Monday, 21 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Well, I think this will be my last post of 2009.  I'm off to Sweden tomorrow and won't be back until the new year, so happy christmas to you all and a wish fulfilled 2010 - wow a new decade already!
The first test between England and South Africa finished yesterday, which resulted in a draw.  England managed to hang on with the last pair having to play out the last three overs.  Very nervewracking.  The second test starts on Boxing Day.
Staying with cricket, i've found an interesting online game Test Catch Cricket. It requires no knowledge of the game, but the graphics are fun and the game is straightforward and addictive.  Have a go.
We've had snow in London in the last few days, the first time I can ever remember it snowing before christmas.  It might even end up being a white christmas.  It certainly will be in Sweden.  So with christmas nearly upon us, here's a spotify playlist of some Favourite Xmas songs that I've put together, hope you enjoy them and I'll see you in the new year!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Deep Relief

I'm in a very good mood this evening.  The court have ruled that the cabin crew strike is illegal and I will be able to fly next week...unless of course something else goes wrong, like heavy snow...but we'll see.  I feel much better though.
With my brain relieved by this news I was actually able to do some writing today, rather than fretting the day away with coffee and chocolate.  I've written a chapter five for my novel type story and have about twenty thousand words now.  It's shaping up a little.
My girlfriend also received the news that she has got her Diploma in I want to say a huge congratulations to her.  I'm very proud.  I can imagine her face going red right now.  At least I'll be able to congratulate her in person.  Woo hoo!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Christmas Horrors

Right now I should be excited.  I should be looking forward to Christmas.  I should be looking forward to seeing my girlfriend for the first time in a month.  I should be looking forward to waking up next to her on Christmas morning.  I should be looking forward to seeing her face when I give her a gift.  But right now, every Christmas thought and every thought related to it, weighs me down like I've swallowed lead and lumps of sharp metal.
I'm due to be flying with British Airways on the 22nd and fly home on the 2nd, the start and end days of the cabin crew strike.  I can't help but think that their reasons for choosing these dates is for the ultimate amount of publicity more than for the sensibilities of going on strike.  Why, for your first strike do you do it for 12 days? Most other unions strike for one day here, one day there...their choice is preposterous.
And even then why are they striking at all?  Not only does BA have a lot more credible opposition these days with all the budget airlines that provide good services, there is also a recession in place.  Costs have to be cut.  How can these cabin crew justify to themselves that they are so important that they can't survive a pay freeze.  At least they have a job.
Other staff within BA have negotiated and agreed to new terms, and yet the cabin crew have not.  Instead they have decided to hold the world to ransom at a time when peace, love and goodwill are supposed to be the prevailing emotions.  Christmas is for families and lovers, but instead we could all be kept apart by money grabbers and selfish cabin crew, by a union looking for publicity, and I for one have no sympathy with them.  I am hoping that it will be called off, but something inside me says that come the 22nd of December, I'll be arriving at Heathrow without a flight to catch, and I'll be parted from my girlfriend for the complete holiday season.

On a lighter note, I have been visiting my Dad in Cheddar for a week.  One day we did the Gorge Walk, on another I took a walk around the reservoir and there are photos below.  Immediately below are two photos of a Cottage Pie I first...and it was delicious!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Injury List

I have a capacity for self injury, probably more than some and probably less than others.  In childhood I managed to run down a path with a forgotten step, to fall into a rose bush and to run into a parked car.
In more recent years I have suffered swollen ankles from fast moving cricket balls, scraped hands from museum exhibits along with a propensity for being tasty food for biting insects.
This week I have been able to add to my list.  At the weekend I slipped on my stairs and now have a purple, fist sized bruise on my arse and today I surpassed even myself I think.  While doing the washing up.
I know you're thinking, perhaps a cut hand from a broken glass or plate, perhaps even picking up the blade of a sharp knife.  No.  I was injured by a piece of dry spaghetti.  It had attached itself to the outside of a saucepan and so I tried to pick it off.  A piece broke off and pushed itself under my thumbnail.
After a moment or so of shouting and cursing I remembered a pair of tweesers, and managed to pull it back out again, along with the requisite drop of blood.
Even I'm not too sure what to say sometimes.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Driven To The Brink

Another mixture of topics, starting with the football...a pretty good draw for England who will start on June 12 against USA, with Algeria and Slovenia also in the group.  At least we missed the likes of France, Portugal and Ivory Coast.  Still six months away, but I'm already a little excited.  With Capello at the helm this is the best chance England have had for a long time, lets hope they make the best of it.
The cricketers did well today without having to take the field since it rained all day in Durban, meaning that they win the one day series, South Africa's first loss on home soil for about 17 series.  I think it's a bit of a shame they couldn't play today, but still it puts the Proteas on the back foot.  No rain in London today I'm glad to say.
Wednesday night I was out with a friend for a few beers, needless to say I haven't done much work since.  I did complete chapter four on wednesday though.  And I have been cooking today.  A stew of lamb with tomato, parsnip and potato with a side of spinach and broccoli.  Photo below along with a previous meal of beef meatballs, potatoes, carrots and broccoli with gravy.

