Sunday, 29 June 2008

Witless Racist

A cool 42 miles cycled today, taking me past; Little Venice, Lords cricket ground, London Zoo, Sven-Göran Eriksson's house, St. Pancras international, Farringdon, St. Paul's, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, The Imperial War Museum, The Cutty Sark (all covered up now), Greenwhich, Themsmead, the Woolwich ferry, City Airport, Docklands, Mile End, Bethnal Green, Shorditch, Angle and back to St. Pancras.

It was mostly uneventful, which in itself is noteworthy as it's rare that no one tried to crush me, run me over or open their door in my face (ok, one did but I avoided it silently). The area around the Woolwich ferry is one that I've not been to since I was very young and I don't have overly pleasant memories of that area either. What sort of person would feel good kicking a 10 year old and leaving him, gasping for breath, I'll never know! (another story for another time though.)

Anyway, back to today. After having millions thrown into that area for regeneration, I noticed very little difference at first but looking a little closer and you notice more building sites, that's a start surly. Once on the ferry, I looked up and saw a sign “mayor of London”, this, I thought, is regeneration in action!

I exaggerate, it's a lot better than I make it out to be but you still see a lot of the old 'A Clockwork Orange' type buildings. Moving away from there and across to the other side of the river, you're essentially in the old Docklands which never went through the 'business' regeneration that Canary Wharf went through. Instead there are countless warehouses (only on a full moon, mind) as far as the eye can see, oh and an Evangelical Church.

Cycleing along on a near empty road, all the industrial units (and oddly something that looked like a strip club) closed, a car pulls up along side of me, the 'lady' in the passenger seat sticks her head out of the window and shouts “Fuck you Paki!” I know this is a rather generous offer given that I have only just met her but, in all honesty, she wasn't my type.

Amazingly, here I was, presented with a phrase I have not heard (thankfully) in a number of years, I had no idea what to do but they had to stop at the red light which I was fast approaching, I went through my options:

Option 1) Go into the etymology of the word (I do love doing this) and talk about how although it's deemed to be a derogatory term, it is simply shortened from 'Pakistani' which generally (since the founding of the county in 1947) refers to someone from the 'Punjab', 'Afghan', 'Kashmir' or 'Indus' regions. It may also be worth mentioning that 'paki' means 'pure' in the original Urdu. Either way, I can't claim heritage in any of the regions and would be stretching the definition of pure if that's what they meant. I didn't go with this option as I fear my explanation would be lost on them.

Option 2) Reply with “rather a Paki than a Chav”, granted I would be making some major assumptions about their character but as the driver (a young gentleman) had two teeth and wore a Burberry baseball cap and the somewhat vocal passenger was wearing hooped earings big enough for me to cycle through, I figure I would be on solid ground in using the term. The phrase would have had the added bonus of pointing out that the label she offered me was solely based on a single trait of my appearance that is genetic and beyond my control. Whereas the label I choose for her is based on many thousands of small lifestyle choices she has voluntarily made over the years, each and every one of them would have been well within her grasp to control. Unfortunately I fear this subtlety would have been lost on them so I didn't go with this option.

Option 3) This has to be my clear favorite; explain to her that if you must choose to shout racist comments whilst half hanging out of the window than please put an iota of effort into it, come up with something witty, cleaver, something that would have required the warming up of a brain cell or two on my part. There is no reason whatsoever to resort to a cliché like 'paki'. Off the top of my head, with absolutely no thought or effort: “why don't you get back on the boat and go back to where you came from” as I had just come off the ferry that may have worked. I'm not saying use the insult I thought up, I'm just saying that if I can come up with this in the 30 meters it takes me to get to a set of traffic lights than surly a racist can do much better! I didn't go with this option as when I start a “if you must be racist than at least put some wit into it” rant, I can go on for a while and I didn't feel I had the time for this, besides, I fear it would have been lost on them.

