August 31, 2003
Tired of London?

I stumbled upon a discussion happening at a blog called Mad Musings of Me - called Tired of London, Tied of Life?.

Now - it seems that many of the folks commenting to the posting are rallying around the “yeah - get out of the city” thing - but all of that is leaving me really irritated. I live in London - I know I haven’t travelled as extensivley as some people - and, sure, I don’t get away on holiday often enough - but I’m going to have to agree and add further fuel to the comment that Pewari makes about appreciating London more when you’ve been away for a while. And I cringe at the reasons that some of the commenters gave for being drawn to London - e.g. the glamour, the culture, the “rush”, the “being able to say you live in London” thing. I “grew out” of the CoventGarden-esque appeal of Central London a long, long time ago. For me, my appreciation for London arises from the essence of the some of the following things:

  • Provincial towns usually have only one or two railway stations - and for the majority of people - they will NOT be within walking distance. Compare that with London - where most people are within easy walking distance of train-based public transport. In London - you can get around more easily - whereas in provincial towns you stay at home - or you drive, or get driven - and if you live in the countryside you stay on the farm all the time - or else you have to drive your land rover to the nearest provincial town in order to maintain some sanity.
  • In London the staff at the supermarket checkout (usually younger college students) aren’t interested in upholding the fabric of society - they are there to do a job, and do that job as efficiently as possible. Compare that to supermarkets in the provinces, where the checkout operator is stereotypically an older lady - more interested in eeking out precious time by chatting casually to her friend that she has just checked out goods for as she fumbles around in her purse for as much change as posssible. Infuriating. It’s almost as if people in the provinces have no concept of the value of time.
  • It’s hard to put your finger on anything really very tangible to illustrate this point with - but London has so much more of the “service psyche” in it; where shops and facilities - as well as the behaviour of the people who staff them are much more “demand-led” - as opposed to the standards commonly experienced in the provinces - where the behaviour is much more “supply-led”. Outside London - the shopkeeper has the balance of power - Shopkeeper to customer: “you are priveleged to be here - and if I’m on the phone nattering to a friend - then you’ll just have to wait until I’ve finished.” - whereas in London - the shopkeeper wants your business - knowing full well that you could go shop elsewhere if you didn’t like the service.
  • Londoners are less afraid to express emotion to others than folks in the provinces. This is probably due to the greater degree of diversity of cultures in London - the British are naturally a very reserved people - and the further out of London you go (with the exception of places like Birmingham and Leicester and some parts of Leeds/Bradford) the less diverse society becomes - and as a result - there are certain emotions that, conventionally, cannot be expressed in public - like complaining at poor service for example.
  • The buses in London appear have better Brake-Horse-Power - meaning the buses accelerate a lot faster than those on provincial towns - which seem to only just be able to do 0 to 30 in half an hour. Getting around by bus in London is so much more zippier than provincial towns.

OK - so it might just be that London is a haven for impatient, emotionally-sensitive foriegners who are always in a hurry and complaining about bad service - but I’d rather be in a place that caters for this sort than in a place like, say Biggleswade - or Bournemouth - or worst still; Norfolk.

Posted by jag at 05:23 PM | Comments (13)

Posted by jag at 03:10 PM | Comments (2)
Cops overdose

Late last night I watched around 7 episodes of “Cops” that were backlogged on my Tivo. It’s a good thing you can speedily skip the commercials with Tivo - because although each episode is supposed to fill up half an hour - it can often reduce to 20 minutes of viewing after ads have been skipped!

I like this program. Why? Because it’s in the same genre (and timeslots) as those forensic crime investigation programmes that show on Discovery or Sky One late at night. It’s basically educational junk TV. Compelling viewing - but invariably just an insight into someone else’s plight. I also like it for it’s catchy reggae theme tune! Fox TV seems to have the broadcast or distribution rights to the series - and their website indicates that over 500 episodes have been shown so far:

“COPS, the groundbreaking series that was instrumental in launching the reality genre with its cinema vérité style, has penetrated the American psyche unlike any other show in television history and has earned its place in popular culture. The four time Emmy Award nominated series hit its 500th milestone episode last season, surpassing the records of venerated classics “My Three Sons,” “Murder She Wrote” and “Hawaii Five O” (12 seasons each) and maintaining bragging rights with all time favorites such as “60 Minutes,” “20/20” and FOX’s “America’s Most Wanted” as the longest running programs currently on primetime television. The series entered its 15th season this fall.