I'm not particularly political on this blog, but I have been a little outraged at the way RBS are trying to give out huge sums of money in bonuses and asking for more money in order to do it.  Haven't they had enough of our money already?  And yet savings rates still stay pitifully low and not much money is being lent out to the ordinary person.  There is a Give Up The Bonus petition which people can sign if they're not happy, I've signed it and if people feel the same as me then they can too.  After all we are the majority shareholders.
Since I've already had a money based playlist, here's something completely's all about Driving

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Sporting Chance

Its been announced that England will be seeded for next year's world cup, just reward for their good qualifying run.  They leapfrogged Portugal and France who are seeded in the top eight, but after cheating their way to the finals, I'm sure that if France had been seeded it would have raised some eyebrows.
England's cricketers are a bit of a mixed bag at the moment.  They lost the 3rd one dayer after conceding 350 runs to South Africa, but then hit back in the 4th game by skittling them out for 119!  They now have an unassailable lead, but something tells me the score will be 2-2 by the end.  I would bet on a drawn test series too.
Saturday night saw me watching the band of an ex-work colleague The Hidden Messages.  I'm not certain how to describe their music but do check them out, their songs are quite good.  It's just a shame about some of the poky venues in which they play.
So far this week I have written chapter three of my story and about to work on chapter four.  I've also been reading Before the Frost, by Henning Mankell, which was really good.  I'm going to have to check out some more of his books.  I also spotted that there will be a book fair at Camden School for Girls on saturday 5 december which will be worth checking out for cheap books.
Here's another spotify playlist, hope you enjoy it At Court

Friday, 27 November 2009


Dreams are strange things indeed.  This morning I woke with the impression that I had been listening to the radio, to Simon Mayo in particular (why him I don't know), who was talking about the anniversary of the first airing of a programme called McFadden.  For some reason I knew that it was some sort of spy/action series, but I'm pretty certain it doesn't exist.  Maybe someone can help me there?
I can only think that my mind has brought together MacGyver with Matthew McFadyen who starred in Spooks.  The other strange thing was that I was sure that actress Jaye Griffiths was also in it, but again was my mind just remembering her role in Bugs - a similar type of programme.  And I thought only my conscious mind was weird.
I've written two chapters of a story this week, and been planning out events for the next ones.  I'm actually quite pleased with it, if I say so myself.  It almost writes itself, maybe that's how it should be?  We'll see how it goes though.  This time next week I may be saying something completely different.
Finally a new spotify playlist today, this one entitled Cats and Dogs

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


Read an article on the BBC website today Vaughan remembers test debut in which former England Cricket captain Michael Vaughan (and Sheffield Wednesday fan) remembered his test debut in South Africa in 1999.  He batted at four and came in with the score on 2 for 2.  Before he had faced a ball, England were 2 for 4!!
I remember listening to this on the radio and was stunned to realise that it was ten years ago.  It was the worst performance I had listened to since the 46 all out in Port of Spain back in 1994, although I think that still ranks as the worst - at least the commentary is more vivid. 
There have been others of course, Australia 2007 always comes to mind, and that's only on the radio.  England collapses on TV are just as memorable.  Sri Lanka in 1998, Australia in 2005 and 2009...the list goes on.  I think it's a typically English thing to remember the abject defeats more clearly than the stunning victories, for instance I can barely remember a thing from last summer's Ashes.

Onto a completely different subject now, and the spotify playlists seem to be popular, and so here's another, inspired by a song I heard on the radio last night Money Money Money.  And the answer to my previous question, well, it was a trick question really, there were two songs: Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head as mentioned, and Why Does It Always Rain On Me?

