Thank god the train was late, or it would have been too close to fascist Italy for comfort

Sunday 31 July 2005

Someone called Roshan Doug gets to write in The Guardian about “what a train journey to Birmingham can tell us about Britain in the midst of terror”. Basically, it tells us that Britain doesn’t like Roshan Doug very much. Everyone avoids him for the entire journey.
Doug reckons it’s because he’s Asian (and a young man, and travelling alone, and carrying a bloody great rucksack). You may find this shocking, until you get to the end and find out that he’s also a poet in residence at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, so he’s probably the type of person you go out of your way to avoid sitting near on a train regardless of the circumstances. Particularly because he’s a poet whose contact is a Hotmail address called ‘erospoetica’.
The article ends with this profound insight:
As I looked back I saw armed officers with sniffer dogs and railway guards questioning mainly young Asian men about the validity of their journey and their identification. And I know it might seem naive to say this, but I couldn’t help likening that scene with something from Nazi Germany.
Other things that can be likened with something from Nazi Germany:
  • The customs desk in an airport international terminal.
  • Freeway construction.
  • Police evacuating your building when someone leaves a bag outside.
  • Bert Newton in The Producers.
  • Volkswagens.
  • Basil Fawlty goosestepping while holding a finger under his nose.
  • The decline of modern cabaret.
  • The nice Iranian lady next door whose first name gets transliterated as ‘Nazi’ by the gas company when they send her a bill.

Going Through the Motions: London Bombing Update

Saturday 30 July 2005

Everyone is getting fed up. Yesterday we had to stay in the building because someone left a bag lying around the railway station. The day before we were evacuated from the building because someone left a bag lying around the railway station. A friend of mine asked a policeman what everyone was doing standing around outside and he all but yelled at her, “Because someone left a bloody bag lying around the railway station!”
The police are getting really good at getting lots of people in and out of buildings. The bomb squad’s methods are state-of-the-art too: they told me yesterday they suspected the discarded bag was a bomb because “it felt heavy when we picked it up.”
So they’ve taken away what few bins they’d put back (for “bins”, read “transparent plastic bags”) in around the station a few years ago, “for security reasons.” I thought we were dealing with suicide bombers so I’m guessing MI5 has information that Al’Qaida Al-Qaeda the terrorists have recruited Oscar the Grouch, or else that this move is for show.
Despite all this, everyone’s still happy to leave black bin liners full of crap lying around on the pavements for days on end.
Around Euston I spotted another gaggle of police armed with clipboards accosting pedestrians. My heart sank as I assumed things had gotten so desperate that the Metropolitan Police had resorted to the tactics of the Socialist Alliance and were asking concerned citizens to Stop The Bombs – Sign The Petition, but it turned out they were asking if we had been out on the street “about this time last week.” I hadn’t, but luckily I didn’t panic and sprint into a Tube station like some people are prone to do.
Spare a thought for the bombings’ silent victims: the terrorists’ landlords. How do you let the houses whose previous tenants blew themselves up on public transport? Once the police have finished with them, that is.
“For an organisations [sic] that struggles to get any local press coverage, we have suddenly been approached by just about every national newspaper,” he added.

One positive side effect: if it weren’t for the bombs I would never have known that the Australian prime minister was in town, dominating the world stage in his usual inimtable manner.
1413: Prime Minister Tony Blair postpones a vist to a school in east London and a photo call with visiting Prime Minister John Howard of Australia, a spokesman says.

Can anyone tell me if he pretended to have a real reason to be here this time around, other than watch cricket?

Finally, I was going to make fun of the failed bomber who was photographed making his getaway waiting for a train at a Tube station, a few minutes after he’s brought the entire transport system to a standstill. But then they arrested him in Rome, when his mates didn’t make it further than Notting Hill, so I guess some suicide bombers put more thought into their escape plans than I’d credited.

