Thursday, September 22, 2005

night out in London - living in Cardiff 

Is it possible to go to a concert, theater etc in London without having to stay overnight? Tried to see if this were possible, it is at a push.
The last train to leave Paddington is at 2245 - which is probably going to be too early, unless your entertainment finishes at 10pm.
The only other option I found was a national express coach leaving Heathrow at 0105. As long as you leave central London at midnight, you can be back in Cardiff in time for a few hours sleep.

Here's how I did it:

Book a return ticket to Heathrow, but choose a route that means you change in Victoria on the way out (why anyone actually going to Heathrow would choose to do this is beyond me).
Obviously don't continue to Heathrow when you get to Victoria.
Make sure you are ready to leave central London at midnight. The tube to Heathrow takes about 50 mins. It would be possible to take a night bus or the Heathrow Express instead - but I can't see either of these options being much quicker (unless you are in Paddington) - and Heathrow Express costs a fortune.
The tube station (Heathrow 1,2,3) is right next to the coach station, so no need to worry about time.
Coach gets to Cardiff (via Reading, Bristol and Newport) at 0415. I took a taxi from the station to the house, and was asleep by 0500.

I'd set my alarm for 1000, so that I could get up, make some calls and start work, but the woman next door had David Bowie at full volume at 9 - leaving me with about 6 hours sleep (counting a couple of hour's sleep on the bus)

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005


In honor of the heros of the England and Wales cricket team here's my Flintoff / Simon Jones hair cut.

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Friday, September 16, 2005

cash flow 

(leading into the 'origin of the incredible plan')

I'm going away this weekend and need some money to fill the car with petrol and to eat.
I just checked my funds and I have only 30 quid left in my current account, unfortunately this is the only account where I know the PIN for my card. I could probably get away with using my credit card or other account card, claiming I don't know my PIN and asking to sign some paper instead; but I'd be far too embarrassed and would feel rather guilty - like I've just robbed an old lady. The number of times I've stood behind middle aged women in the supermarket who are asked to enter their PIN and don't know it, 'oh I'm sorry love, I don't know my PIN number' and I've said to myself 'You stupid old bat, this is not a new thing, they've been introducing this for over a year and you can't get organised enough to remember a four digit number which you can even pick yourself? It's because of people like you that they have to retain this insecure signature stuff. It's your fault if someone takes my card and uses it to buy an Ipod by signing as "Mickey Mouse"'.

I had to think of options for getting access to some money. There wasn't time for a transfer to go through from one account to another. I thought about trying to pay for things with a cheque, but didn't think that very practical. I could cash a cheque at one of those chav loan places, but didn't know how much they'd give me. I could porn something? I thought maybe I'd have to borrow money, and thought about who I could approach (I could give them a cheque).

Later on I remembered a pile of foreign notes in my bedroom, and a lightbulb went off (or is it on? or am I getting confused with flashbulbs?) in my head.

Sometime ago I knew someone who was moving house. I left her to do some packing and told her I'd be back in a few hours to help her load boxes into the car. I returned to find boxes still empty and her sitting on a bed surrounded by an arrangement of 'stuff' that looked similar to what I'd left two hours before. What had happened is that shortly into the process of packing she had found some foreign coins and notes in a draw, and realised they needed to be sorted into piles. I couldn't help smiling, as this is exactly what I would have done in the situation. Faced with a Herculean task you decide not only to break it into small and manageable tasks (therefore achieving your goal without having to comprehend the enormity of it), but to break it down into very small and pointless tasks that have nothing to do with reaching your goal. You only do this because you have tried to comprehend the enormity of the task and realised it's beyond you, so why not do something 'fun' that could tenuously be considered useful instead? At first she was slightly embarrassed to see me, then started talking enthusiastically about her currency sorting as if it was very important in the grand scheme of things. She seemed to be rather proud of her collection but rather than indulging her I rubbished it with a sarcastic "you call that a collection of currency?"