Option 4) Sarcasm; but I didn't really feel like talking to her. The plan being I pull up in front of them, laugh and give them a really sarcastic 'thumbs up', this clearly can't be lost on them as surly there is no way I would have found the comment amusing or funny so they would know that I was being sarcastic.

I get to the lights and weigh up the four options I have and decide to go with number four, followed by a quick exit towards the standstill traffic in front of me, on the off chance they choose to follow me. I give them the thumbs up and judging by the blank faces looking back at me, I fear my sarcasm was lost on them....

Friday, 27 June 2008

The Longest Read

On the way home today, I closed, for the last time, 'An Instance of the Fingerpost' by Iain Pears. This is a pretty big moment for me as opening this book, digesting a few pages than closing it has been a daily part of my life for an inordinately long time. I can't begin to figure out why, it's a good book, it's less than seven hundred pages, it's true it didn't have me on the edge of my seat but I've read a lot worse!

The story is set in 1660s Oxford and centers around a murder. The four main figures write their differing and unreliable accounts of the murder. The murder itself is almost secondary to the story which is more about the state of the country after the British civil war, the King's recent return, the struggle of the Catholic religion to take hold and the new 'scientific' method sweeping the learned community at the time, embraced by some and shunned by others.

A lot of the background characters are famous in history for their, then, revolutionary use of experimentation in science and others, their forward thinking philosophies. A story with goings on and characters from British history and a cleaver, well thought out plot, it's a good read, but what I just can't figure out is why it feels like I've been reading it since 1660!

The only theory I can think up with is based the change of pace I went through while reading it. The first 'story' felt like I normal read, the narrator of the second 'story' claimed to have read the first and said it was full of lies, his narrative was the 'truth' and goes about retelling the story with this own twist. The third narrator did the same, as did the fourth.

Something I've never noticed or given a second thought to when reading is the fact I completely trust the narrator and why not? This is, after all, the person telling the story, you have to believe him or her as without them there is no story! Maybe that's it, I thought, I believed the first story (I know it's fiction, I didn't literary believe him) but all the others I read with a fair amount of distrust towards the narrators, I was questioning, thinking back to what the others had to say. This I would like to say is a very bad thing, I had no idea how essential it is to trust the voice telling the story if you truly want to get into it.

As I say it's only a theory, maybe I'm just having an off few months and I missed something essential, either way, I thought this was an enjoyable read and would recommend it, though you should put some time aside to read it.

Leviticus 18:22

It always amuses me when people feel the need to use scripture to justify something. If you can ignore the fact that the text is usually thousands of years old and has gone through a number of translations with the translator's attitude, opinions and general take on life all rolled in; than I truly do admire your faith.

Leviticus 18:22 is the old testament verse usually used to show that homosexuality is an abomination. Unfortunately, back in those days, God spoke mostly in Hebrew, a language I can't read so I'm blindly relying on translations. There are a few different translations (interpretations?) floating around and some talk about it being an 'abomination' others say 'detestable' or 'enormous sin' all of which can mean different things. The original bare faced translation would be 'ritually unclean' which, I'm sure you would agree, clears things up.

The general gist of the verse is “don't lie with a man as you would with a woman” and again the Hebrew is interpreted in many different ways. Some say it refers to male-male anal sex, some say it's male-male sex, specifically, in a woman's bed others say it refers to male pagan prostitution in a temple. Most seem to think it refers to homosexuality which, given that there was no literal translation or the fact that the word didn't exist until the 19th century, proves the writers of Levi were years ahead of their time.

The big problem is that it doesn't stop there, the countless interpretations and translations lead to vastly different actions, judgments and philosophies; this is just from a single verse! Each and every line of the old testament (and King James and new English and new testament, don't get me started) can be given the same treatment so I can't see how anybody can quote scripture and stand by it with a straight face.

