Saturday, July 30, 2005

Summer Chilling

I felt like I needed a day to myself so I went solo today.
I headed off by getting a bus to Shepherds Bush to see 'Charlie & The Chocolate Factory' at the Vue cinema there.

Before I got to the bus stop I spotted a girl I used to go to school with who also used to be a girlfriend of one of my best friends.

She didn't see me but I had one of those, 'Hey, I recognise that person' type moments and called out to her. There was an awkward do we shake hands or kiss on the cheek so I just quickly went for the peck on the cheek. I always thought that she was a nice girl but she got dumped in quite a messy fashion by my friend after having gone out for seven years together. We had a quick bit of small talk broken up mainly by the fact that she had an appointment to make a few minutes later. I'm not sure that she's ever recovered being dumped, though I'm probably wrong. She certainly looks different. She cut her hair much shorter (I think it doesn't suit her at all) and put on loads of weight.

The film was okay but no more than above average really. It had its good bits and bad bits. It's hard to watch without comparing to to original which Gene Wilder really shone out from. It's certainly a different Willy Wonka in this one. There's a lot more to do with his origins, most of which just doesn't feel right to me. It's certainly not as much fun as the original mainly because it is a Tim Burton film so it has a darker side. Also, as much as I like Helena Bonham Carter (she plays Charlie's mother) I think she's got a bit lazy of late relying on Tim Burton movies to keep her going but I guess he is her fiancee!

The Oompa Lumpas (if that's how you spell them) aren't as good as the originals. They are all played by a short Kenyan actor called Deep Roy(!) who also seems to feature a lot in Tim Burton films (I remember him in Big Fish.) His severe face on all of the OLs just makes them look freaky but not in a good way. The Ooompa Lumpa songs are pretty much instantly forgettable unlike the ones in the original version which I can still remember today. They seem to have tried to jazz them up to make them more modern. Once again, it just doesn't quite feel right.

The young actor who plays Charlie does a brilliant job and, as always in Tim Burton films, the visuals and ideas are imaginatively impressive.

Well after the film I actually walked into London. It was overcast but warm so I thought, 'what the hell!'

I had my camera with me and took a few snaps here and there, just to get an interesting contrast with clouds in the background and darker foregrounds. So statues in Hyde Park and Green Park and then onto The Royal Academy Of Art to see the Summer Exhibition that's currently running. I get complimentary tickets through work and have been guilty in the past of letting them lapse so I thought I'd make good use of one of them as I had the day to myself.

The picture above was taken in the courtyard of the Royal Academy and is of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the first president of the RA.

I strolled around the exhibition for 2 hours and then left and wandered through the shops for a while too. I had nothing planned for the evening so the time was my own to waste doing whatever I liked. That felt good :)

I strolled down Oxford Street sitting in a street side cafe to grab a bite to eat (I was starving!) and then from Marble Arch down through Hyde Park but the clouds started to look very ominous at this point. Originally I was thinking of walking my lunch off by going down to South Kensington but no more than a minute into the park large drops of rain started to fall.

Being English, I carry an umbrella with me in my rucksack whenever there is the slightest chance of rain in the daily weather forecast, so I thought that I was well prepared.

Unfortunately it turned into a torrential rain pour with a huge cross wind! My umbrella (newly bought) tried its best but the right side of my trousers (just combats so they dried easily enough after) got soaked through as the rain lashed in under my brolly and tried to get to me. *sigh*

I made it to the underground station as best as I could and by the time it had come out at the other end there wasn't a drop of rain to be seen.

I'd left home at 9:45 and made it back around 7pm. Still, all in all, a relaxing day. I was glad of my hot shower when I got home and chilled out.

Friday, July 29, 2005

London Calling

Great news today. British Police announced that in addition to the failed bomber that they'd caught earlier on in the week, they have now caught the other three too!

Well done chaps!

Londoners will still remain vigilant. After all there are still mad nutters out there but this is still a huge boost.

Walking through Hyde Park on the way home I was reminded of just how multi-cultural London is. It's the strangest place to be targeted in terms of the diversity of races that reside here and the freedom to be whoever you want to be.