COPS premiered on the FOX network March 11, 1989 to critical acclaim and record ratings. The series’ cameras have captured barricaded suspects, spectacular car chases, undercover drug raids and busts and a myriad of domestic disputes that offer vivid and often unsparing glimpses into the human condition.

COPS has profiled law enforcement agencies in over 140 different cities in the United States and also has filmed in Hong Kong, London, Central and South America, Moscow and Leningrad. It was the first American television program allowed to follow the police in the former Soviet Union.”

So - to celebrate the show in a Route 79 style - I knocked up a “Cops” musical photo-montage below. Turn up volume and Enjoy.

Bad boys, bad boys
Whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do
When they come for you
By Inner Circle

Posted by jag at 11:51 AM | Comments (1)
August 30, 2003
An observation ...

by King Crimson:

In The Court of the Crimson King

Reading through JustZen’s excellent articles on Zappa - I couldn’t help but notice a reference to King Crimson in his fave bands list and then - WOOSH! I was blown away by the very thought of it! Make vertical snake-like motions with your hands - arms stretched out in front of you - chanting “tiddle-liddle, tittle-liddle, tiddle-liddle” in a high pitched tone - just like those crackpots in Wayne’s World and let me take you back to a time before - when I was at college …

It’s way after midnight sometime in late June - after the exams have finished and I’m playing a late night game of poker with friends. Gathered around a smoky, lit-by-anglepoise-lamp kitchen table, I was the master of seven-card-stud - nobody could read my face right - and I cleaned ‘em all out - every time. And tonight was no exception.

In waltzes Paul “Senior” - a mature student (in his early forties and studying Economics) - obviously back from a pub - and noticably drunk. Very much so. He slumps down on the chair next to me and starts rolling a rizla - sprinkling the dregs out of a couple of dog-ends in the ash-tray. He tries to follow the game - but gets fed up after a few minutes and staggers out to the hallway and into his room. He returned a few minutes later with an audio-cassette - and politely asks me in slurred voice if I could play this in my ghetto-blaster hi-fi - which was on one side of the kitchen table quietly playing Infected by The The. I reluctantly agreed to do so. And then as it started … all of us playing poker just stopped playing. We were mesmerised by the music - pure rock, or was it jazz - whetever it was - it was mind-blowing. (Trust me - there was no funny stuff around). The volume was on max and we were transfixed.

The next morning I noticed that one of the speakers on my hi-fi had blown its high-frequency speaker. No music had ever done that before. It was “21st Century Schizoid Man” that had done it.

Nothing he’s got he really needs
Twenty first century schizoid man.

King Crimson (Robert Fripp and co.)

Posted by jag at 02:49 PM | Comments (0)
Route 79 HellRider

Introducing Route 79 Hellrider - a 21st Century Super-Hero.

Found as an abandoned baby and raised by the night-gremlins in a bus garage in North West London - Route 79 HellRider has made it his mission to protect all the respectful fare-paying citizens who grace the 79 London Bus route between Edgware and Alperton. With a motto of “Late - but in earnest” - Route 79 HellRider will act as bus-marshal - in his distictive uniform - and will respond to any passenger distress call. Blowing away people who hold up the bus whilst they fumble around for change - and terminating those who dare to argue with the bus driver - Route 79 HellRider is there to make the 79 London Bus route the fastest and safest in the world.

Create your own super-hero at HeroMachine. (Thanks to Lisa for the ref.)

We don’t need another hero
We don’t need to know the way home …

By Tina Turner

Posted by jag at 11:36 AM | Comments (1)
August 29, 2003
Yo yo

For some strange reason I couldn’t work out - my network connection was going up and down like a yo-yo last night. I’m all back up now - but I was reminded of the following song lyric adaptation (with some adaptations by moi):

Sing loudly to the tune of “Chabi Kho Jaye” (click the words to play the original music) from the film Bobby:

Baahar se koi email na aa sake,
Andar se koi blog-entry na ja sake
Socho kabhi aisa ho to kya ho,
Socho kabhi aisa ho to kya ho,

Hum tum ek laptop pe logged ho,
Aur network-down ho jaye,
Resources se kaho ke XP chod de
Linux le aaye,

Hum tum ek laptop pe logged ho,
Aur network-down ho jaye,
Aage hai Java ka mela,
Baba mujhe dar lagta hai,
Peeche hai Perl 5 ke thela .. Hmm,
Kyon dara rahe ho,

Aage hai Java ka mela,
Peeche hai Perl 5 ke thela,
UK bhi jaana hai mushkil,
Bench pe rehna hai mushkil,

