April 30, 2004
Days of the week

I’m sorry I haven’t updated here for a while - the last few days seemed to have zipped by - and busy long days at work seem to have been spilling over into the evenings too.

Click on the “MORE” below to continue …

Anyway - in whatever spare time I have had - I’ve been playing around with streaming video. Click on the “play” button below for a recital on the days of the week from a very special girl.

(The videostream is only 950k in size - so shouldn’t take very long to start streaming on dialup - and will probably start streaming in seconds on broadband.)

(Japanese, Spanish, French)

Posted by jag at 07:08 AM | Comments (9)
April 29, 2004
Out of the frying pan

Egg bhurji is a tasty masala of scrambled egg, potato and onion - or whatever else you like - cooked in a frying pan - and if you are like us - eaten straight out of the frying pan too. A great way for you and your partner to share a fulflling, wholesome late-night meal in a cold, wet London town.

Egg bhurji

Click here to learn how to cook this.

Posted by jag at 11:32 PM | Comments (9)
April 24, 2004
Surfin' USA - to Leicester

This morning I drove up the M1 Motorway from London to Leicester. Well - more accurately - I drove up the M1 until just north of Milton Keynes - and then stoppped - and crawled - and stopped and crawled - and stopped and crawled - for around 45 minutes.

Yes - an accident. I’m not going to pressupose the cause of the accident - or whether it was unavoidable etc. etc. but having witnessed prior some crazy drivers overtaking at over 100mph and weaving in and out of fast-moving and crowded traffic without any regard for common-sense of safety and lane-discipline I directed all my rage at those types of driver - and pointed my own finger of blame squarely at such inconsiderate motorists. Not only do these types of people risk the lives of the innocents around them - they also cause misery, anger and major irritation to other motorists who just wish to get from A to B safely and without delays or hassle.

Accident on the M1 motorway

During a moment of boredom whilst standing still on the Motorway - I rummaged around the glove-compartment of the car to see if there was any music cassettes that I could play - and found only one anonymous-looking TDK cassette. I don’t normally drive this car you see - it belongs to Mrs.79. So I popped it into the cassette player and turned up the volume with the window wound down fully in the searing summer heat. Out blasted the Beachboys “Surfin’ USA” - to which I rocked myself as much as I could - and tapped my fingers on the dashboard too. After a few minutes - I looked around and noticed some people in adjacent cars with their windows wound down - smiling, giving me the thumbs-up - and rockin’ to my music too!

And so I felt “cool”.

Posted by jag at 08:18 PM | Comments (5)
April 22, 2004
Good Service

Good Service

The transport offices of the Mayor of London are really bending over backwards to tell us that they run a “good service” on the tubes. Sometimes I feel that our “love-to-hate” affair with the tubes consumes us so much that we don’t very often stop to think about whether the claim is true. I think it is. Sure, it could be better, but I would have to say that the service isn’t bad. It’s definitely better than it used to be 15 years ago - when I would say it certainly was “bad”. So would I say that today it’s certainly “good”? Yes - I would.

Apart from all the up and coming improvements that the Mayor bends over backwards to tell us about - there’s only one improvement that I would request of London Underground: and that is: please, please and pretty-please - hire an urban fashion design consultant to sort out the naff bright blue uniforms and peaked caps that make the London Underground staff look like they belong to a 1950s Butlins-style holiday camp instead of belonging to the coolest metro/subway system in the world.

Posted by jag at 11:16 PM | Comments (10)
April 21, 2004
Scottish Salmon

Another one to try out:

Pan-Fried Masala Salmon

This cost just over £3.50 in total (for two persons) - plus around 30 mins preparation, cooking and serving time - which in itself is a deeply pleasurable experience - but is even more heavenly when consumed with your other half at the kitchen table surrounded by some IKEA tea-lights (yes you might as well use them up some time) and a bottle of Safeway-selected Cava sparkling wine.

Click here to learn how to do it.

Posted by jag at 11:33 PM | Comments (10)
April 20, 2004
Shadows and rubbish

The bright early morning sunlight at this time of the year casts interesting shadows at bus stops in London’s suburbia. The Route 79 bus was some time coming - and I couldn’t but help train my eyes on a shadow of my current self.