It's also one of the reasons that I love London so. Granted our asylum procedures are very soft but for all the people that have a genuine desire to be here and a genuine desire to contribute to the mix it is just a brilliant place to live.

Who wants to live somewhere where everyone is the same?

I love to travel to meet people from other cultures and lifestyles but I rub shoulders with them (literally in the case of on the tube) every day and I wouldn't have it ANY OTHER WAY!

Strolling through the park there was about 20 kids playing football. They represented a huge mix of race and probably religion. And they were having a great time together.

The picture was taken as I crossed the bridge over the Serpentine in Hyde Park. You can see Parliament in the distance.

Today's music on the move: ChangesBowie

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Thursday Tube Jitters.

Complete contrast weather wise. Hot and humid.

Apparently yesterday was the coldest in July for 25 years. Though you'd think that 15 degrees Celsius isn't THAT cold I definitely felt chilled doing all that walking yesterday. I'll never take hot water for granted again...

Today, being a Thursday in London after the past three weeks turned out to be quite an eventful one.

Taking the tube in to work, there was a doubling of police at Acton Town. Reading 'Metro' the free paper we get on the tube wasn't helping things. Pictures from ABC News of unexploded nail bombs and the aftermath of the bombed trains was disconcerting to say the least. My trains in were a lot quieter than usual too so I guess Thursday jitters were affected a few commuters today.

Unusually the train stopped at Earls Court and 16 (I counted them) police appeared on the platform and did a security sweep. Nobody told us what was happening so people looked nervously around wondering what the hell was going on but I guess you can't really promote the fact that police are boarding the train.

Then number two incident....Waiting for a Jubilee line train at Green Park, there were four police on the platform and loads more on the concourse. Two of the police game up to an Asian man behind me and asked him to unzip his jacket. I'm not sure why he was wearing a large Winter jacket but I almost felt embarrassed for him but I hope that he understood why this was being done. Baker Street also had a multitude of Police officers making their presence felt.

Then I got into work and found out that one of the guys in my team had been stopped at Berryfields rail station (a small station in Surrey) and asked to open his bag. He doesn't look Asian but has dark hair and a bit of a tan...

Still...Better safe than sorry, eh?

Then finally to cap things off, around 4pm this afternoon, looking out the window at work, we saw loads of police ushering people away from Marylebone Road and Madame Tussauds and Baker Street station. There's a picture above of this.

As it was, it turned out that there had been a suspect vehicle outside the station that after 40 minutes or so everyone was given the okay and the police tape was taken down.

I disappeared into unreality by going to the cinema after work. I saw a film called "Silver City." It wasn't half bad either. Mind you any film with Darryl Hannah in does it for me, however small her role. I saw her on stage in London a couple of years ago and she was gorgeous! Her acting was pretty darn good too :)

The air con in the cinema was to die for as I had rushed up the escalators at Piccadilly Circus to make it to the cinema, buy a drink and a packet of Maltesers and needed cooling down.

The journey home was, thankfully, uneventful and completely boring....

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Rainy Days

Work flew by today. It's good to be busy but I still always feel as if I'm playing catch-up.

Lunch time was spent hunting down for a new rucksack. My long term rucksack that has travelled the world with me decided to give up the ghost today. Well... Its zips did anyway. No matter how much I tried they just went backwards and forwards without fastening. I guess I could have done something about it; got it fixed or something but it was getting on a bit in 'bag years' and it was time for it to be put out to pasture.

The new rucksack I bought is brilliant though. Much bigger with loads of pockets. Perfect for travelling. It took me about 10 minutes just to rumage through the old one and put everything into the new one before I headed home. Bonus! I found loads of money in the distant recessses of my bag.

So I headed home, walking down from by Regent's Park, where I work down Baker Street and across Hyde Park down to Hyde Park Corner. In the rain. But it wasn't too bad. The picture here is of a view across Hyde Park in the rain. Doesn't look too bad really does it?

Problem was I got to Hyde Park Corner and found that the Picadilly line was suspended because of a 'passenger incident' at Turnham Green. *sigh* I weighed up my options and headed back the way I had come to catch the Central Line West instead. As I was walking back it suddenly dawned on me that...Damn! I'd left my house keys in my old bag....Back in the office! *BIG SIGH* I'd forgotten to look in my front zip pocket where I keep my keys and had left them behind!