This all came about from a recent email entitled “Why can't I own a Canadian?” but I remember seeing it, years ago, in an episode of the west wing (love the writings of Sorkin). Make a point, share an opinion but please, for the love of God, don't regurgitate something written for a bygone age.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Ear In My Car

The vast majority of people who know me will tell you I'm not really into cars, I don't have a license, I don't enjoy going to motor shows (though that depends, as always, on the company) and I can't state the make and model by looking at a car. Every now and then, however, I get an invite to a 'petrol head' type event and, if I have the evening free, I'll go.

The concept of this evening was a simple one; take a number of super cars (all of which should have really loud engines), wait for the sun to go down, take said super cars through as many tunnels as you can find. This has the effect of amplifying the sound to an awesome level, almost deafening, it's quite an experience!

I haven't had a chance to processes the pictures yet but you get the idea. I'd recommend driving through London in a convoy of super cars as the looks you see on the faces of the general public can't be put into words but more so because I believe London really shines at night. The buildings are all lit up and the best way to see it (assuming you're not walking) is from the passenger seat of a car, turning a deaf ear and blind eye to the fact that you've probably burned enough fuel in one evening to fly yourself to Spain and back.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Thank You For Smoking

Smoking is a filthy habit, not only does the smoke damage your lungs and can cause heart disease or blood clots (or much worse), it also effects the people you choose to smoke around even though they didn't choose to smoke and have pretty much no say in the matter! Sure things are getting better with the smoking ban, you come home without the lingering smell of burned tobacco following you. I would venture the opinion that we should go either one step further or one step back from the 'smoking in the workplace' ban.

The problem is, the average pack of cigarettes (I'll use Marlboro as an example as it is the world's most recognisable brand) costs around £6; £3.56 of which is tax! Now you don't have to be great at maths to know that that's well over 50% (59% for the pedants out there). The question I would like to ask is how can the government justify such a high duty on cigarettes? I'm very aware of the stock argument that smokers will need more health care in the future and that cancer treatments are expensive but that's not enough to justify that much duty.

Smokers die younger, that is a fact, they are at an increased risk of getting lung cancer, mouth cancer, heart disease, stroke and a whole heap of other ailments. Generally speaking, these things will kill so, as a result, these people wont be taking out a state pension or need any help from the NHS for the large list of ailments that are synonymous with old age. I would imagine that the true cost (worth a read, if only as an example of 'true cost') of growing old (if you choose to have children than let's not forget the cost of education, state child care etc.) would be, at least, comparable to the short term treatments a smoker will receive.

I find it incredibly hypocritical that the government is essentially making a lot of money from smokers on the one had and is telling them where they can't smoke on the other! I would like to see a world where smokers can smoke where they like or I would, much rather, like to see a blanket ban on smoking, both cannabis and cocaine went through this process and the fact I can't go to a shop and buy a gram of coke seems socially acceptable now!

I'll stop ranting as hypocrisy usually drives me insane. I'll confess, I am a smoker, I have been for over ten years now, I wont smoke in cars with non-smoking passengers, I wont leave cigarette buts everywhere (I hold on to them until I can find a bin, this seems to be too much to ask from most smokers) and I try, when I can, to be considerate to the people around me.

I've had three serious attempts at quitting and although the longest lasted nine months, Lady Nicotine has always managed to drag me back. I mention this all now as, tomorrow, I'm about to embark on my fourth attempt. To be perfectly frank, I have no idea if I'll succeed in this attempt but I know it'll be worth a try....

Saturday, 21 June 2008

High Maintenance Lunch

Yesterday was a day of pleasant surprises. I tried a Vietnamese place that opened near the office a few months ago, the noodle soup looked great so I got one to take-away. I don't usually have noddle soup as it's too hot, burns the roof of my mouth and I always make a mess! Back in the office, I have a look at the contents of the bag and find: a 32Oz cup with superheated stock (tastes great), vegetables in a separate container, a bag containing lime, coriander, mint leafs and fresh chilli, meatballs and noodles.