A shadow of my current self

Not more than a metre away, the telltale sign of fast-food indulgence reminded me that in today’s disposable society - even the litter on London’s gold-paved streets can tell a story that has to be told. Purity is in the eye of the beholder. The art of McDonald’s could, in itself, be the focal point of a case study in modern postgraduate sociology - or perhaps, more accurately, the art of 21st century marketing and product management.

100% pure

Today was Slough in the morning and Heathrow Airport in the afternoon. The most uninteresting things I could think of reporting back on are: the hotel-to-airport shuttle-buses that don’t take Oystercards, nasal debris that makes your pocket tissue smell of aviation fuel - and the really irritating “static electricity” that shocks me every time I touch something metal.

Perhaps I am becoming pious, self-concious, and highly charged of late …

Posted by jag at 10:18 PM | Comments (2)
April 18, 2004
A40 Westbound

One of my friends from work - who lives in my neighbourhood - has kindly been giving me a lift home from work (and vice versa) on the occasions that he takes his car to work. One of the quickest routes by road is a major urban highway called the “A40”. From the North Circular Road outwards towards the M25 this road is a three-lane highway that offers some of the most interesting and magnificent visuals of suburban West London.

The A40 London urban highway - my favourite!

I love the A40 westbound - I already wrote about that some time ago. But a lift to work afforded a perfect opportunity to indulge in some multimedia audio/video production - from the comfort of the front passenger seat of my friend’s car! The soundtrack to the video is taken from what used to be the BBC theme tune to Formula One motor racing - you know the extract to the Fleetwood Mac number that makes you feel like putting your foot down and racing up to 200 miles per hour. For those of you familiar with this route - you will notice us driving past RAF Northolt - where the streetlights become shorter - and also through the Hillingdon/Ickenham stretch - as well as past the Polish War Memorial. You will also notice that we had to slow down as we approached the scene of a car crash - and you get a glimpse of the wrecked car.

Make sure you turn up the bass - and turn up the volume for maximum enjoyment!

Do a right-click and “Save Target As ..” here to download

Approximately 2.29 Megabytes - should take around 60 seconds on broadband.

Download it and save it to a folder of your choice on your computer.
Then double-click on the file when it’s done.

Posted by jag at 01:10 PM | Comments (1)
April 17, 2004
Growing up

One bright and crispy morning I was sitting on the upper deck and gazing out of the window - down onto a bus shelter as the bus slowed to a halt. I saw two elderly folks perched on the red bench - presumably waiting for a different bus. This made me think. What will I do when I’m grown up?

What will I do when I’m grown up?

For a long time I had grandiose plans to retire at the age of 50 - with enough money to see me through the rest of my days - which I would spend seeing the world. As the years have passed by - I’ve become increasingly unsure as to whether that would be possible. Mortgages, kids, college fees, taxes etc. etc. etc. I revised my plans a few years ago - and fancied the idea of selling out of London when I retire - maybe Spain, maybe Portugal, maybe Australia, maybe India - somehere where the sun shines most of the year around, and somewhere where satellite dishes and high-speed Internet connections are readily available. Somewhere small for just myself and Ms.79 to base ourselves from.

The more I immerse myself in these dreams - imagining what it might possibly be like - the more I begin to get the awful feeling in my stomach about missing home. Home as in where I am right now as I sit here typing these words. It’s all too easy to look forward to “getting away from here one day” - but it’s real hard to admit that you might just miss it if you did.

Posted by jag at 01:54 PM | Comments (14)
April 16, 2004
KFC: Indian Style

On Thursday night I remembered that I had picked up a bargain packet of chicken thighs from Safeway the other day. So it was Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner that night - Indian Style!

Tasty Southern Fried Chicken - Indian Style

Click here to learn how to cook this - trust me it’s really simple!

