A simple solution to save lives on London’s roads

18 April 2011

This post on the Guardian’s bike blog is a sad reminder of how a simple solution that can save lives is still to be implemented.

At 3:15pm on a pleasant and clear 5 April, at the junction of Camden Road and St Pancras Way in Camden, 20-year-old London Metropolitan University student Paula Jurek was first knocked down and then crushed by an articulated lorry. Her injuries were so severe that her life could not be saved even by the doctors who rushed to the scene from a practice 100 yards away.

Critically, accidents such as these can easily be prevented by an almost insultingly cheap and simple invention. The Trixi Mirror.

Please, read it and sign the petition.


Favourite stretches of road in London #1

9 April 2011

I especially like the double yellow lines. You’re not allowed to park on any side of this road.


Art, Soho Square, London

6 April 2011

6th April 2011


Dog on the tube

1 February 2011

Brightened up my morning commute!


A few questions about 2010

20 December 2010

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?
Bought a flat, got engaged, appeared in court in Brooklyn, New York…

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I try my best not to make them. It’s always a disappointment when I don’t keep them. But I remember last year’s:
· Love a little more;
· Worry a little less;
· Be more honest;
· Be a little smarter;
· Pause a little more;
· Keep up the exercise;
· Say what’s on my mind, but not so much that it’s destructive;
· Work a little harder, but not drive myself into the ground;
· Be a little more me.
And I believe I have kept every one.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes, my sister. And I am now a very very proud Uncle for the first time.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
I don’t think anybody who was very close to me died this year.

5. What countries/cities did you visit?
Oh my! USA (New York) Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Scotland, Italy (Venice, Naples and Sorrento). That can’t be it surely?

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?

More luck, more money, more job security.

7. What date from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
8th March, a special birthday, and a special proposal. And the party a few days later.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Getting a new job just weeks before people from my old one were made redundant.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I tend to block failure from my mind.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Yes, norovirus, and numerous colds and strange muscle/stomach things. No broken bones this year.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My new Digital SLR. My flat.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Anyone who’s coped with me.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
I tend not to be appalled and depressed, just disappointed.

14. Where did most of your money go?
On the new flat probably! Rent, mortgage, fees and furniture. And travel.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Moving flat, getting engaged, and going on holiday!

16. What song will always remind you of 2010?
I’m not sure there’s a particular song, but an album: The ArchAndroid by Janelle Monae. There’s also Empire State of Mind.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you…
i. happier or sadder?
Happier, my happiness increases annually.

ii. thinner or fatter?
About the same.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish I’d had the time and willpower to do more exercise. And reading, I certainly wish I had read more.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
More of nothing – literally. You know those days. They’re rare, but they happen.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
In Canada with my partner and family I hope. If my rescheduled flight leaves, after I was thrown off one on 18th December after 5 hours on the tarmac.

21. How will you be spending New Years?
In the midlands with my own family for “second Christmas”

22. Did you fall in love in 2009?
Yes. All over again.

23. How many one night stands?
None.

24. What was your favourite TV programme?
Hmmm. This year has been coloured by Family Guy, the Winter Olympics, Ugly Betty and Glee.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I don’t think I hate anyone.

26. What was the best book you read?
Peter Mandelson’s autobiography.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Janelle Monae!

28. What did you want and get?
I want for very little.

29. What did you want and not get?
Probably job security.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
The Ghost – about a ghost writer. Incredible movie.

31. What did you do on your birthday?
Went for dinner, got engaged, and had a special birthday party a few days later.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
More holiday in the sun.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
Very “me”.

34. What kept you sane?
Friends.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Hmmm. Good question, and one I am not sure I can answer.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
I’m not going to answer this but people who know me know what my general political views are. There have been many many issues that have stirred me this year.

37. Who did you miss?
My Gran.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Hmmm. They’re not new people – I have known them since before this year. But only met them properly this year: David E and Chris M. But they’re both out-shone by the best new person I have ever met: my baby Niece, Imogen.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.
Life is what you make it.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Our love will sail in this ark
The world could end outside our window
Let’s find forever
And write our name in fire on each other’s hearts

41. Was 2010 a good year for you?
It was, yes.

42. What were your favourite moments of the year?
I’m having three: my birthday, lying on the Barcelonetta, getting the keys to my flat

43. What was your least favourite moment of the year?
Being sat on a plane for five hours in a snowstorm, going nowhere – and the subsequent cancellation and inability to get through to Air France. Oh and getting a summons in New York together with the subsequent court appearance.

