Monday 30 June 2008

Monday again already

This afternoon one of my colleagues (Saffy Bloke) was making a parcel, ready to send off full of documents to somewhere or another. I pointed out to him that there was a small gap in the acres of brown tape in which he had wrapped the box. "It's an air-hole" he observed; I asked him how many small hamsters were inside the box!

The weather has greatly failed this year by not raining out Wimbledon over the middle weekend. The rest of my house has been watching the end of a tennis match (surely they don't play tennis in the dusk?) whilst I took a nice long bath. Many sports I have embraced which I previously shunned, tennis isn't one of them. I have come to the conclusion that I only enjoy team sports (yep, even F1 is a team sport). I just never see the point in one on one competition like tennis. So having said I do enjoy a good game of darts... but that is probably my fascination with the ability of all concerned to do mental arithmetic at such speed!

Sunday 29 June 2008

Movie night

We managed two rather mediocre movies last night. First up was 'Dan in Real Life' with the usually funny Steve Carrell. Unfortunately this was one of those 'life journey' type stories. There were a few funny moments here and there, but they were pretty few and far between; which was a shame because it had a really good cast. I'm giving this four out of ten. Mostly it was just whimsical.

Next up was 'Juno'. Again, not so much with the funny (or indeed the story line). As it has been much hyped since the cinema release this was again hugely disappointing. Another four out of ten.

Two rather slow and uninspiring movies.

We'd also managed to watch Doctor Who in amongst all of this. My suspicions about the baddies to be revealed in this episode were correct, enter (once again) the Daleks. What huge imagination. The big cliff hanger was the Doctor getting shot by a Dalek and going into regeneration melt down. We are almost vaguely anticipating next week's episode just to see what is going to happen. In order to tie up all the ends that they want to tie up next weekend's episode will be an extra fifty percent longer!

Saturday 28 June 2008

London Festival of Architecture

On my way home I last night I noticed something strange out the back of the bus station at North Greenwich. Something strange that looked like a large banana skin.
Once I got on the bus I noticed some further things out of the ordinary out on the Peninsula.So today I took myself back down to the Peninsula for a closer look. It turns out that the event is part of the London Festival of Architecture which runs for one month from 20th June.
Each of the 'sticks' has a postcard on the top of it

'Open City in the Park'

Map of London (including the Thames) showing visitors favourite picnic spots.

You are here!

A giant lounge set!

My walk down the Peninsula took me to the Dome where I noticed signs advertising the Thames Clipper service. On a whim I decided to take a trip over the water to Canary Wharf to see more events from the Festival.
Taking the boat to Canary Wharf

When I got of at Canary Wharf I heard the sound of bells. The first 'installation' I came across was a set of bell-ringers with a mobile set of bells. I was instantly transported back to my youth when I spent many a happy Wednesday evening at bell-ringing practice.

I was soon distracted from watching the bell ringers by the sound of music. I walked across to the middle of Westferry Circus to see some gymnasts and some shell-like sculptures (which I later found spewed out traffic noises!).

Shell sculpture.

I consulted my guide that I'd picked up earlier at North Greenwich to see what other events were taking place around about the area.At Cabot Square I found an exhibition of sundials. These have always fascinated me. I have one in my garden (which doesn't work particularly well, but not surprising as it cost £5 from the supermarket!).
Water-feature sundial.

Elegant sundail.

Going on from Cabot Square I consulted my guide to see what else there was to see and discovered the Superblue's Skycscopes in Jubilee Gardens. The installations link to webcams on the top of some of the surrounding skyscrapers.

Another Skyscope

There were lots of other interesting exhibits in Jubilee Gardens, including a set of 'carnival' type installations and a giant sand-sculpture.
Carnival exhibits.

Sand sculpture, note the spirit level!

By now it was getting late in the day. So it was time to head back home. My original plan had been to hop the Jubilee Line (until I remembered that there were engineering works) so my second plan was the DLR - which turned out also to be suffering from engineering works. Back to the boat again.