Posted by jag at 11:03 PM | Comments (10)
April 14, 2004
Top of the tube

It’s not very often that you get to see what a tube train looks like from above. Well - not a “proper” tube train anyway. The London Underground system, generally speaking, has two types of train: the types of train that ride the “cut and cover” style tracks - e.g. the Metropolitan, Circle, District and East London Line trains - and then the trains that ride the “deep-tunnel” style tracks - which is the rest. The latter type run overground on most of the suburban stretches of the system - and then go deep underground in the central areas of London. These trains are characterised by their “bullet” style curved shapes - and seem to only just fit into the circular tunnels when going underground. It’s this type of train that is rarely viewable from above.

On the Piccadilly Line at North Ealing - which is a suburban station served by overground track - there is a footbridge that connects the Eastbound platform to the Westbound platform and ticket hall. It’s a relatively small station - only four entry/exit barriers - and a very cute “village”-style feeling to to the place. The station is recognised by Transport for London (TfL) as the last remaining station on the Piccadilly Line which retains the original turn-of-the-century (nineteenth/twentieth century) architecture.

The footbridge is quite low over the track - and it feels like you could lean over the edge of the bridge and almost touch the top of the train.

A tube train from above.
(Central London-bound Piccadilly Line train at North Ealing - looking towards the rear of the train.)

Once over the footbridge - on the Westbound platform - you will find yourself underneath the historical turn-of-the-century wooden canopy - and you can’t help but notice what looks like an old-fashioned clock mounted on the what looks like an original pillar structure. There are also several flower baskets hanging from the girders underneath the ancient canopy. It’s kind of weird how the very old and very modern coexist: for in the same view as the old clock, wooden canopy and hanging baskets is the modern illumintated “Way out” sign, the safety barriers and the graffiti lining the walls of the roadbridge crossing the track further down.

In the mornings - I often get off the train here - and walk it to Ealing Broadway for the final stage of my journey to work - and in the evening I often walk here from Ealing Broadway for the second-to-last stage of my journey home. It is a pleasure waiting for the Westbound train here at North Ealing: I always end up daydreaming about what life was like in times gone by.

Looking East on the Westbound platform at North Ealing tube station.

Posted by jag at 08:28 PM | Comments (5)
April 12, 2004
On Seeing Aishwarya

I finally got to see Aishwarya Rai for real last night! Despite my recent posting saying that I wouldn’t be attending this show - the build up to which has been causing a bit of a sensation in the Asian quarters of London over the last few weeks - I decided to get hold of some tickets for this one-night-only show (called Breathless) at Wembley Arena at the last minute!

Bollywood megastars Hrithik and Aishwarya performing live in London!

Since the venue is literally just a short bus ride away from home - it was really easy to get to. (Click “more” to carry on reading …)

Wembley Arena - as the daylight begins to fade away

But sensibly - we took the car - as we didn’t get home until nearly midnight! The show was scheduled to start at 7:30pm - but didn’t actually get started until 8:30pm - due to the sheer number of people trying to get into the arena. It seems that Asian folks had descended into my neighbourhood from all over the world. Literally! People had travelled from all over UK - as well as from Switzerland, Spain and even Maritius to come see this show! I have never seen so many Asian people together under one roof!

Never-ending lines of people trying to get into Wembley Arena

Anyway - the atmosphere in the Arena was electric! I have been to many concerts before - but apart from Sunidi Chauhan - who was really the only live singer - it was amazing to see how emotionally charged the crowds got when Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai and Fardeen Khan performed on stage - dancing and miming to famous Bollywood film songs. (Even though Fardeen Khan had a fractured foot - and couldn’t dance - he just sat on stage and chatted with audience!).

We in the Route 79 crew were sat in Block D Row 4 - which given that each block was 20 rows and started at A - put us 64 rows away from the stage. The visibility was not good - but was helped a little by some screens on either side of the stage. I felt really sorry for the huge swathes of people behind us - and also the folks on the tiered sections on the sides. This kind of show - where the visuals mean more to the audience than the sound - is just not suited for large venues - and many people will have been disappointed if they didn’t have binoculars. Most of my pictures were not very good - as I had to use full zoom - and so only a small selection are worth looking at here.

The Route 79 crew’s view of the stage.

