Wednesday, May 30, 2007


I didn't have the best of journeys home yesterday. For some reason the bus that I take at Shepherd's Bush didn't turn up for half an hour and some people had already been waiting for 25 minutes before me.

So you can imagine the free-for-all scrum that ensued when the bus did arrive. It made me realise that perhaps a rich man could easily get through the eye of an needle so long as there was a bus that they've been waiting almost an hour for on the other side!

Once on, my twenty minute journey was akin to being squashed into a sardine can with the added bonus of there being a singing drunk, a praying Muslim and two crying babies in close proximity.

Incredibly people were still polite as they disembarked, actually saying "Excuse me" rather than barging their way through as happens sometimes on the Tube. It's probably because we realised that we were all in the same boat, having waited so long, and that agro wasn't really needed when all you wanted to do was get out to the relative fresh air of the streets.

It's amazing that each year my travelcard costs more and more but the service I get from Transport For London gets more overcrowded and less pleasant. Lots of people on the bus were obviously not too bothered by this as I could clearly see and hear that they hadn't touched the Oyster Card reader to pay for their journey. Bus drivers are unperturbed by this as they also don't want the agro that asking people to pay or get off would entail.

Basically, the bendy bus that I take to and from work is a free service for a large majority of the travellers on it. It was raining yesterday, so the bus made a convenient one or two stop shuttle service for a lot of people. In particular, I noticed that although we waiting absolutely ages for the bus, the number of people getting off within the first three stops was incredible.

I breathed a big sigh of relief as I got off the bus but the fun didn't just stop there for me either. There was a huge crowd at the bus stop blocking the pavement as I got off and straight into that crowd came a bloke on his bike, riding the pavement like he owned it and pushing people out of the way.

I reached out and put my arm out to stop him running me over and the next thing I know he's pointing at my leg to a pit bull behind him in the crowd, and shouting "shake!"

The momentum of the guy on the bike had carried him past me and I was still in a crowd so the dog didn't know whose leg to lock onto and "shake" so I briskly walked off and crossed the road away from him without looking back and until I was well clear.

Am now starting to realise that perhaps I need to move to a nicer area.

*sigh* If only I could afford it!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bad Omens

Last Wednesday

Bit of a late write up but better late than never...

As a big Liverpool FC supporter I was really looking forward to last Wednesday. Liverpool were in the final of the Champions League, the second time that they'd been there in three years. I sometimes found it hard to concentrate that day at work as I was actually feeling really excited/apprehensive about the match ahead.

I sorted out a good venue to watch the game by reading up on the LFC official web site forums to see where fellow London fans were going.

The previous two years (for the FA Cup and European finals) we'd all found ourselves in the basement of a bar just around the corner from Barbican tube station.

Two years ago it was called The Extra Time Bar, then last year Masque(?!) and this year it was (according to someone who'd checked out venues) shut altogether. Of course, we should have realised that a bar that changed names so dramatically was struggling to keep afloat but the atmosphere there for the last two years had been the closet to being at the match without actually being at the match.

Two years ago when we were 3-0 down at half time and I was so despondent that I was about to walk out and go home, everyone in the bar started singing "You'll Never Walk Alone." I joined in, never left and the rest is, of course, history.

Liverpool incredibly fought back with 3 goals in 6 minutes and went on to win the game on penalties. I left the bar that night drenched in all the booze that had been thrown around as we all celebrated each goal and each penalty and the eventual victory and it had been bloody amazing!

Then Liverpool did the same a year later in the FA Cup. We never gave up hope, even when all looked lost and once again I stumbled out (though into bright sunshine this time), a happy drunk, my voice hoarse from all the singing.

This time around an alternative venue was required and that turned out to be "The Walkabout" in Temple. It had a capacity for hundreds more than the Extra Time/Masque bar ever had, so the prospects for getting in were good and the other half (wearing an LFC polo shirt of mine, a few sizes too big for her) was coming along too having heard my stories of how great the atmosphere was over the last two years.

We headed off after work and got there quickly and this is where the bad omens started to kick in...

There was a queue...

But not just an ordinary queue...It was a very, very, very, VERY long queue. I walked to the front and, counting in rough blocks, estimated that there were 200 people queuing to get into the place.

