Later, the pelican explained that it got the idea from reading my blog

Wednesday 25 October 2006

First it was the ravens, now it’s come to this. And always the pigeons pay.

Families and tourists in a London park were left shocked when a pelican picked up and swallowed a pigeon…. An RSPB spokesman said: “It is almost unheard of for a pelican to eat a bird. Their diet should be strictly fish.”
The bird got up and strolled along until it reached one of the pigeons, which it just grabbed in its beak.


Note for journalism students: the last two sentences of the linked article are a classic example of the inverted triangle in action.

A potent mix of critical opinion and biographical fact

Friday 20 October 2006

Scrawled in biro over a poster for the movie of The History Boys on the platform at Euston station*: “Alan Bennett is an overrated poof from Yorkshire.”

* Northern Line, Charing Cross branch.

Advanced East London Evangelical Techniques

Wednesday 20 September 2006

This was in my mailbox yesterday. It’s been stamped onto the back of a used envelope and cut out with scissors, so I guess Islam has a hitherto unknown punk ethos. It is posed tastefully on a reproduction of an Adolf Wölfli drawing on the cover of a book of translations of Robert Walser’s writings.
Presumably the Pope’s just had one of these slipped under the front door of the Vatican, too. (The Islam thing, not Adolf Wölfli.)

Advanced East London Citizenship Ceremony Techniques

Thursday 14 September 2006

When you get sworn in as a British citizen at Hackney Town Hall, they play Ray Charles singing “Georgia on My Mind” over the PA while the mayor hands you your papers.

Ah fooked dis place afore yew!

Wednesday 16 August 2006

There’s something in the air around my neighbourhood: if it’s not the grand guignol of the bird-on-bird violence on one side of the bunker, it’s the dodgy pub on the other side. This is the place where there was a shooting last month, and no sooner have the police incident signs come down than the locals are punching on out front again.
Judging from the overheard quote above, it seemed to be some sort of turf battle over who’s the dodgiest cunt on the block.

Speaking of crap photos…

Monday 3 July 2006

Fresh gherkin! Now part of the 30 St Mary Axe Flickr pool.

Euston: Bend Sinister

Saturday 1 July 2006

In keeping with the overall character of London, there is no consistent plan to the design of the Underground stations. Some haven’t really changed since they opened in the 1860s, others try to keep some semblance of uniformity to distinguish one line from another, and then there are a lot of ‘one off’ designs which may not extend even to the entirety of the station.
Euston is one of the most confusing tube stations, being combined with a mainline train station connecting the north, and joining three different tube lines, two with the same name, in an unconventional layout. As a result the lower platforms tend to become clogged with bewildered Mancunians towing luggage and walking against the flow, trying to decipher the array of diagrams and direction signs in the passageways.
Most of Euston is lined with anonymous grey tiles, in the dreary British interpretation of modernism that influenced the design of the station when it was rebuilt in the 1960s. However, two of the six platforms have a newer, fairly arbitrarily applied decoration, which at first looks like a bit of 80s abstraction. If you’re stuck waiting for a train, you may notice the small plaque explaining what the design represents. It’s a stylised version of the shield in the Earl of Euston’s coat of arms: the Royal Standard defaced with a bend sinister (OK, technically it’s a baton sinister). In other words, the first Earl was the illegitimate offspring of the King.

I wonder how it was agreed that the best way to brighten up such an awkwardly constructed station was to cover it with a colourful display of the ancient symbol for “right royal bastard”.

Advanced East London Council Works Budget Justification Techniques

Saturday 24 June 2006

Go outside and take a walk in the sunshine for once

Sunday 18 June 2006

Now you could stroll through Victoria Park, down the Bow Heritage trail, without fear…. Or so I thought – until I penetrated the north-east corner, beyond the obelisk, the rarely visited war memorial, which is sited at the point where an invisible barrier is crossed, and you move out of Tower Hamlets (Old Ford) into South Hackney.

So speaks Iain Sinclair in Lights Out For the Territory, my psychogeographic Baedeker to London. I, however, born and raised in Adelaide, am used to viewing the world from the prospect of a backwater at the arse-end of the Earth, and so habitually enter Victoria Park via this supposedly remote corner, being the gate closest to home, and walk the other way. If you replaced the squirrels with possums fossicking through the rubbish, Victoria Park resembles any other large park in Adelaide.
The memorial to the Great War casualties from Hackney Wick is small and somewhat neglected: the names carved on its base are starting to fade. The obelisk itself is set adrift in the middle of a lawn, far away from any footpath; reflecting the ambivalence of the community’s working-class population to the Great War.