44. What was your favourite month of 2010?
Can I have three? February, March and July

45. What was your favourite song from 2010?
I’m sticking to Janelle Monae’s whole album here…

46. What was your favourite record from 2010?
See above

47. How many concerts did you see in 2010?
Three?

48. Did you have a favourite concert in 2010?
Scissor Sisters. And Goldfrapp.

49. Did you do anything you are ashamed of this year?
I tend not to get ashamed of things I do.

50. What was the worst lie someone told you in 2010?
I can’t think of a lie I told.

51. Did you treat somebody badly in 2010?
I don’t think I did.

52. Did somebody treat you badly in 2010?
I don’t believe so.

53. How much money did you spend in 2010?
Too much!

54. What was your proudest moment of 2010?
Becoming an uncle.

55. If you could go back in time to any moment of 2010 and change something, what would it be?
There’s nothing I’d ever change.

56. What are your plans for 2011?
Keeping a job, and getting married.


“Let’s go to the Princess Diana place,” he said.

29 September 2010

Ever wondered where to go for a decent curry on Brick Lane? If you’re stuck for where to eat E1 you could do a lot worse than ‘The Lady Diana’ place. We had a great time there the week before last, with good quality inexpensive veggie, and non-veggie food, stalking gay guys on a date and on Grindr at the same time, and a lengthy discussion about where exactly the penis on a winged centaur is. iamjasonhall has more:

I was perhaps most impressed with our starters, delicious and fresh vegetable puri and an order of veggie pakora. Small, light and flavorful they were a great start to the meal. Trying to be sensible, our party of four followed this with three mains and two sides (the sag paneer is highly recommended – not too sweet with a lovely bold spinach taste), two naans and a pilau rice. If you like spice, the jalfrezi here definitely packs a punch.


Pontificating

18 September 2010

The Pope is visiting the UK. I have been toying with the idea of writing a post about him for a while and couldn’t quite decide what to write. A lot of the people I follow on twitter are very anti-pope. Be they lapsed/reformed-catholics, gays, atheists or humanists. But I don’t have the same problem with him.

He’s been invited as a Head of State by the Queen. We’re footing the State-related bill – he’s paying for the church bits, to put it simply. And yes, his state is a little odd, but it’s still, formally, a state. So if the Queen had invited another Head of State who was doing things people may disagree with – say Bush, or Mugabe – yes, being irritated about that is fine.

Similarly with the Pope’s treatment of gay people, women, his views on condoms and child abuse in the church. Protesting this is fine.

But when it all gets mixed-up with anti-religion feelings I start to feel uncomfortable.

In a speech at Holyrood, Benedict urged Britain to guard against “aggressive forms of secularism”. He said: “As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a ‘reductive vision of the person and his destiny’.” (This was in stark contrast to his strongest comments to date on paedophillia in the church and depoloring of the church’s failure to act swiftly and decisively in the past).

I have a problem with what I, too, would term aggressive secularism for a number of reasons:

  1. Aggressive secularism is wholey negative. It is an argument against religion more often than an argument for secularism. Any argument which is in the negative always makes me uncomfortable. I find people who argue for something FOR more convincing.
  2. People like Richard Dawkin have turned his form of secularism into a quasi-religion, and sought religious-type following of dogma under the auspice of science in the same way the church does under the auspice of faith.
  3. The aggressive secularism arguments are often mis-directed at faith, not the church and ignore the fact that while the two are linked they are not the same. Religious people are the first to acknowledge people are fallible – Priests abuse children, just as Doctors kill (e.g. Harold Shipman). It happens. It is the responsibility of the church to ensure it is handled properly, it is not a fault of faith.
  4. Aggressive secularism is as dangerous as aggressive religion. Indeed one will breed the other.
  5. Religion is, generally speaking, understanding. Christians understand people may have other faiths. Aggressive secularism – by being wholey negative – causes resentment from all faiths.
  6. For all it’s faults, and there are many*, religion has formed a positive basis for the way this country is run, with laws on murder, encouragement of families who care for and look after each other, and rules for how you should treat others.
  7. * = many of the faults of ‘religion’ are not the fault of religion itself, but a fault of the Church’s teaching of it. Such strong animosity towards homosexulaity, for example, or the anti-condom stance of the Catholic church.