Monday, 23 November 2009

November Rain

The weather has taken a turn for the strange.  Rough winds and rain, dark clouds mingling with sunshine and clear skies.  Not too sure what coat to wear, let alone whether I'll need gloves or a hat.  So, with such a pot pourri of outside conditions, a mixture of blog topics today.
I'll start with the walk I took yesterday, all the way up to Alexandra Palace from Kentish Town.  I took the main roads via Highgate (charming, with an intriguing Caffe Nero), Queens Wood and Muswell Park.  Those in the know will already be aware that it was the first home of the BBC back in 1936, and the aeriel is still there.  There is also a pitch and putt course, a boating lake, an ice skating rink and views down to south east london.  I'm thinking I'll have to head up there again - in better weather of course.  Here are some photos from the walk, the Palace and its grounds:

After a long walk like that I needed some good food, and so cooked myself some rice, peas, brocolli, carrots and cod with a nice hollandaise's a picture of that to get your mouth watering

England's winter tour of South Africa finally got properly underway yesterday with the second one day international (the first having been cancelled due to rain).  Paul Collingwood gained his 171st cap, a new record, and subsequently went on to win the man of the match award after two wickets and an unbeaten century to his name.  England won by 7 wickets, with four overs to spare! Pretty resounding result and the sixth one day win in a row against the South Africans.  The next match is a day nighter on Friday.
I've been working on some writing over the weekend, which came off pretty well.  I meant to do some more today but reading got in the way.  I picked up the most recent 'watch' book, The Last Watch, and am already a third of the way through it.  I also got a book by Henning Mankell, creator of Kurt Wallander, the Swedish detective.  Should be an interesting read.
Finally, inspired by the weather, here is another spotify playlist November Rain .  Not ten tracks this time but nine - the other one that I wanted wasn't avaliable on spotify...see if you can guess what it was.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Stuck in the Middle

Something a little different today.  Follow the link below to a Spotify playlist based on songs relating to the middle, or the centre, which i have compiled for no other reason than it's fun.  Enjoy!

Stuck in the Middle

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The 'Go-around'

Imagine yourself on an aeroplane.  It's night time, you're tired, the seat-belt signs have been on for a while.  You're settling in for a landing.  The houses are getting bigger.  You can distinguish buses from cars on the roads.  The plane's wobbling a bit; it's windy.  The ground is getting closer.  Any moment now you'll see the airport grounds and feel the aircraft touching down.  Then the engines kick in.  That can't be right? You ask yourself.  Surely we'll speed into the ground?  Then the plane heaves; it's trying to lift up.  For a moment it seems to hang. Although it feels much longer. Then you're up again, getting higher while the ground gets smaller.  What just happened?
Well, that's what happens when the aircraft in front of you fails to clear the runway!  Luckily, last night was a beautifully clear night and it was no problem to see London mapped out in front of me like a three-dimensional Google Earth.  It's cliched I know, but everything looked like a model, a tiny Royal Albert Hall, a minature London Eye, the whole of Hampstead Heath in the size of my palm.
And so a second circle of London, which they call a 'go-around', before we finally did land.  Feels strange to be back in England again so soon, but back again I am.  It doesn't seem quite so dark here, even if it is more windy.  The sky is brighter and doesn't stay dark for so long, at least not yet.
But I'm armed with plenty of swedish chocolate and new ideas for my writing.  Today I think I need to relax, get some shopping in, empty my bags, re organise my flat so that it's not in such a mess and try not to miss my girlfriend.  At least not too much...

Monday, 16 November 2009


Hej from Sweden (that means Hello for those who don't know).  Had a nice trip over, even though I was at the back of the plane, but all my transport connections ran fairly smoothly.  My girlfriend was there to meet me at the station and we've spent some nice days together as usual.
I've eaten Elk for the first time, which is rather tasty, both in minced form and some fried pieces from the shoulder.  I've also been joining my girlfriend's family in making some sort of flat bread, which is a tradition for them around this time of year.  I think I did OK, but don't think that I have a new career.
It's already snowed a couple of times this week, but it didn't last long on either occasion.  It was down to minus six but it's not too cold now.  Much more like english november weather.
Visited the Falun copper mine on Friday.  The pit is huge and you can walk all the way around the top of it.  It is from the rock here that the famous red paint gets its pigment.  Almost every house you encounter has its wood painted with it, apart from the corners of course, which are white.
Also saw Falun's museum, which has some exhibits relating to Selma Lagerlof (as mentioned in the previous post) because she lived there for a while.  They have a room which was reconstructed from her own, with tables, chairs and books.  You can also hear a recording of her speaking on the radio, and despite the fact that I couldn't understand a thing she was saying, she had a nice voice.
Travelled up to Arjang yesterday, and while my girlfriend has been painting in the studio, I sat beside her doing some writing.  I have to say that I found it easier to write while in a working environment.  You can't help but concentrate on what you are doing since everyone else is concentrating on their work.
I travel home again on Wednesday with some fresh ideas relating to my writing and extra enthusiasm.  I really want to get a lot of work done between now and christmas when I travel out here again.  Still, it will be a shame to travel home so soon.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

All Food and Lagerlof

Been quiet for the last few days because I've had my dad down to celebrate his 60th. We've been doing plenty of eating and drinking, home made as well as eating out.  We went to the nearby Junction Tavern a couple of times which I've come to like.  You're treated as if you've drunk in there every day for years which is a nice feeling.
One of the meals we cooked for ourselves was lamb's liver, mash, carrots and spinach, with a bacon and onion gravy.  A picture is below.  You can also see our Gin & Tonic's!