Further down the path are two large stone alcoves, grandiose shelters for benches. These are the two surviving fragments of old London Bridge, relocated to the park in 1860: another item in Sinclair’s catalogue of misalignments of London monuments.
Instead of writing about art or music today I decided to go for another walk through the park. Down at the south gate of the park, beside the Dogs of Alcibiades, I was stopped by an elderly Indian gentleman who was standing around looking somewhat lost. I thought he was going to ask me for directions, but he held a letter in his hand, and asked if I could read the first paragraph for him:

Dear Sir, This is to notify you that your petition for divorce was filed with the court on 22nd May 2006, and that a copy of the papers were delivered to your wife on 6th June 2006.

He smiled, “Thank you, sir,” and walked away. It’s always a heartwarming feeling when you’ve helped a stranger.

Advanced East London infiltration techniques, part 2: the Hard Sell

Wednesday 12 April 2006

This one only works if you’re a healthy-looking, unaccompanied male. Wait until nightfall, then stand in the middle of a street about 25 metres away from a busy shopping precinct. Whenever a female walking alone comes nearby, shout at them, “Please, I need help!” Try to sound really desperate. Don’t do this too often, or soon you’ll have more women than you can handle!

London Field Guide

Wednesday 22 March 2006

On the bus through Shoreditch on Saturday, waiting for a cordon of police motorbikes escorting a bus with drawn curtains across the windows, a brace of Elvises walking down the street waving to passersby, the group of Mancunians in the seats behind me cooing over the dirty great Banksy that recently appeared in a vacant lot.

Then, later on in Trafalgar Square, communists!

Honestly, this is probably the first time I’ve seen real life communists in the wild since I left university the first time. They were out protesting about either Iraq or Iran. There were 15,000 or so people there, so whatever demands they were making got pretty diffuse among the calls to liberate Palestine, something about Venezuela, something else called the Women’s Strike, and urgent pleas to reinstate Serbia and Montenegro in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Hopefully there were also a few placards insisting that anodyne Mark Quinn sculpture on the fourth plinth be replaced.

Advanced East London Infiltration Techniques: Social Engineering

Wednesday 8 March 2006

Scene: The Bunker.
Front door intercom: BLEEEEEEP!!!!!!
Me: GAHH! What the hell was that?
Intercom: BLEEEEEEP!!!!!!
Me: Christ! That door-thingy works after all. Who could be calling at this time of night, I wonder?
(Fumbles with intercom buttons)
Me: Hello?
Master Criminal (on intercom): Uhhh… can I come in?
Me: Who’s this?
Master Criminal (on intercom): Oh, ah… it’s, ahh….
Me: Hello?
Intercom: Click!

Stupid Kids These Days With Their Good Health and Their Robust Immune Systems

Monday 27 February 2006

There’s a burst water main outside, geysering water ten feet into the air. Three teenagers, two girls and a boy, are amusing themselves by jumping through the water. In London. In February.

How Bad is British Coffee? Part 2.

Thursday 9 February 2006

There is a new girl working at the cafe where I get my morning coffee. She keeps asking if I want any ice in it.
P.S. The site feeds are fixed. I don’t know what they do but people seem to like them.

Great pub toilets of Britain: The Museum Tavern

Monday 9 January 2006

As its name suggests, it is close to the British Museum: right opposite the entrance gates, in fact. This is a strange corner of town where mass tourism meets high culture, where hotdog stands and souvenir shitshacks rub shoulders with antiquarian booksellers (and the London Review of Books bookshop, monthly mecca for sesquipedalian swingers). Surprisingly for its location, the Museum Tavern has not been turned into a horrid family-friendly tourist trap, and remains a pleasantly shabby and subdued pub that serves a nice pint of Young’s Bitter.
As you might expect, this is one of those parts of London where most people you see are foreigners – mostly, the place seems to be a refuge for unnervingly quiet and knowledgeable Americans (no, not Canadians!) that you knew must have existed somewhere but could never seem to find abroad.
This is the place where Karl Marx would frequently spell himself between sessions across the street at the Museum’s reading room researching his Grundrisse, but you won’t find any memorabilia lining the walls, nor any slot machines, t-shirts or mugs for sale. More of that sort of thing can be found at a smaller pub further down the block that foists draught pints of XXXX on hapless newcomers.
Typically, the toilets have been dug into the basement. The condom machine has been vandalised in a strangely religious fervour (visiting catholics from across the channel, or do those quiet Americans have a dark side?) Best of all is the strategically-placed sign for slightly confused men weaving their way out of the gents, “Why not impress her with a…. BOTTLE OF CHAMPAGNE.” A canny example of consumer capitalism at work.