I guess my key points are these: If you want to protest, get it right as to what you’re protesting about – the church, or religion? And, that whatever you believe should be fine. You should be allowed to believe whatever you want. But when you start arguing against what other people believe, rather than for what you believe, then that is – quite rightly – called ‘aggressive’.

As the Dalai Lama’s said: “Perhaps the most significant obstruction to inter-religious harmony is a lack of appreciation of the value of others’ faith traditions.”


Night Train!

17 September 2010

Tonight I’m catching my first UK Night Train in order to get to a wedding in Cornwall. It looks like it will be slightly more luxurious that many of the European night trains I’ve taken – I remember for example sharing a tiny cabin with five loud, sweaty german teenege boys going from Berlin to Warsaw, and getting worken up in the middle of the night by a guard shouting in Serbocroat on a train without beds overnight from Budapest to Sarajevo.

The two-person berths look far more acceptable to my partner and me!

And of course, speaking of night trains, my friend Ben the ever-electro music maestro, directed me to this as soon as he heard.


Barclays Cyle Hire

7 September 2010

WordPress users may have noticed not on the ‘tweet this’ button on posts, but the amusingly entitled ‘press this’ – which then tells me i’m cheating. This may be cheating, but as I was on the same failed journey I’m going to repress iamjasonhall’s post about Barclays Cycle Hire:

Sober, I decided I would jump on a ‘Boris Bike’ (erg, surely there’s a better nickname?) to take me home. I wandered up to Soho Square and, sure enough, there were three bikes parked on the north side. Unfortunately, the key in the slot this time elicited only an angry red light and try as I might I could not convince it to give up the goods. Another prospective cyclist flew into what I can only describe as ‘rental rage’ and tried using brute force to extract the two-wheeled bit of public transport. The bike won.

My companion then decided to ring up TfL and see what the deal was. After a good 10 minutes on the phone we were informed that the three remaining bikes where actually ‘locked’ (i.e. unrentable) because the previous users had returned them indicating they were faulty somehow. So, there they would sit, tantalizing any prospective users until such time they were repaired. Fair enough, I thought, better than hiring a bike that breaks down halfway to where you’re going.

So we asked the customer service bod where our nearest option was and, not really knowing any of the street names, walked west down Oxford Street on the basis that “Oxford Street has everything.” Well, let me tell you, Oxford Street does not have everything. It may have a Primark, it may two M&S stores, it may have twenty-eight H&Ms but a cycle hire rack? No.

Fortunately, an iphone was produced and it told us to walk north towards Goodge Street where we discovered a massive rack (easy does it)…with one bike on it. So that’s what the number 1 meant on the iphone app, it all made sense now…

I think the most annoying thing about the Barclays Cycle Hire is the way it doesn’t treat users intelligently. If all the bikes are locked because of a fult, why does it not tell me? If my key won’t work because I haven’t got any more access periods on it why does the terminal tell me it’s an “invalid key” and I have to spend 30 minutes on the phone to an adviser asking why it doesn’t work to find out?

Great stuff London, but sort out the teething problems and it can be brilliant. The technology’s there. And we’re cycling on your roads. Treat use intelligently.


Disconnections, missed connections

5 September 2010

So up until Friday I didn’t know what my plans were. Actually, no, I knew some of them. My partner’s mother is visiting from overseas, and they’re traveling from London to Italy and spending a week and a half traveling around. Nothing more beautiful than September in Rome. At the end of September they’re heading to Venice for the weekend where I agreed to join them.

But of course, with starting a new job, I had no idea what was in the diary. Then I discover, the Thursday I’m going to join them in Venice, I have meetings in both Brussels and Edinburgh. Of course the first task is to work out which I’m going to (easier said than done). (I’ve now decided).

But you wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to get between the two. There are no direct trains (my preferred means of transportation) from Brussels. I could get an overnight train via Paris and Milan for £200 however. Or fly Ryanair for £30.

I hate Ryanair. Yes, they get you from A – B yada yada yada – and they’re cheap. I can cope with cheap. I can cope with all their extra charges. But what I can’t cope with is the fact that they purposely make the whole experience as unpleasurable as possibly. From their garish clunky website to the INYOURFACEYELLOW on the plane itself (I’m saying nothing about the overlyabrupt cabin crew). I’d really rather not arrive at my destination angry and irritated by the experience of getting there.