And for the actual birthday itself we went to Loch Fyne in Covent Garden which is a lovely fish restaurant.  I had the smoked salmon pate and smoked haddock while my dad had whitebait followed by dressed crab.  It was all delicious and washed down with a Muscadet.
I also took the chance to see the new road layout at Oxford Circus and had to walk diagonally.  Great fun.
Not much writing done these last few days and not likely to do much next week as off to Sweden again tomorrow.  Speaking of which, I did catch the lunchtime lecture last Thursday on Selma Lagerlof, the swedish author.  It was very interesting and I'm now keen to read her books.  However, the english translations were done a long time ago and are said to be not very good.  But Norvik Press will be issuing some new translations in the next 18 months, so I'll have to wait until then.
That's it for now, but hopefully some more writing news in the next blogs.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


A short post today to add some links to other websites.  First to a picture that I first saw in my Fortean Times of the squirrel crasher who appeared in a photograph in Banff.  As if the name of the lake at which the photo was taken wasn't funny enough.
And the other is to emcartoons which has kept me going over the past month or so.  Em first appeared in The London Paper (which has now closed) but who is now continuing in The Sun.  Please enjoy!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Out of The Woods

I should know better really.  I should know better than to borrow a Harlan Coben book from the library.  In this case it was 'Into the Woods'.  I took it at at 10.30 yesterday morning and I finished it at 1.30am this morning.  But then I should know better.  Whenever I have one of his books it never lasts long.  The longest to date is two and a quarter days.  From the first chapter you know that whatever the perceived reality is, that's exactly what it isn't.  And you become desperate to know what it is.  You just can't help it.  So that was my day yesterday.
As for the past couple of days, I've been working on a short story, along with a couple of other ideas.  Yesterday I cooked myself an all-day breakfast: Two sausage, two bacon, two egg, chips, beans, mushroom, tomato, pot of tea.  It was fantastic! Even the eggs went well to my surprise.  The weather can't seem to make up its mind what to do, one day wet, the next sunny and cloudless, the next grey and windy.  It'll be another sixteen weeks before its as light as it is depressing!
Excitingly though I've just received this months Fortean Times.  I think I know what I'll end up doing today, no matter how much I want to do something else.

Friday, 30 October 2009

The Real Vampires

Yesterday's lecture was brilliant! It was great to hear about the real genuine myths relating to vampires as opposed to the westernised myths from film and literature.  It all comes from the slavic and balkan regions and relates to the eastern orthodox idea that the soul doesn't leave the body until it has fully decayed.
There are various ways to become a vampire, from time of conception, to the manner of your death.  Even if you die unmarried!  Sins being absolved by a priest or the traditional stake through the heart can kill a vampire.  You can see the undead lecture here in about a week.
You'll see from my previous post that I've been busy writing, but the dark mornings and evenings have been getting me down a bit.  So I've been relaxing a little more today and watched The Man Who Knew Too Much. I couldn't help noticing that part of it was filmed in the Camden area which was interesting.
I've also been doing some cooking and below you'll find some photos of recent food.  Today's dinner of spaghetti with a home made sauce of bacon, mushroom, courgette, tomato, spring onion, garlic and fresh basil.  And beneath it my desert from yesterday, nectarines and custard.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Out of Time - a story

