Whilst waiting for a southbound Met Line train at Wembley Park - I spotted a guy wearing a high-visibility (Hi-Vis) jacket on the platform. The interesting thing was the fact that this particular jacket had the words “Artistic Engineering” emblazoned on the back. It made me wish that the jacket was mine. I would love to work for a company with a name like that!
(I wish I worked for a company with a name like that!)
It’s been a while since Iast updated here - and for this I apologise. At the weekend just gone - I somehow managed to drag myself out of bed in order to confront a week packed full of work - and I’m glad I did so; as I think it did a lot of good to my body - which was weakened terribly by some nasty virus that knocked me out for the best part of last week. It’s been nearly five years since I’ve suffered something like that - and although it was influenza then (I was out for two whole weeks!) this time I don’t think it was as bad.
Today my travelling adventures took me into the West End of London Town - and although I got caught in several snow-flurries along the way and back - I did manage to stop for a quick snap before diving underground for my journey home in tonight’s freezing London temperature.
On the way home tonight I remembered that the last time I visited Kensington High Street properly was just after Princess Diana died. That was 8 years ago! Doesn’t time fly?
I’ve not been feeling too well over the last day or so. Holed up in bed with a rotten cold and only my laptop to keep me company, every so often I will push the laptop to one side, close my stinging eyes and think the things that I just don’t normally get the time to think of: my childhood.
It sometimes takes just a little thing to bring a whole bucketload of memories flooding back. The slightest of triggers that spontaneously shifts the mind’s eye to a different time - evoking recollection of good and bad things about then that seem to stick in the long-term conciousness.
There is a shop on Ealing Road called Tip Top Video. I have gazed at this shop pretty much every working day - twice a day - for the last five years from the upper deck of Route 79. For the first time the other day though - something clicked. And I was drifting into my childhood …
A childhood with relatively few exceptionally-happy times. As a second-generation immigrant Indian (Asian, South Asian - call it what you want) I was raised in two worlds. One was the world inside - and the other the world outside. Inside, it was as the growing eldest-son of Indian parents. Strangers in a foriegn land. “We arrived at Heathrow with only five pounds in our pockets!” they would constantly remind me. Over here to work hard and make a new life - and, above all, provide the very best education for me - which in turn would result in a prosperous life for all of us - forever. Culturally intact and untainted by the “bad things” that the “white people” did. Like listening to pop music, or going out with friends after school, or (God forbid) talking to girls. Life centred around the home - and family - and friends of the family. Even when we ventured outside the home as a family - our kind, kinda stuck together. Daytrips to Alton Towers in the summer holidays - when the place was all just gardens and stately home. Or to Skegness - playing rummy with my cousins as we slid around unseatbelted on the back seat of a Ford Cortina as it winded its way through the sunny Lincolnshire countryside with Indian music on C-90 cassette blaring out aloud. (They weren’t really my cousins - but that’s how we referred to them anyhow.) And, oh my; a boot-load of samosas, gobi prathas and several thermos flasks full of garam chai waiting to be devoured in the promenade car park when we got there.
Outside, was the world in which I would one day have to fend for myself - and compete with those very “white people” that our parents didn’t want us to be like. Like all those in my generation - we were torn between two essentially opposing-in-many-ways ways of life. You’ve probably heard many stories about the things that people like me have had to endure - and I don’t have the time to go through even some of those right now. But one thing is for sure - we are a unique generation. When I examine the sociology of next generation of British Asians I see a great deal of absence of the burdens that people in my generation had to bear. When I was a teenager I resented these burdens deeply - but I no longer do now. Instead we seek some confort in the the fact that we played an essential part in easing the pains associated with transition of peoples from one land into another. Easing the pains for the future generations that is. From a diaspora - to being the very fabric of it.
My generation might be confused, and many of us are. But the next generation most definitely are not. It saddens me sometimes, to think that our unique life experiences will go with us - and one day everyone will have forgotten.
On very rare, but memorable, occasions - after a traditional Indian weekday evening dinner of either daal, aloo mutter, or marrow sabji - eaten with rotis served one by one as they were made puffed up and hot straight off the thawa by my Mum - my Dad would retrieve a tin of fruit cocktail from the cupboard - open it up and serve it out into little bowls for me and my sisters. He would also get one of those half-size tins of Tip Top dessert topping and punch two holes in the top of the tin - at diametrically opposite sides. He would then pour the cream into our fruit salad bowls. I remember vividly savouring every moment of it with teaspoons in hand - engaging in childish banter with my sisters who were doing exactly the same. Right up until the very last half-cherry - which I always left until last. This is one of the happiest memories of my childhood.