'Fresh Flower'

Back at North Greenwich I saw the 'big banana' (which turned out to be a flower) which started the whole excursion!
Plenty more to see over the coming weeks before the Festival is finished.To check out other events go to the Festival's website.

Friday 27 June 2008

The Occasional Tourist - Part Three, Kings Cross/St Pancras

First thing this morning I found myself in the vicinity of Kings Cross after a meeting. The area of Kings Cross isn't very high on London's list of tourist attractions. Although recent regeneration has changed the face of the area quite a lot is still a bit run down and shabby, and the whole area still has a reputation as a red light district.

At the centre of this area are the 'twin' stations know by Londoners as Kings-Cross-St-Pancras. These are actually two stations which sit next to each other. St Pancras has recently been transformed as at the end of last year it took over the role as London Terminus for Eurostar services (previously a role held by Waterloo Station) and the correct title of the station is now St Pancras International.

The initial most impressive thing about St Pancras station is the amazing Victorian Gothic architecture on the front of the station.

At one time the Midland Grand Hotel this building then became St Pancras Chambers and served as office space. After falling into disuse at one time it was slated for demolition, and was saved by being awarded Grade I listed status. Thanks largely (I would imagine) to the new international rail terminus the frontage is now being returned to its former hotel status.

Inside the station is probably just as impressive as the outside of the station. At the time it was built it was the largest enclosed space and the largest single span. An interesting side note (for me) is that the man who designed it William Henry Barlow was born in my very own Charlton!

Platform level looking through the security area to the Eurostar trains.

This statue is entitled 'The Meeting Place' and stands under the station clock. You don't really get a feel for the size of it here, but it is apparently 30ft high (and cost £1m!).

This shows the lower level of the station (so that's where all the people went!). Where there are all the facilities that you would normally associate with a station.

These are some of the original features of the Victorian Station, showing the bottom of one of the supporting arches and the ticket office.

Some more fantastic Victorian Gothic architecture, taking you back out of the front of the station.

The amazing vaulted ceiling of the station, just visible on the left the station clock.

Next to St Pancras the front of Kings Cross is nowhere near as impressive. The original station has been obscured by a 'temporary' extension (which is due to be demolished at some point during the regeneration of the area). Looking from the front there is no indication that another beautiful Victorian station is behind!

Kings Cross is famous these days for Platform Nine and Three Quarters, which fans of Harry Potter will know is from whence the Hogwarts Express departs. Kings Cross Station does indeed have eleven platforms, however, sadly, Platforms 9 and 10 (and indeed 11) aren't in the beautiful main station area but a rather less impressive side extension. There is a rather incongruous monument to the mythical platform as you walk between the sections of the station.

The trolley hasn't been abandoned by a frustrated traveller but is, on closer inspection, part of the 'art' being positioned half-in and half-out of the wall on the way to the 'hidden' platform!

Thursday 26 June 2008

Jubilee Line meltdown

Today was just not a good day. Full stop. I left the house this morning to see my bus passing the end of the street. I knew it was my bus because sadly I know which company runs which route and (tragically) which model vehicle runs each route (usually). The day didn't get any better whilst I was at work, and I ended up frantically trying to finish things for a meeting tomorrow until well gone 7pm.

Boss-two and I left the office around 7:45 and made our way to Green Park from where we both get the Jubilee Line. We arrived on the Eastbound platform to find no information on the indicator boards and an extremely overcrowded platform. We waited a while for nothing to happen and decided that we would try and alternate route. We'd got as far as the Piccadilly Line platform when the PA sprang into life to inform us of 'minor' delays on the Jubilee Line. "Minor delays" I commented to Boss-two "there were no trains at all!".

The message soon amended itself to 'suspended between Finchley Road and Waterloo due to a track failure" superb.About an hour later we were finally heading out of Central London on the DLR. This convoluted route involved Piccadilly Line to Holborn, change to Central, Central Line to Bank, small route march and DLR onwards. I eventually arrived at Cutty Sark Greenwich from where I got a 129 to the Peninsula and finally a 486 home. Arriving home just around half past nine, heading on for two hours after I left the office.

