Tag Archives: London

Terrors of the deep

There’s a baby on the Tube. Sitting in a pushchair, cooing away, dribbling down a rattle and grinning at strangers as though we live in a world where not every stranger is a rampant paedophile. It’s placid, it’s cute and it’s happy. Everybody loves a happy baby.

Then it coughs. And not the cough you’d expect from a human that size – the full hack, crackling like an old man 30 fags deep into a 50-a-day habit, with a pipe for pudding.

Continue reading Terrors of the deep

Happy horrific

Welcome to the end of London.

Everyone knows what’s been going on. Knife attacks, vans mowing into pedestrians, panic and fire. There’s terror and there’s terrorism, there’s anger and there’s fear. Right now there’s police tape all over the Seven Sisters Road and a tower block filled with charred corpses gravely peering over Ladbroke Grove.

And now even the weather’s getting in on the act, the fireball searing every inch of exposed flesh and making every commute an exercise in keeping murder at bay. In June. All in all, this city’s done.

Yeah, right.

Continue reading Happy horrific

I forgot to mention the colonoscopy

Estate agents have always been an easy target.

But now they’re such easy targets that if Godzilla stomped on any given London high-street, he’d have to use a tree to wipe four or five agencies’ worth of pomade from his feet. In the last few years these fuckers have been dividing like quiffed amoebas, and some idiot has seen fit to hand them the keys to the city.

Let’s illustrate how they’re wrecking London. How about historic Greenwich? What comes to mind when you think of Greenwich? Greenwich Meantime, the Royal Naval College, the Cutty Sark?

Nah, fuck all that old shit Grandpa. Today’s Greenwich, as the official platform signs at the train station now proudly claim, is the home of Winkworth Estate Agents. And you know what? The signs don’t lie.

Continue reading I forgot to mention the colonoscopy

A chorus of deflating airbeds

This morning, as I tried to return to my paid purgatorium in a bid not to starve, a burly, bald South African man barred my entry to the train station. Here was a hulking solid figure of a man who could probably use my entire body as a toothpick or a dildo depending on his mood. Get any more macho than him and you’d have to climb out of a cave brandishing a rolled up copy of Nuts at a bear.

He politely informed me that I wouldn’t get past him and his eyebrows implied he could bench-press me into submission, of which I had no doubt. He also said the trains were too crowded and so to avoid a Battle Royale on wheels scenario no-one would be taking the train from Forest Gate this morning. He even recommended a bus stop down the road. A veritable Gollum and as courteous as a Michelin star waiter, he was met with feeble protestations from my fellow commuters that sounded more like a chorus of deflating airbeds than it did the defiance of scorned season ticket holders with ‘executive’ littered somewhere in their job titles.

Defeated at the first hurdle, we moodily trudged back out of the station. The sun was rising with the effort of a leprous pensioner afflicted with erectile dysfunction and all around there pulsed a mounting panic in the face of this break from routine. Routine is sacred to Londoners; it’s what enables them to face the degrading conditions they impose upon themselves without engaging in regular rush hour killing sprees or weeping like the children of despots at the denial of a second private island.

Well, routine and cocaine. Copious quantities of cocaine; linger in a bathroom anywhere in central London and you’d think they all have year-round colds given the ubiquitous sniffling that emanates from behind closed cubicle doors. This was 7:55am on a Tuesday and presumably too early for powdered courage, so instead they went back to their self-help podcasts without much fight. The certain predictability of an unpleasant situation like the morning commute is infinitely more valuable than all of the cocaine in the city and helps to preserve harmony in the collective stasis through which we float to our employment-shaped cages.

I was quite resolved to walking to Stratford and braving the underground there, but for kicks I thought I’d take a trip to the zoo and see the bus stop. It looked like a shipwreck with the desolate survivors clinging to a floating clump of debris. They swayed back and forth like a drunken hydra in a gentle breeze as they simultaneously clung to one another to avoid falling into traffic and, repulsed by the human contact, jostled one another to ensure their space on the bus.