I finally got around to putting together some of my best pics from last summer in Tokyo into a Shockwave Flash presentation. Just click on the green button below to start loading. It’s a total of 5.3 megabytes - so if you are on broaband/cable/ADSL then it will only take a few minutes. Make sure you turn up the volume loud - sit back and enjoy! (You have to click the green button to step through the pictures though.)
The accompanying music is by a British Indian artist called Anjali Bhatia (thanks to Fritz for pointing her out!) who was born in Chiswick and bought up in Manor Park and Ilford, East London. She used to be a “Riot Grrrl” in an obscure band called Voodoo Queens but is now described by The Guardian:
“Now she has reinvented herself as a sultry chanteuse on this record of contemporary exotica. The transformation is more complete than it sounds: a multi-instrumentalist who writes and produces, she also programmes the rhythms and operates the mixing desk.”
She is currently from the same music label as the one-time popular Cornershop - the label being called Wiiija - and the music and her singing sounds quite interesting. The track you are listening to is called “7 x 8” from her “The World of Lady A” album. Listen out for the “stinging sitar” in there. Anjali rocks!
Today I discovered a place called Windsor Great Park. This place is amazing - and it is HUGE. It’s owned by Her Majesty the Queen. I always thought that this place was just a small piece of parkland in front of Windsor Castle - but instead I found out that it is a massive expanse of land occupying a significant part of the border betwen the counties of Royal Berkshire and Surrey.
Amongst the many places of charm, intrigue, history and Royal glamour in this park there is a sanctuary called the “Guards Polo Club” which is where the Royalty and all of its circle of “hangers on” come to watch and play the “Sport of Kings”: which is Polo. (The game where young men ride horses with sticks that they use to whack a ball around a field whilst mostly young women admirers in expensive dresses sip Pimms and lemonade and mingle with old and retired army-officer men who once-upon-a-time graduated from Sandhurst military college and pretend to know all there is to know about polo in the days of the British Raj in India - and who nowadays turn up to such prestigious sporting events in Rolls Royces which said young expensively-dressed women like to pose in front of.)
Anyway - there is a club-house here - which is where members of the Royal Family, their guests and other VIPs eat, drink and watch over the Polo match whilst dressed up in the highest of Cartier fashions. Whilst here on an eerily quiet non-match day - I imagined what it must be like when a full-on, full-scale Polo match is being held. I pottered around the clubhouse - and happened to notice a little statueette “trophy” on the sideboard in a hallway adjacent to the ladies and gents bathrooms. It was a figure of a turban-headed Indian polo-player on a horse. The inscription on the plaque said:
It made me wonder who won the match that day.
(Located on a sideboard near the toilets in the Royal polo clubhouse at Windsor Great Park.)
Nothing quite as exotic. It’s the name of a vast (and I mean VAST) long stay car parking service at Heathrow Airport.
I had to go to Dublin on Thursday. Just for the day. Got out of bed at 4:30 - on the road at 5:30 - at the Airport at 6:00 - boarded the flight at 7:00 - was on the streets of Dublin at 8:30 - and was back at Heathrow at 7pm. The only problem was that I forgot to write down the exact place that I parked my car in the Pink Elephant car park.
After dropping off all the sensible people who remembered exactly where they had parked their cars - the shuttle bus driver kindly drove me up and down the entire length of the car park - up and down every aisle - slowly enough for me to look out for my car. Which wasn’t at all easy in the dark. Eventually we found it - in the Blue Zone - Area 13.
(I’ll remember to write it down next time.)
It’s coming up to a year since my office relocated from Hammersmith to Slough. And it’s taken me a year to finally work out the most optimal way to get to work and back. In the morning I take Route 79 down to Alperton. Then I switch to Route 83 down to Ealing Broadway. Then I get the overground train to Slough. The journey to work is typically 1 hour 45 minutes door-to-door.
Then on the way home I get the overground train back to Ealing Broadway from Slough. And take Route 83 all the way to Wembley Park. And then take the Jubilee Line tube one stop up to Kingsbury - and walk it home 10 minutes from there. This journey home is typically 1 hour 15 minutes door-to-door.