Socho kabhi aisa ho to kya ho,
Socho kabhi aisa ho to kya ho,

Hum tum Minesweeper khel rahe ho,
Aur Page Fault aa jaye,
Hum tum ek laptop pe logged ho,
Aur network-down ho jaye…

Posted by jag at 06:25 AM | Comments (6)
August 23, 2003
Western Spaghetti

Today I was trying to finally get around to ordering some Indian Cinema DVDs I’ve been meaning to get hold of for some time. During about half an hour of aimless surfing I somehow got distracted onto a not-too-different-genre - and ended up buying these instead:

The “Dollars Trilogy” - Directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood

In fact - I ordered these three legendary films (which created a complete sub-genre of films lovingly called “Spaghetti Westerns”) from Amazon as a three-pack called “The Spaghetti Westerns Collection”.

This three films only hang together as a trilogy on the basis of the smilarity of the plots (making easy money) and the recurrence of the character played by Clint Eastwood (The Man with No Name). And even then - the last movie of the three is different to the prior two; The Good, the Bad and The Ugly - released in 1965. This is undoubtedly the most famous of all director Sergio Leone’s work - and this is due to three things:

  • The larger budget used to make the film ($1.2M Dollars - which was massive for 1966)
  • The much bigger sets containing lots more people - e.g. scenes of war on a massive scale
  • The amazing Ennio Morricone score that is probably the most instantly recognisable western theme of all time. (Playing NOW in the background!)

Technically the film is simply brilliant. The screenplay (which has to be seen in widescreen format to be truly appreciated) is extremely striking - switching from wide, beuatiful panoramas to extreme close-ups of the characters’ eyes, this becomes the signature of Leone’s highly stylised approach to the Spaghetti Western - where he develops the story slowly, giving us, the viewer a chance to absorb the magnificence of the photography while the plot unfolds. Interestingly - although the film and the others before it have come to characterise the great American western - the films were shot entirely in Europe! (Sergio Leone is Italian). In fact - the Italian version of the film (the director’s cut) had seven scenes in it that were not present in the North American version!

Legend has it that The Good, The Bad and the Ugly was actually a “prequel” to the other two - as around twenty minutes before the end of the film Clint Eastwood picks up a poncho off a dying soldier and puts it on. This gives him the look which is the same as he looks in the first two films and therefore implies that the third film was set in a time prior to the setting of the Fistful and For a Few.

The Good, Bad, Ugly film was also a turning point in the career of Clint Eastwood. The $250,000 and percentage royalties received for making the film made him a very rich man - and later that year he set up his own production company, Malpaso, and has never looked back…

I am looking forward to the DVD of the 2003 Restoration of the The Good, The Bad and the Ugly - some extra footage has been found from the original 1966 shooting - taking the film to a few seconds over 180 minutes in length!

You see, in this world there’s two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig”.
Quote by Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Posted by jag at 06:52 PM | Comments (3)
August 18, 2003

It’s lunchtime.
My body is in Munich.
My soul in London.
My mind on the 79 bus.
It’s raining real bad over here.
But it makes me feel real good over there.
Bavarian sandwich in my hand.
Fingers at my keyboard.
Journal on my screen.
Getting a few minutes of pixel fix.
In a long day of airports, shuttle-buses in-flight magazines, nice offices and corporate rate hotels.
Back tomorrow.

Posted by jag at 04:00 PM | Comments (1)
August 16, 2003
A Suitable Bookmark

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t been updating this journal as fequently. This is because instead of daydreaming on the bus - I’ve been reading. Yes - it’s a book that Ms.Route79 got me for my birthday recently. It’s called A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. (Maybe she is trying to tell me something?) This is a highly acclaimed book - according to some of my more cultured friends in the office.

The point is - this book is over 1300 pages long - so is going to keep me occupied for quite some time. As you can probably make out from the pictures above I am currently at page 144. Notice the bookmarker that I am using. It is a calling-card from a local minicab/taxi firm that seems to drop through my front door almost every week or so. I have lots of them now - they make very suitable bookmarkers for this book - as there are several places in the book that I have to keep referring to in order to stay on top of the characters!

I have discovered another blogger who is also reading this book - starting pretty much the same time as I did a few days ago. She is an English lady living in Belgium. Her name is Zoe and she is a really prolific updater of her journal at: My Boyfriend is a Tw*t. (Don’t be put off by the title - the tw*t is a sort of cuddly reference to her young lover.) It seems that Zoe is finding the book a little hard going at first - but I am really not surprised - I, too, have found it quite difficult to build up the “book-reading-momentum” - but one thing I did discover is that by the time I got around to page 55 - I was referring less and less to the family trees that are helpfully charted at the beginning of the book. It seems that I am truly immersing myself into the magic of this novel .…

Posted by jag at 04:56 PM | Comments (5)

When Diamond Geezer started writing a series of articles detailing some interesting things about his neigbourhood - I was inspired to do the same about where I live - but it sure was hard work!