Page 164 of the instruction booklet told me to put the meatballs and noodles in first, then the veg and finally a generous squeeze of lime followed but the mint and coriander. I went a bit off course and put some of the included chilli in. Finally, everything was ready for the eating. The results were to be expected, the first spoonful burned the roof of my mouth, the noodles made a complete mess; that being said, it was really good noodle soup and I would go there again, though next time, I think I'll eat in.

In other news I found out that pixes use parcel force! While this is a great endorsement of parcel force, I'm much happier now that they have sent me a new pair of earphones. I met a nice couple from Eritrea (a country I didn't even know existed) on the way home last night, it was late and it was their first time in London and just needed a point in the right direction. It was late and I hope they got to Northalt (I left them on the right branch of the central line, westbound).

Although I'm enjoying sticking my head out of the window and taking in the newfound sounds of the underground I'm glad to have music back though I'm thinking of switching to headphones so I can actually hear some other things and people don't think I'm outright ignoring them.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Yak or Yak-Like Creatures

It's been a fairly warm day which prompted the opening of the skylights in the office which is usually uneventful in itself but today the church next door were having a hymn session. Throughout the day, I was catching snippets of choral melody as it was being carried in by the breeze.

I ask my boss “can you hear a choir?”, “no Josh, it's the jukebox” he replies with an air of authority, “but we are listening to the Chemical Brothers, that sounds nothing like a choir”, “no, really, it's the jukebox”. No one else was in the office at the time so I had nothing to confirm the fact that I had actually heard it. “You must be losing your mind Josh.” he tells me, “Not to worry, that's a pre-existing condition.”

I'm standing firm on this, I know what I heard regardless of the fact that no one else did. On a similar note, I know I've had green beer in the Alps which, apparently, contains no colorings. Every no and then, we go out to the French/Swiss Alps to either ski or climb, it's great fun and I usually get home needing a holiday. More often than not, we stay in or around Chamonix and it was in a bar in this town where I first tried the green beer. The problem is, whenever I tell someone about this, they look at me blankly as if I had just told them about a unicorn I had just seen. This isn't entirely uncorroborated though as the four people I drank with that night had the same thing. Unfortunately, none of them live in the UK any more and I can't seem to find anyone else who has had the stuff!

Back in jolly old England, I remember a weekend in the Peak District (apparently, so named not for the peaks in the district but after the 'Peak' tribe that populated the area many years ago). We were driving along on narrow twisty roads when we passed a small field which I noticed was populated with big hairy cows. “I just saw some Yaks!” I exclaimed, none of the other passengers noticed them and the driver refused to turn the car around to satisfy my claims, he thought it would be easier to dismiss my sanity. Granted, I know little about cows but I saw Yak or, at the very least, Yak-like creatures and I spent the rest of the trip assuring people that I wasn't losing my mind.

It was months later that I got a text message from a friend, simply stating: “I just saw some Yaks!” Tonight, I just wanted to take a moment to assert the fact that, despite what some may say, I still have a full complement of marbles....

Monday, 16 June 2008

Without Music, Life Would be a Mistake

I am, at the moment, without music. My earphones just stopped working this morning so I slipped them into an envelope and sent them off in the hope that the earphone pixies will be able to fix them. This means that my journey home was littered with sounds that I've not heard in quite a while. Talk of fashion from the people who have opted for a 'tipple' after work. Moving on to a couple of Italians, holding a conversation with the aid of hugely lavish hand gestures, I'm assuming that this is essential when talking on a cramped platform. And let's not forget the BBC (I'm assuming, he got on at White City) employee who's phone call was so important that on the off chance the phone wasn't working his shouts would carry his point over to the guy on the other end. If I may, “I don't want to tell you how to do your job but your junior should not be expressing his opinion in the meeting”, if I had a spine I would have asked “then why the hell invite him?”