Residents of London will easily dismiss my tale as something of, if not impossible, then implausible fantasy. But then it is unlikely that my story could possibly happen to a Londoner, since they would not have made the mistake that I made.
I have no doubt that residents of other parts of the country, and other parts of the world, would sympathise with me, and I appeal to those within the Capital to put yourselves in my situation for a moment.
Those who know London well would agree that it’s maze of backstreets are a very easy place in which to get lost. And it was within the back streets of the area of Gospel Oak that I found myself lost, two months ago now.
I had been visiting a friend who has just moved to the area and over wine and brandy we had been debating the recent election of BNP candidates into the European Parliament. I was despondent at this fact and couldn’t understand the hatred being stirred up against minorities within the country.
My friend however pointed out that the problem of overpopulation did indeed exist, but whereas the far-Right blamed the immigrants, it was really the incumbent politicians who should be to blame. Probably as a result of turning this argument over in my mind I took a wrong turning on my way to Chalk Farm and found myself standing outside Kentish Town West station instead.
To my disappointment I could not get to Euston from here, but a map showed me that Camden Town station was not far away. And at the junction of Kentish Town Road and Castle Road I thought that I had found it.
Once again I ask you to see things from my situation. I was slightly panicked at the thought of not making my train, the confusing streets in the darkness of the evening and then the reassuring sight of the red tiles so common to the outsides of London Underground stations. This much at least I knew.
But how was I to know that this station had been closed for more than eighty years? Those who see it in daylight, as I did today before setting my story down, will see the window of a Cash Converters, with its cheap electrical goods on display. But on this particular night all I saw was the invitingly open entrance to an Underground station.
I hurried inside and since the lifts were out of order, I took the spiral staircase down to the platform. I was alone there and sat on the wooden seat in order to wait. For the first time my suspicion was aroused, but only very slightly and momentarily, by the lack of a sign displaying the time to the next train. But the platform itself being a little old fashioned, I dismissed this as nothing more than for aesthetic reasons.
I was relieved that I didn’t have to wait long for a train. As I took a seat, I immediately realised that something was unusual with the attire of my fellow passengers. Every single one of them was dressed in Edwardian clothing. At first I thought that they were all going to or coming back from a fancy dress party. But their clothes seemed too well fitting and too natural to have been on hire.
‘So what do you think of this Frenchman?’
The middle-aged woman two seats to my right had spoken, but as far as I could tell, to no one in particular. She had a London voice, but I was unable to tell from which part.
‘It’s shocking it is. That’s what I think’, she continued. ‘When you think that an English newspaper puts up the prize and then we don’t even have an entrant. And then for it to go to a Frenchman of all people’.
I began wracking my brains for the Frenchman that she could possibly be talking about. My mind churned through various subjects from sport to literature and music to art, but I could come up with nothing.
‘And with this entente cordial we’re all supposed to like the French now. Well I still don’t trust ‘em. And I don’t trust ‘im’.
I remained silent with the rest of the carriage. They all seemed to be ignoring her and that gave me confidence. Perhaps they knew as much about what she was talking about as I did. But then she turned to me.
‘What’s your view of the Frenchman?’ she asked.
My first reaction was that it would be less harmful if I did not to reply. I would be embarrassing the woman by declaring that I did not know of the mysterious Frenchman that she was talking about. But her eyes were insistent. And I now realised that several other pairs of eyes were now staring at me, probably in hope that I might be able to shed light on her comments.
‘I’m afraid I haven’t seen today’s news’, I replied honestly.
It was half question and half exclamation. I began to notice a certain suspicion creep into the eyes of those around me. I wasn’t sure whether to say more or to keep quiet. After all I would be getting off at Euston which I had calculated to be only one stop from Camden Town.
‘Where ‘ave you been son?’ The woman declared. ‘Or ain’t the news reached your part of the country yet? It’s only been two weeks I s’pose!’
She laughed at her own joke. She obviously had as much regard for those living outside the city as she did for those across the channel.
‘I’m talking about Bleriot!’
Bleriot! What on Earth was she talking about?
‘But Bleriot...’ I began.
As I had begun to speak, a strange fear and sense of things not being quite right came upon me. Of course I knew all about Louis Bleriot, the first man to fly across a body of water. But this feat had taken place in 1909, a full hundred years ago. And yet this woman spoke as if it had only just happened.
Things began to fall into place at this realisation. The slightly old fashioned looking station without its electric sign and the carriage full of people in period costume all belonged to the same time period as Bleriot’s flight. But that time was not my time.
And at this moment it occurred to me, despite my slight inebriation, that I was sitting amongst a group of people consisting entirely of phantoms. These people were dead, had passed away some time ago, and yet here they were playing out an event from a hundred years ago.
A chill ran up my spine. My first instinct was absolute terror, but then a sense of calm self-preservation came over me. But what could I do? For the moment I decided that the best course of action would be to play along with the conversation.
‘Oh Bleriot! I think he’s marvellous.’
‘But he’s...he’s French!’
‘Also a wonderful aviator’, I replied.
I thought I caught a couple of smiles break out upon the faces of other passengers. With my confidence renewed, despite the fact that I was speaking with the dead, I continued:
‘He’s carried out a wonderful feat, which will benefit all of mankind. And it doesn’t matter if he’s French, or not. We’re all part of the same Europe; England, France, Germany. And at least he’s not American.’
‘We’re nothing like the Germans’, the woman replied with venom. ‘But yes. French is better than American. I still don’t trust ‘im though.’
I remembered that the Europe of 1909 was drastically different to that of 2009 and that I should have been more careful. Some sentiments didn’t seem to have changed however. I was relieved that I was yet to be discovered.
One thing that was concerning me was that we were yet to reach Euston. It felt as if I had been on the train for at least five minutes, and that seemed rather a long time for one stop.
‘When should we reach Euston?’ I ventured.
‘Euston!’ The woman cried. ‘What’re you talking about?’
‘The next stop’, I replied.
‘This train don’t stop’.
‘Doesn’t stop? What do you mean?’
My new found relief had been short-lived and my terror returned in greater strength.
‘Where could it stop? It don’t exist. We don’t exist. We’re all dead!’
As she pronounced this she emitted a cackle of laughter. I felt my heart beating faster and sweat was beading on my forehead. I looked quickly at my fellow passengers. They were all staring forward. They seemed unaware or uninterested in our conversation.
‘But I’m not...I’m not dead.’
‘Aren’t you?’
From the way she spoke and the way she looked at me, I began to wonder. Was I still alive? Or had I indeed died? Had some incident taken place between my friend’s house and the station?’
‘No. You’re not’, the woman agreed.
I wasn’t sure whether to feel relief at this or not. I might be alive, but I was still surrounded by the dead.
‘So, ‘ow did you get on ‘ere then?’
‘I honestly have no idea. All I want is to get to Euston in time for my train home.’
‘Hmm. I’m sure ya do.’
‘Can you help me?’ I pleaded.
The question sounded stupid as I asked it but what else could I do?
‘Well. Answer me something.’
‘Is all this messing about with flying really worth it? Does it achieve anything?’
I considered this carefully for a moment.
‘It does make the world a smaller place’, I replied. ‘In a hundred years from your time, people will be able to travel to the other side of the world in a day. It gives us a greater opportunity to see how we all live and to realise that, deep down, we are all the same. In that sense, it must be worth it.’
‘Hmm.’ she replied, unconvinced. ‘Well. I still don’t trust that Frenchman.’
My mind scrambled as I tried to think of something further to say, but the woman continued.
‘I’m not sure I like all that understanding one another. But I s’pose it’s what you’re used to. You’d better go back.’
As she spoke those final words I detected a slight change in the view around me, like the transition between photographs on a computer slideshow. The Edwardian train vanished slowly, and in its place appeared a crowded twenty-first century train.
I hadn’t told the woman everything. She wouldn’t understand cheap flights that took people to sunny locations every few hours for one thing. And of course the concept of a carriage full of people from all parts of the world, I noted wryly as I looked around me. But for all its current social, political and religious unrest and intolerance, this was my world, and for that at least I was grateful to have returned.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Dark Matter - or does it?