The Henry Moore/Jeffrey Smart Container

Wednesday 27 July 2005


The cool kids have been doing it, but since Laura’s found some real work to get on with I am stepping forward to partly fill the gap.
Sadly, I don’t have time to write it up just now, so in the meantime enjoy a few choice photos of Henry Moore’s bronze Locking Piece (1968), on Millbank, just outside what is now Tate Britain. Remember, this is the site where Jeremy Bentham’s Millbank Prison once stood. Somewhere behind that wall is where prisoners boarded ships for transportation to Australia.
Across the river is Vauxhall, with the MI6 Building and St George’s Wharf on the riverfront.
Thanks to Marwood Shipping Container Hire, the scene resembled a Jeffrey Smart painting.

Well, at least it might stop them reading Dan Brown

Monday 25 July 2005

NOT THE FACE!! Another photo lifted from Annie Mole’s Tube blog: the first commuter on the London Underground spotted reading the new Harry Potter novel. Not a kid, of course. Sad bastard.
I really have to update my links over there 444 to add some stuff about London.

Twenty Views of the Gherkin

Sunday 24 July 2005

At last, I’ve got the Flickr account happening. It’s a small start, but for your enjoyment here are twenty views of London’s Swiss Re Tower.

“Dylan & Sleater Kinney & the Beach Boys & Jimmy Cliff & Sam Cooke & Bobby Bland & Joe Strummer; pretty much the whole history of recorded music.”

Sunday 24 July 2005

Are you ready to have your world turned upside-down? Nick Hornby likes Bruce Springsteen. So does Tony Blair. In fact, so do a whole bunch of middle-aged white guys. Don’t say you never learn anything from this blog.
If this expos√© isn’t mind-boggling enough, Springsteen has discovered Britpop, so in a few months don’t be surprised if your dad is suddenly only ten years behind the times. Thus spoiling your enjoyment of your favourite bands.
Also of note, Hornby’s taken to citing his own woozy opinions as an authoritative source in footnotes to back up his arguments, such as they are.
I can’t wait until David Bowie releases another album so Hornby can write a column trying to convince himself it doesn’t suck. Then start arguing over it with his reflection in a bathroom mirror.

Never watched the show, but still…

Saturday 23 July 2005


I thought they just made this place up. Well, thought up an original name, anyway. Next thing someone’ll tell me St Trinian’s is real, too.
Great, now I’ve got that stupid bloody theme tune going through my head. The things I put myself through for this site.
UPDATE: The stupid bloody theme tune is actually titled “Chicken Man.” Which would explain why I always knew it as the “Birdwood Mill TV ad” music.

Russell Crowe, please get your band back together

Friday 22 July 2005

The Apocalypse approaches. Steven Seagal, renaissance man, has released his first CD, titled (I am not making this up) “Songs From The Crystal Cave”.
The set, which features guest appearances by Stevie Wonder, Lt. Stitchie*, and Lady Saw*, is already available in France and will be sold in Asia come September. The martial-arts master culls from a wide swath of musical influences on “Cave,” including blues, rock, pop, Jamaican dancehall and traditional Indian music.

All you music-lovers out there can curb your cravings until your very expensive imported disc arrives in the post by downloading MP3s from his website. You can also enjoy more photos of him playing a guitar than you can shake your dharma beads at.

You can buy the CD online though his website, along with his “Essential oils and his very own Energy Bar !” What, no pudding?

If you want an unbiased analysis of the Stevemeister’s warblings, head on over to his unofficial fansite, where you can also enjoy debates on “What Do You Think Is Seagal’s Best Direct-to-Video So Far?” and “YOUR selection for Steven Seagal’s best acting performance ( not fighting!)” with nominations such as this:
Seagal displayed pretty decent acting talents, particularly in the scene where he smashed things up in the science lab.

According to the Billboard article, a propos of apparently nothing:
Seagal has pledged $100,000 in order to diffuse a “high risk” Russian nuclear weapon.
I think he means ‘defuse’. Presumably by high risk it means that he has to cut the red wire with a pen knife seconds before it goes off, but not before having to punch out Morris Chestnut.
* No, me neither.

