Tuesday, 30 September 2003

In the Belief that when you are Inside you are Hidden from View

I was sitting on the bus on the way back to the office after being at the British Library Conference Centre all day, looking out at the traffic crawling along past St Pancras and Kings Cross - held up in dusty queues all along the Euston Road because of the channel tunnel link roadworks. We passed a maroon black cab (you know what I mean) and inside was a businessman, sitting with his beige leather briefcase on his knees, picking his nose and eating it. Why do we forget that just because we are inside our cars we can't be seen? Or is it just that when we are in them we get into a comfort zone and forget we are actually still publicly visible?

Bogies have been a bit of a theme the last couple of days - Bails and I were having a discussion about them because I had seen a man in a pub have a good root around and then roll it up in a ball and flick it off his finger (vom..) and GS had a boyfriend once who had a collection of them on the window sill - he would stand and pick them looking out of the window and kept them in a line in a place no one would have thought to look for them. Loverly (sorry, bit of a gross out today).
Monday's Life Class

So we had a ninja life model today - he could hold a pose with outstretched arms for 15 minutes (and this is truely something to behold). We had a debate about which martial art he studied (and he really looked like he studied something - in the serious sense of the expression). He was slim, musculed and got ready for a pose as if he was preparing for a fight. He was like a bronze statue - skin that had patina. I half expected him to run off the wall and walk on the ceiling (a la crouching tiger, hidden dragon).

Candid Arts Trust: open access sessions and more formal taught courses in both life drawing and painting. Behind Angel tube, Islington - first left down City Road. Contact: The Candid Arts Trust, 3 Torrens Street, London EC1V 1NQ, Tel: 020 7837 4237.

Sunday, 28 September 2003


I have stolen the fastest txt messenger of North London award away from M. He had been awarded it by his friends. When we started txting he was very impressed by the speed of my replies (this fills me with a sense of pride - I like to be good at things). I owe it largely to my two-thumbed technique (it has been attracting some attention from the art class cohort recently). Most other txters I have now asked are one-thumbers. I think I use two thumbs because I am a touch typist and the habit sticks with you.

Anyway I have been taught how to master the predictive-text thing by bails recently (never could be bothered to get to grips with it before - preferring to resort to home made and recognised shortenings, shortcuts and code - but she was scoffing at me the other day triple clicking through the letters to txt a message to M, so I let her show me how it works). I'm still not particularly enamored with it but did have a great half hour while I taught it how to swear and then slung insults at bails with the new vocabulary - it comes with a limited knowledge and you have to spell out anything it doesn't know which is then saved in its memory for next time. So all those useful things like damn, shit, piss, muthafucker, ho, cunt are now at my beck and call if I should wish to use them. I have been practicing with it and I don't actually find it quicker because although you only have to click the letter once there are, of course, numerous other words that can be made from the same clicks (I find this quite fascinating - could I use this other word that it has suggested in my sentence or would it be totally out of context?) and this slows me down.

So I have been compiling a list of words that I typed and all the alternatives that go with them:
copy / cosy
least / leapt
of / me
cakes / baker / bales
able / cake / bald / calf / bake / bale / cale
well / yell
note / move / mote
room / soon
dont / foot / font
autumn / button
sun / run / sum / rum / pun
took / tool
plan / slam
plant / slant
rain / pain
take / tale / vale
sale / pale / sake / rake
neck / meal
real / peak / seal / peck / reck / peal
doll / folk
she / rid / pie / rif

I think it could be a new way of encoding secrets or a really hard Countdown game. But in the meantime it is losing me my north london title.
Blane Box Watch

So the dullest spectacle in London continues. Policing is gonna cost him an arm and a leg and sadly they keep cleaning the box. There were some youf with eggs standing around on the hump outside the cordoned area, one of whom managed to get some albumen on a kid's tracksuit leg at which his dad had a fit (you get that off his leg NOW or I'll knock your block off type rage). Security came over to quiet it all down when the womenfolk couldn't manage it (reckon they were fairly used to it - they seemed to know the right tactics but there were too many witnesses for those things to actually work I expect).