I attended a fantastic lecture yesterday, about the search for dark matter and dark energy.  Apparantly only about 4% of the universe can actually be seen, the rest is dark mater and dark energy. This is only seen by the way that it distorts the path of light rays from distant galaxies and right now there are several surveys taking place to try to map this dark energy.  But no one quite knows what it is yet or really what it does - you can view the lecture in about a week's time at
I'm very excited about tomorrow's lecture on vampires and the undead!
I've been able to do some writing over the past couple of days too, including a short story today with a halloween type theme.  I also picked up two new books yesterday, The Twilight Watch (the third in the Night Watch trilogy - which I think now is actually a quadrilogy!) and a book by Pauline McLynn (of Father Ted Mrs Doyle fame).
More photographs now...I took a walk out onto Hampstead today, it was a bit of a grey day but all the more dramatic and autumnal for that...hope you enjoy them.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Wren and Trout

I've spent most of my day reading.  My books are due back on wednesday, and when you're not earning the last thing you need is a library fine!  Was a bit disappointed with 'The Enchantress of Florence', it left me with a slightly unsatisfactory feeling.  It's obviously well researched though.
I did think I'd give you a little treat though, and a photo of today's dinner. 

I had steamed trout fillet and asparagus on a bed of rice with carrots and spinach.  The sauce is double cream, garlic, tarragon, salt and pepper.  It was very tasty indeed!
Finally I have gotten around to organising something which I've fancied doing since I moved to London over six years ago, and that is to see all the churches in the city of london which were renovated by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire - all the ones that are still standing that is.  I have discovered that there are 31, not including St Pauls, in which the church, part of the church or at least a plan of it still remains.  I have made a map of all their locations and will keep you informed of my progress with probably some photos as I go along.
I also received confirmation of my signing up to website Ladder Writers which will allow me to submit stories soon.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Waterlow Park

Clocks went back this morning, so much more early light.  Its been a beautiful autumn morning, so I took a walk out to nearby Waterlow Park.  It's a lovely place with gardens, grass, seats and ponds.  I also read a little while there, but it was too cold for writing.  Will do that now for an hour before the big football match of the day.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Following Regulations