Yes, my parents are very disappointed in me. Thanks for asking.

Thursday 21 July 2005

This is what happens when you’re stuck on a tube train with a discarded copy of the freebie morning newspaper. You end up reading articles like “No one has emptied our bins for 15 years”, with quotes such as:
A couple have created a towering heap of 15 years’ rubbish next to their picturesque cottage – because the dustman will not come to collect it.
Council bosses refused to send lorries up the rough track to the Cale’s [sic] moorland home in the Yorkshire dales.
Mrs Cale, 65, who lives with her husband John [said]… “I am entitled to a back door service.”
“I’ve been complaining to the council that I haven’t had a man up my back passage for years. They keep telling me it’s a tight squeeze down there but with a bit of care and patience they’d be amazed what will fit in. When I was younger it was very different – I’d just stick out my can when the night man came around and he’d give it a proper seeing to. I would be a happy woman if I were getting it once a week, or even once a fortnight. But after 15 years without any action from the council I’m worried that if they do find someone who can get it up, he’ll be turned off by the smell.”

What’s with all this “we” stuff? (A poor excuse for a thinkpiece, but mercifully shorter.)

Thursday 21 July 2005

Two weeks ago we were getting bombed in London. One week ago we were asked for two minutes’ silence to remember, in case momentous events from the previous week had slipped our minds. Today someone did the reminding for us. I don’t know if we were lucky to have avoided death and destruction today, or unlucky to have copped it on the 7th.
I’ve been asked if the possibility of attacks like this happening had crossed my mind when I decided to move to London. In fact, I had considered the risk of coming to grief on London public transport, but my fears were based on self-inflicted mayhem rather than terrorists.
People keep talking about the meticulous planning that went into the bomb attacks earlier this month, but I’ve only heard one pundit on the radio so far asking what I’ve been wondering: just how organised do you have to be to turn up at a railway station with three of your mates at the same time? All travelling down together from Leeds in the same car doesn’t exactly sound like a logistical nightmare.
In other words, contrary to what we may sometimes think, these are not criminal masterminds directed by a nehru-jacketed evil genius listening to classical music in his well-appointed underground lair.
Apparently, American hacks with deadlines have been banging on about the “preternatural calm and a long-considered certainty” evinced by Londoners, in contrast to New Yorkers in the World Trade Centre attacks; although I don’t remember seeing any Manhattanites on TV running around in circles waving their hands in the air. On the other hand, no-one has seemed to notice that, unlike the Americans, British TV did not respond to tragedy by showing lots of waving flags and playing patriotic music.
There has also been a notable absence of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings accompanying TV news montages, which is refreshing.

Filler by Proxy XXI: Utilitarians in the News

Tuesday 19 July 2005

A legitimate news source speculates on the burgeoning corrections industry, takes time out to bait Jeremy Bentham.

“Death we expect, but all we get is life.”

Monday 18 July 2005

Perhaps finally, after 15 years of bitter argument, Pixies fans around the world can unite in agreement about which album they hate the most.