It's not all bad, it felt a lot like sticking your head out of the window and taking a deep breath. It was actually rather nice, every day, I hear nothing but what I pipe into my ears but today, it felt like I was more awake, taking in the sounds that would usually go unheard. That being said, I can't wait for the pixies to return the earphones.

This brings me nicely (ok, so not so nicely but we're loosely sticking to the theme of music) on to the subject of illegal downloads, it seems everyone has an opinion on this, either for or against. I, for one, still buy CDs, I don't know why as I don't really have a CD player, in-fact as soon as the CD arrives, I put it into the laptop and make mp3s from it.

I would have to put my hands up and say, yes, I do download albums but I do so with no intention of keeping them. If I don't like the album, I delete the files, if I like it, I buy the CD. I'm not saying this makes it ok, it doesn't, it's still illegal. It does, however, let me hear the music in my own time (rather than at a listening booth in HMV) and it's saved me from buying albums I'm unlikely to listen to more than once. I think it's a good method, at the end of the day, I still buy the CD and if everyone did this, if all artists released low quality mp3s of their music for free then it would help separate the wheat from the chaff, it may even force artists to make better quality music!

Visual art makes me think, I enjoy going to a gallery even tho I don't know much about art and certainly can't comment with any intelligence or authority but I like it and usually have a good day. Music, on the other hand, can move me, I can lose myself completely and isn't this just the sort of thing that makes life worth living? Every now and then, I find it's good to submit, to let go so why not have to good soundtrack to do this to?

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Sunday Afternoon

It's been a busy and almost sleepless week this week so the lay in I had this morning was very much welcome. I love Sundays when I have nothing to do, the sun is up (sort of), no phone calls and nowhere to be. Of late, I've had many such days so I'm not quite sure what to do with myself, so far, after waking up (that's the morning gone) I caught the end of 'Back to the Future' and then Columbo.

There's something very comforting about watching Columbo on a Sunday afternoon, maybe this is because Peter Falk has been gracing our screens since 1968 so for as long as I can remember, watching this rain coat waring, seemingly harmless detective latch on to the person he knows is the killer, has been one of thous 'grounding' experiences.

“Just one more thing” he says to the unsuspecting killer, he usually follows this up with a number of pointless questions, this is where most people would slip up as only the real killer would bother thinking up answers to these pointless questions. You would have thought that people would have caught on to this trick, after all, this character hasn't changed at all in the last 40 years!

Tho I'm not much of a TV person, I guess I just like the familiarity that seeing the same character doing the same thing for, essentially, my entire life. At the very least, it's a good way to lazy away an afternoon while deciding what to have for dinner (still no closer to completing that task I'm afraid).

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Soho! A Fox!

It's amazing how you can walk past something on a regular basis, see it, register it and not realise that behind it, there's a story, a little part of history that makes you look at it with fresh new eyes. London is the type of city that's littered with such phenomena so I thought I'd take a short moment to point one out.

Walking around Soho, looking for a place to eat, I often pass an old, disabled water pump at the corner of Broadwick and Lexington Street. It's a memorial to John Snow, a 19th century physician whose study of the 1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak led to revolutionary new thinking on how such outbreaks are handled.

Back in the 19th century, the popular theories all suggested things like cholera and the black death were all caused and spread by 'bad air', this has a very viral, airborne feel to it. It turns out (a fact we now take for granted) that these things are bacterial and can only spread by physical contact or ingesting but it would be years before the world accepted it.

Cast your mind back to August 1854, a major cholera epidemic hit Soho and at this point in Snow's life he had done a fair bit of research into the ways cholera spread so naturally he headed out to investigate. Speaking to a number of local residents, he discovered they all used a common water pump on Broad Street. He then went on to publish a map with the homes of the infected plotted on it (if you're familiar with Soho, you will notice how things have changed since). He used that map to convince the local authorities to remove the handle from the pump and, hey presto, the epidemic died down. No water, no disease.