I live in Kingsbury - which a suburb in North West London - approximately 10 miles from the Charing Cross (which is considered by London Black Cabs to be the exact centre of London.)

Map of London Boroughs - showing Kingsbury in relation to the centre of London

Kingsbury is in Royal Mail postal district NW9 - and falls within the governance of the London Borough of Brent. According to the data gathered at the time of the 2001 UK National Census - the Office of National Statistics reports some interesting facts:

  • That the average age of people in my neighbourhood is 35.9 (UK average is 38.6)
  • That 62.5% of the population of my neighbourhood are “non-white” - i.e. Asian or Afro-Carribean (UK average is 7.6%)
  • That 48.9% of the local population are Indian-subcontinental in origin (UK average is 4.6%)

The UK Land Registry records that the average price of an average home in my neigbourhood is around 230,000 UK Pounds - which is around 328,00 Euros, 368,000 US Dollars, or around 17M Indian Rupees. (I like the idea of selling my house for Rupees.)

Interestingly - the Acorn Socio-Economic profile for my neighbourhood is labelled “Home Owning Multi-Ethnic Areas, Young Families” - and this type reportedly accounts for only 1.1% of the UK population! Please do read the Acorn profile for my neigbourhood - some of it will make you laugh! For example:

Attitudes: People in this ACORN Type enjoy radio advertising. They are more likely than average to be vegetarian. When they see a new brand they are very likely to buy it and they love buying new gadgets and appliances. They prefer to take their holidays off the beaten track.”

OK - so that’s what my neighbourhood is like today. But what was it like yesterday?

Bronze Age, Romans, Anglo-Saxon and Normans:

Well - it turns out that Kingsbury has quite some history to it - some Bronze Age cremation burials have been found nearby - which would date human settlement in this area to between 2500 and 600 BC. Roman artefacts have also been found. Most of what is definitely known about the earliest history Kingsbury is gathered from the Domesdsay Book - which was commissioned in December 1085 by William the Conqueror, who invaded England from France in 1066. Prior to that it was an Anglo Saxon settlement when just before the Norman Conquest, Edward the Confessor gave “all the land at Chealchylle (Chalkhill) [and] every third load of fruits growing in the … forest which lieth towards Kynggesbrig” to Westminster Abbey. At this time much of Kingsbury belonged to Ulward Wit, a Saxon thane. (A “thane” was a man who held land from an English king or other superior by military service.)

Medieval times:

During the Middle Ages (which is the period of a thousand years in European history in between the decline of the Roman empire - around 500 AD and the start of the Renaissance - around 1500 AD) my local neighbourhood was probably a very heavy forest lying between two ancient north-south routes called Watling Street (modern A5 Edgware Road) and Honeypot Lane (which my beloved Route 79 bus travels upon). over time - forests were cleared to make way for farms - and the rural life continued well into 1920s. (only 140 houses were recorded in the year 1900!)


There were six inns in Kingsbury in 1751. These were called The ‘Plough’, ‘Black Horse’, two called ‘Chequers’, King’s Arms, and Red Lion.

At the turn of the 19th century hay and animal farming predominated in Kingsbury. By 1838, 97% of land was under grass. Large numbers of agricultural labourers came from Ireland to work there, and many settled in Kingsbury. There was a Roman Catholic school here from 1865. In 1893 Field Marshal Lord Roberts of Kandahar, who had recently returned from India, came to live nearby. He was appointed Commander-in-Chief of Forces in Ireland two years later.

In the second half of the 19th century (between 1860 and 1865) the Welsh Harp pub and the grounds surrounding the Welsh Harp Reservoir became a popular place of recreation and entertainment. Horse races attracted “thousands of the scum of London” until racing was banned from London’s hinterland in 1878. A Metropolitan Railway station served day-trippers from 1870 to 1903. As late as 1930 Kingsbury was famous for pleasant days out in unspoilt countryside! (The Kingsbury races were also very popular and the Prince of Wales and other famous visitors were among the very many attracted by the pigeon shooting and the opulence of the local inn. The escape of a bear from the Welsh Harp menagerie is recorded as occurring in 1871 to the horror of local residents!)