Not only is my collection varied and extensive, it is actually worth something. I am no good at getting rid of my money at the end of a trip like those who try desperately in the airport to find something to buy for their last 35 cents. It would have been nice to have tracked the value of my collection w.r.t exchange rates, but too late now it's been raided and liquidated.

(I also have a collection of toothbrushes that is extensive (I see five here in front of me - plus my normal one in the bathroom) if not varied, as I often forget to pack one and have to buy a new one. I have recently discovered that this collection may be worth something after getting a shock while examining a receipt from Boots and finding out I paid £4-50 for the toothbrush I bought last weekend in London. I guess they depreciate pretty rapidly though once taken out of their packaging).

I know I've got another wad buried somewhere (as there are plenty of currencies missing from the one I found), but here's what I looked at today:

110 Euro = £74
170 USD = £94
450 Norway Kroner = £39
500 Hong Kong Dollars = £35
320 Swedish Kroner = £23
12 Cyprus Pounds = £14
90 Malaysia Ringgits = £13
110 South Africa Rand = £9
120 China Yuan Renminbi = £8
93 Estonian Krooni = £4
310 Indian Rupees = £4
5500000 Turkey Liras = £2
20000 Romanian Lei = 40p

I took the USD, Euro, Kroner and Hong Kong Dollars to the bank, and they gave me nearly £300. That should be enough money for a tank of fuel.

I partially regret what I've done as I do love sorting things, especially money. I love piling and counting coins although I can't say why, I suppose it's order and achievement and you feel like you are creating value - a bag or pocket of coins in chaos doesn't seem to be worth anything, but by sorting and bringing order to them they acquire value?

Once, sitting on a plane, I realised what my ideal job would be - sorting the money from those envelopes they give you on planes for you to put your left over currency into and donate it to charity. I'd have a huge table and would stack notes and pile coins and at the end of the day I'd look down at the table from above and see the structure I'd imposed - a whole configuration of table and currency that I'd created that has value. One 'sorted' configuration out of billions that have value and billions of 'un-sorted' configurations that do not.

So if this is my ideal job, why am I not doing it? I guess it wouldn't pay well – they'd probably give you a bag of Dutch guilders-cents at the end of the week. I also think that mainly you'd be sorting American dimes and nickels and only occasionally get some notes from somewhere interesting.

What do I want to do then, if it's not sorting spare change for Oxfam? I thought about this the other day and came up with:

Create a national TV advertising campaign teaching people how to pronounce the word 'Espresso'. I thought I could get the guys who write those hilarious catchphrases for Little Britain or Harry Enfield to come up with one, something that would reverberate around all school playgrounds and office buildings: “Where's the X? I want that one! Yea, I know! Only Me! You don't want to do that! There is not X you stupid cretin it's a fucking S!” or something like that.

Write a book about Diana. Possibly including material from an exclusive interview she'd granted me through a medium. I'm sure the Daily Mail would serialize it.

None of these I could do for the rest of my working life so I asked myself the question, “If I had to work at something all day, what would it be? What would I enjoy doing?” and I decided that I would be most happy pacing around a room all day coming up with naff 'ideas' - “what if...” ideas, “why not...” ideas, “wouldn't it be good it...” ideas. In fact I wouldn't have to pace around a room, I could go and walk anywhere or bike or swim or sit on top of a mountain, anything that would help the thought process. So is this possible as a career? Is there a job that will pay for you to come up with shit ideas? Well I could work for a think-tank – whatever one of those is..... to be continued....

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

the incredible plan 




and when the answer came I was so happy

I even tried to dance

I now have long term vision (to be unveiled shortly) and short term plan (although this needs a bit more work) and I think I'm going to shave my hair off this weekend to see what my options are when I go bald.

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Monday, September 12, 2005

barmy army 

Well we won the Ashes, it was hard work for a supporter.