Pausing for reflection… zzzz…

Friday 15 July 2005

Living conditions in the bunker have been spartan, but are slowly improving. I am not sure this is entirely a good thing. The monastic lifestyle has allowed me to focus my life on more spiritual matters, but moreover it helps to deter kibitzing houseguests. The instant you get digs in London, every unexpatriated Australian – and even some particularly shameless New Zealanders – will suddenly claim an eternal bond of Mateship. Before you know it, your peaceful sanctuary starts to resemble throwing out time at the Walkabout Pub.
The last visitors to the bunker were a couple of girls from Guernsey. I had entertained notions of showing them around the Tate Modern or the stuffed corpse of Jeremy Bentham, but it turned out that their idea of a hot time in London was going to Pizza Hut and then riding the escalators at the tube station – all the big city things they can’t get at home. Worse still, they’d look to me to bail them out when shopkeepers refused to accept their dinky little local ¬£1 notes with cows and pictures of Bergerac on them.
On the up side, I have been able to take advantage of other people’s hospitality on weekend trips out of London. I’ve been meaning to share with you all some of the highlights, but my internet service has been spotty lately and won’t be sorted out until sometime next week. So you’ll have to wait until then, when I’m back from my jaunt to Bristol and I get my interminable series of holiday snaps uploaded onto Flickr.
This seems a good time to mention that this blog is one year old. Sure, the first post is dated sometime in August, but I actually set it up in July last year and then couldn’t be arsed posting anything to it for a few weeks; and so the tone was set for the twelve months’ since of haltingly updated posts about mundane trivialities.
Coming soon: I’ll finally get around to catching up on that played-out music meme. Maybe I’ll also update the links section so you’ll have something good to read.

Meanwhile, back in the Ukraine

Wednesday 13 July 2005

Some associates of mine recently returned from a business trip to Moscow and brought back a box of what were allegedly, and thankfully turned out to be, chocolates. OK, so it’s not actually from the Ukraine; but it’s Russian, so it’s close – unless it was made in Vladivostok or one of the other ten time zones not next door to the Ukraine.
On the other hand, the writing on the wrapper may in fact say “Made in the Ukraine”. Attempting foods with labels and ingredients written in a foreign language is bad enough, but when you can’t even recognise the alphabet it gets particularly dodgy: there are no potential warning signs to deduce (TESTICALES CON LARDO!) and you start to worry that it comes from a culture sufficiently different from your own to consider tamarind pits coated in Vegemite a delicious treat.
Nor did the picture on the wrappers inspire confidence. Here is a typical picture of a child on a sweet wrapper from the rest of the world:

Note the smiles and general impression that the contents are good to eat. Now here is the picture of the child on the Russian Mystery Chocolate wrapper:

Three thoughts spring to mind:
1. The poor kid just ate one of the chocolates.
2. This is as happy as a Russian child can get.
3. ALLERGY ALERT: This product contains Slavic orphan parts.
In fact, the chocolates were rather nice, so if you can read Cyrillic, please don’t tell me what was in them.

Groundless Speculation

Monday 11 July 2005

Spotted this poster on the tube on Saturday but couldn’t photograph it: I thought “Damn, it’ll be taken down for certain by the time I have my camera with me. Sunday it was still up in a few stations, including a very prominent spot in the very busy Waterloo station. This image is lifted from the Going Underground blog, because it’s not as blurry as the photos I took.
The image on the newspaper, if you’re having trouble making it out, is of London getting blown up real good (that’s the London Eye on the left). By unfortunate coincidence, the novel came out last Thursday, and the whole advertising campaign got pulled at the last minute, but some posters made it onto the Tube.
I walked into work today. Not all the way, just some of it, thanks to some idiot leaving their bag on the platform. There’s a lot of this going on now. Ever since I got here there have been constant reminders to passengers telling them to report unattended luggage for just this reason, but now everyone feels obliged to take this seriously, and so there are a lot more delays than usual.*
So this morning on the Tube everything was back to normal. Several lines are still closed or partly closed down but given that, as someone on the web calculated a few weeks ago, the London Underground is only fully functional 22% of the time, this counts as normal. One thing the terrorists seem to have overlooked is that Londoners have made it a point of pride over the centuries that their city is so ramshackle and inefficiently run that by all rights it shouldn’t function at all.
The train was full, but the commuters were mostly silent and warily avoiding eye contact with each other. In other words, back to their old, carefree selves like nothing had happened.
A friend working for a railway company at Euston station has wondered if the terrorists got it wrong: three trains and one bus, all not quite at the busiest stations in the north of London (Kings Cross-St Pancras, Liverpool Street, Paddington, and Euston).
*Sweet sanity! A station supervisor kicks out a passenger who repeatedly wanders away from his luggage – even better, it’s an American tourist.
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