barging into the same tube carriage that you're trying to get out of. It's a far more cosmopolitan mix of people than you'd ever find in Norfolk either, both the tourists and the residents. I thought the children coped well in what to them was a very alien environment.

London Transport for the first time: At Liverpool Street station more buses passed by in five minutes than they'd normally see in a month. In Docklands the concept of a driverless train proved hard to explain. At Green Park the escalator was ten times longer than any you might find in a Norwich department store. At Oxford Circus the experience of a jam-packed rush hour tube was completely alien, especially on a Saturday. And the whole day was spent travelling around without once getting into a car, most unnatural.

Looking up/down for the first time: Norwich may boast the second tallest cathedral spire in the country, but otherwise Norfolk is a county notorious for being flat and horizontal. The tallest tower at Canary Wharf (237m) is more than twice as tall as the highest hill in Norfolk (104m), and it's surrounded by scores of other contour-beating towers. For my visitors, London was looking up. Later we journeyed to the top of the London Eye (135m). Looking down revealed a capital city that appeared to spread as far as the horizon in all directions. London is all people with specks of green, whereas Norfolk is all green with specks of people. And yes, they do all look like ants.

Landmarks for the first time: It was hard to explain to a four year-old that this is Trafalgar Square and it's famous, when all it looks like is a big space with lions, pigeons and a welcoming fountain. Similarly the seven year-old was more interested in pulling the label off a bottle of water as we sailed down the Thames than in watching 1000 years of history pass by. As for the nine year-old, the house where the Queen lives lost out big time in the popularity stakes to the big toyshop down Regent Street. But hopefully, once back in Norfolk (where sorry, there are no world-famous landmarks) it should one day register that "I've seen that Tower Bridge" or "I've heard that Big Ben strike twelve".

Reality TV for the first time: "And, on your right, David Blaine in a box." The highlight of our sightseeing trip down the Thames was the opportunity to see a man suspended from a crane, previously glimpsed only on satellite TV back home. The Tower of London slipped by unnoticed as everyone gawped at the scene on the opposite bank. Beneath the bearded hermit stood an ocean of onlookers, a biblical crowd gathered to watch their Messiah, although somehow more 'Life of Brian' than 'Jesus of Nazareth". Our captain sounded the boat's horn and we all waved. David waved back. "He must be so sick of this boat," remarked our tour guide. Just so long as we were contributing to the charlatan's mental torture, I was pleased.

London for the first time: So, now my nephews and niece have seen where their uncle lives and works, and they have a mental picture of what London looks and feels like. Possibly quite mind-expanding, and I suspect they'll be back again soon. But I expect that back in school on Monday morning their answer to the question 'What was the best thing you did at the weekend?' will still be "David Blaine waved at me".

 Saturday, September 13, 2003

Us ordinary non-fee-paying Blogger bloggers have very recently, very suddenly, found ourselves upgraded to a service resembling that of Blogger Pro. This free upgrade is most generous of the powers that be at Blogger, even if people who'd paid for the full service are no doubt feeling rather cheesed off with merely the offer of a new hoodie in compensation. There are lots of thrilling and exciting new free features available to us all, like a spell check (although it thinks colour is spelt color) and the ability to write draft posts (although I already have a spare blog for that). Most useful however, is the brand new option to...

...change the time and date of everything we post, if we so desire. For example, this post may look like the third post I wrote today, but it's actually the last one. I've changed the time on the post afterwards to make it appear as if it was third. In fact I've changed the date on this particular post about six times. If you'd logged in earlier today you might have found this post positioned halfway though last Tuesday, or somewhere in the middle of January. I was almost tempted to shift it forward into 2004, just because I now can, except that then none of you would have been able to read it until next year. Similarly...

...this is actually the first post I wrote today, or to be more accurate late yesterday evening. I've since changed the time on this post to a time today when I was in fact right at the top of the London Eye and therefore nowhere near a computer. This ability to date-shift is a marvellously useful new feature, but somehow it takes some of the challenge out of blogging. In the past, if I've not been at a computer I've not been able to post. Out and about in San Francisco - bloggy gaps. Enjoying an offline family Christmas - bloggy gaps. I'm rather pleased that I've only missed posting on 13 days out of the last year (which I consider to be a bit of a triumph) (or maybe just a bit sad) but now I need never miss a day ever again. Now I could easily bugger off for a month, then come back later and fill in all the holes. Too easy...