I'm not even sure that the crowds below would notice if he magicked himself outta there and never came back.
Juicy Fruits

(aside: remember them?) This is what I love about London - these things happen for no apparent reason and people barely notice, as if it isn't even out of the ordinary.

Fairtrade Fruits were out for a stroll on Tottenham Court Road (presumably after having been a part of a demo of some sort - bails thought they were fair trade cos of something she saw earlier).
Kids Games Seen Around Town Today

  • The common, let me ring the bell game (very annoying to the bus driver but the great fun of button pressing satisfied).

  • Sitting on the front of the top deck of a bus rubbing helium balloons on hair to see how high it will stand without the aid of gel.

  • Running in and out of the water jets by the London Assembly Building - these fountains start very low and the jets rise up and down to various levels. They have a random setting making it impossible to tell how high its gonna go. The game was the same as that played at the seaside (will the wave get you) - will the water jet get you. Lots of very wet screaming kids having a blast.

  • How many kids can you get in , alternating with how fast can it go - in the revolving door of Pizza Express opposite Jubilee Gardens.

Saturday, 27 September 2003

Public Transport Etiquette
Rule 4: When speaking make sure your voice is at its lowest possible level

There are two main groups that this rule applies to. Firstly, are school children, particularly teenage girls. Having been trapped inside all day, being artificially suppressed and made to be quiet in the classroom there is an explosion of excitability on being released. This largely manifests itself in much shouting, raucaus laughter, singing, bullying, slagging each other off. Unpleasant as this may be on the street its impact is magnified tenfold when taken into the confines of a bus. It is not big and is not clever - actually you get shown up for what you are (and this is in direct opposition to what you hope to be perceived as).

The other group that this applies to are the mobile phone users. I would never want to bring in such draconian measures as they have on some trains with a banning of use of mobiles in certain parts of the bus or at certain times, however, I have never understood why so many people seem to have to raise the level of their voice while speaking on a mobile so that everyone on their deck can hear every word. The rest of the world neither cares what you have to say nor wants to listen to half a conversation you are having. Give us a break and speak quietly.
Some Things Never Change

There was a time when I practically lived in the Kings Head in Upper Street (before other bars started opening late when your only choices after 11.00 were the back room here or the old dive Murray's). Much life was played out here. But time passed by and for various reasons it seemed to lose its appeal as more exciting prospects emerged. For a long while it was a no-go zone and only recently have I ventured forth through their sandblasted doors.

So much has changed in my life while so much has stayed the same here - same green paint work, Terry still works behind the bar, End of Culture still plays a friday night and After Noah on saturdays. Its been 10 years since I drank in there steadily but I recognised several people proping up the bar in much the same way as they were all those seasons ago. What has caused them to stand so still? And for the rest of the clientele it seems to have been taken over by the twittish middle class who all want to be actors. So we have a swift drink and thank fuck that we grew out of it.

Thursday, 25 September 2003

Public Transport Etiquette
Rule 3: Public Transport as Powder Room

Women should attempt to maintain their mystique. This is not possible when you make your toilet on the bus or tube. Not only will you never be able to do a good job (nothing like a jerky bus for an uneven lip line or an accident with the eyeliner) but you won't be able to wash your hands after applying foundation and you will have to spit into your mascara (ugh). And everyone will see you. We do not need to see that you don't know that you should put eye shadow on before the mascara, that you use curling tongs on your eyelashes even though it looks like an middle aged torture, or that you check your teeth for lipstick stains. Get up earlier and do it at home.

I once worked with a librarian at Lewisham College who I was certain did her make-up on the tube on the way to work (a more terrible application of lipstick has never been seen). She was a fright show - lovely powder blue eyeshadow and orangey red wonky lips. I had worked with her for months before I discovered that she actually did her make up in the staff toilet after she got to work (couldn't believe it).
3.30 Laycock Street

Theres a park with man-made hillocks outside the office headquarters. School was chucking out and although the park was empty three strangers had chosen to sit together on one hillock, divided by as much space as can be mustered from one hump and facing three different directions.

An ordinary looking woman undeterminably middle age wearing a beige padded jacket sitting on the grass reading the paper - could have been waiting for her kid to come out of school.

Old woman sitting on the highest point, died black big bouffanty hair that made her facial features disappear, patent leather high heels, sitting with heels digging into the ground knees bent up in such a manner that you could see she was wearing pop socks and showing far too much underthigh (bet you could've seen her knickers if you looked hard enough).

A man, not too far from street living in a zip-up 70s jacket lying up against the rise in the ground.

How had they come to rest here together? Why had they chosen to sit together in an empty park?
Public Transport Etiquette
Rule 2: Bodily Contact When Sitting Side by Side

When sitting next to someone ensure that the least possible amount of body contact is made. Upper hip is just about acceptable. Whole length of thigh starts to feel a little familiar. More than 3 points touching (for example, upper arm, hip and thigh) is distinctly uncomfortable. Try not to trap your neighbour's leg skin as you sit down - if you sit on someone you are too close.

Likewise with standing - don't rest your book, bag, newspaper or arm on the head, neck or shoulder of the person sitting below you. Don't knock them with your rucksack as you turn around. Don't let your body hang into their personal space.

Tuesday, 23 September 2003

Side Street

I had to miss lifedrawing this week to attend a swanky hotel opening (tough life). One of my art tutors at college was a famous jeweller (in the field famous - this is symptomatic of artists and craftspeople - everyone in the field has heard of them an no one out of this circle does) and reassessed what she was doing and became a artist who makes site-specific sculture. She was working with the architect of the hotel to do the pedestrian way along the side of the hotel. This 'do' has become a site-specific work called Side Street. The hotel opening coincided with a private view of this new work.

So here is a glimpse of Side Street by Susanna Heron.

The work emcompasses the whole area - what the walls are made from, the paving, the cafe chairs, the columns, the ceiling and the slate friezes. This kind of slate frieze is what distinguishes Susanna's work. She carves the image into prepared (very flat, very smooth) slate - the image is made from a variety of 'marks' made with a grinding tool - varying depths of cut and kinds of finishes.

Anyway, bails and I went along, had a couple of glasses of free champagne and nicked off just before the speeches started. The funniest thing was the official photographer - SH had to pose sitting at a cafe table holding a flute of champagne aloft (most unnatural pose for her - I think she would rather not have had the wine in the picture at all) and then made her stand on a ledge next to her work - which required taking off high heels, stepping onto one of the cafe chairs and posing next to a slate frieze. The party was full of suits (from the hotel opening at a guess) with the odd arty person mingling between - there was the man in the weird hat, a few pairs of outrageous designer glasses, two overdressed frocks and a couple of pairs of teetering high heels.

Sunday, 21 September 2003

Soho Oddities

So we turned into the pedestrian way that goes up the side of Raymond's Revue Bar from Brewer Street to Berrick Street and a girl with long straight blond hair, miniskirt and white stillettos walking towards us was saying to her boyfriend, "I really don't know where I am now, Dave", when actually we thought she fitted in very well.

And then rounding the corner from Old Compton Street onto Cambridge Circus saw a traffic warden in discussion with a member of the public who I had to double take at cos he was wearing a large hooped gold earring and had his blond hair tucked inside his uniform cap - lovely rita the transvestite metre maid.

The bus was packed, we had lots of shopping and an irate passenger had stuggled to get off due to the density of people standing around the door. When he finally managed to alight he turned back to those that he had struggled through and started shouting at them, pointing aggressively, "its you, and you and you. Its your fault that I couldn't get off. I blame you. All you had to do was let me get off...." The doors closed and we moved off. Homeward bound. Phew.

Saturday, 20 September 2003

Blaine Box Watch

I was drinking in the area so I popped over to have a quick look at Blane in his box.

I have to say I am still disappointed by the fact that he isn't hanging upside down (although the spectacle would have been long over by now if he were). Instead I found him much as he was last time - although interestingly a little less feeble - he had dispensed with trousers, was quite hairy and sat for a while waving at the adoring fans below (and yes most of them were adoring) and then lay down. None of the cheering when he moved this time. Just a weird quiet hush over the area.

And then I realised what it was like - although mixed there was a large proportion of women and girls with good wishes and it reminded me of the stories of girls from school who had been fans (groupies without the sex) of boy bands - they would hang out at stage doors for hours waiting for a glimpse of or to be able to brush the shirt sleeve of their favourite band member, at which they would promptly faint or have hysterics. Here they could hang out for hours and get many glimpses of their idol and if they made enough frantic movement possibly get a wave in their general direction.

And everyone was still on their mobile phone telling all their friends where they were. Security was tight. And there were no anti-Blaine protesters (sadly, I'd have like to see the scuffles between them and the adoring pink fans). But there were some large bottomed superheros who had come to taunt him (for the TV naturally). Weird. A totally non spectacular spectacle.

Friday, 19 September 2003

Inside London Flash Mob #3

Helluo Librorum

So I found myself in the Nellie Dean having a drink trying to explain to four drunk geordies why we were waiting for someone to give us instructions to do something that we had no idea what it was, that it wasn't about going on a pub crawl or falling in love or some kind of dating club, why we had a book why I didn't know what I was actually going to be doing, why I found this appealing... And thankfully someone arrived and gave out the instructions (how can I answer all these questions - I haven't had the instructions yet - it was clear to me but as mud to them).

I had persuaded HS to come and she had grabbed a bus travel guide to London North on the way out of the office, I had Gabriel Marquez. I had registered my book on BookCrossing so hopefully there will be many readers who will release it back into the wild and it will travel far and wide across the world (or at least thats the idea, I hope it works).

We had to congregate in Soho Square for 15 minutes of book swapping, in appropriate categorized groups (sci-fi, romance, non-fiction, fiction or harry potter - there was a rumour of porn section but I think it was a naturally occuring phenomenon where romance met non-fiction). When you swapped a book you had to sustain a smile between swappers for 3 seconds (which always felt like 3 minutes - you know those gazes you have with strangers that become too intense in a very short period of time and make you blush), if you witnessed a book swapping you had to applaud the kindness of the swappees, when you heard applause you had to applaud. Applause travelled in weird concentric circles around Soho Square with laughing and whistling and much moving about.

Onlookers were confused - HS met a chinese girl who kept saying, 'what's going on, what's going on?', and I met an American (top row fourth picture - tall with dark hair and glasses big grin) arrived today, first time in Europe couldn't quite believe what was happening but was very impressed and enjoying himself hugely, and then I met a man who had been swapped a blank notepad and then a magazine.

I swapped my original book and then made about 10 further swaps, wish I could remember all the titles but the swapping was frantic - at one point I had another registered book, and then a Brahm Stoker's Dracula which I swapped with a teenage boy who didn't want to have his girl's book any longer and finally ended up with a copy of Boiling Frog by Christopher Brookmyre (another registered book) which has a quote at the beginning "let him who is without sin cast the first stone" attributed to some sandal-wearing bleeding-heart who got what was coming to him.

HS swapped her travel companion for a book about lavender with nasty borders around the text and then swapped that for a copy of Stiff Magazine (suddenly realising she was on the edge of the porn section - like I said before where romance meets non-fiction) which she hastily swapped without looking inside (and I hadn't even realised such books were present being trapped in the fiction section, although mercifully segregated from the potty harrys).

The last pitch I heard was from a man with a copy of the bible aloft saying "I'm in the fiction section with the new testament who will swap with me?" and then it was time to leave and give two strangers a compliment - someone liked my hair and another liked my bag and I liked a boy's yellow teeshirt and someones camera (it does the job was his reply). And HS saw Ian Hislop in the street afterwards missing the whole thing by a fraction.

And I've got a new book to read that is described on BookCrossing as great holiday fluff - I shall have to go on holiday to appreciate it I think.

And I was in spitting distance of diamond geezer (as I can tell from the most unflattering picture of me in a huge crowd in his post). He could well be in one of the numerous pictures I took - I'm going to be looking through all the ones I have of people standing on benches to take pictures from that side of Soho Square. I'd also like to point out we both had a hand on Dracula so our fingerprints have now met even though we haven't. This is almost as exciting as the whole event!

Wednesday, 17 September 2003

The Oasis Fan

There was a man in a black suit with steel grey hair slicked back - middle-aged from the 1950s. He came barging into the pub - a man on a mission. He was carrying a black briefcase - one of those that when they open them on the tube has only a newspaper and an apple in it. There were two stickers on the outside of it upside down - one for Ego and the other for Oasis. You'd never have guessed.

Tuesday, 16 September 2003

The Ultimate Tag

I have seen this graffito on the ceiling over the stairs of my office every day for months. A student from the Finsbury College released at the end of the day pencils his name on the way out of the building. And suddenly today I thought about it as unwittingly the most perfect tag anyone could make up.

mark: a visible sign or impression, as a stroke, cut, dot etc; an indication, symbol, character, brand, device or token; a character made by one who cannot write; a distinguishing feature, a characteristic; to make a mark; to distinguish or designate or indicate, by a mark or marks; to select or single out.

Tags do this - it gets the tagger known across as wide an area as possible - recognised by fellow taggers or others who are watching such things, seen by everyone else noticed by some but not others. So to be Mark by name and to make ones mark become the same interchangable thing. Simple and perfect.

Monday's Life Class

So the model was an little old man who arrived with one of those shopping trolley things (like a bag on wheels). The task today was to draw without lifting the charcoal off the paper - continuous line drawing. We drew lots of short poses - 5 minutes for the two individuals and 2 minutes each for the three on a page.

Candid Arts Trust: open access sessions and more formal taught courses in both life drawing and painting. Behind Angel tube, Islington - first left down City Road. Contact: The Candid Arts Trust, 3 Torrens Street, London EC1V 1NQ, Tel: 020 7837 4237.


Just as we get a spell checker on Blogger I discover this at zed. I always thought from the minute that email surfaced that we were working towards the destandardisation of spelling. Txt has hastened this. Its all about communication - if you can understand it doesn't matter how its spelt. Rock on - back to the middle ages. (sadly I have mostly learned to spell now - spent most of my school days doing it wrong but seem to have cracked it after about age 25).

Sunday, 14 September 2003

Saturday Rambling

Birthday present shopping and bed shopping around Tottenham Court Road and New Oxford Street and buying a replacement fascia for a mobile phone cos the plastic shattered (they aren't what they used to be) and unexpectedly meeting up with SH near Exmouth Market and all the while planning to go to see the fireworks performance in Jubilee Gardesns later that night.

Expectation from a couple of weeks of anticipation of an amazing light, fire show like the one I had seen twice when it was in Victoria Park a couple of years ago. We got cake and coffee and sat on the dry dusty grass expectantly with a crowd of kids and parents. See pictures here.

And afterwards we had a drink in the restaurant bar at the back of the Royal Festival Hall. SH had to go home early. Bails, HS and I popped into the Dragon Bar, Old Street, pursuaded HS not to carry a huge piece of discarded wood along with us, and then finished in The Pool (not particularly good but free and no queue).

And rambled on home at about 2.00.

Saturday, 13 September 2003

Candid Arts Life Drawing Classes Exhibition

It was a brief affair (matter of hours) we were asked to submit a couple of drawings and the tutors made an exhibition for us to see each others work and ask our family and friends to visit (very reminiscent of college in the early days). There were cellists and it gradually got dark, cheap wine and people from other classes to chat to who you never see and have never met. And I bumped into a friend from the past who was attending because his friend had work in the show - funny coincidence and a good opportunity to catch up.

And an interesting coincidence occured with Monday's drawing class - three of us chose drawings (totally independently of one another) to submit and we all chose one of our drawings from the same class, same day, same pose - man sitting back to us - and two of us then also chose our other drawings from another class, same pose - man leaning against the wall, heavy shadow. So either the poses made for the most interesting drawings or we were all just having a really good drawing day on those particular occasions. Remarkable all the same.

Candid Arts Trust: open access sessions and more formal taught courses in both life drawing and painting. Behind Angel tube, Islington - first left down City Road. Contact: The Candid Arts Trust, 3 Torrens Street, London EC1V 1NQ, Tel: 020 7837 4237.