28 January 2008

Took a tube to Camden Town...walked down Parkway, and settled down...in the shade of a willow tree...someone hovering over me...

London's a funny old town. It's go so much going for it and so much rich history but you still get this impression that Londoners are teetering on the brink of an inferiority complex. There seems to be the barest whisper of a hint of an echo of a sense of imperialist shame over losing control of the world, but it's masked with bluff and blunder and the stiff upper lip. Like the Americans, there's a touch of arrogance when they talk of England being the greatest country on earth, but unlike the Americans (who genuinely believe their own bullshit) the Brits are trying very hard to believe, but they don't seem too sure; it's like they're trying to convince themselves more so than everybody else. There's a lot of hype and hubris and misplaced priorities, and overlaying it all this annoying veneer of politeness and dignity and 'being proper'. Take the weather for example: when I first arrived everyone tried to frighten me with all this doom and gloom about the English winter and how I'd better get a woolly coat because I was in for a shock. Well, we've passed through the depths of winter and here I am still waiting for the shock. 3 degrees? You call that cold? I'm from Canberra, buddy, don't talk to me about cold...my arse gets colder than that before a prostate exam!

One thing I've noticed about London is you don't get a lot of street performers. Occasionally you see the odd circus troupe or barbershop quartet or bazookie player but they're usually part of some bourgeois marketing promotion rather than simply plying their trade for a few bob to get a bit of tuck. The Underground (by that I mean the subway systen, not the plucky band of revolutionary freedom fighters plotting to overthrow the Guv) have a programme where they let musicians set up in the tunnels between platforms but they choose the blandest, most commercial performers they can find and the acoustics in there are just attrocious so it just turns into a clamourous cringe fest. Any money they make is less a reflection of their talent and more a plea to shut the feck up. It seems the humble busker went the way of the trade unionist back in the days of Thatch, more's the pity. Art shouldn't be planned or sponsored otherwise it becomes yet another commodity; it should be impromptu and egalitarian.

Something I did see on the street which amused me greatly was a protest outside one of the major supermarkets. Now which of the many deserving causes afflicting the world today did the good people of London brave the bitter biting cold to raise awareness among the hoi paloi, you ask? War? Famine? Discrimination? Drugs? Oil? Nope. This particular protest was about foie grois. That's right, goose liver pate. They had some dude dressed up like a goose (literally), parading up an down and proclaiming the "horrors" of the "barbaric" practice of forcing geese to drink brandy or whatever it is they do. You call that barbaric? I wish the biggest problem I had was that someone was making me drink brandy when I didn't really want to:
"Another snifter, Mr Goose?"
"No, no, I really couldn't...hawnk!"
"Oh go on, you've earned it."
"Really, I've had far too much already...hawnk!"
"Come now, there's no such thing as too much brandy."
"Oh alright, if you insist. But I'm going to regret this in the morning...hawnk!"
Yeah, there's an issue sorely in need of redress. Bloody hippies. It was enough to make me gag on my foie grois smoothie.

I don't mean to sound superficial, but I'm going to anyway. Here at The Company they don't employ very many fat ugly people, but the ones they do are REALLY fat and REALLY ugly. I'm talking Guinness Book of Records fat and Ripley's Believe it or Not ugly. Now before you go getting all filled up with self-righteous indignation, I'm not claiming to be any sort of hot piece of crumpet myself. I fully cognisant of my status as a resident of that vast beige-coloured middle ground between neither particularly attractive nor particularly unattractive. But I know I'm not ugly because I called my mum and I asked her, "Mum? Am I good looking?" and after a few minutes silence she replied, "Well...you're not ugly." Then we made out. Oh wait, that was Paul's mum!

On the weekend the weather was sunny so I took a stroll along the river over to the Greenwich markets, which are pretty cool. Lots of hand-made jewellery and t-shirts and art and crap you want but don't need and the whole place reeks of pungent rainforest food and curries. Then I walked up Shooters Hill which stretches for miles and overlooks the village of Blackheath. As you would expect, as soon as the sun comes out any open space in London immediately fills with people. But it wasn't so bad as there was lots of space and people were flying kites, so even a flinty-hearted jerkoff like me could get lost in the whimsy. There were also some dudes with those bitchin' big sail kites attached to go-karts hooning around the place knocking over old ladies and making the kiddies drop their ice creams in fright. Well, in my mind they were...

The London Dungeon, potentially London's lamest tourist attraction, is advertising a couple of new attractions in February. One is the London Bridge Experience which goes through the spooky history of the bridge, woooooh!, and the other is the London Tombs which is billed as "probably europe's scariest attraction". In a land where even the most mediocre experience is hailed as a masterpiece before it's even released, you've got to be a little dubious when the best they can come up with is "probably". Needless to say, I'll be going along to both in order to scoff and complain and basically blend in with all the English people.

How's that about Heath Ledger? I hate to sound callous, but do you reckon it was maybe a publicity stunt for the new Batman movie? Like he was trying to prove to Jack Nicholson that his joker was way more insane? Probly not...