20th Century:

The location of my neighbourhood close to Hendon aerodrome led to the development of an aircraft industry during the First World War. Many of the workers were women. There were also three aerodromes in Kingsbury itself - one of which was called the De Havilland aerodrome. 20 houses had already been constructed at Stag Lane in 1909-10 and at the end of the war Roe Green Village was built for aircraft workers.

About 100 people had lived in medieval Kingsbury. In 1911 there were 821. Another 1,000 people settled during the First World War. But from 1921 to 1931 Kingsbury experienced the largest population increase of any district in north London, from 1,856 to 16,636 (a rise of 796%)

In the 1960s and 1970s a number of Asian people who had fled East Africa came to Kingsbury. Some of them contributed to the area almost immediately by buying up local shops that would otherwise have closed.

I moved into Kingsbury in 1993 - buying my first home. Previously I lived in a rented apartment in Clapham - and prior to that in a rented studio apartment in Woolwich. Why Kingsbury? Well as this was my first ever house purchase - I found that there were only a few areas in London which were affordable - and Kingsbury was the nicest of them. I bought my first house for 72,000 UK Pounds. (Can you believe that?!)

So - how about some claims to fame for my neighbourhood then:

  • An apparently famous man called Oliver Goldsmith lived nearby from 1771 to 1774. Nobody is absolutely certain what Oliver Goldsmith was famous for - but it is generally accepted that he was a writer and poet. He was certainly in the same crowd as Samuel Johnson, James Boswell and Sir Joshua Reynolds - all of whom visited Goldsmith whilst he lived round here.
  • London’s first greyhound race was held here in 1876! (At the Welsh Harp Reservoir)
  • The De Havilland aircraft factory had it’s first home in Kingsbury. It went on to build a large number of warplanes and civilian aircraft, including the famous Gypsy Moth and the world’s first passenger jet - the Comet. The Gypsy Moth that Amy Johnson and her husband Jim Mollison used on their solo flights to Australia was built and purchased from here!

Amy Johnson’s Gipsy Moth

  • The BACS company is based here. In fact - it exists on the grounds of the old De Havilland aircraft factory due to it being a very suitable location in London to build one of the largest computer halls in Europe. This is because BACS is one of the world’s leading and most successful organisations providing electronic funds transfer - it is owned by the UK banks and handles over 3.7 billion financial transactions a year - around 60 million payments on a peak day - which include Direct Debits, Direct Credits, Standing Orders and other inter-bank payments. Almost every salaried worker in the UK gets paid through the BACS system.
  • Due to rapid expansion of the local population during the late 1920s and early 1930s - there was a desperate need for a Christian Church building. The famous St Andrews church in Wells Street in the West End of London (a few hundred yards from Oxford Circus) was among the best known churches in London, mainly because of the musical and choral performance of the services. Members of the Royal Family regularly worshipped there. This church was built in 1847 and features work by several by famous Victorian architects and artists. As the population of central London shifted to the suburbs - the West End became more commercialised and the church gradually became redundant. The then Bishop of London made a bold decision to move redundant London churches, and the Wells Street church came within this plan. Kingsbury was chosen as its new home, and this became the first and, in fact, the only parish for such an experiment. In 1931, the Wells Street building was dismantled, every stone being numbered to facilitate re-erection (apart from certain planning modifications) at Kingsbury!

St Andrews Church - moved stone by stone from near Oxford Street to Kingsbury

  • The first ever Pizza Hut UK delivery store opened in Kingsbury in 1988.
  • Remember John Logie Baird? He is often remembered as being an inventor of a mechanical television system. The television pioneer created the first televised pictures of objects in motion (1924), the first televised human face (1925) and a year later he televised the first moving object image at the Royal Institution in London. His 1928 trans-atlantic transmission of the image of a human face was a broadcasting milestone. Colour television (1928), stereoscopic television and television by infra-red light were all demonstrated by Baird before 1930. He successfully lobbied for broadcast time with the British Broadcasting Company, the BBC started broadcasting television on the Baird 30-line system in 1929. The first simultaneous sound and vision telecast was broadcast in 1930. However, in 1936 the BBC adopted television service using the rival electronic technology of Baird’s fierce competitors Marconi-EMI - which led to the decline of Baird. Although John Logie Baird has often been disregarded for his achievements - his work had profound influence and has had more cultural impact than any other 20th century invention. Also - in the U.K. today - the telecine equipment for showing movies on television is supplied by Rank Cintel which has built on the expertise of part of the Baird Television Company which it took over in 1940. So next time you watch a movie on TV - remember that it was Baird’s pioneering work that enables you to do that! Oops - I got carried away with the history there - what I really wanted to say was that as for a few years between 1928 and 1931 John Logie Baird participated in a useful collaboration with German companies interested in television broadcast technology - and the first experimental transmissions from Germany were sent from Berlin to a specially built receiving station in the stable block of Kingsbury Manor - which is situated in Roe Green park!