Looking at the map, it seems hard to deny the incidents are clumped around the pump but shortly after the epidemic, the authorities put the handle back on the pump because to leave it off would be accepting that cholera came from an infected water supply and go against the 'bad air' doctrine at the time.

Convincing people to go against doctrine is a problem that lasts to this day. For any public health reforms, you still have to mount a political struggle but this probably says more about politics then it does about public health (at least we don't dig wells too close to cesspits anymore).

Next time you find yourself here, spare a thought not just to Dr. John Snow but also to the countless landmarks and buildings around the city that all have a story to tell.

Monday, 9 June 2008

There We Are Then

I'm quite easy going, most things that I choose to rant about don't anger me in fact they don't even get me 'slightly miffed'. Most things like that (feel free to see the archive) are barely worth a mention, it's just that I choose to mention them. That's not to say that, every now and then, I don't see or hear of something that does make me think someone isn't fit to live as part of the Human race, in short it just pisses me off.

It usually boils down to one thing, treating others as if they were the stuff you scrape off your shoe. Unfortunately, over the last few weeks, two such incidents spring to mind and all I could do (unfortunately I'm very much a pacifist) is shake my head and draw from my limited arsenal of adjectives, a word with doesn't come close to rightly express my thoughts.

I feel I should probably glaze over the first incident for countless reasons but to put it simply he beat a guy for what, in anyone's book, would be a minor infraction if one was to glorify the action to the status of 'infraction'. In my mind, I see no reason to throw the first punch, I would even go as far as to say that I'm unlikely to throw the second one, I guess that's why hearing this guy's story just outright annoyed me.

The second incident seems relatively harmless, in fact what he did was a very simple action but it was an action that spoke volumes about the man. I was in a restaurant last night, enjoying a pleasant dinner when, to get the waiter's attention, the man at the next table clicked his fingers. Doesn't sound like much, I know, but here is a person who considers the waiter so far below him that the only thing worthy of him was a click. It's not just because I was a waiter that this really gets my goat, I can't stand anyone clicking their fingers like that towards any other human being.

It's true we are not all born equal but is it such that we can ignore civility? Can we afford to ignore even the most basic courtesies? I'm going to say “no”, if you don't have time to be, at the very least, civil then I, for one, have no time for you (other than the time I've devoted to this post).

Sunday, 8 June 2008

120 Mile Goal

Another cycling-based post but bear with me. The destination de joure was Hampton court palace (again) and I know splicing French words into a post is passé but c'est la vie. So Ealing, Brentford, Kew, Richmod, somewhere, Hampton, got lost again, Esher, Kingston, Twinkenham, Richmod and back again a not-too-shabby-smidgen-under forty miles.

For the last five years now I've been taking part in the Dunwich Dynamo, it's not a race or a charity event or anything that would suggest a purpose. It is, however, a nice, overnight 120 mile ride which is great fun, challenging and leaves you with a sense of achievement that's virtually unparalleled!

It really isn't nearly as crazy as it sounds and I've managed to get to the end every year other then the last. They pick a day, mid summer and we always get clear skies, last year it rained. I usually go with a group of friends that are so fit they make you feel inadequate as a human being, they essentially consist of lungs and muscles and very little else! Tho, I introduced a not-so-fit friend to this last year, telling him it would be fine as anyone can do this and it's never rained.

I was wrong, it rained then drizzled then rained some more, by the time we got to the 60 mile half way point we were all soaked through, my friend was shaking and I could see signs of mild hypothermia setting in. Most were eager to continue but “leave no man behind” my friend reminded me, so the two of us headed back on the train while the rest continued (just as the rain stopped, I might add).

About seven hours later, he was still shaking but I told him to have a hot chocolate (should have been enough to get him home) and shower and sleep whilst I did pretty much the same. By the time we met up for dinner the following evening (even tho we both had a decent lunch) we were so hungry that we managed to crank up a £60 bill at our local Indian restaurant, leaving nothing for the doggie bag.