Strange day today.  I've been able to do a reasonable amount of writing, and do my washing, but it has been a strange day.
I tried to get my rent money from cash machines in Kentish Town road but none were connecting to my own bank for some reason.  I had to walk out to Holloway Road instead, but in the meantime I decided to get some milk from a local shop first with the cash I had...but it was training day.
"Ask for the next customer"
"Next customer please"
"Ok scan the item.  And press that button.  Ask if they want a bag"
"Do you want a bag?"
"No thanks"
"Ok press that button so that they can see price.  Press the button for cash.  Put it in with the pound coins.  Ask if they want a receipt"
"Do you want a receipt?"
"No thanks"
"Give them their change"
So that was how I bought I pint of milk.  I was later able to take out some money and went out for the rest of my shopping.  I decided to buy some wine for the weekend:
"How old are you?"
"Do you have ID?"
"I've got a credit card"
"Hmm...what year were you born?"
I guess I should take it as a compliment, but do I really look under 18, or even under 25?  I know that shops have got to be careful, but this is ridiculous.  I got the feeling that this woman would have asked my age even if I carried a bus pass, a walking stick and had grey hair.
Anyway, the wine was nice...a chilean merlot that went pefectly with my lamb stew!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Lunchtime Lecture

Today I attended a lunchtime lecture at UCL, one of a series of free lectures held twice a week on tuesdays and thursdays, which began last week and runs until early december.  Today's lecture focussed on the clothing of three Indian politicians, and what it said about them and their politics.  To be honest it was a bit hard to follow, partly I think due to the style of the lecture, but also because I have no prior knowledge of Indian politics.  I was interested more from a writer's point of view, in how clothing can establish character.
For those interested however, here is a link to the Ghandi Lecture which gives an overview and in seven days time will have a video of the lecture.
It got me thinking about how british politicians don't really have any difference in the way they dress rather betraying the similarities and homogeneity between them.  This goes does go to another level however, with Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP who will appear on Question Time tonight.  Anyone knowing nothing about our own politics would notice no difference in terms of style of dress between him and David Cameron, although the obvious difference would be in their policies.  However, by dressing the same as all other politicians Griffin is making himself appear more legitimate than he actually is.  Intriguing really.
Anyway, lamb stew calls to me!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Swedish Goods

Still working on the same pieces of writing as earlier in the week and spending even more time thinking about them.  Took a walk out to Camden's central library at Swiss Cottage which was...rather imposing, I think is the best way to describe it.  A building of concrete and glass in a lozenge shape, with books around each of its curves on two storeys.
There is a large selection however, especially for non fiction, so it might be a useful place for doing research.  And I did like the spiral staircases which I think all libraries should have.  A library without a spiral staircase doesn't feel like a proper library.
I also went in search of the swedish shop in London, Totally Swedish, which is set near Baker Street.  I had been there before, but it was closed.  This time I was able to take a look around and for those who like swedish foods or possibly miss swedish foods from back home, its pretty good. Unfortunately they only have small bars of Marabou.  But there is a good choice of sill.
It reminds me though that my girlfriend was quite excited to find swedish meatballs when we visited Sainsbury's last week, and swedish toast in a more local shop.  Not to mention Absolut and Kopparberg of course.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Lonely Words

Slow morning.  Still missing my girlfriend who travelled back home to Sweden at the weekend.  The week was wonderful, but still only a week.  Didn't do any writing apart from a short lovenote on the day that she left...but i'll see her again in a few weeks.
As for the week itself, I showed her around London a little bit; the canal, bunhill fields, the gherkin, hampstead, st pancras, the british library, leicester square, covent garden, the 'Black Books' bookshop.  Also discovered the art gallery in the crypt at st pancras new church on Euston Road.  Its a wonderful setting, with natural alcoves and ante-rooms for different displays.  They seem to have regular exhibitions...the website is at crypt gallery...and well worth a look.
During the week my girlfriend needed to do some painting for her art course, so i took the opportunity to do some sketching of my own.  I was actually quite pleased with the result.
Hopefully will get some writing done after lunch today.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Books and Poetry

I've struggled with the writing for the past couple of days and so have turned my attention to other things.  On Wednesday I finally got around to getting myself a new library card.  It was so much simpler than I remember it being last time...but at least I have it now.  I got instantly excited and picked up three books, The Day Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko, Collected Short Stories by H G Wells and The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie.  I've never read any of his books before but have heard good things about them.  The opening paragraph is rather poetic.
Speaking of which, yesterday was national Poetry Day, with the naming of TS Eliot as Britain's favourite poet.  I visited the live show down on the south bank at the Royal Festival Hall, but I couldn't help feeling that it was aimed more at children and getting them enthusiastic about poetry.  There was a reading by current laureate Carol Ann Duffy which was entertaining it wasn't all bad.
There was also an announcement of Global Poetry System, an opportunity for people to send in photographs of anything they see written on walls or doors, which sound poetic.  Personally I'm not enthusiastic about this idea, since it somehow gives relevance to graffiti and vandalism as something to be admired.  I don't think that poetry should be something to be kept within the confines of the white middle classes, yet somehow it has to have a deeper cultural meaning than something scribbled on a toilet door about a prostitute and someone you don't like at school?  Maybe I'm old before my time.
I haven't been completely idle though.  I came across an interesting website called Ladder Writers and have drafted a short story to submit.  I have also written a poem this morning Words.
I am also excited since my girlfriend arrives tomorrow from Sweden for a week, so there may not be much creativity for a little while, cleaning and tidying to do instead.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009


