Thursday, 24 December 2009

Travel chaos blog #2: I've got a new daddy

Too much of my Christmas Eve was spent stuck in Swindon coach station, another depressingly non-descript transport hub full of frustrated festive travellers.

This time it was a coach gearbox to blame - naturally, I took the inconvenience on the chin and tried to get some shut-eye during the delay. Alas, some of my fellow passengers were far more vocal, with their immediate demand being a National Express-paid-for taxi to Cirencester.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Eurostar disruption: Chaos and Kebab Man in Calais

Cross-channel holidaymakers became condensation-inflicted refugees last weekend after the suspension of Eurostar services between London and Paris, and I was unfortunate enough to be one of them.

I wasn't among the sorry few to be stranded in the Channel Tunnel for 16 hours without heating, food or water - but I did, like thousands of others, try to get back to London by boarding a ferry in Calais.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Collective bum-wiping: Manchester to Singapore

Something startling occurred to me this morning during the usual work routine. I was writing a story about Manchester Airport, or more specifically, its toilets.

They are officially the best in Britain. At least, according to a slightly ambiguous and misleading Manchester Airport press release. WCs in Terminals 1 and 2 won five-star ratings from the Loo of the Year Awards, which are recognised by the British Toilet Association. Impressive stuff.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Cafe Churchill, Whitehall

Today I paid a miserable visit to Cafe Churchill on Parliament Street in Whitehall. It is so awful that I can barely find the words to describe this aggressive little cesspit of an eatery.

The few waiters and single waitress are initally friendly, welcoming and efficient. Then they become pushy and abrupt, asking if you want everything "large" - which is actually 'regular', but it gives them a mandate to charge exorbitant prices for apparently edible produce which is so below par that I'd rather spend my money in Charing Cross McDonald's. After the pubs close on a Friday night. Even a Saturday night.

Monday, 30 November 2009

How Thierry Henry and Tiger Woods saved the world

If I was Roger Federer (and if it wasn't for the eyebrows, I could be), I'd watch out. A curse that began in ad land has beset the real world.

Thierry Henry was the first to succumb to its power. A mild-mannered, highly-respected, definitely-not-a-cheat footballer sent France through to the World Cup Finals by setting up a goal with his hand.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Celebrity chefs

I'm not really sure about the role of celebrity chefs - there didn't seem to be that many around five years ago; now they're everywhere.

Do they exist to teach us how to cook and encourage us to be more adventurous in the kitchen? Or to make us watch in awe and get on the waiting list for their restaurants, safe in the knowledge that we can never be as good as them because we can't afford livestock and don't know where to source Szechuan peppercorns. Or what sauce to put them in.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Ghost Forest

Pop down to Trafalgar Square and you'll notice a number of rainforest tree stumps resting about the place.

These represent Angela Palmer's Ghost Forest, an art project designed to raise awareness of climate change.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

I've got love in my tummy

They're the best thing about weekends, as far as I'm concerned. A disgustingly unhealthy fry-up on a Saturday morning, washed down by a cup of tea. It's my reward for a week of being overworked and underpaid. I never make one, oh no, I go to a cafe and pay for one. It's the only way.

I've been worried about the prospect of abandoning the magic of Step In Cafe - which does the best breakfast in the East End - having moved away from Bow.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Captain Arthur

Today is Armistice Day, which marks the 91st anniversary of the end of hostilities on the Western Front between the Allies and Germany.

I fell silent for two minutes to think about Captain Arthur Dermot William Woollett, my great-grandfather.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Bus stops threaten your masculinity

At least, as of now they do. How is this supposed to make you feel? This ad was put up in November for crying out loud. No-one walks around in red y-fronts, especially not in freezing rain.

Decide for yourself what this man was feeling. Somewhere between borderline jealousy and hatred for metrosexuality, no doubt.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Sex line love

The above is what happens when the man on the street falls in love with the unobtainable sex line girl.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Location, location, location

Last night I watched Location, Location, Location for the first time in about three years. The sexual tension between Kirsty and Phil seems to have escalated further - at one point Mr Spencer kicked Ms Alsop firmly but gently in the shin region, as if to release some of that pent-up frustration.

I could have done with the pair's help a few weeks ago. Having just moved to a flat in north London, which is pretty swish (relatively speaking) on the inside, I've been kept up the past few nights by Baring Street traffic - a road far busier than it was during our 20-minute viewing.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Open House London

Last weekend was Open House in London, meaning that hundreds of buildings across the capital swung their doors open to members of the public.

I found the two days incredibly confusing and frustrating - "No, sorry, the Gherkin isn't part of Open House, even though people said it was" and "No, you can't climb to the top of Tower 42 because you had to pre-book."

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Regent's Canal faces

Sawubona! Now I know how to greet people in Zulu. Thanks, Flickr!