Over the coming weeks, expect me to peddle more cycling-based posts and like last year, this year is an open invite, if anyone wants to join me in doing this (what are the odds it rains two years in a row?) drop me an email!

Saturday, 7 June 2008


I have a friend, she's the sort of friend who isn't in italics or inverted commas, just to be clear. She's a wonderful person to while away the hours with, she's great fun, intelligent and has everything going for her. She's also very attractive but this is where it all falls apart, she seems to be the only person who doesn't see that.

This isn't just a self esteem issue, it's almost as if it's the complete opposite of Narcissism. She looks into a mirror and actually hates what she sees. I know to varying degrees that at some point in everyones life, they've wanted to change something or another, everyone has had a self-image issue but most seem to get over it and they accept their own flaws.

I think one of the lowest points one can get to is when a relationship goes sour for a reason you just can't fathom, I would imagine this would leave you (if it was a long enough relationship) with nothing in your life that you can hold onto but what if this feeling stayed with you? It's crazy, I know, but it does happen. In this case tho, it runs a lot deeper, I'm sure Freud would say something about childhood and parental interaction, how (as so often Freud does) the mother would have chipped away at your self esteem until there was nothing left and how this will effect and future relationship you have. This doesn't seem to be the reason here, she had a 'normal' childhood and her parents were nothing but supportive.

An issue with your self esteem or self image will effect almost every aspect of your life, you'll spend your days thinking your awful at your job, you get this slight downer feeling every time you go past a reflective shop front, I can't even imagine what a morning would be like I you can't look at a mirror, weighing yourself and seeing a few grams more then you did last time would be a nightmare.

In short it hurts me to see someone I care about going through this but that's nothing compared what she must be feeling. I was an incredibly insecure teen, I would hate myself, and I really mean hate, there was nothing I liked and the problem was the fact I was focusing totally on what I and other people saw. What people need to do is (to cite a bit of a cliche) look within and realise that you are a beautiful person, only then are you able to ignore all the bad comments others (who know nothing about you) throw at you (I'm not talking about constructive criticism here).

Only once you are comfortable with who you are, will you be comfortable with how you look and only then will you be comfortable with the people around you, after that you can truly enjoy life.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

The Lone Krishnan

I was waiting by Oxford Circus the other day and I'm sure everyone's seen this sight (sorry for the lack of sound, I couldn't find a good clip). Ideals aside, seeing Hara Krishnas or Christians do their thing is quite a sight, they are always optimistic and (believe it or not) never fail to put a smile on my face. The other day, things were slightly different, I was standing in what can only be described as sub-par-drizzle when a single Krishnan walks by, chanting, dinging his symbols, but very much alone.

I'm not sure my mind could process it, you always see them in a group and as they chant and wave it's like a party passing you by. Alone, this doesn't have the same effect, it was almost a bit dreamlike, I don't want to say it was sad, it was different, more somber. An utterly surreal sight, one that I wasn't expecting to see.

I figure one of two things happened, either they saw it was raining and didn't want to go out but one guy said “sod this, I'm going, who's with me?” or they were all supposed to meet up somewhere, he got the wrong place but went ahead anyway. I'll never know but one thing's for sure, it did put a smile on my face on this wet day.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Minutes at Midnight

I have great difficulty reading my own words when I write on paper, it's mostly for this reason I don't write on paper. If you ever see me sitting in a meeting scribbling away, you can almost guarantee that I have no intention of ever reading said scribbles. A few weeks ago, I find myself in just such a meeting when I'm expected to jot down the minutes, “it's fine” I think to myself, “I'll just write them up while it's all fresh in my mind”, alas, no such luck as tonight was the first time I had enough time to get it all done.