The most memorable moments of the show - which I guess that only Indian Cinema fans would appreciate - were when Hrithik and Aish put on some stunning dance performances to famous filmi numbers - e.g. the crowd went wild when Aish did her DevdasDola Re Dola” dance - as well as the bit from the film when she spins around and the red powder goes everywhere!

Aish doing her spectacular Devdas dance routines.

Although the concert was fully seated - the crowds were out of their seats and jumping wild at this point! There was one guy sitting not far from us who caused all the heads in our seating area to turn quite often during the show - he got so overwhelmed with the performances - that he would occasionally just get up and start dancing in the aisle - until the stewards had to calm him down and return him to his seat. Trust me - the show had a very profound effect on people - who when we were gathering to be seated earlier seemed very shy, timid and reserved!

Joint dancing by Hrithik and Aishwarya

But by far most of the audience noise (and I mean NOISE - e.g. screaming girls and ladies) was reserved for Hrithik - and the crowds just lost all control of themselves when he did his famous high-energy dances - finishing off one number by taking his T-shirt completely off before walking off the stage!

The noise from the audience was deafening!
Especially whenever Hrithik made some exotic motion with his body.

Hrithik and Aishwarya danced together for several songs - and there was a particularly interesting “romance through the decades” theme for the finale - which got all the stars of the show re-enacting some of the famous cinema hits through the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s up to the present day.

If the organisers wanted to leave people “breathless” - then by and large it was achieved. However, there was a thread of “Indian” organisation throughout - and some of you might understand what I mean: a lot of little things could have been done a little better - and would have made such a dramatic difference to the finesse of the end-product. I don’t have time to write about them here - but might get around to it one day.

Breathless? For many I guess that’s how it felt!

In the end - I enjoyed the show - for having seen Aishwarya for real - in my neighbourhood - was a moment worth paying for! Also - Ms.79 got to see Horrific Roshan too - which pleased here enormously I suppose :-)

Posted by jag at 11:25 AM | Comments (60)
April 10, 2004
Tasty Pakoras!

Feasting out a Friday night with some tasty deep-fried snack food. Potato, onion, chunks of white fish - whatever you like! Excellent with mint sauce or imli (tamarind) chutney.

Tasty Pakoras! Snacking Indian style on an Easter weekend in London.

Click here to learn how to cook this wonderfully simple but more-ish snack!

Posted by jag at 11:47 AM | Comments (7)
April 09, 2004
Shazia Mansoor

Shazia Mansoor is a famous Pakistani singer of Punjabi folk music - some of which has a traditional bhangra edge to it. The latest of her albums (Ishq Sona) has already been a hit in the UK Asian pop scene - and features some very interesting tracks - one of which you can sample here. This particular song (called “Es Dil Tay Jan Ji”) is a catchy number - and has a particularly infectious quality to it. It’s also interesting because Shazia seems to experiment with changing her tone of singing voice during the chorus line.

Click on play in the media player below to listen. The songs is encoded at a very low bit rate - so it should play whilst it’s downloading provided your Internet connection is 56kbps or better. The downside is that the quality of the sound could be a lot better - but you could always buy the album if you like it!

I have memories of when I was a schoolkid - on sunny days - travelling on daytrips to the seaside (Skegness) in my Uncle’s car - sitting in the back seat playing cards with my cousins - there would be music like this playing loud in the car’s cassette player - and my Uncle used to be singing along!

Posted by jag at 11:52 AM | Comments (13)

The following poster has been pasted all over the Wembley and Kingsbury areas over the last few weeks.

Yep - Aish is in town. She’s in concert with Horrific Roshan and others at Wembley Arena on Sunday. Unfortunately - I won’t be going to the show. :-(

In the meantime - click here to go to the Breathless website - and click here for London Tourist Board’s announcement regarding the show.

Posted by jag at 10:02 AM | Comments (3)
April 08, 2004
Southall Blue Tower

Gazing out the window of the train from Ealing Broadway to Slough, I see it every day. And I always wonder what purpose it serves. The fact that it’s a crisp light-blue makes me think that it must be a water tower. It’s obviously a very prominent landmark - as it can be seen for miles around. It’s so tall that it has mobile phone masts mounted on its sides - and it has a big black sign painted on it: the letters “LHR” with a big black arrow underneath - pointing airline pilots in the direction towards Heathrow Airport.