I managed to take some more photographs but somehow got my data transfer cables mixed up and while attempting to ram a large plug into a small socket (not the first time that's happened, eh, ooh err!) I managed to completely bork the data port. So until I can get it fixed you'll all just have to make do with mental pictures of me capering about the english countryside quaffing snifters of cognac with Mr Goose.

Be good y'all...

16 January 2008

They’re hanging tough in a soho bar...Playing guitars in the underground...Gone down to london tryin’ to chase that sound...

So here I am back in Old Blighty and wondering where the time went. Hard to believe I was away in Oz for a whole month and even harder to believe that the weather back here could have gotten any worse than when I left.

My time away was awesome and I had such a relaxing and fun holiday. Special thanks to Pauly and the McGraths for putting me up (and putting up with me). It was so great to just hang out and not have to worry about doing anything or being anywhere and it really made me realise how much I miss all of youse...absence makes the heart Jane Fonda, and all that.

There've been quite a few interesting developments since I've been away...

They've closed the Tube station just near my house to make the East London line part of the Overground network and it won't reopen until 2010! That means I have to walk and extra 10 minutes in the rain each day to get to Canada Water station. The only saving grace (and it's a small one) is that Canada Water station, along with 3 or 4 others, has been remodelled as part of an urban art project along the lines of the subterranian world of the Morlocks from Jules Verne's 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth'. It's very industrial with lots of grey metal and bare concrete and exposed pipes and beams and chains and gratings and steel floor plates and big spotlights stuff. It's all rather cool and adventurous and makes a real change from the usual banality and blandness of corporate or community art that gets excreted about the place.

There's all sorts of juicy brewings at home. The two girls who were chummy and were making life awful for the rest of us have had a HUGE falling out. It started out with just not talking and the odd bitchy remark but last night it exploded into an almighty catfight on the stairs. There was shouting and yelling and swearing and fast-talking and everything. It was awesome! Apparently the catalyst was one of the girls ate some of the other girls food and didn't replace it or offer to pay for it. They started having this low-level barney about that but it developed into a massive slag off where they were bringing up stuff from 5 years ago and threatening to tell each other's families all the secrets they'd been keeping from them. I'm not sure what's going to happen but I think it's going to be pretty frosty from now on until one, or both, of them moves out. They've both recently lost their jobs so I can't imagine it'll be too long before they can't pay rent. Who needs TV!

Typically balanced weekend weather-wise: sunny and cold one day, rainy and freezing the next. On Saturday I headed back to Greenwich and walked through the Greenwich tunnel. It's foot tunnel which goes under the Thames from the Cutty Sark to the Isle of Dogs, right in the heart of the zombie exclusion zone. Frankly I was a little underwhelmed. I had visions of an ardurous trek through a dank lightless cavern, stumbling over rubble and the bodies of fat american tourists curled in the fetal position gibbering and waiting to die. I mercy kill a few of them but there's just so damn many and I'm a lazy lazy man. But in reality it was a 5-minute walk through a well-lit, white-tiled passage way and the only trace of ardure was the spiral staircase at each end and the hordes of screaming kids running up and down. Admitedly, the place is in a state of disrepair with large sections of tiling fallen away from the roof exposing the rusted support beams; a trenchant reminder of the incredibly massive weight of water sitting just metres over my head, and I imagined I could hear a slight creaking and groaning as the corroded metal strained against the inevitable clamity to come. I looked at the smiling faces of the children and laughed quietly to myself as I imagined them crushed and drowned beneath the torrents of filthy Thames that were soon to cascade upon us. But, predictably, that didn't happen so I went and got some hot chips instead.

Work-wise it's been hard getting back into the swing of things. The D-Net project winds up soon and I've got a couple of options for my next one, but the one I'm most excited about is with Microsoft in Seattle. I'm not confident of my chances as us UK folk are more expensive than our US counterparts, but they're having trouble getting people so you never know. It would be a great chance to test the waters, as it were, and give me a chance to work in the States without having to move there permanently.

I went off to the moofies on Monday night after blagging free tickets to the opening night of the Coen Brother's new film, No Country for Old men. It's about the consequences that follow on from a dude who stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and steals $2 million bucks and is then pursued by a horribly creepy assassin with a bad haircut who is in turn pursued by a tired but wise old sherrif. As you would imagine it's a very intelligent and poetic movie, with scenes of almost aching subtlety and calm punctuated by moments of intense and hideous violence. There's themes of fate and chance and some excellent performances, particularly by the spanish guy who plays the assassin. The critics have hailed it as supposedly their best work, and don't get me wrong it was a great film, but I still think Lebowski and Fargo are still their best films. But hey, it was free, right, and it was my first time in the cinema just down the road at the local Surrey Quays shopping centre, or "Suckeys" as I like to call it. My ticket was a two-fer so I tried to convince the fat homeless guy who hangs out the front of Tescos and makes farty noises with his humungous lips to join me but he had a better offer.

Anyhoo, happy new year to y'all. Check out the new photos at http://picasaweb.google.com/blind.phineas, and here's to many more adventures for all of us in '08.