Kingsbury Manor - where Baird received the first TV signals from Germany

  • Neville Shute - a famous writer from Norway worked at the De Havilland aircraft factory and lived in Stag Lane Kingsbury. He wrote 24 novels and an autobiography between 1924 and 1960 - several of which were reproduced as films.
Posted by jag at 02:20 PM | Comments (105)
August 11, 2003
Fantastic journey

What a fantastic journey home from work tonight! Given the oppressive heat - I thought I’d wait for the rush hour to subside before going home - and I was justly rewarded: when I wandered out of the office down to the tube station I was greeted by a few hundred other people anxiously watching the dot matrix indicator for news about the next train. What joy when I found out that the dot matrix indicator was completely blank! This was a sure sign that tonight’s journey home was going to be a good one. You see I am different - I am the exception that proves the rule. I like to be different. I really like it.

Was I frustrated by the the lack of any information about when or whether the next train would arrive? Absolutely not! To me - waiting around in the sweltering heat with a few hundred other sweaty people is a pleasure indeed. I love it. I really love it. In fact I loved it so much I was willing the dot matrix indicator to stay blank for longer - and indeed it did. And furthermore - when the next train did arrive 20 minutes later with absolutely no space to get on - I felt really good. Bring on more trains like that I thought to myself! Bring more! The only slight disappointment was the fact that the train was a Heathrow train - which I wouldn’t have gotten on anyway - but no matter - the very sight of a severely delayed and packed train is sheer heaven - especially when that divine smell of searing stale sweat wafts out of the carriage and envelopes the platform as the doors open. I just cannot get enough of that.

Half an hour or so later I reluctantly boarded an Uxbridge train - and just could not anticipate the sheer delight at the news that this train was actually a Heathrow train - and that people heading towards Uxbridge should get off and wait for another train at Acton Town. This I did - along with a few hundred other really frustrated other people. I really fail to understand why people get so upset by sudden changes of plan - I guess I must be different to most other people. But that’s fine - I am the exception that proves the rule. I like being the exception guy remember?

What happened over the next hour or so was an experience that I just could not thank the Piccadilly Line controllers enough for. Train after train after train that passed through Acton Town were Heathrow ones - or else they were Uxbridge ones that decided to change their mind and become Heathrow ones. Thank you London Underground! What a fantastic experience it was being a part of a massive crowd of people waiting for the Uxbridge train at Acton Town. One thing that really puzzled me though was the number of angry people though - I just don’t understand why people were boiling over. They just don’t “get it” do they? No they don’t - they have no idea how insightful and mind-expanding such an experience can be. The sight of all these frustrated people simply confirms that I am the exception that proves the rule: as everyone else is getting really pissed off at the incompetence of the line controllers to run a train system - I am standing there smiling and cheering and waving at the train drivers and any other London Underground staff at making what should be a 10 minute journey - last over 2 hours. What more could I ask for? It really is a pity that others couldn’t share my joy at it all - but then again - I suppose if they did - I wouldn’t be the exception that proves the rule would I?

When I (and a few thousand other people) finally got onto an Uxbridge train at Acton Town - the smell that hit me was simply out of this world: think mature stilton cheese, anchovies, and rotting yoghurt all mixed up with that uniquely sharp twang of Waterloo-station-mens-urinals and you might just begin to appreciate how wonderful the intensity of it all was. I soaked it all in and tried to put the idea of having to get off the train at my usual stop (Alperton) off my mind altogether. When the station arrived I literally had to force myself off the train in order to proceed to my usual Route 79 bus stop. I guess that all good things have to come to an end. I finally got home at 9:30pm (having set off from the office at 7:10pm) and I sit here now reflecting and sharing with you all what makes the London transport system undeniably the very best in the world.

Posted by jag at 11:28 PM | Comments (13)
August 09, 2003
Just like Cloudy Bay

Someone in the office sent round an email yesterday - containing reports of Cloudy Bay (cult wine) on sale for bargain price at the Tesco Metro in Hammersmith: (Names scrubbed to protect the innocent from the evils of the Internet)

“fyi, xxx called me today to let me know he found it at tesco.
cheers, xxx
ps - price is around 1/3 of the belvedere, holland park price. better
than at the wine merchant, too.