Wednesday 25 June 2008

Just another day at work

I awoke this morning feeling amazingly tired... so much so that I could hardly get out of bed. This is strange only because it wasn't that late when I went to bed last night! The more sleep I get the more I seem to need! The good news is that the fledgling 'poorly eye' pain that I had (usually the precursor to a bout of Optic Neuritis) has gone away and there doesn't seem to be any problems with my vision (touch wood).

I was quite early leaving the house so I decided that rather than battling and melting with the tube I'd get a bus into town (and hopefully catch some more shut-eye). Unfortunately I hadn't bargained for the buses running slow and the bus I got was really overcrowded and no seat to be had (not even for me and The Stick). I changed onto a 453 at New Cross Gate (that takes me to Piccadilly instead of leaving me at Whitehall) and happily got a seat; only to have me spine bent out of shape by an extremely large person, who instead of taking one of the dozens of empty pairs of seats (and thereby forcing someone to perch next to them) decided to sit next to me and squash me into the window. All in all a pretty rubbish journey.

I enjoyed my morning at work as the Youngest Lad has now joined us full time and it was up to me to outline his duties and responsibilities and teach him all he needs to know about office life (which is quite a lot as he is only eighteen and this is his first job!). I have high hopes for him as he seems pretty bright, is eager to learn and asked lots of questions which shows he is interested.

The afternoon was not so good as the email system broke down (again) and the IT guy was in meetings (again) so nobody knew what was wrong with it (again) and it never got fixed (again). This meant nothing I was waiting for turned up and nothing I wanted to send places could leave.

How on earth did we ever get anything done before email? I know the time existed, I remember when I first got email at work; there was one account on one computer which had to be dialled up twice a day to check for mail. At that time there were only a couple of PCs and you had to book time on them! The function of spreadsheets was carried out longhand on enormous graphed pieces of A3 paper and any documents were written long hand and sent for typing. If you really needed to speak to someone you phoned them and if you really wanted to communicate with your colleagues you sent a memo. Everyone had a pigeon hole from where they collected post and memos (and there was a lot more post before there was email).

When we first got a PC on every desk and email (to which there was much resistance from older staff I remember) the email only sent and received once an hour on the hour. Projects I worked on experimented with using Extranets (kind of limited secure access versions of the internet). These should still exist in my opinion and cut our reliance on email. Email is overloaded. Our server receives somthing like 7,000 emails a day of which about 85% are spam!

Hopefully the email will have been fixed overnight and all will be back to normal tomorrow!

Tuesday 24 June 2008

The Occasional Tourist - Part Two, Buckingham Palace and Green Park

During my lunchbreak today I decided to take a trip to Green Park. This is the nearest bit of greenery to my office (although it is probably a close call with the garden in Berkley Square). Green Park doesn't have the wildfowl of St James's Park, the sports facilities of Regent's Park or even any manicured flowerbeds. It is pretty much trees and sunbathers. The whole effect is pretty impressive though, and leaves you feeling you might be in the countryside!

There are quite a lot of paths through Green Park, many of which converge at a giant lamppost which always makes me expect to see the wicked Queen from the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Unfortunately nobody was walking past when I took the shot below so you don't quite get the scale of it, but it must be over twelve foot high!

Reaching the other side of Green Park (walking from Piccadilly) you reach the splendour of Buckingham Palace and the Mall. As you can see from the photo below the flag is flying over the Palace which means that the Queen is in residence.

This photograph shows Canada Gate which is at the entrance to Green Park; at the entrance of the Mall is South Africa Gate and over the other side is Australia Gate. Clearly a whole Commonwealth theme!

In front of Buckingham Palace (serving almost as a roundabout) is a monument to Queen Victoria. Fairly similar in style (if not size and scope) to the Albert Memorial over in Kensington.

Heading away from Buckingham Palace is the Mall (which if you follow along you will finally reach Admiralty Arch and Trafalgar Square) here you will find St James's Park to your right and an assortment of Royal Palaces (including St James's Palace and Clarence House) to your left.