Southall Blue Tower
(Taken from window of train headed towards Ealing Broadway. Raindrops out of focus on the window.)

To me it’s a symbol of Southall (which is the Punjab-town of London.) It’s the very same blue tower that figured in the film “Bend It Like Beckham” - the bit in the film at the beginning when you see the girls playing football at their practise ground. That blue tower can be seen quite clearly in the background landscape:

The same blue tower: As featured in the film “Bend It Like Beckham”

UPDATE: Thanks to Nigel - I’ve learned that the blue tower is actually part of what was formerly known as Southall Gas Works - and you can watch a video of it at their website: http://www.southallgasworks.com/thesite.htm. There are some other fascinating videos on the same website - including one which shows scenes of life on Southall Broadway.

Posted by jag at 08:03 PM | Comments (4)
April 05, 2004

Jumped off the bus near home this evening on the way back from work - and got caught in a spontaneous fierce downpouring of rain. One minute the sun was shining brightly - too brightly in fact - and the next minute the rain was torrential. I sprinted for cover beneath the canopy of a newsagent shop near the bus stop as I pulled out my mini-ubrella. Fat lot of good that was - because the severe gusts of wind that accompanied this particular April shower inverted my umbrella after just 5 seconds.

As I was struggling to correct the state of my poor umbrella - I caught sight of one of the most amazing rainbows that I have ever seen. Out came the camera - but the picture never does justice to what the eyes see for real. This is the best I got:

One arc of a double rainbow this evening at Kingsbury Circle - London NW9

(To try to reproduce the most realistic effect of the vividness of the dramatic colours of the rainbow - lean back as far as you can in your chair - and squint/blur your eyes a little as you view the picture.)

Posted by jag at 08:17 PM | Comments (10)
April 04, 2004
Channa Masala

Channa Masala is spicy chickpeas. Delicious when served with freshly-cooked basmati rice and a side-salad:

Channa Masala!

This is what we are eating tonight :-)
Click here to learn how to make this really easy and special Indian dish!

Posted by jag at 08:17 PM | Comments (30)
April 03, 2004
Popat Store

Saturday mornings are about going walking down to the high-street to get the week’s supply of fruit and veg. (Every suburban town in London has a high-street.) Our high street (Kingsbury) has two quarter-mile long parades of shops - a couple of run-down arcades and a tube station. It is a very busy, slow-traffic road at the weekends - but I really enjoy coming down here on a Saturday morning. There must be around 10 different fruit & veg shops all competing for your custom - and you can usually fill up a couple of large carrier-bags of groceries for less than five pounds.

Apart from fruit and veg shops - London high-streets also feature several pharmacies, a few hairdressers, TV repair shops, some jewellers, locksmiths, several meat shops, newsagents, off-licences, a run-down Woolworths, a laundromat, a post office, some banks and several takeaway food joints. These types of shops are all very typical of a bustling suburban high street.

HOWEVER: There is one type of shop that you will only find in areas where there are plenty of Indians. It’s hard to put this type of shop into any particular category - but you can instantly tell what I mean by seeing the picture:

Popat Store: spills out onto the pavement - and sells everything you could possibly need.
(This particular shop is actually in Ealing Road Wembley - taken from top-deck of Route 79)

Yes - wherever there is an Indian/Asian population - you will find this type of shop - it sells mops, brooms, plastic chairs, bin-liners, kitchen gloves, bins, buckets, cutlery, bowls, clocks - and all sorts of home and kitchen gadgets that you never thought you really needed. The stuff for sale will almost invariably be spilling out over the pavement at the front of the shop - and almost everything is no more than a couple of pounds in price. The proposition is this: “Why go to Homebase or B&Q - when you can get the same thing cheaper from here?”.

I love shops like this. My local high-street would not be the same without them.