I spoke to the bouncer at the front. He was dressed in a dark suit and had shades and a clip-on earpiece. This wasn't a good sign. Here in broad daylight were 200 people trying to get into a pub to see a football game, not a nightclub. Perhaps he didn't have anything else to wear. Who knows?

Anyhow, he told me "It's one in, one out."

I peered around him (which wasn't easy) and could see that the place was already heaving inside. *sigh*

It was pointless queuing. Why were all these people there when it was obvious that perhaps only a handful at the front might even make it in? At the back of the queue, you had no chance.

Plan B - But, with almost two hours to go until kick off, we still had time to find an alternative venue. We looked around Covent Garden. Surely, we'd be able to find something? But everywhere that we went was either packed around a large TV screen already, or had a
screen smaller than my one at home (and I refused to watch it like this as that'd be pointless) or not so full but plain unpleasant.

Plan C - "Look, let's head back to my place and watch it in the bar downstairs." It'd be easy to get home afterwards and you never know, despite being an Aussie bar in an Aussie area of London, perhaps the atmosphere might be okay for a footie match?

So off we went, on the tube back to my place.

Plan D - As we got nearer we decided that since we hadn't eaten (and were starving) we'd pop into McDonalds (not my usual choice but we needed something fast), grab a few things, scrap the pub, eat them back at my place and then head down to the pub for the second half.

Standing in line, waiting to be served, I suddenly realised something "unfortunate."

Having left my rucksack behind, so that I was unburdened during the game, it suddenly occurred to me that my house keys were in the front pocket...back in the office. Arrgrghhhh!

So here I was, just yards from my home, with no way of getting in.

The stupid thing is that, this wasn't the first time I'd done this but the fourth! "Once bitten, twice shy," obviously didn't count where my brain was concerned!

And when (dear reader) do you ask was the last time that I had left my keys back in the office? Why, all of two years ago after the last Champions League final!

I just never learn!

Plan E - With just 20 minutes left until kickoff we sat down in McD's and wolfed our food down. It was actually quite tasty though obviously, being fatty fast food, not very good for us. Then off to the pub where we watched the game, where Liverpool lost but not in a bad way and then back to London, to the office to get my keys and back home in the early hours of the morning.

As we travelled to and from London, I thought long and hard about whether I'd broken any mirrors recently, but no; it was just one of those nights.

Hopefully next time I'll remember!


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Turn It Off, Keep It Down

Thanks in a large part to those who've campaigned for action, it's good to hear that TFL are going to display this on London buses.

I'm not sure if the people who do like to listen to their tinny tunes out loud, as I experienced not that long ago, will give a XXXX but it's a start, and all good things must start somewhere.

Time to stand up and start the backlash against the noise polluting, selfish wa****s!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Zoo Two

Have belatedly stuck some more pictures from my visit to London Zoo last month here.

One of these days, I need to sort out a flickr or such like account!

PS: Just realised that this is also my two hundredth post!

Friday, May 18, 2007

100 minutes

The alarm goes off at 07:30.

Unlike yesterday (when I was still deeply sleeping at this point), I actually hear it straight away and get up.

Aim to leave the house by 08:30 but fail and get out 3 minutes late. (Every minute counts as usually I manage to just miss a bus.)

Wait impatiently for the traffic lights (that always take ages) to change allowing me to cross the road to the side that the bus stop is on.

I cross over (eventually), look back, spot the bus approaching and jog the hundred or so yards I need to to make sure that I catch the bus without breaking too much of a sweat.

It's a long bendy bus. Mayor Ken wants to change it into a tram 2.5 times longer. Everyone who lives near these narrow streets knows that it's not practical but what does he care?

Sit on the back seat by the engine, my rucksack on top of the engine casing.

Read a book that I just bought 'Nova Swing' by M. John Harrison. Usually I read the Economist (I like to keep up with international news on some of the places I've travelled to) but I finished this week's copy a day early.

The journey is quicker than it's been all of this week. The traffic is less, for some reason.

I get off the bus and walk toward the station.

Pop into the corner shop by the station and buy a drink for lunchtime. Today it's a nice "low fat" choc milk drink.

Walking out of the shop I can hear someone whistling whilst they walk.

I stride into the station, overtaking people who haven't woken up yet and are still walking around in a zombie-like slumber. Or perhaps they are zombies? From "The Zombies Of Shepherds Bush" a little known B Movie by a relatively unknown director from yesteryear.