Walking back up through Green Park I noticed this lovely circle of trees. You can just see in the distance some of the sunbathers, renting their deckchairs!

Monday 23 June 2008

Monday, balmy Monday

Really not the sort of day to be in an office, today. Balmy isn't really the word... hot and humid, bordering on unpleasant. Not at all the thing as today is the first day of Wimbledon. Surely it should be raining by now?!

I had a marathon meeting this morning that went on until lunchtime, which meant that I didn't get a fraction of the things that I wanted to do today done.

Added to this the irritation of some event at the O2 (as usual) causing minor chaos in North Greenwich, I was glad to get home so early.

Early enough that there was still time for a movie followed by a nearly early night.

Tonight's movie was "Made of Honour" with the lovely Patrick Dempsey (aka McDreamy from Gray's Anatomy). A bit of a fluff movie, really. Total celluloid chick-lit. Rich was very patient watching it with me, and suffering a rather stereotyped view of the Scottish. Five out of ten... OK if you've nothing better to do!

Sunday 22 June 2008

Movie night

Managed to watch an impressive amount of TV/movies last night. Started out with 'Cloverfield.'.. which we had heard mixed reviews of.

First complaint, Blair Witch-type camera work. I thought it was rubbish in the Blair Witch and I still think it is rubbish. One of the reviews said it was a good movie if you could get over the camera work. I got over the camera work. It still wasn't a good movie. The effects, it must be admitted, were brilliant. Especially when the head of the Statue of Liberty landed in the street. The plot, though, was weak. The provenance of the 'monster' was never established, and you kind of new the end at the beginning (as it were) due to the text on the screen at the start of the film. Nothing wrong with that (I suppose) but just so unresolved. Apparently one of the reasons for the vagueness of the movie (what was the monster, where did it come from, how did it escape, who were all the people, etc. etc.) is that it has a huge 'viral' campaign online. It makes me want to yell. If I'm watching a movie (or for that matter a TV show) that's what I'm doing. I don't want to spend ages trolling around the internet for stuff which frankly should be on the screen! No suprise this one as the producer for Cloverfield is J.J. Abrams, yes, he of Lost fame. Another example of irritating and annoying so-called viral campaigns.

After this dissapointing movie we moved onto watching 'Definitely, Maybe'. There were some funny moments in this moive but it was rather a film 'chick-lit' in as much as the end was pretty much obvious from the beginning. The acting was good enough... I was rather alarmed by the appearance of Kevin Kline as a sixty-something. I actually couldn't believe that it was Kevin Kline. I had such a crush on him when I was about eleven (although I suppose that was twenty-odd years ago).

I give 'Cloverfield' 1 out of 10 and that is only because it was such a thankfully short film and I give 'Definitely, Maybe' 7 out of 10.

We also managed to watch Doctor Who. Thankfully almost the end of the season. I really don't know why we watch it as it annoys us on a weekly basis. Acutally I do know why we watch it, there is pitifully little TV to watch! Last night was a really superb example of how not to put a TV show together. The attempted theme was a complex one of quantum physics with parallel universe type ideas. Complicated... too complicated really for a Saturday night TV show. Many shows have attempted to deal with these themes. What happens if we don't make the decisions we made, what happens if one event happens differently... Quantum Leap and Sliders (two excellent US made shows) both deal very well with these ideas. This show didn't really have the time to. We give it some benefit of the doubt has it is the end of the season and a two part story... but even so. Here's my problem. I don't like the Doctor's assistants. I didn't like Rose... I didn't like Martha and I don't like Donna. Any time that we have to have two of them at the same time is way too much. Another weakness of last night's show was that the Doctor wasn't really in it. Hello people. The name of the show? The only really likeable character? Big mistake, huge. Oh, and who wants to have a bet on the big bad in the next episode. I'd tell you what I thought, but I've found spoilers on the internet and I'm right... and I'd hate to spoil it for anyone!