Anyone would’ve thought they were waiting for the last ride out of Saigon. It made no difference as the bus was already packed tighter than a porn star’s anus and so it didn’t stop and merely sped on by, chased by the murmurs of anguish that belied a very real fear among stranded commuters who looked like beasts that had lived their lives in cosy captivity, and having been released into the wild were now contemplating self-destruction via their ties.

It was about this time when everyone’s ears seemed to have sprouted a phone. A chirruping of panicked explanations was hastily discoursed to the slave masters on the other end of each call and apologies came stammering out in almost every dialect. It was like watching a man dictating his will to a solicitor whilst drowning in quicksand. This only served to strengthen the will to secure a position on the next life-boat bound for the city, for at the centre of every Londoner’s universe is their job. They usually demonstrate their importance with vigorous marching about pavements irrespective of the other insect-like beings that stray into their path – even when they’re clutching a piping hot latte that cost more than a black market pancreas – who they scold with their eyes for having the audacity to be crushed beneath their feet.

Today was different though – today was London with the face torn off. The smouldering sense of smug satisfaction that usually shrouds the suit-clad somnambulists of our nation’s capital had evaporated, along with their hopes of picking up some sort of super-food bullshit breakfast in a polystyrene box before their pre-meeting yoga session on the roof of their offices. My heart bleeds for them. At least with the tube strikes people were reminded in advance that they’re little more than beetles stumbling blindly across the surface of a mound of shit, but today came with no warning shot – just a merciless gut punch that left commuters clutching their iPhones and their briefcases as the last vestige of familiarity in this brutal, godless world. The illusion of being the special ones at the palpitating heart of the country was lifted and upon beholding their mutual hideousness they promptly died and left a litter of carcasses around the bus stop.

The underground was fraught with a perfumed lust for violence. It was a fist-fight of sideways glances and tut-tutting. There are minefields with more compassion than Londoners in the midst of such an exodus. Reports of the toughness of Londoners has been greatly exaggerated it seems. When suddenly the smooth-talking, shiny-shoed, shiny-faced city-slickers were faced with their subterranean god going all Old Testament on their pampered asses, they fell to their knees begging the forgiveness of the sun who they abandoned in favour of the city. Tomorrow morning, when all is righted and the plague cured, they will have forgotten that they pledged their first-born to the sun-god for the sake of some goddamned movement on the Central Line. And so the suave sense of superiority over everyone and everything will be restored and London dares not to whisper a word about the day it shat its pants over a delayed railway service.

This tale is dedicated to all the foul, myopic troglodytes who stalk about the 7:47am TfL rail service from Forest Gate; the same self-congratulating dirtbags who ooze the kind of satisfaction usually reserved for a man who’s learnt to fellate himself. Go fuck yourselves, it’s always too early in the day for that kind of self-belief; their kind of smuggery would make you think they built London by themselves, brick by brick, whilst blindfolded, after scoring the winning goal in the World Cup with their 8 foot long penis. It was good seeing you become the jellified human colostomy bags you truly are. See you tomorrow.

The Case of the Missing IQs

Sherlock Holmes. The great detective in the funny hat. Since first appearing in 1887, fans all over the world have been devouring the stories. There have been spin-offs, movies, TV series, merchandise and more.

But what a lot of people forget is that this is a fictional fucking character. Almost every day I get off at Baker Street tube station and see a long line of twats queued up outside 221B Baker Street, now known as ‘the Sherlock Holmes Museum’. It’s mostly tourists, but I’ve seen large groups of people out there as early as 8.30am, ready to shell out 15 quid to see the famous detective’s house and purchase some awful souvenirs.

It baffles me, it really does, that while these people are in line (mostly staring at their smartphones) they can’t put two seconds of thought into what they are about to experience. It took me about 2 minutes on Wikipedia to find out that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle chose this address for his books because in 1887 it didn’t exist. At the time of publication, Baker Street extended to 221 – this actual building wasn’t created until 1932 and was then occupied by the Abbey National Building Society.

Despite my ravings I am a fan of the series and have read all the books. But by reading all the books, I know that Sherlock’s greatest asset is his mind. Unless people walk in and see a giant brain, this whole place is useless. Sir Arthur’s daughter also publicly said that she was against the idea of the museum because it suggested that her father’s character was a real person.