I stare at the notes, blankly and what I think happened is a spider got into my bag, pressed it's legs into an ink pad then walked all over the note pad, I would have better luck deciphering hieroglyphics! A bottle of beer later and the words slowly get drawn into focus. Tap tap tap goes the keyboard, I can't say for sure how much of it is fiction (albeit fact based) but I read through it and see very little resemblance to scrawlings of the original.

Hey ho, I'm sure no one will notice and I'm almost certain that the people who will read it, don't read this.

All of this started after watched 'This is England', it's a film I missed in the cinema and not really one that crops up on my “amazon recommends” list, but it was on tonight and I thought why not? I'm pretty glad I did, it was (at times) a moving account of life in improvised England in the early 80s. The war, the poverty, the desperate need to blame someone for the poverty and subsequently the racism. It was all shown through the eyes of a child who joins a group of skinheads at a time when they weren't synonymous with racist thugs but were certainly heading in that direction.

I wont go into it much more but it's well worth a watch, even if Amazon doesn't think so.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Would You Marry a Size 24?

This question is pitched, in many guises, to me but most recently, it was asked, in verbatim, last night. Perhaps it would be a good idea to put this question, I was having dinner with two friends (both male, not that that's important), we weren't talking about the obesity crises in the UK or anything even loosely related to health, food, shopping or weight. We were simply walking back to the car when this question was just thrown out there.

“So how long have we been dating? What's she like?” I asked, “does it matter?”. “Well if you want me to answer this theoretical, you're going to have to give me some details.” With a few more questions and theoretical answers, apparently, we've been seeing each other for a while, obviously we like each other and more importantly, she's happy with who she is, in short we're soul mates (trust me to take a simple, superficial, throwaway question and turn it into something more fleshy).

I said “In that case, of course I would”, now these two guys, I've known for a major portion of my life so why this response inspired complete silence, I fear I'll never understand. I've always thought appearances aren't overly important and surly, I can't be alone in this. So why do I come across as superficial? I think the problem stems from the fact I have an opinion on almost everything and am more then happy to voice them. I guess most people don't seem to realize that just because I have voiced something, it doesn't necessarily mean I feel strongly about it. Yes, I know this is a major personality flaw but I'm working on it but in the mean time, I hope you enjoy the abundance of irrelevant, pointless things I have to say.

On another note, I spent a lazy Sunday afternoon watching Sleepless in Seattle which reminded me of this:

Zen and the Lack of Bicycle Maintenance

I went for another, much shorter, cycle this afternoon with the intention of covering a few miles before lunch. I had the foresight of picking up a pump yesterday (which has been described as a 'futuristic pepper mill') so I was ready to go. With no idea where to go today, I did the usual thing and picked a direction.

First thing I noticed was a slight squeaking noise coming from somewhere on the bike, tho this was more then mildly irritating, I thought “no matter, I'll get that sorted when I get home” and continued along my way. I was pretty much ambling around aimlessly, taking in the sights, avoiding doors swinging wildly onto the road and in one moment of sear terror, a large BMW four by four that picked the very moment the road narrowed to overtake me (I stayed near the curb and was more then happy to let it pass).

Roughly ten miles in (near Syon house, rather nice) I'm afflicted with yet another puncture, not a problem as I'm prepared with a spare inner tube and a futuristic pepper mill! After fixing the problem I wonder around some more, looking for a cycle shop as my current run of luck would probably give me another puncture and I thought it might be a good idea to sock up on more tubes.

At this point, as is to be expected, I'm hopelessly lost but, at the, very least, I'm by a cycle shop. So I pop in and am presented with what I can only describe as the campest sales assistant I've ever seen outside of Soho! On the way out (no not that sort of out) I ask him for directions and tells me which way to go but adds “I guess no one would go there unless they had to” to which I had no choice but to reply “I live there!” and left a rather apologetic guy to wrench his foot out of his mouth (I problem I've been cursed with of late).

Overall, not bad going and was a nice way to enjoy the warm weather.