Saturday 21 June 2008

A night out

After Friday had finally done with me I was off to the City to meet some friends. I was pleased to find that neither the Victoria line nor the Metropolitan line presented me with any obstacles and it only took me about fifteen minutes to get from Mayfair to Moorgate. Finding the bar was a little harder, luckily the internet had told me that it was "in the bottom of an office block" so I just looked for office blocks near the station.

Eventually (and with some relief) I found the bar. I clearly hadn't quite managed to shake Friday as when introduced to someone I hadn't met before I shook hands! Oh dear, how formal! The bar was pleasant if crowded, and our seats outside gave us a delightful view of City Point (only if that sort of thing interests you I suppose).

The strangest thing was when we heard a helicopter and thought nothing of it (assuming it was the 'Eye in the Sky' traffic-copter or similar). Thought nothing of it until we noticed parachutists!

After this excitement we went to Wagamama for dinner. I'd never eaten much Japanese before (OK, none at all apart from sushi) but I'm quite determined to now eat Japanese food on a regular basis! Luckily one of my friends works for the restaurant chain so he's a total expert on what's best to eat. Noodles and some funny little bean things and salad and little parcels with pastry and meat. Oh so good!

After this we went to a rather loud bar nearby where cocktails were had (although unusually sensibly not by me!). I then realised the time and decided if I wanted to make the last Jubilee Line train I'd better motor. At this point events began to conspire against me. Moorgate station was shut, so no Northern line to London Bridge to pick up my tube.

Not to worry. I decided to get a cab to London Bridge. So did the rest of that bit of London. By the time I got to London Bridge it was too late. The tube was shut and the last train was gone. Two choices now remain. Night bus or cab. I've never got a night bus, and it wouldn't have been practical from there as I'd have had to change buses in New Cross (at 1am on my own, I don't think so). So, cab it was. The often stated "don't go south of the river" in reference to black cabs is sadly true. I decided I'd probably have better luck getting a cab away from the main station, so I walked along a bit. I managed to stop several cabs with varying reasons why they couldn't go to Charlton. I kept asking "don't suppose you go south of the river" which got an unequivocable 'no' apart from the one driver who pointed out we were already south of the river, so I elaborated to 'further south' which still go a no! I was getting a bit desperate by this point when finally my hopeless "don't suppose you'll go to Charlton" elicited a 'hop in love'. Hurrah!

The journey from London Bridge to Charlton at that time of night takes absolutely no time at all! I think I was home about fifteen minutes later! I don't usually tip cab drivers, but I gave that driver a tip... so glad was I to finally be home!

Friday 20 June 2008

The Occasional Tourist - Part One, St James's

I decided at spend my lunchtime today taking a wander around my local environs. My ultimate aim was St James's Square.

In the morning paper I'd read about a sculpture which was going on display in the square. The sculpture by Jeff Koon titled 'Balloon Flower (Magenta)' is purported to be worth £12m. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see what £12m looks like!

Very shiny and rather peculiar was my final conclusion. I was more amused by the security staff and staff from Christies guarding it. I suppose you have to look after £12m.

St James's Square is a pleasant green oasis in the heart of a rather upmarket business/shopping district. I was particularly taken of the statue of William III on a horse dressed as a Roman general. A long time ago I was told that the position of the horse's feet in a statue indicate the manner of the death of the rider. Four feet on the ground indicate a natural death, one foot in the air indicates that the rider died of wounds sustained in battle and two feet off the ground indicate that the rider died in battle. I tested this with the statue of William III, and indeed (although not in battle) he died of injuries sustained falling from his horse (after it stumbled on a mole hill!).

Facing Piccadilly is the church of St James's. Designed by Christopher Wren the church was badly damaged by bombs in World War II although many of the original features survived. As London churches go it is a rather plain brick edifice, but it is well know for staging concerts and the markets held out front.

Walking back from St James's Square to my office took me along Jermyn Street, well famed for its shirts (much as Savill row is famed for its tailors!).

There are the back ends (as it were) of two delightful shopping Arcades (which connect you to Piccadilly). Both are full of delightful boutique type shops, and indeed Piccadilly Arcade has it's own website.