The facts so far:

1. Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character.
2. 221B didn’t exist until 1932.
3. Sir Arthur’s daughter is against the museum.
4. Sherlock Holmes’s most valuable tool is his brain (and sometimes Watson).

So with all of this in mind, the only sane conclusion is that these fools haven’t even read the books, which makes it even worse that they are going to waste their time and money. Shortly after my disappointment in this lot was initiated, I walked by the Museum of London where they were having an exhibition that “delves into the mind of the genius sleuth”. There were people queued for this too, probably straight from Baker Street. It would be a different situation if they had props and sets from the movies and TV shows, but this gave you “a chance to look beyond the familiar deerstalker, pipe and cape and discover the complex character beneath”.

We are in dire times, folks, if people are celebrating a character known for his intellect when they can’t even think for themselves. If Sherlock Holmes was written in this day and age, he’d have to solve his greatest mystery yet – The Case of the Missing IQs. The game is afoot!

Busy times, busy people, busy minds

A few days ago I encountered a homeless man near Moorgate Station. It was 1.30am or so, and I was there ’cause I’d completed a random shift at The Water Poet that day (7.5 pounds an hour for just collecting and washing glasses, not bad). It was too late to take the Underground, and I don’t know shit about the buses, so I just got a little bit…lost. It was very dark, I was in a city I don’t really know in a country I’m new to, in a part of that city that was completely alien to me until that day and I was nervous as hell. It may seem ridiculous, but it certainly wasn’t a pleasant experience for me.

But let’s go back to the homeless guy.

He approached me very slowly, smile in his face – not a creepy smile, really, just a warm one – and probably cold to his bones. He talked to me with a very good British accent, using a polite way of speaking, with learned words. He was short, white bearded and very thin. He introduced himself, but apologized and didn’t give me his hand because it was “too dirty”, and then started to ask me if I could buy him some food at Sainsbury’s.

But then he stopped the talk, and frowned. He looked at me and asked if I was lost.

I smiled then and, of course, said “yes”. At this point he started to apologize again because he said he was putting his own problems above mine. He started to ask me what I needed, told me that he knew the bus system, all that kind of thing.

So, at that point, I sort of stopped listening to him. I knew that he’d help me for sure; of course, he had nothing better to do, and helping me could result in a grateful person with money in his pockets. So, instead of listening, I started to think about all the other people I’d approached myself, asking for help.

They numbered five, until the homeless guy showed up.

Two of them just told me something like “busy, sorry” as they walked by, phone in hand and with the same tired face I probably had on. One of them listened to me, but as he didn’t know the place where I live, he just told me that he couldn’t be of any help. The other two didn’t even reply to my “excuse me”.

And that, so far, is the one and only fucking crap thing that I hate about London. I won’t say “people are shit”, no; the main problem is our jobs. There’s always a lot more work that must be done, at all times, in all places. Talking about London is talking about busy times, busy people, busy minds. People tend to act cold because they’re just too tired to be anything else, and only fucking homeless people have the will to be kind or careful with strangers because, of course, they don’t have a job that’s draining their entirely lives out its bodies.

It’s hilarious.

I don’t know if I’m right or wrong. And of course, I can’t say that every homeless person and every random worker is exactly like this, but the truth is that I got home that night because that guy helped me, and the others just didn’t have the time needed to even listen to my words. It was very sad. I thought of it all the way home, and not in a good mood. It all seemed sad as hell.

And yes, I bought food for the guy.

Blood-lipsticked snarls and animal skin

South of the river: the area simultaneously patronised and fetishised by those North London dwellers who, from the well-educated podium of up their own arse, view areas such as that far flung world of Lewisham (zone three and less than ten minutes from London Bridge, if anyone cares) as akin to a land where the women are clad in blood-lipsticked snarls and animal skin, while the men strut and stab in equal measure (sometimes at the same time).

Firstly, you’re thinking of Essex with that description. Secondly, perhaps you’d be able to actually visit the damn area and realize that it’s really not all that bad (and actually, knocks the socks off the North in many ways – culture, community, art) if it weren’t for the fact that the revamp of London’s transport is fucking us over in a way that hasn’t happened since the damn council stole Deptford’s anchor.