I jig down the escalator. I can still hear whistling. I look around. The culprit is a man with headphones on walking down behind me.

Down the platform to get away from him. He walks past me further down the platform, still whistling. Thankfully the sound of his annoying tune is drowned out as he walks further along and is replaced by the gush of wind coming down the tunnel from White City announcing that the train is about to enter the station.

I work out roughly where I know the door will be when the train stops but somebody else has already done the same and beaten me to it. So I wait patiently beside them.

The doors open and I get on.

There're two spare seats but the occupants on either side of each are rather "large" and I decide to lean against the end partition instead and carry on reading. It's early days with the book as I only started reading it last night but it's going well so far.

No problems with the train. I have plenty of breathing room for a change. Nobody pushing themselves against me or knocking into me with their rucksack/handbag/luggage.

I watch as people get on and off and my stop gets closer.

We arrive. I get out and head straight up the "emergency exit only" stairs to the escalator and out to fresh air. It smells good. Okay, not that good but better than underground air.

A nice breeze cools me off as I stroll around the corner to work.

I arrive at 09:10 and start counting down the time until the end of the day and the start of the weekend ahead...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Feeling a bit down

The last fortnight or so has felt a bit weird in my head, mostly because I've got some virus or other that started out as a flu-ey/cold type thing that had me taking three days off work last week but has since lingered and continues to linger as a kind of congestion in my head.

My nose is blocked up for random parts of the day. I feel really hot in my head and randomly feel truly knackered but particularly at the end of the day.

It's a horrible feeling and I'd like it to go away now please.

I went for a nice walk in the park after work on Monday with the other half and felt truly dodgy afterwards. My eyelids started fluttering at one point, which apparently can mean that I was about to faint, but after a little rest I felt well enough to go out shopping. It's bloody annoying though as I hate feeling ill.

I'm avoiding going to the doctor too as all he ever does is give me antibiotics, which I'm trying not to get into an annual dependency cycle with.

So I'm trying to slug it out with whatever it is. Sometimes I feel that I'm getting better but at other times I'm back to feeling truly crap. I'll give it a few more days though before I resort to visiting my friendly neighbourhood antibiotic-dishing-out GP.

Last Saturday was the fifth anniversary of my mum's death, so I went along to the cemetery to clean up the grave, visit my dad's grave (located in another, older part of the place) and pay my respects. Not feeling brilliant, I took my time and it was a nice day to do so.

My mum's grave is located under a tree and right next to the Grand Union canal. So the sun shone, birds twittered and canal boats chugged past from time-to-time. It was a lovely, peaceful day.

And then "they" turned up.

I could hear the sound of drum-and-bass in the distance, getting closer.My mum's grave is on a newer elevated section of the cemetery where you have to take a few steps up to get onto the higher level of the newer plots. A car pulled up by the steps about 10 metres away from where I was. I ignored it initially but the sound of two "hoodies" coming out rapping along to their music was a distraction.

"Each to their own", I thought but kept an eye on them nonetheless.

Kensal Green isn't the nicest of area at the best of times and I was the only person in this section of the cemetery, so I was naturally wary. They sauntered around a bit by one of the graves at the end of the section and then sat on a fence and started drinking what looked like Corona or Sol and smoking something that was definitely not tobacco. *sigh*

I carried on working on my mum's grave pulling out the grass that had grown with a vengeance around the edges in the last three weeks, but the tranquility of the surroundings was somewhat spoiled. I wanted to ask them to turn the music down but definitely didn't feel safe enough to do that aimed with just my gardening fork!

They eventually left after about half an hour but I just thought of all the people there seem to be nowadays that don't give too figs about anyone other than themselves.

I told a guy off on the tube the other day for throwing away the bag that he had just eaten his pasty in onto the floor of the tube right in front of me.

  • "Why did you do that?" I asked him.
  • "I'll pick it up when I get off", he replied.
  • "I bet that you don't", I countered and I know that I was right.

Then there I was sat on the bus on the way home when two guys decided that now would be a good time to listen to all the "tinny" tunes on their mobile.

"It's a free country", was their argument.

"Not if you impose yourselves on others", I tried to argue back but they weren't interested.