At the end of Piccadilly Arcade stands a statue of George 'Beau' Brummell, famous Regency dandy.

My travels ended at St James's Street (which pretty much marks the west border of St James's (the east being Haymarket, and bordered north and south by Piccadilly and Pall Mall respectively).

On the corner of Piccadilly and St James's Street is this building with some interesting statues at roof level (you miss so much if you don't look up!). After some research I discovered that this is Justice by a sculptor Herbert Binney.

Next time I think I'll take a wander up Piccadilly towards Piccadilly Circus and see what there is to see!

Thursday 19 June 2008

Good news on the pond front...

Just after the last post, Rich rang me to tell me that he'd been out in the back garden. He'd seen Jaws swimming around the pond, and he called out, in jest, "You can tell your friends to come out now"... and moments later, as if Jaws had given the signal, many small fish appeared. Possibly not as many as there once were - but not the mass slaughter that I'd feared.

I've just been out in the garden tonight to see the contents of the Frog Pond, the Toad Tray and the Toad Pond. The Frog Pond seems to be at capacity... about a half dozen (visible) including King Frog himself. There's a couple of lurkers in the Toad Tray (once you find it under all the undergrowth!) they seem content in amongst all the leaves and other garden debris. This should have told me something about the Toad Pond before now. Fondly dug by me using a plant pot tray and some pebbles with a rock in the middle for purchase, I've enthusiastically been cleaning leaves out of it and topping up the water. Should have know better. Having had a busy few days I've not had time to do the normal housekeeping... and for the first time since it was created tonight there was a toad in the Toad Pond! Hurrah! It doesn't feel like all that (backbreaking) labour was in vain after all!

Another pond emergency

I woke up this morning (groggily, not enough sleep) and pulled back the curtains to see if the grey sky was actually realised as drizzle. My attention was distracted from the weather by the sight of the damn heron standing in the middle of our pond. It's the first time this year we've seen him... panic stations! The netting which had been taken off after the great frog spawn disaster was hurriedly replaced (in the drizzle). No sign of any fish. I hope that they are just in hiding and sulking because there is no sunshine and that they will be back later. Problem is that it gets light around 4:30am or something... so the heron could have been having an all-you-can-eat buffet for an hour and a half. Poor little fishes!

Wednesday 18 June 2008

Another Hump Day

When I was at University my housemate always called Wednesday 'Hump Day' as once you'd passed Wednesday it was all downhill until the weekend. This still holds true, figuratively even if not literally. Today has been another manic day in terms of work. Three long days in a row, but the estimate has finally been finished and gone out to the client. Under usual circumstances I'd be throwing myself a little party - but there are still bits and pieces to finalise, so we've not really put the thing to bed yet.

The Jubilee Line is clearly saving itself up for some big failure at the end of the week, as I've had remarkably few problems with it so far this week. Of course it was gone 8pm this evening by the time that I got on, so that decreases the chances for chaos and confusion.

More research into the fridge-freezer situation reveals that the model which we have long been admiring (and saving for) has universally bad reviews (well, more than half a dozen bad on the internet compared with no good). So it is back to the drawing board. Looks like we're going to have to get some finance deal as the money in my savings account is earmarked to pay off the finance deal on my laptop (paying off monthly for three years would cost nearly double the actual cost!). It never ends!

Tuesday 17 June 2008

Horses, freezers and other random things

My day had a very peculiar start today.First of all, as I was walking along Piccadilly I noticed in one of the shopfronts (usually occupied by rough-sleepers) there was the end of a vacuum cleaner. The bit that actually cleans the carpet. Such a strange (and random) article to be left behind.

As I progressed along the road I heard the sound of horses neighing. Nothing unusual here as the Household Cavalry often exercise in the area. What was unusual was when I came to the corner of Dover Street where there is a statute of a naked man riding a horse he had been joined by a real live counterpart. Fortunately the counterpart wasn't naked, but dressed in what appeared to be a replica World War I (or similar) uniform. The horse didn't particularly seem to be enjoying the experience (hence the neighing and head tossing) but the tourists were quite happy snapping away taking photos.