Since the writing wasn't quite working...Pastel on cardboard...self portrait and something made up

Bizarre Neighbours

Words have been harder to come by today.  But then it is Tuesday, and I've never liked Tuesdays. Woke with a headache, the weather's been wet, but there was also that sense of fear.  Will I be able to add to what I did yesterday?  Can I still write?  I've sure everyone gets it.  The irony is that even though I've been less prolific today, I think the quality of what I wrote is better.  It was still a struggle to get out of bed though.
However I did take a walk out to the shops to clear my head and encountered some of the more bizarre people that live in my neighbourhood.  Firstly a woman who was standing at her gate and asked if I had a phone she could use (mine was at home on charge at the time so I couldn't help) because she had locked herself out.  Six weeks ago she had also locked herself out and asked me for money for a tube fare.
Then further down the road was an elderly lady who couldn't turn off the light outside her flat and asked me for help.  I couldn't see a light switch outside and asked if there was one inside her flat. She found one!..the light was off.  I'm sure she must have known it was there, but then again she was maybe just a litle confused.
Outside my local supermarket I was asked "are you the bill payer?"  I didn't know what bills the person was talking about, but thought I'd take the safer option and answer "no".  Knowing what Tuesday's are like I would probably have been thrust a bundle of bills to pay.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Christmas Porridge

When I was younger we had a tradition in my house of porridge and grapefruit for breakfast on Christmas Day, which came from my grandfather on my mother's side.  Where he got the tradition I don't know, but it filtered down to my childhood all the same to the extent that I only used to eat porridge at Christmas or when I had a sore throat.
I have since branched out to eating porridge on other days, and had it for breakfast this morning, but strangely the smell this morning immediately took me back to my childhood.  I'm not sure why, since it has never happened before.  I'm guessing that a morning where sun is streaming through the window and central heating is a distant memor isn't conducive to winter memories.  While this morning's weather, cold and drizzly, with the light still on at nine and radiators on at full blast, was.  It's a strange thing, memory.
Coffee always makes me think it's going to rain, chips take me back to Rotterdam and TCP reminds me of my Great Aunt's room with the commode in the corner and a scary Queen Victoria painting on the wall.  I can still taste the barley sugars.
I guess that porridge as a Christmas breakfast isn't all that strange, but half a grapfruit is very bizarre.  I seem to remember that after my mum passed away the grapefruit was no longer fresh, but came in tins.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Don't Be Defeatist

For the first time in over two years I'm out of paid employment, but I'm more used to heading off to faraway lands and continents.  This time I'm spending time to learn some writing craft.  In an attempt to start off on the right foot, as opposed to wrong, not left, I bought a writing magazine today.  Namely, Writing Magazine.  And it's first article has inspired my first post, not bad huh?  I didn't realise it was this easy.
The article mentioned that poets at a recent poetry festival had been asked their most hated words and it got me thinking about my own.  And after careful consideration, it would have to be the word "defeatist".  It is often used in statements like "Don't be defeatist", or "You're being defeatist" and is usually in response to me having little confidence in something happening, or something turning out correctly.
However, these people don't then try to encourage me by giving reasons why things will turn out ok.  They just leave it to stand on it's own.  It's only with my own increased self confidence and self esteem that I've realised what people were actually saying.  That either they didn't care about what was troubling me, or that they just didn't want to hear it.
The other thing about the word is that with three strong sylables, it allows the speaker to really annunciate it, making you feel even smaller than if they used a word like "negative", which is much softer.
The irony is that if you are a writer just starting out, trying to be seen and heard, trying to get published wherever you can, being defeatist is probably the worst possible thing you can be.  The chances are that the majority of publishers you write to will say "no", but that doesn't mean you shouldn't write to them.  And that's something I've got to keep in mind over the next few months.
Anyway, this has all been a bit serious, so to lighten it a little I'll mention that while walking in Regents Park today, I saw a Heron attack a Canada Goose.  I don't know why.  It was probably just bored.