This elegant Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand has achieved cult status.
Best Served Chilled
Per case: £136.69 (equivalent to £11.39 per bottle)
This case contains: 12 x 75cl bottles”

I have to say that the person who sent the email above is a highly cultured New Zealander - getting quite excited about an admittedly good wine which normally sells for in between £20 and £30 per bottle. BUT - you see the point is - being neither highly cultured nor a New Zealander I felt that I could trump the above report with my Ace card - and I did. It was my report of a wine JUST LIKE Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc (and in fact in my opinion just as great tasting) - but far cheaper than even the above bargain price. OK - so it’s not the real McCoy - but it’s made by a better wine-maker - made with the same grapes - and is made right next door to Cloudy Bay. It’s called Belmonte Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc - and it’s available for £6.99 exclusively from Virgin Wines (which I have to say provide the best Internet shopping experience that I have ever - well - experienced).

Posted by jag at 09:43 AM | Comments (2)
August 05, 2003
From coldest to hottest ...

… if there’s one thing that deserves to be consistent - it is the effect of climatic temperature extremes on London Transport. And true to form - London Underground didn’t fail this fantastic opportunity to be so either - and in BIG STYLE I would have to proclaim! Hats off to them! Yesterday - thought to be one of the hottest days in the year - almost precisely six months to the day since probably the coldest day of the year, London Underground demonstrate an almost comical ineptitude at getting me home in what mortals would call “reasonable time”. Yep - it would be London-commuter comedy at its best if it sadly wasn’t so true. For those who remember my London Transport Hell story from January this year - you will recall (Shockwavingly graphically) how 4 centimetres of snow brought the entire overground transport system (tubes and buses) to a grinding halt and made for a most-entertaining-for-you but frustratingly-exhausting-for-me 9 hour journey home from work that triggered in me a relentless, single-minded, doggedly-determined quest for answers from Mayor Ken to Brent Council, the Met Office and back again. (Click here if you missed out on my number-1-in-Google’s-search-index-if-you-type-London-Transport-Hell story from January this year.)

This time it was only around 2 hours of hell - and in some masochistic sort of way - it was actually quite enjoyable. No graphic shockwaves this time - just a simple schedule of events:

18:10 Left the office in Hammersmith. Proceeded as per usual to the Piccadilly Line Westbound platform. Ding Dong - delays occurring to all Piccadilly Line trains due to “a person under a train”. Next Uxbridge train: 12mins. No problem - I’ll get the Westbound District Line to Ealing Broadway instead - and change at Ealing Common. Ding Dong - the same problem affecting Westbound District Line trains as well. Annoyed by this point I decided to surface back to street level - cross the Hammersmith Broadway and go into the Ham & City Line platform instead: this is my fallback option - go to Baker Street and change onto the Metropolitan Line from there. That will get me to Wembley Park - whereupon I change to the Jubilee Line and proceed to Kingsbury - which is not too far a walk from home. When I got to the Ham & City Line platform at Hammersmith I joined what looked like ten thousand other people waiting for the same train! Ding Dong - signal failures in the area are causing severe delays to all Eastbound Ham & City Line trains. That’s when I knew things were going to be fun.

18:32 Ham & City Line train pulls up - doors open - and ten thousand waiting people get on train. Ding Dong - this train is now “out of service” - please get off train and wait in sweltering heat for the next train - which should be here in approximately 8 minutes. Apologies for the inconvenience.

18:42 Next Ham & City Line train arrives and we all get on again - and the train sets off. Ding Dong - this train is only going as far as Edgware Road station.

19:15 Arrive at Edgware Road. Ding Dong - all change please - proceed to Platform 1 for your next Eastbound Circle Line train towards Kings Cross. Ten thousand people dumped off train - and try to join ten thousand other people already packed like sardines on the train waiting at Platform 1. I didn’t even bother trying.

19:20 Got onto another train from platform 3 at Edgware Road - which reportedly was an Eastbound Ham & City headed towards Baker Street - which was only one stop away. Great - almost there I thought.

19:25 Got off train at Baker Street - only to be confronted by Ding Dong - No Northbound Metropolitan Line trains running due to points failure at Baker Street. OK. No problem I thought to myself - I’ll just get the Jubilee Line from here - and sit on it all the way to Kingsbury.

19:30 Got on Jubilee Line train at Baker Street. Ding Dong - this train will terminate at Willesden Green. (Please note the use of the term terminate.) OK - so I’ll just have to get off the train at Willesden Green and wait for the next Northbound Jubilee.