Posted by jag at 11:50 PM | Comments (8)
April 02, 2004
India in the City

For those who don’t know - there is a small part of London known as “The City”. This is the quick way of referring to the “City of London”. You see - the central region of London is made up of two cities - one is the City of London - and the other is the City of Westminster. The City of London is the “ancient” side of London to the East (pre Roman times) - and the City of Westminster is a more recent phenomenon - 17th century onwards - incorporating what Londoners refer to as the West End.

The way it goes is like this:

  • In the centre you have “The City” (The ancient City of London)
  • To the east of The City - you have the East End.
  • If you go any further east than Walthamstow - then you are in Essex.
  • To the West of the City you have the West End.
  • Any further west of Earls Court - and you are in West London.
  • If you go even further West than West London - you will be in Slough

Now - although “The City” is the most ancient part of London - it’s surprising how the ultra-modern coexists with the ancient. And this is because it’s the centre of London’s financial district; shiny glass buildings tinted in all sorts of colours and hi-tech shapes offer dramatic visual delights as you walk round almost every corner - and it’s amazing how very often - nestling between space-age designs is magnificent classical architecture complete with Latin inscriptions. The City is also very small - only about one square mile - in fact it’s often referred to as “The Square Mile”. Again - this is because the ancient medieval road layout has been preserved - and this is what gives this place enormous character.

The City: ancient London and ultra-modern skyscrapers

Several years ago I used to work in The City - and for several years. Near Moorgate. I used to know the place like the back of my hand.

I had an opportunity to visit The City earlier today - and had around 20 minutes to kill - so I wandered around near the places I used to hang out. And although the roads are still the same - many of the office blocks and shops have changed. I was reminiscing about a particular coffee and croissant shop right across my old office. I used to get a cup of cappucino from there every morning for years. I can’t remember the exact name of the shop - it had a French theme - because the shop used to sell filled baguettes at lunch times as well - and I remember it used to have an icon of a chicken in the logo. Well , I was dismayed to find out the shop isn’t there any more!

In it’s place is an Indian food takeaway shop instead! I walked into the shop - and was consumed by the smell of Indian snacks, the sound of “British” bhangra music playing and a row of smartly suited gentlemen sat on tall stools near the window tucking in to the exotic-looking food laid out in small plastic thalis. There was something very classy about the whole setup. For a start - the food items looked very expensive - and everything was immaculate, consistent and clinically laid out. I didn’t have the time to sample anything - so I had to take off - but I did get left with a very strange feeling: a sort of sadness that the old croissant shop was gone - all mixed up with a feeling of excitement about the high-class Indian fast-food shop that had replaced it.

Tiffinbites - classy Indian fast food shop in the City

Posted by jag at 11:39 PM | Comments (4)
April 01, 2004
Passing Train

Ealing Broadway station has London Underground trains as well as overground trains passing through it. This station is a regular connection point for me on the way to work and back. Some people find it hard to believe that I get up to ten (yes ten!) different items of public transport every day - 2 buses, 2 tubes and 1 train to get to work - and the same to get back home from work. Ten in total.

At Ealing Broadway - I often find myself waiting for a few minutes on the platform for an overground train for the last leg of my journey to work. As I wait - sometime a high-speed, non-stopping, train passes through the station at what seems like in excess of 100 miles per hour. If you are stood on the platform on the side where the high-speed train passes through - you can often get a feeling of sheer exhileration as the train rushes past not more than one metre away from you. It’s a rush that has to be experienced to believe.

Yesterday - I caught this experience on video camera. The high-speed train was the Heathrow Express train - and you can hear the train driver sound the loud horn as he approaches the station. i am convinced that he sounded the horn for me - because he must have seen me standing there with my camera trained on him. What’s also perhaps interesting is the fact that you can see the reflection of me in the windows of the train as it rushed past me - less than one metre away!

Passing train rush.

Right-Click and “Save Target As” here to download the movie.
It’s 800 kbytes - and shouldn’t take very long to download if you are on broadband or even dialup.
Save it to a folder of your choice. And then double-click on the WMV file to play.
It’s not meant for streaming! So download it before playing it!
Turn up the volume - and enjoy the experience! (And see if you can spot me in the reflection!)

Posted by jag at 09:40 PM | Comments (4)

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