So I walked past Marble Arch and back up Baker Street to work. Grabbed my keys and got the Bakerloo to Paddington where with a big of a jog I managed to catch a main line train down to Acton.

Thinking about it afterwards I worked out that I'd walked for about an hour and 35 mins in total. A few weeks ago when the weather was nicer I walked back home from work. It took an hour and 40 mins. So today I'd practically walked the distance back home.

A great hot shower waited me when I got home. I am so glad I got the plumbing sorted!

Music on my personal jukebox today: Hard Fi - Stars Of CCTV

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


A short work day for me today. But hey! I've now got hot water! I heard a loud pop last week and woke up on Wednesday morning to find that I didn't have any hot water.

Having arranged to have a plumber come around the following day, I left work early to find all hell had broken lose on the tube network as a result of the failed "loser" bombers and everything was suspended.

I've had to wait until today for someone to come around so was crossing my fingers and hoping that nothing else "happened" as I left work early to head home and meet the plumber.

Thankfully, all went well. The circuit board that controls the hot water pump had shorted (worringly for an unknown reason) and needed replacing. I was glad that things were so simple as I wasn't looking forward to having to take more time off to get something else replaced or to having to follow the daily boiling enough water in all my pots and pans (and electric kettle!) routine for 30-60 mins just to have a decent bath!

Well I'm glad that that's over and done with!

To counter the exciting circuit board picture, here's one that was taken out of my window looking South at the evening sky (last week.) Not bad for a London town view, eh?

Today's feeling: Relief

Monday, July 25, 2005


In Hyde Park tonight...
Not too many customers?


Fantastic Friday
Last weekend flew by as a bit of a blur. Friday night's trip to the flicks to see 'The Fantastic Four' was a laid back affair. The film wasn't too bad either, though the long day caught up with me at one point during the film as I felt myself nodding off. No reflection on the film itself mind, as it gets about a 7/10 from me. Some of the later action-y bits felt a bit 'standard-fare' but the main characters come across well considering that this is the first of probably a franchise series for Marvel. I've seen first films spent so much time developing the characters that it takes subsequent viewings after having seen the next films in the series to truly appreciate what was going on. This film, for me, got the mix just right. I look forward to the next one...

I walked down to Hyde Park after the film as the weather was nice and I wanted to work off that large packet of M&Ms that I'd scoffed. (Fat chance, eh!)

Saturday was a long session...

I met up with a bunch of people who were strangers until we all went on a trip to Cuba earlier this year. It was just an 8 day holiday but we all had such a blast that we just had to meet up when we got back. A small group of us had already met up a month or two ago but this was a much larger group. All-in-all 9 out of 16 of us who'd gone to Cuba planned to meet up at Kenwood House for a gig by Ibrahim Ferrer. (One of the Cuba's Buena Vista Social Club members.)

I even bought 'The Buena Vista Social Club' on DVD on the way home on Friday, as I spotted it in the HMV sale for £4.99 to get in the mood. It's directed by Wim Wenders and I've liked everything that he'd done before, so figured that I shouldn't have a problem with the film... It was quite cool too. And the live bits were especially great in surround sound. The Havana bits in the film really do make me nostalgic for those 8 days back in March.

Anyhow....Myself and a friend headed up from my local North London line Silverlink train up to Hampstead Heath. In 20 minutes! I didn't realise how such a great area of natural beauty and space was just 20 minutes away from where I live. Wow! So, so far so good.

Then we discovered that Kenwood House (A beautiful English Heritage building with grounds going down to a lake) was on the other side of the Heath and the going was up-hill. Phew! It was a hot and humid day so it was sweaty going. But we got there in the end but not before asking a police officer for directions. We could tell that he was an officer because he had a T-shirt with a police badge on! Oh...and a walkie talking and a warrant badge. Haha. Didn't realise T-shirts were part of the uniform though! Ironically we were right next to the path that we needed to take when we asked for directions so he probably thought that we were stupid.

The gig was interesting. The stage at Kenwood House is behind the lake (almost as if it has its own moat), so if you had wanted to do any stage diving you would literally be diving into water!