The bad news of the day was the untimely (and unexpected) demise of our freezer, which defrosted its contents and leaked water all over the kitchen floor. There was breif hope that it might have been an open door or similar that caused the defrost, but come the evening even the ice-cream in the bottom had melted. RIP freezer... only about three or four years old. Nothing is built to last anymore. Growning up I remember my Gran had an old fridge which clearly hailed from the 1950's. One of those lever handles you had to pull down to open and a door that would crush you fingers were you foolish enough to leave them in the way. Thirty years versus three years. How things have changed.

The nice thing that happened today was that the stationery order arrived with a free gift. A small post-it note holder with "I 'heart' New York". Perfect for me big Yankees/Giants fan. The odd thing is that it has a spring inside to help dispense the post-its, and somehow a function of this is that the holder 'sticks' to the desk. Almost magnetically adheres. My assembled colleagues and I spent several happy mintues trying to fathom the mechanism that caused this phenomenon. You know what they say, little things and little minds.

Monday 16 June 2008

Just another manic Monday...

...and I really do wish it were Sunday!

It's the usual mad dash to finish the estimate by the deadline (which are always rashly agreed to and give about a week less than is really required to carry out the work!)

A new chap started in our office today. Saffy-bloke One (as we've already got Saffy-bloke) otherwise known as Boss-three as he is a Senior Surveyor. This gives us a pretty much full house now, with no spare desks for visiting dignitaries (Partners, whatever). Boss-two wants to do another floor plan to see if we can fit in two more desks, otherwise when the lease is up in a few years time we may have to move (please no, anything but another move).

The Free-Papers (Metro, Lite, News) were full of more stories about the tanker drivers strike (it really isn't actually a petrol strike). Hopefully they will manage to come to some agreement before the end of the week, we really don't need another media circus about petrol shortages etc. etc.

Sunday 15 June 2008

Father's Day again

This year for Father's Day my brother and I went out for lunch with my parents. I'm not sure I can remember the last time that it was just the four of us 'en famile'.

We went to a restaurant of my choosing near where my parents live. Only chosen, I must point out, because my parents have been there a good few times before and have given good reports.

Clearly a lot of other people had the same idea of lunch with their fathers as the restaurant was very busy. Too busy it turned out. We sat down for lunch a one o'clock and didn't leave until gone three. Bearing in mind that we only had two courses and one of those was dessert this was pretty long. I think that the first mistake we made was not 'having a drink at the bar' which probably threw us out of the perceived schedule. Then we didn't have starters either. The food was excellent, everybody enjoyed all that they ate. The service was pretty poor, I feel that the waiter should check up on you, even if the kitchen is too busy to process your order or whatever. Needless to say, they didn't get a tip!

Saturday 14 June 2008

Lazy Saturday

Despite my original intention of not leaving the house today we ended up popping down the shops. The pond was in bad need of another treatment for blanket weed which has re-appeared with a vengeance in the far corner.

Whilst we were out and walking through the car park we saw a baby starling hopping about looking for food. Living and foraging in a car park has made him completely unafraid of humans. We were worried he'd been hurt and we got within about six inches of him before he obligingly demonstrated he wasn't hurt by hopping off to look for something to eat.

I've discovered the reason behind the occasional amphibian visitors to our kitchen. Some of the patio decking has begun to disintegrate. Rather than replace the tiles which are broken (which then wouldn't match the other tiles as they wouldn't be weathered) I decided to move around the tiles and have the broken ones placed out of the path from the door across the patio. As I took up the decking I found nearly half a dozen toads sitting underneath. Clearly the get in at the gap by the back door, and on occasion turn right instead of left and end up on the kitchen carpet! This also explains why they are quite often found on the drain cover, as that is the other possible egress point.

Friday 13 June 2008

Finally Friday

It's been a pretty long week this week... but it is Friday at last! Notwithstanding that it is Friday the Thirteenth. I'm not usually superstitious. I lived at number thirteen for seven years... but I have had some horrible Friday the Thirteenths... so I'm never sure what may happen. Today wasn't too bad though.