19:35 Train arrives at Willesden Green. Ding Dong - all change please - this train terminates here. Got off train with ten thousand other people. Waited on platform for ages. Took the following pictures with my Handycam whilst I was waiting: (Hover over image to see descriptions.)

19:38 Train arrives at Neasden Station - just two stops from home - and the power just cuts out very suddenly - like the noise of the experimental killing-machine robocop prototype that powers down with a dying whining sound. The lights go out and it is eerily silent.

19:45 Train driver announces that there has been a “minor hiccup” and that he has just rebooted the train - and is waiting for it to go through its system startup cycle. (I now wonder if the train is powered by Windows 2000 - and whether it is the Home Edition or the Professional Edition.)

19:52 Train departs - and moves v e r y slowly.

20:00 Train gets to Kingsbury and I make my way home.

The history book on the shelf
Is always repeating itself …

From Waterloo by Abba

Posted by jag at 10:32 PM | Comments (9)
August 03, 2003
Asian people eat crisps too you-know

This story starts off with a visit to a shop called Iceland. This is a supermarket establishment that is, from the outside, fashioned like a Pizza Hut and rather strangely insists that you Pay & Display to use the car park. But gives you your car-park money back off your shopping basket bill at the checkout. Inside - there is aisle upon aisle of chest-style freezers which have see-through tops and really pleasant, hinged opening mechanisms - making the job of browsing and selecting the food items on display really very easy. This is the first time I’ve been to this place even though it’s closer to the Route79 household than the Safeway we have been faithful to for years. (In fact there’s a Route79 bus stop right outside the Iceland store!)

As you can probably guess by the name and the discriptions so far - this supermarket majors on the the frozen food concept. Every type of food imaginable has a home somewhere deep in it’s infinity of freezers. But the store also has things like bread, milk, deli-stuff and of course, beer. (I noticed a curious beer called Oranjeboom that someone in the office was raving on about the other day - it was on sale at £5 for 8 500ml cans - which is 62.5p per can - or £1.25 per litre - which seems far too cheap to be a popular premium beer to be raving on about.)

Anyway - as I was browsing the beers - little Miss Route79 came rushing back from a supermarket recon mission and started tugging at my T-shirt excitedly. When I looked around - there she was grinning big-time and proudly held up a bag of what looked like a six-pack bag of Walker’s Crisps - except the packet didn’t look like a familiar colour of Walkers crisps that I had seen before …

Upon closer inspection - I noticed that these were some “limited edition” flavour promotion of Walker’s Crisps - celebrating the Great British Takeaway with three new flavours: Chicken Tikka Masala, Chinese Spare Rib and Sweet & Sour. Needless to say I didn’t bother buying them - the very thought of anything BUT Heinz Tomato Ketchup flavoured Walkers Crisps was simply not appealing to me - as the latter is the ONLY flavour of crisps that I will eat - the combination of Walker’s Crisp and Tomato Ketchup is simply GENIUS.

Anyway - I was curious about the Takeaway promotion - because there was something mysteriously Bollywood about the whole thing - which given the fact that two out of the three flavours in the so-called limited-edition range are Chinese style rather than Indian style was bugging me somewhat as to why Bollywood? So when I got home I went on-line onto the Walkers website to learn more about this promotion - and it was there that I nearly fell off my chair laughing. There was a picture of Gary Lineker all decked out in garland and looking like he was just about to get married Indian-style. Further description was of how the Walkers PR team were really proud to be using the “Asian Cool” theme to promote potato crisps - and how the plot of the advertising was of Gary Lineker “marrying” Granny from “The Kumars” (played by Meera Syall). But what really had me cracking in hysterics all afternoon was a quote of Meera Syall from the Walker’s press release page covering the promotion:

“The Indian population is becoming more and more influential on the economy and people are beginning to understand that we are consumers as well. We eat crisps and cereals and drive cars and buy soap powder.”

It was hugely funny because it was, like typical Asian PR, delightfully irelevant. Introspective humour if you know what I mean. If you are puzzled as to what I mean then squint below:

* What has traditional Indian wedding have to do with UK’s favourite (homegrown) cuisine?
* What has Asian’s eating crisps got anything to do with influencing the economy?
* She was absolutely right about the fact that Asian’s eat crisps. (Heinz Tomato Ketchup flavour being the Asian community’s favourite by my reckoning.)

Last night I had the strangest dream
I sailed away to China in a little rowboat to find ya
And you said you had to get your laundry cleaned …

From a delightfully-silly song called Break my Stride by Matthew Wilder.
(Apparently often-played by DJs at Hammersmith’s School Disco dance club)

Posted by jag at 05:12 PM | Comments (24)

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