... as is this new-found ability to change the time of a post. You've probably noticed that most of my posts are posted 'on the hour', especially on the hour at 7am precisely, and it's been a particular personal challenge to try to hit these times dead on. Up until today all of these direct hits have been entirely genuine, and I've been smugly satisfied by my posting accuracy. However, from now on I can fiddle the figures to my heart's content, should I so desire. I can post approximately, I can sleep in late, I can even go out for the day, and I need not miss out on temporal perfection. It's going to be bloody useful but, somehow, far less satisfying. I'm certainly going to notice the difference - let's see if any of you do.

(and I wrote this tomorrow)

 Friday, September 12, 2003

Becks' new book in his own words (of one syll-a-ble)

part one: short back and sides
i am born in the east end. i love my mum. i love my dad. i am dead good at ball games.

part two: quiff
i am signed by the man u team. my first game is at home to leeds. i am so cute and skill.

part three: blond
i meet posh spice, we shag, she makes me wear a dress, then we wed. look, two boys!

part four: flop
i score lots of goals from free kicks. oops, a bad foul. i am sent off. all the fans hate me.

part five: crop
i play so well i get made team boss. i get paid lots to sell specs in the far east. see my tatts!

part six: 'hawk
we thrash the hun five one. me and posh we are the king and queen we are. we so rule.

part eight: fin
sven takes a shine to me. my foot breaks but mends in time for the world cup. we lose. sob.

part nine: braids
fergs throws a boot at me. ouch. he is mean. i don't like man u no more. i tell all in the sun.

part ten: big girl
i go play in spain. i am a brand. i am a star. i am a god. but i still need to wear a hair band.

 Thursday, September 11, 2003

The tallest building in the world

2580 BC the Great Pyramid of Cheops (Giza) 137m
1439 Notre Dame Cathedral (Strasbourg) 144m
1549 St Paul's Cathedral (London) 161m (hit by lightning 1561)
1561 Notre Dame Cathedral (Strasbourg) 144m
1568 Beauvais Cathedral (Beauvais) 153m (collapsed 1573)
1573 Notre Dame Cathedral (Strasbourg) 144m
1847 St Nikolai (Hamburg) 147m
1876 Notre Dame (Rouen) 151m
1880 Dom (Cologne) 157m
1884 Washington Monument (Washington) 169m
1888 Eiffel Tower (Paris) 300m
1930 Chrysler Building (New York) 319m
1931 Empire State Building (New York) 381m
1972 World Trade Center (New York) 417m
1974 Sears Tower (Chicago) 442m
1998 Petronas Towers (Kuala Lumpur) 452m
2004 Taipei 101 (Taiwan) 508m

Remembering 11/9
Name that skyscraper - Lower Manhattan (before)
Satellite photographs of the WTC & Pentagon (before and after)
Detailed timeline for Flights 11, 175, 77 and 93 (during)
Google search statistics (immediately after)
Archived news websites (that afternoon) (all stored in the astonishing Wayback Machine)
As reported by The Onion (soon after)
Viewed from every American angle (after)
11, and other numbers (after)
Flight 93 memorial (after)
FBI Most Wanted (continuing)
Proposed design for WTC site (future)

 Wednesday, September 10, 2003

How lifts work

• Your lift is never sitting waiting on the floor where you are. It's always either on the floor you're trying to get to or the floor that's furthest away from you. It will then take ages to arrive, for no adequately explained reason, and even then is probably heading in the wrong direction, diverting you via either the basement or the roof on the way to your final destination.

• Lift doors have a mind of their own, as if they're auditioning for a horror film. They open, gaping wide, tempting you to walk through, then shut suddenly in an attempt to trap you in their jaws. If you're particularly unlucky they'll even flicker between opening and closing several times while you attempt to walk through, uncertain whether to spare you or slice you.

• Count your blessings if the lift is empty when it arrives. You can then ride between floors in privacy, picking your nose, scratching your armpit or worse... at least until you reach the next floor where half the accounts department are planning to pile in and pin you into the corner.