“Come to Lewisham!” the property market says, “come to Deptford! to New Cross! You’re minutes from London Bridge and you don’t even have to step foot in the area you live in!” This is no exaggeration. All across the South East, new complexes of self-contained hellholes are being set up – you want a swim? Nip down to the intensely chlorinated, fluorescent pit in the basement! You want a drink? There’s a bar on site! Never mind Ravensbourne River, complete with ducks and swamped in wildlife – never mind Deptford Creek, with the polyamorous trio of swans that come out in summer! Never mind the countless dive bars, family pubs, art-student drinking holes – never mind all of that! You’re right next to the station, and all you could ever need to maintain the position of your head firmly up your brutally waxed anus is right here in this hideously reflective complex we’ve put up as an eyesore and insult to the poverty stricken area you’ve demolished further by hoicking up property values and driving out the people who made the area an artistic, creative hub in the first place!

Aren’t you proud? Aren’t you happy? Can you SENSE MY TONE?

Some of these smog-kissing buildings stretching with disconcertingly lithe reach (yoga classes at 6pm on Mondays in the gym located handily in the basement, naturally) far over the heads and wallets of the original citizens of these poverty rife areas – the flats contained therein aren’t actually all that expensive, if you’re on the dole. There are some with sections that are still technically owned by the council, and these bourgeois-despised abodes lurk within the same four walls as those occupied by the City worker, posh-nob rabble – the difference being use of the facilities in the building, and a different entrance/exit for the respective classes within the complex itself.

Heaven forbid the two different species should cross paths! Wouldn’t it just ruin the atmosphere of their hip sanctuary; so carefully designed to blot out the raw, environmental material of the area so greedily raped for the privilege of delivering, say, the party-piece of that whispered story about the ‘stabbing that happened just down the road last week’. Ho ho! Fill up the champers, will you? Let’s put it on the expense claims. You there! Pay for our bubbly alcoholism while we verbally bitch-slap you with our privilege!

A side-effect of this atrocious new approach to gentrifying (ahem, I think they mean ‘pimping out’ without the permission of the metaphorical hookers) the area, is the focus on ‘improving’ travel in the South-East. This basically means that the Overground – a system that has worked well since installation and serves Croydon/Clapham/Crystal Palace to Islington – is down every weekend, because the only reason to keep it running smoothly is to enable commuters to get in and out of work with no hassle or potential overload of South-East air exposure. Never mind the fact it’s the only system that many South-East London dwellers really have to reliably get in and out of Central London or the outskirts.

The most recent set of reconstructions on London Bridge, the other common ‘reliable’ link to and from the South East, come in union with the upheaval of the Overground, and once again take place pretty much purely at weekends. Take the tube, you say? The ground of the South East is chalk. Chalk which would be better suited to scrawling dicks on the walls of the bastard stations that are more often than not out of action. Chalk that you would be well advised to smear over your hands to cling like a deranged Spider Man to the walls of the Underground tunnels, as that would probably get you there quicker than waiting for the fucking Bakerloo at rush hour. But that’s irrelevant. Because down here, there are no tubes. It’s Overground, train, or a painstaking haul up Old Kent Road that has you tearing your hair out before you’re halfway up it on a weekend. All we have is the Overground. You bastards have no idea.

Now. Let’s wrap this up. I call to you, my fellow South-East London citizens:

Let’s swarm the tracks at rush hour!

Let’s adorn the faceless, snooty blocks of commuters with street art!

Let’s drop the stolen anchor on the walkway circumventing the high street, forcing them to take the two minutes extra to walk THROUGH the district they’re destroying!

Let’s get Crazy Eyes on Deptford High Street who gets in your face and spits that he “only wants thirty pence” every day, all day to follow THEM to their platform!

Let’s… oh, hell.