I haven’t quite worked out exactly why it’s usually faster going home than it is going to work. But to be honest - the average half hour difference isn’t really noticeable given the total time that I spend travelling. The more worrying things in my mind are the facts that this “optimal” routing is a) asymmetric and b) doesn’t involve Route 79 on the way home.
The asymmetry just doesn’t “feel” right.
And taking the Jubilee Line tube affords me no opportunity for “reflections on a bus journey home”.
That would drive me insane. So I’ve decided not to practise this configuration very often.
It’s just no substitute for the bus journey home.
I spent nearly all day doing my tax return for the year ended 2004. Most of the time taken was trawling through my files trying to find out how many pence I earned in interest from my bank accounts - and how many pence I earned in share dividends. Both of these things added up to not very much at all. But it still took me nearly all day.
This year I decided to not only “file” my return online - but I “filled” it online too. For the last few years I have used TaxCalc self-assessment software. This year I used the Inland Revenue’s very own web-based system.
I like leaving it to the last minute. And it feels good knowing that the government owes me money …
There’s probably a lifetime of things to say about ordinary life in London in the few days since my last posting - but there’s not enough room here to go through them all - and for this I apologise. (Actually this is a lame excuse for not taking enough pictures to tell a story around recently!)
But there are some things that possibly verge on being so remarkable that are simply worth capturing and sharing at this particularly geeky stage of development. And one of them is “Mobile Interactive TV”.
Yesterday - one of my friends wheeled in a couple of hi-tech “boxes” and rigged them up to a standard set-top TV aerial/antenna like the kind you get in Argos or Dixons. He twiddled around with a few of the knobs, buttons and dials on the boxes, pushed the “broadcast” button - and proudly announced that he had just set up his own “TV station”. He then walked away a few metres - and pulled a strange-looking mobile phone out of his jacket and “tuned” it in to the signal being broadcast from his makeshift “TV station”.
And hey presto: he was watching a “home-made” TV channel between the palms of his hands.
It all looked too easy. When I asked him how it worked - he said “This is DVB-H - digital broadcast TV for mobile phones!“
Not video-streaming. Not fuzzy, blurry pictures. Not cabled up to an aerial or a set-top box.
Just a crystal-clear, high-definition, wireless broadcast TV channel. The fact that it was being viewed on a mobile phone implied that the GPRS/3G capability of the phone could be used as the “uplink” to the TV station over the Internet. Fuelling the imagination into thinking about lots of possibilities in the field of mobile interactive TV broadcasting. But more importantly - demonstrating the possibility of using short-range radio spectrum to provide localised (and location-relevant) interactive TV applications.
Over the last few days I’ve read & heard some media reports about this coming Monday being, statistically, the most depressing day of the year. Frankly, I’ve been too busy to notice a low in the trajectory of moods in either myself or those around me. So busy that I don’t have any fresh pics - and I’m having to trawl through my photo archives to look for a picture to post here.
It’s always helpful at times like this to think about good things to come. Approximately, exactly 6 months ago it was the height of Summer here in London. A time when we Londoners love to go play in the park. In my opinion, London’s urban parks are the best in the world.
(Only six months to go until the height of summer.)
Travelling home. Slough to Ealing Broadway - and then a short walk to Route 83 bus stop near Ealing Common. On the way - there is a side-street upon which stands a large and old tree. It’s about 7pm. It’s dark - and as I cross that street I can’t help but notice an A4-sized flyer in a plastic ring-binder sleeve pinned to the tree:
The person who posted the sign is “desperate” for the return of his “rather old” stolen laptop computer. So much so that he is prepared to pay a lot. Probably more that the laptop itself is worth. The data on it is obviously more important to him that the computer itself. Isn’t this always the case these days? I am supposing that it wasn’t backed up - for if it was - he probably wouldn’t be so desperate. I know exactly how he feels - and I feel a little sense of pity.
My advice to all modern-day city dwellers: always assume that your computer is dispensible. Make sure you backup the data regularly. And frequently. And NEVER leave your valuable data in your car unattended. (Apologies for being so patronising.)
In his note - he even appeals to the person who might have stolen the laptop from his car - stating that he is not “interested” in involving the Police. Alas - somehow I doubt this guy will ever get his data back.