Went to the Oval for the 4th day of the final test (with Matt). Lack of light prevailed, but we still saw a lot of action.

I'd heard the Barmy Army chant many times at games, or on the radio and TV. In it's simplest form the words 'Barmy Army' are spread over two beats of four, the last two beats being clapped or left silent. Given enough participants this chant can last for many minutes, typically half an hour or so.

But what are the ways into the chant? It is not possible to just pick up the chant from cold.

I'd always been aware that a protracted version of the chanted dialog: "everywhere we go, people want to know, who we are, where we come from..." presented an opening into the Barmy Army chant. I wasn't aware until recently that there were others.

From my limited research I am led to believe that it is possible to reach a Barmy Army chant via other routes (although these may no longer be in common use). Here, for example is a innocent four line poem that can easily lead you into a fourty minute monster:

When I was six, I had no sense
I bought a flute for fifty pence
The only tune that I could play
Was Michael Vaughan's Barmy Army........ Barmy Army.(3).(4) Barmy Army.(3).(4) Barmy Army.(3).(4) Barmy Army.(3).(4) (repeat)

Not having studied literture, I don't know the techichnal term for the verse and metre used in the "When I was six.." poem. I do know however that it has the same metre as A.A.Milne's 'Teddy Bear'. Now Bethan as a child learned this poem, and would recite it to our parents as we lounged in beds and pajamas on weekend mornings.
I also know there are such things as 'epic poems' I'm not sure if 'epic' refers to scope or length (but I assume scope dictates length).
So what I would like from our friends in the Barmy Army is an introduction to an epic rendition of Barmy Army that is epic in itself, maybe 40 verses in rhyme, a detailed narrative of the history and current test series in verse to lead into it. A history of all Ashes matches including references to other historical events (world wars etc).
This would give us non participating fans a true appreciation of what is to come, and a justification for the monotony of the eventual chant.

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too many indians 

Saw the following defacement of a poster at a bus stop in Cardiff. (made my own version too, as I didn't have a photo when I posted this)

What is this graffiti supposed to mean?

Is it a comment on someone's poor diet?

Is it a comment on un-sustainable population growth in the developing world?

Is it a play on 'too many chiefs, not enough indians'?

Is it one of these 'acceptable' racist comments? (we've got nothing against these people, but there has to come a point.. etc - we're not racist, just sayin' like)

Also what is the connection to the model in the poster or to the cosmetics industry? Probably there is no link, someone wanted to say something to say and the poster content was irrelevant.

More lore from the street

Walked around London quite a bit this weekend and saw many Aberdeen Angus Steak houses and quite a few homeless. One scruffy west indian man, presumed destitute and homeless, hobbling around the outside of a train station on cruches (one of his legs being cut off below the knee) sports a black T-shirt with the bold logo "I'm Lovin' it".

A woman standing in the middle of a pavement with microphone and amplifier , preaching with specific attention to the equality of races when considering vulnerability to sin. "White people are drug users, white people are alcoholics, why do they drink? why do they take drugs? God created them, and God can save them.....". I'm walking past and trying to think of something witty to say should I feel the need to grab the microphone. A man walks up to her, calmly puts his hand on her shoulder, holds the microphone and moves it towards his mouth. In a Liverpudlian accent, "excuse me love, is there a KFC 'round here?"

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Mobile phone again 

My experiment of not owning a mobile phone looks to be coming to an end after just over a month. Someone has offered to give me their old handset and I can't think of a good enough reason to decline, I just need to get it unlocked and buy a pre-paid SIM.
So what of my experiment?
On a personal level I coped just fine without the phone, I still managed to keep in close contact with my extensive network of friends and admirers. However, I do need a phone for business, it's getting to be rather awkward and embarrassing without one.

So what have I learned and enjoyed, and what did I miss about not having a phone?