I forgot. We’re voiceless. We’re background noise. We’re being forced out, and if we were to string our wallets on thread and have a conker battle, they’d knock us into the ground. After all, isn’t that what matters? It isn’t you that counts. It’s what you can offer – and this migration of gentrification insidiously replacing the sweet smell of green smoke with the crisp stench of green notes: they have us pussy-whipped in a way that hasn’t been seen since… oh, yeah. The theft of the Deptford anchor. Have I mentioned that? Just have a fucking Google.

Because I’m edgy

Shoreditch: the place that regular, uncool people like myself lament for being full of beardy hipsters and pop-up everythings, while deep down we’re secretly longing to fit in to such a trendy (is that even a word anymore?) town.

It’s also the place that I work. But no, unfortunately I’m not hip enough to work in a neat little boutique or perhaps as an exotic food vendor. I work at a company that many would perceive as the antithesis of Shoreditch: Network Rail.

Roll on lunchtime; I’m starved of food and coolness, and I’m meeting a friend for lunch in a surprisingly reasonably priced cafe we’ve visited before. Alas, despite the fact we were only there a few weeks ago, as is so often in the case in Shoreditch, we arrive and it’s no longer a cafe, but a seemingly efficiently established vintage clothes store having a closing-down sale.

No bother, there’s a plethora of stylish joints we can try. Accepting the fact we’re about to be robbed in broad daylight, we wander into a predictably modern yet traditional kind of place, perhaps drawn in by there being an apparent former Made in Chelsea cast member dining outside, or so my friend informs me.

Passing a delightful selection of fresh fruit & veg and pastries, we are shown to our table at the unnaturally light end of the bistro, noting the adverse table and chair-to-floor space ratio. Having pulled the table out for my friend, the waiter now traps her against the back bench and, though very kind in doing so, attempts to push in mine for me, except I take control of my seat because I’m out for lunch in Shoreditch, not having dinner at the Ritz.

Despite the bizarre decor and the confusing, expensive menu, we opt against bolting out of there as soon as we sit down, predominantly because we’re British and too scared to do things like that for fear of causing offence.

Our captors take our order: a jug, or, as I noted later, more like a rusty chamber pot, of water, a roast chicken sandwich for my friend, and, because I’m edgy and we’re in Shoreditch, a crab omelette for me.

Between whispered conversations discussing the disturbing vibe (yeah; ‘vibe’. Shoreditch, baby) we felt upon being seated, and worries that the other diners will soon recognise that we are impostors, our nervous waitress, who for some reason has replaced our waiter (perhaps he was irked by me controlling the seating arrangements), brings over our, for want of a better word, ‘food’.

On initial viewing, my omelette isn’t an omelette, but, perhaps, the futuristic version of an omelette thousands of years into our species’ future, after we have forgotten the original recipe.

However, the chicken sandwich has been successfully crafted in the restaurant’s kitchen, using, I’m sure, whatever up-to-the-minute equipment Shoreditch establishments use to prepare their food. Oh, no, wait! There’s gristle in it!

We’re unsure whether to complain or not, given that we’re not cool enough to be here and this could be common practice. But, we do. We’re not paying for gristle. I feel a little rush of pride as I unblinkingly put my foot down. God, I’m on a roll here, what with the chair situation from earlier too.

I begrudgingly finish most of my omelette; I don’t wanna be that guy, despite knowing I’m about to pay nigh on a tenner for a half-assed lunch due to extortionate prices and a “discretionary service charge”. Why is it discretionary? Everyone in the restaurant knows about it because it’s on the menu.

Of course, the bill we’re presented with has the sandwich on it, presumably due to a lack of communication between senior members of staff and our waitress, who we guess is enjoying her first day at work, hence why she is being followed, a little overbearingly, by another lady.

They correct our bill and I pay. On our way out we notice the pastries again, including some delightful looking and uncharacteristically inexpensive sausage rolls. Sighing, knowing full well we could have had those for lunch instead of gristle and space-omelette, we depart and vow never to return.

Unwittingly transformed into a restaurant critic, I proceed to warn my colleagues against the place and go about the rest of my working day a little light-headed and under-nourished, yearning for the salvation of dinner time. Thankfully, I live far away from the accepted whackiness of Shoreditch and my evening meal comes in the shape of a jacket potato, which, hopefully, won’t be futuristic or gristly.