Ground floor perfumery, stationery and leather goods, wigs and haberdashery, kitchenware and food...going up

• Never ever make eye contact with somebody else in a lift. This is a certain dismissal offence. Instead you should stare at each of the four walls of the lift in turn, then raise your eyes to the ceiling, shuffle awkwardly from foot to foot, and hope and pray that everyone else gets out of the lift before you (especially if your armpit urgently needs a scratch).

• It's exceedingly risky to try to make any conversation in a lift other than to ask "Which floor do you want?" Or even better "Which floor?" Or even better "Floor?" Or even better just stand aside and let everyone else press the buttons themselves, whilst telling yourself that it's going to be alright, this social ordeal will soon be over.

• Lifts are often monopolised by fat lazy people who can't be arsed to walk up just one floor or, even worse, down just one floor. They could so easily have taken the stairs but instead they've summoned the lift to a floor you didn't want to stop at, only to get off at the next floor you didn't want to stop at either.

First floor telephones, gents ready-made suits, shirts, socks, ties, hats, underwear and shoes...going up

• There's nothing worse than getting into a lift that smells, be it of perfume, kebab or worse. You know what I mean. Actually there is one thing worse and that's getting into an empty lift that smells, only for the boss to walk in at the next floor, sniff, look across at you and jump to all the wrong conclusions.

• Lifts are perfect for flirting. You get to meet a random selection of the employees who work for your organisation, not all of whom are as ugly as the photo on their identity badge might suggest. Should that tasty new employee from accounts wander in, be sure to ask them whether they want to go down, and take it from there.

• The one thing that a lift traveller most dreads is a sudden power cut or mechanical failure causing the lift to get stuck between floors. The one thing that a lift traveller most desires is a sudden power cut or mechanical failure causing the lift to get stuck between floors whilst in the lift alone with that tasty new employee from accounts.

Second floor carpets, travel goods and bedding, material, soft furnishings, restaurant and teas. Going down!

Famous Mercury Music Prize winners living just over the road on a bleak but extremely urban council estate dominated by shabby tower blocks within 10 minutes walk of my house
Number 1 - Dizzee Rascal

 Tuesday, September 09, 2003

12 potential Mercury Music Prize acceptance speeches

The Darkness (7/2 fav): Cheers me dears. We never thought when we was growing up in Lowestoft listening to Queen and Slade records that one day we'd receive critical acclaim for camping it up in public wearing our mums' curtains.

Dizzee Rascal (9/2) *winner*: Is well dope me wanna thank me music teacher big up the Bow massive nuff respect innit.

Coldplay (4/1): And we'd especially like to thank all those commercial radio stations who can't broadcast for more than an hour without playing one of our five singles.

Radiohead (5/1): £20,000? Chickenfeed, mate. No surprises.

Athlete (5/1), The Thrills (6/1): We're well chuffed, so please go and buy our gem of a cuddly guitar album for Christmas, before we have trouble with that difficult second album and fade completely from sight.

Floetry (8/1); Terri Walker (10/1); Soweto Kinch (10/1); Eliza Carthy (12/1): Sorry, we didn't prepare an acceptance speech, seeing as we're the token R&B/soul/jazz/folk artists on the shortlist. Still, we've enjoyed the meal and the free booze, cheers.

Martina Topley-Bird (12/1): One is gobsmacked. One thought one was only included on the shortlist so that all those trendy Islington types would know which CD to rush out and buy for their next dinner party.

Lemon Jelly (12/1): All the ducks are swimming in the water, fal-de-ral-de-ral-do, fal-de-ral-de-ral-do. We may be strange, but we're brilliantly strange.

Four Tet (0): Sadly there's no way I can have won this prize because the judges criminally forgot to nominate my excellent 'Rounds' album. Still, when was the last time a Mercury award winner actually went on to have a succesful career, eh?

"Big up the Bow E3 crew!"

Course, the trouble when you've been blogging for a year is that you've already discussed everything once, so there's nothing left to write about. I mean, I've already done the awfulness of Fame Academy, the onset of Autumn, the disparaging looks my unhealthy trolley gets at the supermarket checkout, premature Christmas, the Mercury Music Prize... Ah, hang on...

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the diamond geezer index
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my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards