Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thursday picture: darkness at noon

City Hall from the Tower of London

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

statistical analysis - daleks and duchesses

Well, analysis shows that if you don't want to be taken for a food blogger stop blogging about food! By far the largest number of hits I'm getting on Google searches are from people looking for "Marks and Spencer Dalek cake".

Sorry, people, I haven't actually written about this cake - I mentioned purchasing and eating a M&S Dalek Easter Egg a couple of weeks back - but the idea of a Dalek cake sounds so great. And the very large number of people looking for one at M&S seems to suggest it might be real.

So I kept a look-out for it at the Clapham Junction branch yesterday but couldn't find it. Maybe they only have them at the larger branches. If they don't have one what an opportunity! M&S product development people take note! The two dalek-themed Easter Eggs were at Clapham Junction, although on floor-level shelving - slightly disrespectful to the glory that is Dr Who, I thought.

The £4.99 egg is all about the packaging - the vaguely dalek-shaped box contains a standard chocolate egg. However, the killer detail on the box is the speaking chip which cries "Exterminate! Exterminate!" on demand.

It is this feature which has to date saved my empty dalek box from the recycle bin.

I still pine for an actual chocolate dalek. However, the production costs of creating a mold for one might scare off licensees, and I understand the BBC doesn't hold the full copyright to the daleks anyway, so any deal would be a three-cornered discussion. Oops.

In other analysis news, my blatant and brazen strategy of naming every random celebrity going is bearing fruit. Out of the celebrities I've name-checked recently - eg Madonna, Terry Wogan, Fern Cotton, Jonathan Ross, etc etc etc - can you guess the one who tops the Clapham Ominbus charts?

Well, in a breakthrough for the British Aristocracy I can exclusively reveal our top celebrity is none other than Her Grace the dowager Duchess of Devonshire. There you go. Who said the British class system was dead, or even off-line?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Save Battersea Power Station

It's sheer hell to be so cynical yet so correct.

"Battersea Power Station’s future remains in doubt as the fantastic hulk of the art-deco building itself remains in sorry dereliction.
Yesterday, the Guardian reported that the new owners of the £400m prime 36+ acre riverside site, Treasury Holdings, had scrapped development plans approved by Wandsworth Council in November last year and speculated whether London might be about to lose the four iconic chimneys altogether to yet another bland, luxury, residential development if the Power Station is allowed to further deteriorate beyond the realms of renovation." (Londonist)

Wandsworth Council and previous owners, Parkview, refused to even consider an alternative report by a team of three companies of concrete experts brought together by the World Monuments Fund & Twentieth Century Society, who have revealed that the chimneys can be repaired for half the cost of demolition and rebuilding.

The independent report also revealed there is no sign of structural distress in the chimneys. When Parkview bought the site thirteen years ago, they promised to restore it, but instead sat on it and did nothing, merely hanging onto it as property speculators. They pushed through planning permission to demolish the chimneys, full of promises to restore the building, but instead immediately flogged it for a £240m profit, since the value of the site had increased hugely as a result of planning permission to demolish the chimneys. Profit not renovation was evidently their aim.

UK voters can sign the government petition here.

The Guardian article can be read here.

Monday, March 26, 2007

weekend news roundup

Cricket coach was poisoned and strangled, police believe
*Bob Woolmer knew hotel-room killer
*He was ready to expose corruption
*Fixing enquiry into Ireland game
- The Daily Telegraph

Poison again - well, at least this time it's unlikely to be polonium. But now a possible crime from the past is emerging:

Family to test Houdini’s body for poison “Descendants of Harry Houdini announced plans to exhume his remains following claims he was poisoned.” - The Daily Telegraph

Houdini died suddenly in 1926 – an international conspiracy of spiritualists is suspected. Houdini mocked the spiritualists. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a keen spiritualist, wrote that Houdini would “get his just desserts very exactly meted out”.

Gay British men pay fertility clinic £33,000 for designer babies - Sunday Times. The Fertitilty Institutes, the clinic in Los Angeles runs the programme. A Gay baby boom!

the tell-tail clue to decoding dog behaviour – it’s how they wag ‘em - Dogs wag their tails to the right when they see something fmiliar, such as their owner, and to the left when confronted with something they want to run away from, it was revealed yesterday. The bias is subtle, requiring video analysis to spot.” - The Daily Telegraph

Will Italy’s laws to cut bad driving get lost in the traffic?
5,000 died, 330,000 injured on Italian roads last year. - The Daily Telegraph

I wonder how the figures compare to the UK's? As a pedestrian, I would like to praise Italian drivers - they are amazingly polite and chivalrous towards idiotic tourist pedestrians. Totally unlike the French or British. A British pedestrian's life is very miserable. Just yesterday I got hooted at by an irate driver while I was crossing the street in front of my own home - miles away from his speeding car.

Lowry's dark imagination comes to light - The Observer. Disturbing and sexually deviant drawings have remained hidden since the iconic British painter's death in 1976.
Hmmm. LS Lowry left his entire estate to a teenage girl fan. I'm actually not a fan of his stuff.

Tate buys women's art for sex equality - The Sunday Times. The Tate does not possess a single Georgia O'Keefe or Frida Kahlo.

"Silicon Valley's dot-com era may be givig way to the watt-com era. Out of the ashes of the Internet bust, many technology veterans have regrouped and found a new mission in alternative energy: developing wind power, solar panels, ethanol plants and hydrogen-powered cars." - The New York Times

Fyffes warns of dearer bananas “Britain’s favourite food – the humble banana – is set to increase in price after Fyffes, one of the world’s largest importers, said it would pass on soaring costs of production to consumers.” - The Daily Telegraph

Sunday, March 25, 2007


"We may now consider that this trade as having received its condemnation; that its sentence is sealed; that this curse of mankind is seen by the House in its true light; and that the greatest stigma on our national character which ever exisited is about to be removed." - William Pitt in the House of Commons, 2 April 1792. Slightly prematurely, as the slave trade would only be abolished 15 years later, on 25th March 1807, and slavery itself banned throughout the British colonies in 1833.

Today is the 200th anniversary of the banning of the slave trade in the British Empire. While Britain was the most active and successful slave trading nation in the
18th century, it was also the first nation in recorded history to ban slave trading, and thence forward actively promoted the end of slavery internationally. From our perspective, slavery seems obviously wrong, but at that time it was common to justify slavery on biblical grounds - the dreaded Leviticus, no less, sanctions it. Fifty years after Britain banned the slave trade, the southern States of the USA were still using Leviticus to justify slavery, a position which led to the Civil War.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Devil Wears Hennes

Yay for Madonna!

I can’t vouch for the clothes, but H&M’s PR department must be totally chuffed – The Guardian, no less, ran a photo-essay on the day the clothes hit the stores.

The ad is so cool; so visually gorgeous: and Madonna herself is so cool, so visually gorgeous, and yes, so funny – one can’t help but wonder why she has to date not made that iconic film performance. Surely with the right script and director it could still happen? It just has to! The poor woman is pushing 50 – she can’t be a dance diva forever!

The ad is Madge’s riff on The Devil Wears Prada – but this version ends happily, with the acolyte running off with the devil.

The You Tube phenomenon is fascinating, non? – with Viacom suing Google for millions, the only content producers happy about You Tube’s freedom are advertisers – totally free advertising downloaded and watched by people who are motivated to watch! Surely the Ad industry’s dream come true? I predict this is the future of advertising – product ads so sensational they achieve an indefinite half-life on the internet.

And once again Madge is on the crest of the wave. Clever girl – keep your focus on the product!

rhubarb update

It's best harvested by candlelight.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Shaggy Blog Stories

Mike at Troubled Diva has organized, compiled and produced a book of 100 of the best comic blogs in the UK to raise money for Comic Relief. All in one week! Astonishing commitment and energy, as well as a great idea. Shaggy Blog Stories features comic writing from not only the cream of British blogging, but also the best up-and-coming and undiscovered writers publishing their work on their own websites. It sounds like a really nice book to dip into, and to see what's happening out there on teh internets. After all, we are in the middle of the biggest revolution in informations systems since Gutenberg's printing press.

The book is produced and distributed by, an internet print-on-demand publisher (who is also donating their profits from the book to Comic Relief), so the entire project is very cutting-edge new media. I've ordered my copy today and you can too at:

Thursday photo: Magnolia (still hoping for Spring)


Cold, drizzly and nasty! - this photo seems like it was taken a lifetime ago. I want summer!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Grandad's medals

Grandad's medals, originally uploaded by hedgiecc.

Today my grandfather would have been 107 years old. These are his medals. He ran away from home at the age of 15 and lied about his age in order to join the airforce - before it was even called the RAF. He spent his entire working life there, rising to the rank of Wing Commander, and serving all over - Malta, Egypt, Aden, South Africa, Burma, Suez.

He visited us in Johannesburg when I was about 10. Every day, we would walk together to what he called "the village" - our local suburban shopping mall, where we would sit in a cafe drinking tea (and/or chocolate milkshakes and waffles).

Finally, it was time for him to take the Blue Train back down to Cape Town to join his ship sailing back to England (despite his long career in the airforce he hated flying). I kind of knew that this would be the last time I saw him, and therefore decided to "interview" him on my tape recorder. I remember he said he hoped the next time he saw me I would be "a general in the army".

The army was never my thing - even as a child I didn't like playing with toy soldiers, so I was slightly disappointed with his comment.

But my intuition was right - it was the last time we saw each other. Three years later he died of a stroke. Dad flew to London for the funeral, bringing back the medals.

Later, I came to London to study and stayed on afterwards. My aunt told me on his bedside table they found the poem I had written for him and read on the platform at Johnannesburg station all those years ago.

Monday, March 19, 2007

weekend news digest

Home sales gridlocked - The property supply is at a 10-year low, fuelling higher prices. Between 80 and 100 buyers are pursuing every property for sale. The average house price is now rising by £122 a day - Daily Telegraph. Ooh, sorry, hard for me not to be obnoxiously smug here . . .

Rocky Mountain High by John Denver, once nearly banned by the US for its alleged glorification of drug use, has become the Colorado state anthem - The Guardian

Sculpture that cost £132,000 crushed to dust - “A sculpture by Anish Kapoor, entrusted to a specialist fine art storage firm, was probably mistaken for builders’ rubble, dumped in a skip and destroyed by a waste crusher, a high court judge concluded yesterday” – The Guardian. The picture shows Anish Kapoor in happier times with his amazing installation Marsyas in Tate Modern’s turbine hall.

Police raid on theatre saves a lobster from certain death. “Avant-garde theatre is under attack in Italy for pushing the boat out too far after police raided a Milan playhouse to save a lobster from being bludgeoned to death and eaten on stage.
Following complaints from animal rights groups, the first-night performance of Incident: Kill to Eat by Argentinian playwright Rodrigo Garcia was broken up by three plainclothes officers who spared the lobster from an all-too-real death scene.” - The Guardian. Apparently, theatre is now more popular in Italy, with 13 million theatre tickets being sold last year, against 9 million football tickets.

£25 fridge gadget that could slash greenhouse emissions - The Guardian. This brilliant device (the e-cube) converts fridge thermostats to measure food temperature rather than air temperature, and thus saves huge amounts of energy. Fridges account for around 20% of domestic energy use, and fitting one of these to every fridge in Britain would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 2 million tonnes a year, as well as saving on energy bills. A totally common-sense idea - hooray!

Exodus – villages empty as 3m flee in search of hope abroad. Zimbabwe today – average life expectancy – 37 (as opposed to 60 in 1990); infant mortality rate up to 81 per 1,000; national income per person is $340 against South Africa’s $4,960; 5.5m Zimbabweans live with HIV; 1.1m Aids orphans; 6 out of every 100 have a phone (47 in South Africa); 56% of the population live on less than $1 a day - The Guardian. This is all mainly thanks to the ineptitude and corruption of Robert Mugabe and his cohorts in Zanu-PF. I was born in Zimbabwe, and it is tragic to see how that wonderful country has failed.

End of the line for HP sauce - ‘The last bottle of HP sauce to be made in Britain rolled off the production line yesterday. The final batch of the iconic brown condiment was made at the company’s factory in Aston, Birmingham, at 6am.
Heinz, the parent company, is moving production to the Netherlands with the loss of 120 jobs. A spokesman for the Transport and General Workers’ Union said last night: “The plant has been a landmark for 108 years – you could smell it from miles away.”’ – The Telegraph

Britpop goes rocking back into the US: Amy Winehouse and the Fratellis spearhead British music’s new transatlantic chart assault - “A new wave of British bands is taking the Unirted States by storm – and being credited with ‘saving pop music’ in America. ‘British empire strikes back’ yelled the the USA Today newspaper, adding ‘The British are humming’ as it feted at least half a dozen UK artists poised to make it big across the Atlantic.” – The Sunday Times

Right – let’s talk rhubarb protection - “Food from Britain, the government-backed marketing organization, has launched an appeal to producers of local ‘signature foods’ to apply for European Union protection.” To date, 35 British foods have been awarded this status, against 161 French foods and 155 Italian foods. Surprise, surprise, listing means enhanced access to Euro-funding.
“Among the British foods now bidding for protected status is Yorkshire rhubarb, which is grown in an area around Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield known as the ‘rhubarb triangle’.
The application for EU recognition states the rhubarb is grown indoors, benefits from the cold, heavy Yorkshire soil and has a ‘superior’ flavour to its rivals.” - The Sunday Times

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Big Brovaz wuz robbed!!

A fantastic, original song, a theatrical performance blasting energy - a vote-winner with the European observers present - so of course we didn't pick them. Doh!

Instead, Scooch won. Hyped as being 'a return to pop' (circa 1974, I'd say), this is a pitch-perfect example of its genre: the British Eurovision Song. It honestly would not exist without the Eurovision Song Contest. A teeny tiny part of me thinks its aggressive campery may just do it for us - however, the larger part thinks this will sink without trace. Deservedly so.

Justin Hawkins, ex-frontman of Darkness, and Beverlei Brown were the bookies' favourites. An absolutely inspired pairing with stupendous costumes. Sad the song was par-for-the-course Hawkins stuff, and for Eurovision greater attention should have been given to the choreography. This was never going to win; the package didn't live up to the ingredients.

Liz McClarnon's effort (Don't It Make You) Happy! was my second choice. I think she was let down slightly by off-production and opening-act nerves (although in spectacular voice) - the backing dancers appeared at least to this unschooled observer to be under-rehearsed.

Least said the better about Brian Harvey's ballad. I was pleased to see him fighting back from the verge of personal tragedy, etc etc etc.

Fern Cotton's dress was fantastic in the first half of the programme. But she reverted to that wide and deep v-cut neck-line in the second half WHICH DOES ABSOLUTELY NOTHING FOR HER! ~ note to stylist. It was amusing to watch her manage dear old Terry Wogan. His gaga old buffer act is reaching a fairly critical stage - is it actually, in fact, not an act at all??!! - He announced as the winner Cyndi's Celine Dion-esque effort, and had to be corrected by Fern. That this was the runner-up was a second reason for despair.

However, the ominously threatened Morrisey entry did not transpire, and for this all Smiths fans must be forever grateful.

This year's Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Helsinki on 12 May.

Meet the UK's Eurovision hopefuls
Gaffe mars Scooch Eurovision win

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Leon Kossof at the National Gallery

After my lunch in Notting Hill I meandered my way back southwards via the National Gallery to have a quick peek. The free national collections are a major bonus to living in London - it's a pleasure to suddenly get the urge to say hello to the Titians and just pop in for 15 minutes or so.

Leon Kossof first visited the National Gallery on his own at the age of 10 in 1936. He made his way from his home in Hackney. Later, he said that for him, all roads in London led to the National Gallery. Wow.

A reproduction of his painting Spitalfields in one of the papers prompted me to have a look at the original. It has a wonderfully robust, almost sculptural presence of its own. Layers of oil paint are heaped up on the board and swirl luxuriantly across the surface. It's a mountainous landscape of gloopy impasto, especially visible at the edges of the painting from which, as it is unframed, the gallery lights project extraordinary shadows on the walls.

But this muscular abstractionism is delicately balanced by the representation of Christ Church Spitalfields. It is just there, in all its precipitous perspective. The creamy greys, blues and greens do correspond - almost tangentally - to the reality of architecture, trees and sky. The painting asks us to take it as an object, then conjures up a representation of something else.

The stream of ambiguity is deepened by Kossof's preferred Baroque sources in this exhibition - Poussin, Rubens and Hawksmoor. In his etchings Kossof renders the classical Poussinesque compositions clearly but within an expressive flickering framework of abstract marks. And it is notable how ambiguous these Baroque artists themselves all are - they all hover daringly on the border between classicism and outright expressiveness. Hawksmoor's towering pile is more expressive than a full-blown Gothic Cathedral; Poussin is surreptitiously partial to stretching figures and playing games with light for effect.

Leon Kossof: Drawing from Painting
14th March - 1 July 2007
Sunley Room
National Gallery
Trafalgar Square

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Electric jolts

The last 18 months have taught me that your life can change in a moment. One Friday, you can be called up to your manager’s office for a lunchtime meeting to find yourself out on the pavement five minutes later, sans keys, credit card and job. You can then spend the next few weeks becoming an expert in employment law, briefing the best employment lawyer you can find, and generally fighting tooth-and-nail for a decent settlement. In the middle of all this, your father may suffer a stroke, fall and break his neck, and spend the next 3 months in hospital on the other side of the world in critical care with a variety of hospital superbugs.

Distracted, worried and depressed, it may take a while to find a new job. The mortgage is ticking away, taking with it your life savings. Options appear to be closing down. But one day, you get a call; an invitation to lunch.

Because no matter how bad or how good your day is, and in whichever sudden new direction the wheel of fortune has decided to throw you, there will always be food.

I can’t remember what I ate the evening I was fired. But my upswing started with lunch at the Electric Brasserie in Notting Hill. Time Out suggests one be persistent, and one “will eventually secure a booking at what is one of the most fashionable restaurants in Notting Hill” – sort of like my career path, really.

We industry gossiped and discussed job specs over a delicious salad of avocado, broad beans, radish, frisee and delicate slivers of Italian cheese – tossed in a fresh light dressing which did not overpower the tender vegetables. For my main I had a spinach and gorgonzola tart – the intensely flavoured cheese melted over wilted spinach in a super light pastry case, all working together coherently as a team. I was pretty much over the moon with this choice, as I had my doubts when ordering – so much could have gone wrong.

The dining room is loud (acoustics are of the echo-ey kind – a dropped glass sounded like a bomb going off), and we were seated next to a tableful of Notting Hillbillies, who brayed full bore while chasing lettuce around their plates with forks. So be prepared to shout.

Service was attentive, discreet and friendly, and the cappuchinos just so. My one quibble apart from the noise was the bread offering – the slices were open textured but drying out, and the butter provided was rock-hard. Apart from that, the kitchen really had it together. I would happily go back, anyway. Especially if life takes another upturn!

Electric Brasserie
191 Portobello Road
W11 2ED
020 7908 9696

Thursday pic - Spring is coming

sainsbury daffodils, originally uploaded by hedgiecc.

Sainsbury's special offer - 20 daffs for 90p :-)


"I wandered lonely as a cloud
To Sainsbury's deli for my lunch
When all at once I saw a crowd
Of daffs at 90p a bunch"

- Barbara Rich, 2007

The lovely Barbara left this beautiful poem as a comment on my flickr stream - I like it so much I'm posting it here too!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


I saw on Jonathan Ross's Film 2007 that Working Title is going to release an adaptation of Ian McKewan's novel Atonement later this year, starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy. I'm excited. Atonement is one of my favourite novels, and it certainly offers filmakers lots of scope for epic image making - a tragic love affair played out against a backdrop of glamorous 30's country house parties; the retreat to Dunkirk, and the London Blitz, with wild plot reversals all the way through.

The visuals Jonathan showed looked promising. The film is produced and directed by the same team that did the well-received recent Pride and Prejudice. It will be interesting to see what they do with the novel - despite the spectacular melodrama it will be a bit tricky to film. McKewan plays remarkable literary games in the novel which will not translate easily.

Weekend news digest

I found a Winterson manuscript on the tube – The manuscript of celebrated English novelist Jeanette Winterson's forthcoming novel The Stone Gods was found abandoned on a bench at Balham Station. Oops! - Evening Standard

Amazing grace – The dowager Duchess of Devonshire adapts to her life after Chatsworth by opening a pub in her home village – the Swan Inn at Swinbrook in the Cotswolds. Apparently, she once took tea with Hitler (“he didn’t make a great impression”). I once took tea with Her Grace at Chatsworth, so yikes! – I’ve had tea with the woman who had tea with Hitler. Six degrees of separation and all that. (ES Magazine)

Saturday 10th March – Osama bin Laden’s 50th birthday. Which makes him a caring, spiritual Pisces. Yeesh!

Let’s see what his horoscope says: “Living under the magnifying glass of the media may feel grossly uncomfortable for you. When it comes down to it, no amount of fame or fortune can bring the satisfaction that total freedom does. Since you learn through experience, you may achieve success, fame, and all the trappings before you realize how limiting it can be. You will always stand out as a refined rebel.”Hmm. Not bad so far. “Your ability to influence others is really quite remarkable . . . You have a seductive glamour that flows naturally and effortlessly . . . You are skilled at distilling raw emotion into something provocative and hypnotic”.

Angry crowds hunt Bush as protests mark start of Latin American tour – “Massive corruption scandals involving Brazilian politicians rarely elicit this kind of reaction. Even top-flight Brazilian football teams sometimes struggle to draw such crowds”- The Guardian

Gingrich admits having affair at time of Clinton scandalThe Guardian. The sleaze of politicians knows no depth or end.

Europe sets benchmark for tackling climate change – “millions of homes across Europe face losing filament lightbulbs after the EU agreed to draw up rules by 2009”. - The Guardian. Good show, terrific, etc, BUT how does this affect downlighters? - My flat has 19 of them. And I don’t want those spirally environment-friendly bulbs snaking out of my sockets and spoiling the ceiling plane. Also, the light they emit is awfully cold. I don't like it. As I find myself already planning on importing illicit supplies of lightbulbs from the third world, this is clearly going to be a test of my green credentials.

Sacred Roman settlement found next to Neolithic ‘devil’s hill’- Evidence of a Roman sacred site has been discovered at the foot of a man-made hill created thousands of years before the Romans arrived in Britain, it was announced...English Heritage called the uncovering of the settlement a “startling discovery”, and all the more so because it lies next to 5,000-year-old Silbury Hill, which at 130ft is Europe’s largest man-made prehistoric monument.”- The Telegraph

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Daleks are good!

Dalek cake, originally uploaded by tiny_tear.

I was admiring this wonderful homemade dalek cake posted on flickr when my telephone rang - a job offer for me! Whee! Life can change in an instant. This time, thank heavens, for the better.

Daleks terrified me when I was small - they were totally evil, and their metallic voices very fearsome. My parents' often repeated reminders that Daleks couldn't climb stairs made no difference. Eventually, I was banned from watching Dr Who but somehow I would still be drawn to the TV, hiding behind the sofa where my parents were sitting watching. My presence was always revealed whenever things got too scary. Dad would then pick me up and return me to my bed, where the cycle would begin again.

Anyway, all that is behind us as clearly Daleks have a beneficial effect nowadays!

Later on on friday I spotted this chocolate Dalek easter egg from Marks & Spencer. A triumph of packaging - really, the box IS more interesting than the chocolate inside (which is just an ordinary egg. Well, it's chocolate, so no complaints from me, but how fabulous would a real chocolate Dalek be?)

The best part of the box is that it has a speaking chip which screams "Exterminate! Exterminate!" in true Dalek fashion. So I left it to patrol the kitchen while I ate the egg in front of the TV (yes, bad boy, a bit previous to Easter but what the hell, I was celebrating my new job offer) - watching Ugly Betty (hilarious), Gosford Park (genius), and The House of Mirth (depressing). The egg didn't last that long though.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Tower Bridge

London without Tower Bridge would be like Paris without the Eiffel Tower or New York without the Chrysler Building. They all transcend considerations of architectural taste or value to become symbols: totems drawing the tourists inexorably - for once you have seen them, been there, taken the photo and got the t-shirt, you can truly say you have visited the great city; inbibed its essence.

Tower Bridge is great because it's so naff. That Gothic revivalism - surely even in its time it was meant with a sense of fun?

It's a sympathetic partner for its neighbour, the Tower of London, but also references the most spectacular Gothic bridge of all - the medieval London Bridge, destroyed in the Georgian Enlightenment, and a ghost which still haunts this stretch of the river. Not for nothing is Tower Bridge still frequently mistaken for "London" Bridge.

But the cod-medievalism doesn't just cloak the robust Victorian engineering. Form does follow function - in an allusive sense. For what are those massive bascules if not oversized, paired drawbidges? Seeing them raised is a perfectly satisfying visual joke, and far more entertaining than a strictly functionalist version of the bridge would have allowed.

Opened in 1894, Tower Bridge is a good 11 years younger than Brooklyn Bridge in New York, another bridge with Gothic detailing allied with stupendous engineering achievement.

Tower Bridge Official website
Bridge lifting/opening dates and times

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Orange alert

I am feeling so inadequate. I like being up-to-date with technology but am more than usually useless with trying to understand it.

Last year, Orange upgraded me to a Nokia 6280. Now, from my previous 'phone, a Nokia 6610i, I could quite happily email phone pics to my computer. Suddenly I couldn't. I recently travelled up to Birmingham and was able to shoot the iconic new Selfridges, and wanted the save the photos. Argh!!!!!!!

I have been through complete 'phone support hell trying to get it sorted so I could email the pics off the 'phone. Two very lengthy sessions with support people - today's chap had to refer to his supervisor who said (I could hear him in the background) that I hadn't 'registered' the 'phone and therefore that was why I couldn't email. End of session. Me left facing a faceless internet page.

Well, sorry, but if there was a checklist for techno-illiterates to follow, or even clear instructions on the website, that might be slightly helpful. As it is, I feel I have about 17 pass codes, email codes, security codes, etc etc etc, without the vaguest clue why I need them or what they are for. After hours of fruitless rootling around I finally got to a page where I could 'register' the 'phone (it's fairly well hidden).

It asked me for all my codes. Yikes. Filled them in in and pressed the button. Watched paint dry. Gave up.

So I took the extraordinary step of referring to my phone's handbook and eventually managed to connect it up to my laptop via bluetooth, whatever that is. Hooray! Thank the Lord for Apple! Now I can just bluetooth the pics across. And I can forget about email until it becomes impossible to ignore.

Have to say, I'm not a fan of the 6280. I prefer my old 6610i.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Weekend news roundup

Eclipse - On Saturday evening clear skies meant Londoners saw the first total lunar eclipse since 2001. The eclipse began at 8.18pm and was complete between 10.44pm and 11.58pm. The red shade is caused by sunlight scattering through the earth's atmosphere being reduced to mainly red wavelengths before being reflected off the moon's surface.

I missed the whole thing as I crashed at around 8pm! - Just too exhausted and couldn't take the pace.

BBC gives up appeal against injunction - The cash for honours affair gets even more interesting, and the politicians seem to be in even hotter water. "Although the precise allegations still cannot be disclosed for legal reasons, they are understood to relate to the 'heart of the investigation'.
. . . the BBC reported that the injunction related to an 'internal email' circulated in Dowing Street." - The Observer

Love is a more accurate indicator of life expectancy than smoking - Happiness s good for you! How to be happier: (a) - move nearer to the office. Commuting is bad for your mental health!; (b) - Get married - except children cause a strain on your happiness until they move out; (c) - Earn at least £25,700 a year: below that is bad, and above that not that much better - way above can actually be bad too; (d) - Get into gardening - 'flow' activities where your brain can switch off are excellent for your health; (e) Get out more - socialise, socialise, socialise! - The Observer

London - " . . . London is the clearing house of Europe, the Nineveh and Babylon of modern times, the wealthiest city on record.
. . . the Square Mile continues to boom. London has become the number one financial centre with the most foreign banks, 70 per cent of the world's secondary bond market and half the derivatives market. The City's 325,000 employees lapped up an estimated £9bn in New year bonuses." - Tristram Hunt, The Observer

The northern lights have the strangest side effects - Abisko in northern Sweden is a popular honeymoon spot with Japanese couples - "they believe babies conceived under the northern lights will become intellectuals. Hotel rooms with glass viewing roofs are popular, and every local seems to know about the collision 120 miles away in Gallivare, when a snowmobile hit an amorous couple displaying remarkable determination - not to mention blood flow - in a sleeping bag." - Ian Belcher, The Sunday Times

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Wystan Hugh Auden
(21 February 1907, York – 29 September 1973, Vienna)

My favourite 20th-Century poet, and an early hero. I loved The Shield of Achilles from my first reading of it probably around 1973. Later, his homosexuality intrigued me, but I remember reading the biography by Humphrey Carpenter at university depressed me for weeks. It all seemed so tragically sad.

He was felt to have abandoned England when he left for America in 1939; and perhaps his quite admirable political engagement up to that point made his departure especially difficult to fathom for both friends and critics. But it seems it was anxieties around his gayness which inspired the move and kept him from explaining why.

It is pretty remarkable he spent the 1930s visiting some of the low dishonest decade’s most troublesome flash-points – Germany; Spain; China.

His politics seem appropriate once again in the age of globalization and renewed colonial wars. Especially now, which has a most distinct feel of clever hopes once again expiring.

I love his struggle to keep his abundant lyricism checked; his tendency to undercut rhetorical beauty with the commonalities of modern idiom or reference. Very much the organizing principal of The Shield of Achilles, in fact.

The Fall of Rome
[For Cyril Connolly]

The piers are pummeled by the waves;
In a lonely field the rain
Lashes an abandoned train;
Outlaws fill the mountain caves.

Fantastic grow the evening gowns;
Agents of the fisc pursue
Absconding tax-defaulters through
The sewers of provincial towns.

Private rites of magic send
The temple prostitutes to sleep;
All the literati keep
An imaginary friend.

Cerebrotonic Cato may
Extoll the Ancient Disciplines,
But the muscle-bound Marines
Mutiny for food and pay.

Caesar’s double-bed is warm
As an unimportant clerk
On a pink official form.

Unendowed with wealth or pity,
Little birds with scarlet legs,
Sitting on their speckled eggs,
Eye each flu-inflected city.

Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,
Silently and very fast.
January 1947