As it turns out, us all meeting up, talking, eating and drinking took more attention than the music that was happening in the background. We had a great time! Some of the girls brough hampers full of food and eating utensils. We made Mojitos with generous servings of rum, topped up from a large jug whenever we ran low! An excellent time was had by all. I even smoked a cuban cigar that someone had brought. (And I don't smoke!)

Even the weather couldn't dampen our spirits. A few short showers weren't so bad but it really did put down near the end. Unfortunately some cad half-inched my umbrella when I put it down halfway through the evening so I had to share with others.

The gig ended up with a fireworks display at which point someone piped up "Let's go back to my place to carry on drinking".

The rest, as they say, is history. We ended back in Twickenham, drinking and singing the night away. We had an IPod and speaker setup with us at the gig so we gave everyone excellent renditions of 'Build Me Up Buttercup' on the train on the way there too.

I got home in the early hours of the morning getting to see a sunrise for the first time in a long time!

Sunday, of course went quickly as most of it was spent sleeping!

Song of the weekend - Guantanamera
Picture of the day - Lucky people on the London eye on a clear day (def. not last weekend!)

Friday, July 22, 2005

I thought things might start to settle down today...

I thought things might start to settle down today. It was an uneventful journey into work and the work day proceeded as usual.

Then one of my colleagues on the phone to his wife said "Something else has happened."

A man has been chased onto and shot on board a train in Stockwell...

Initial eyewitness reports say that he didn't have a bag or rucksack but perhaps was wearing a 'bomb belt.' He appears to have been shot point blank range.

Obviously until we hear the full story at some point in the future we won't know what really happened. But these worrying times continue for all London commuters.

It's horrible because you don't want to typecast or fall into racial stereotypes but I look around my train (which comes from the airport) coming in and find myself looking out for asian men with large rucksacks. Aussies or Europeans, no problem...But the bombers last week looked to be normal people. No obvious mad glints in their eyes. One was a teacher... I have a lot of asian friends, some are Muslim with long beards. I can't imagine what it must be like for them travelling on public transport, especially as pretty much everyone nowadays has a rucksack or bag as they commute to and from work.

Despite all this, everyone faces things with a British stoicism. Life can't stop because these things are happening.

I'm off to see 'The Fantastic Four' tonight in the cinema. I've heard mixed reviews but I hope that perhaps not expecting too much going in may leave me pleasantly surprised coming out. It's one of the pleasures of cinema that it allows you to escape from reality and I have a feeling that this film will be just the cup of tea I need right now. (Apart from the cup of tea I'm currently drinking that is!)

Today's picture is one I took of an evil looking 'duck' swimming in Regent's Park. I like the way the ripples in the water have reflected around it.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


Well...So it was 4 bombers but none of their explosives went off. Just triggers and no big bang.
Perhaps someone up there is trying to say something....GIVE UP!

Strangely enough, despite all the tube closures, my journey home was easier than usual. Most of my usual routes were out of bounds so I walked down to Paddington main line station. It's about a 30 minute stroll. But the weather was brilliant. Sunshine and a cool breeze. Strange to think that just down the road more serious things were happening. I listened to Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side Of The Moon' to chill out as I walked. Weirdly I'd never listened to the CD before and the first time I heard songs played from it was live at Live 8! Great way to hear it first time, eh?

I took one of the new slow trains to Heathrow. It's called Heathrow connect. The train was almost empty and had brilliant air conditioning. Nothing like the usual main lines trains I get. This may have to become a regular option for me in future.

So good things for today:
1) Found new, cool (literally) route home.
2) Nobody was hurt in the bombing (except probably one bomber.) LOSER!

Not again :(

Not the best of starts for a blog but living in London things have been a bit fraught of late.

I planned on leaving work early today to get a plumber in to look my current 'no hot water' problem at home (I've been waiting a week to find a convenient time) and as I get to my local station I find that all the lines are suspended because of 'a major incident.'

I was on my way to work 2 weeks ago when they suspended the lines and I had to walk in for an hour (thinking, of course that it was just a power surge). At least I get lots of exercise this way. Ha! I like to put a positive spin on things!

The world is a different place now, especially for Londoners.

I hope everyone is okay this time....