This morning (and indeed this evening) in the free papers I was reading about the petrol tankers strike. Shortages began in some London filling stations shortly after 6am (when the drivers went on strike). The Government renews calls for common sense and Gordon Brown "hasn't ruled out using the Army". Seriously Gordon? For a minor petrol situation. 1 in 10 filling stations... which affects less than 10% of the population. Does the Army not have better things to do... and even if it doesn't... who cares if petrol runs out. It's only a few days. It's hardly a crisis. I'm sure that public service vehicles etc. have made sure they are supplied, and as for everyone else... if you didn't think ahead earlier in the week, use public transport.

This morning at Green Park Station the Transport Police were out in force (which happens about 75% of the time at Green Park). I actually saw them pull a guy aside and start going through his bag. Stop and search? I suppose so.

On Piccadilly there was a girl handing out leaflets. Again not unusual. Bars do it, restaurants do it, gyms do it and even stores closing down do it. This girl's leaflets were entitled "Hear oh Israel" and the headline was something to do with the Messiah; we don't usually get evangelists on Piccadilly! Her shirt had Hebrew characters (or what looked like Hebrew to my untrained eye). I'm assuming she was a 'Jew for Jesus' or similar? I was in too much of a hurry to take a leaflet.

I spent my lunch-break in John Lewis (just a short trek up New Bond Street). I needed a new bag for work as the current one had begun to come to pieces. My preference is to use a laptop case (although I don't carry my laptop) as it is just the right size for carting bundles of paper around along with all the other items that have to come to work with me every day. It took me the whole of lunch to settle on a rather sturdy bag (made by the people who make Swiss Army Knives) which has the appropriate arrangement of pockets and straps... I'm not fussy, I just know what I want!

I got home to find that the Council had finally delivered the 'black lockable bin' and the cornstarch bags. The bin is disappointingly smaller than expected, and won't be able to live in the front of the house as planned as it would be too easy for somebody to pinch. The lockable is also not with a key but just a cunning use of the handle.

Looking forward now to a nice relaxing weekend.

Thursday 12 June 2008


Tonight Rich and I visited the Telectroscope. This amazing exhibit allows you to stand on the South Bank in London (close to Tower Bridge) and wave at people standing in New York (near I think, the Brooklyn Bridge). Although open since the end of May the exhibit closes Sunday so we thought we'd better go and see it before it was too late.

We arrived from London Bridge, so from the rear of the Telectroscope (which is located just by City Hall). We were pleased to see that there didn't appear to be a queue. So we got our £1 entry fee ready and waited at the booth. It seemed to be taking quite a while for the people in front of us to pay, and I assumed that they were having a conversation with the ticket seller. Not so. The delay was due to the unique nature of the ticket booth. It was a mechanical booth with a pair of hands coming out from behind a curtain. At the deposit of your pound the hands 'wrote' your ticket and it shot down a hatch for collection, a new ticket appearing under the pen ready to be despatched. Cute. You walk around the side of the exhibit to the tunnel mouth where you look down at the screen.

The actual device is more impressive than standing waving at people in New York (which unless you have arranged to 'meet' a friend gets old pretty fast).

We walked back through a shopping arcade which appeared to be modelled on the late 19th Century railway stations (past, bizarrely and exhibition about the wonder of the potato!) and hopped back on the tube to North Greenwich.

Once there we 'popped' into the O2 for a drink. The square outside the O2 (which is still divided by hoardings, and therefore is still hard to imagine the claim that it is bigger than Leicester Square) has sprouted pavement fountains, which proved far too much temptation for a group of small children! To go into the O2 you have to pass through airport type security, and I felt quite cheated that I wasn't actually going anywhere other than the Slug and Lettuce!

Oh, and finally I discovered what the construction works that I've been seeing every morning are all about. I've watched as piling rigs came and went, several cranes and a fairly major steel superstructure has been erected. It is, apparently, some sort of educational establishment.