I learned that it is possible to meet up with someone at a designated time and place, you just need to be specific about where you are meeting and maybe do some research if the area is unfamiliar. A few years ago this was the norm, but it now seems unthinkable not to use a mobile phone to meet someone. I feel a little uneasy though, a little on edge as if I'm doing something risky and a little crazy. These feelings all pay off though when you meet up, the meeting instantly feels a bit special like something slightly amazing has happened. So many things could have gone wrong in either of your journeys and upset the outcome, but they didn't.
If you are meeting someone after a being apart for a long time, then the meeting is not spoiled by excessive pre-meet communication. The words you speak can be the first words exchanged in a long time, rather than you having suffered detailed journey updates from them for the last three hours "I'm just leaving the house now. Train is delayed, I may be 5 minutes late. I think I've just seen Gary Wilmot on the platform of the last station we passed. Tried to go to toilet on the train but I think it's blocked, will have to go to toilet in the station, so will be another couple of mins late. cu soon." this sort of mindless information can take away some of the magic.

People assume that you have a mobile phone. It can be quite satisfying to inform them that you haven't in a very matter of fact way (as if it's quite a normal situation and not an unnatural one) . "You'll need my email address then, I'll just text it to you. What's your number?"
"I don't have one, I don't have a phone."
"(pause) oh.. right (thinks: is that normal? maybe, maybe lots of people don't have mobile phones I've never thought about it before, I always just assumed...) I'll just write it down on some paper then, do you have a pen?"

I enjoy asking people for the time. Nobody seems to do that these days apart from weird people.

I hated text messages, I was addicted to sending them to inform people about what I was doing, or little anecdotes I'd played a part in. It would enhance nobody's life to get almost instant updates of these happenings.

I missed a plane the other day and after the frustration had died down and I'd come to terms with wasting the rest of the day in airports, I sat down and thought "what shall I do now?". "I know I'll text people to tell them that I've missed the plane and will be spending the rest of the day in the airport waiting for the next flight." What purpose would this serve? Nobody would be interested in knowing this, nobody was waiting for me to land on the other end. I was simply bored and hoping to share my boredom with other people, and if they didn't text back then what does this say? They don't care about my boredom? They have more important things to do? Luckily I didn't have a phone.

And another example:

Yesterday I unintentionally walked behind Harry Hill while he was being filmed (presumable spoiling the shot, as a man with a clipboard scowled at me). If I had a phone then would have informed at least 4 people about this within the hour. As I didn't, I now have a (rather lame) Harry Hill , or filming anecdote saved up that nobody knows about. In the long term I'm sure this will make me a more interesting person. All sorts of interesting things could have happened to me and people would never know, but they could guess. If I was in the habit of telling people the most mundane things in my life they will assume nothing out of the ordinary ever happens.

I also felt nothing like the disappointment of landing after a long haul flight and turning on your phone to no messages. I used to send a message to myself to make sure the system was working and to 'push' though any messages trapped in the system - but there were none.

What I did like about text messages was the ability to scribble down thoughts I had. I'd send myself a text message with my observation so I wouldn't forget it. It acted as a notebook or dictaphone. I also liked to think that as it cost me 10p to send the message. The act of typing it in and sending it to myself instantly valued my thought at at least 10p.

I guess I lost many thoughts when I lost my phone, but I did go through them and copy them to a notebook occasionally (to stop my message box filling up).
All these thoughts or observations are worth at least 10p:
"Create start-up packs for illegal businesses : drug dealing, prostitution"
"Motto is 'indulge yourself'"
"What to do when crossing the road on red when there are kids waiting?"
"All seriousness aside"
"If nobody is afraid of me I am useless"
"People making out in a SMART car"
"T-shirt with British Coal logo. All old national industry logos"
"Make Beauty and the Beast movie but with the most minging beast ever, like from Alien"
"Urgencies - term for French A&E"
"Hi, I'm John. Would anyone like some of my kebab? John Peel"
"Worried about flying, don't care about crash as such, but more that I will be reading some book and not get the chance to tell people how amazing it is"

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