Anyway, that’s all irrelevant now as I’m actually going from Edinburgh. And could have gotten from Edinburgh to Venice on an appropriately timed flight (arriving that night, not changing at Heathrow overnight) with Lufthansa… but for £650 (£230 single). How can it cost so much more than a return to go one way? The £230 of course isn’t too bad. But as I have to get back to London it’s a waste of money and a seat.

Anyway, I’ve now resolved the problem. Increasing my carbon footprint, and tiredness in the process, by traveling back to London and catching an early morning flight the following day. Oh and missing out on most of a day’s holiday.

In an uber-connected world easy to forget that getting from A to B isn’t easy. And I’m lucky – I have the resources to do it.


One Night Only

25 August 2010

On Sunday night, after a family weekend, I returned from a family weekend to my latest arrival from Lovefilm. Dreamgrils, a movie from the musical of the same name is a fantastic musical portrait of an era in American social history defined by race, music and culture. “Dreamgirls is a roman à clef of the histories of the Motown record label and one of its acts, The Supremes“. A car salesman who signs a trio of 8-year-olds, the Dreamettes, gets them a job backing an R&B performer, James “Thunder” Early, love triangles and internal politics.

But it’s the music, incredibly all original, that makes this film. One I should definitely own (even Eddie “party all the timeMurphy is a surprise!). My favourite track has to be One Night Only, performed in turn by the downtrodden Jennifer Hudson (whose awesome voice tugged my heartstrings) and in a more upbeat style by Beyoncé:


Earthquakes in London, you should be shaking in your seats

23 August 2010

Last week I went to see Earthquakes in London at the National. A play about the legacy of the babyboomer generation on the planet it’s certainly food for thought about climate change.

How many people can this planet sustain? What kind of world are we leaving future generations? They’re questions that have been posed before: “When environmentalists say that the world is overpopulated, they mean that the environmental consequences of the excessively high human population are destroying the biosphere–the Earth’s life-support system”. What are the environmental consequences? How many people can the Earth really support? What kind of world do you want?

If you have children, or – as in my case – a new niece, you surely must wonder what kind of future you’re leaving your child. A world where populations displaced by climate change – climate refugees. If you think that immigration and refugees in your country now are a problem, what about a future where whole populations are displaced?

Mike Bartlett hit the nail on the head with his play. It can’t be an easy topic to encapsulate in a script, but he does incredibly well. And it’s a topic that perhaps drama needs to address. It’s a medium that can bring a subject to peoples minds and make them think.

Jason Hall has a much better review of the play than I ever could. Read the review. See the play. Then contemplate what kind of future you’re leaving.


Goldfrapp Cerrone Houdini

17 August 2010

I saw the words ‎”Cologne Cerrone Houdini” on facebook today. Of course my first thought was “what the heck is that all about?”. (Well, wouldn’t you?)…

Turns out it’s Goldfrapp lyrics (I should perhaps have guessed). But, still, what on earth is that all about? My friend who posted it pointed me to a website which answers all your song lyric questions.

It’s interesting to note that this track marks yet another reference to French disco legend Cerrone (Supernature is also the name of a classic Cerrone album), but Goldfrapp’s explanation of the title is more of a random coincidence than another tribute. “We were jamming, and the word ‘Cerrone’ just came out of my mouth,” she says. “Subconsciously, maybe I was thinking of Cerrone, but it wasn’t something in the front and center of my mind. The ‘Houdini’ part came because I was reading a book about him and the whole idea of escapism. I used this as a metaphoric idea about an ex-boyfriend who tried to escape from as many situations as possible.”

And when you see the video for Cerrone’s Supernature you can perhaps see the influence he’s had on Goldfrapp… Compare it

to perhaps Number 1, A&E or Alive (videos below), and perhaps even a little Rocket. I think I’ve found a brilliant new French musician to enjoy!

Or perhaps as was pointed out to me after I posted this perhaps Cerrone’s animal head and shaky camera fetish had more of an influence on Goldfrapp’s video for Train:


Dreams

2 August 2010

Today I recieved a Facebook message from a friend from abroad:

I was dreaming of you last night. You were working for the Queen, and I was visiting you at work, and it was kind of embarrassing because the Queen and I didn’t really have anything to speak about.


Pride London: some photos

21 July 2010

Pride London, Saturday 3rd July 2010.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A couple of weeks ago was London Pride. Despite my reservations about some elements I really do enjoy Pride. I’ve uploaded a slideshow and gallery of some of my photos.

There are more Pride photos on Pride’s flickr and iamsoho (1) and (2).


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