These are some people with really big heads who I saw looking at me t'other day as I was cycling along Regent's Canal in London.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Enis's Cafe, Waterloo

Saturday morning is fry-up time. Off then to my local (quirky) greasy spoon, Enis's, on Waterloo Road - right opposite the station.

£5.95 for a full breakfast. Reassuringly expensive, I thought. Mmm, this is what I need - a meaty sausage, a couple of rashers of bacon, an egg, hash browns, a grilled tomato and all washed down with a cup of tea.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

League 2: The struggle begins (again)

This afternoon I parted with a hard-earned £20 note to watch Cheltenham beat Grimsby in the fourth tier of English football: League Two.

Yes, the Football League season has begun - and it's proper football too, no multi-millionaires and shiny hair, but spectacular comebacks from heavy-set titans of men. Julian Alsop, I salute you.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

How to make home furnishings exciting

Workers at a Tewkesbury furniture warehouse are among the reasons why Gloucestershire is a wonderful place.

Employees set up 41 mattresses along a carefully planned route in the warehouse, with a person standing infront of each one.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Nice to see you... see you nice. Is probably what Gordon Brown didn't say when he invited Bruce Forsyth, among others, to dine at Chequers last year.

The fabulously-named Lee Benedictus pondered in the Guardian earlier this month what it would be like if Brucie was appointed secretary of state for work and pensions.

Does it seem so far fetched following Srrralan's promotion to the House of Lords?

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Sunday, 19 July 2009


Next weekend I'll be moving from my home to someone else's. I only met this person today, but they're very kindly letting me and one other move into their flat while they go to Spain for a month.

The selling point of this short-term accommodation deal was their ickle puddy cat, who followed us around during the viewing purring away as felines do.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

A punctured head

Never in my short but colourful life have I taken a photo of a bird of prey. Nevermind a buzzard. But how I wish I had.

This evening I am sparing a thought for plasterer Paul Powell, who hails from my second-favourite place in the world: Gloucestershire.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Ghost in the hallway: MJ is back

It occurred to me earlier today that too many of my blogs have taken a cheery little look at getting old and the inevitability of death. Well, here we go again - for the last time, promise. I'll also be using the subject of Michael Jackson [how many times - not the ex-Cheltenham town player, the King of Pop] once more.

In a quite remarkable development, MJ's ghost has decided to appear in one of Neverland's hallways - just as a CNN TV crew is exploring the building.

Monday, 13 July 2009


This chap is literally watching the passage of time. Us humans are obsessed with clocks, watches and other more contemporary time-keeping devices which, alas, this fellow will never see.

Time reminds us of our own mortality. That each one of us is... tick-tock... getting older by the second. Many have dreamed of living forever, or least extending their lives by a few years.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

We're not bottom anymore

English tourists strike fear into thousands of Spanish, Italians and Greeks each year. Just look at them. No, not them - for all I know, they might be your parents. 'Them' - go on, use your imagination.

I bring good news fellow Englishmen and women. While the football shirts, tattoos and beer bellies are embarrassing for the rest of us, there is no longer any need to worry.

This is because our rivals across La Manche are officially the world's worst tourists.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Am I cracking up...

...or just getting older? Or so Noel Gallagher once pondered. He may well have been cracking up at the time, but Oasis are still 'cracking out' some 'great tunes'. So, by process of elimination, I conclude that, like the rest of us, he is merely getting older.

Interesting fact alert: did you know that more than half of retirees in this country have retired parents?

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Rushy Bay beach huts: Bryher, Isles of Scilly

Beach huts are fantastic. So fantastic, in fact, that I built half of this one a whole year ago - and it's still standing. 

Alas, mine is quite rudimentary.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Lots of space for little green men

This is perhaps the world's most famous observatory. Telescopes having been gazing into space from this spot for hundreds of years - for those of you in the know, one of them stares directly at Pluto, which is visible even in broad daylight. No, not that Pluto. Yep, that's right, that one.

The world's second most famous astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, said earlier this week that he doesn't think the US should go back to moon - with current plans aiming to do just that by 2020.

Monday, 29 June 2009

A quantitative easing alternative

The government has finally caught on. Despite the swish graphics on BBC and ITN News, no-one understands quantitative easing. Ex nihilo, deposit multiplication - nope, it means nothing.

So instead, the clever people at the Royal Mint have made 20p coins actually worth £50. How did they do this? Well, tens of thousands of 20ps have entered circulation with no date on them. They've instantly become a collector's item.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Michael Jackson's death: The scoop of the decade

Thirty Mile Zone, aka TMZ, was the first website to report the death of Michael Jackson, beating the LA Times by a good few minutes.

Although my dad ran it pretty close - texting me at half 10 to inform me of Jacko's death. How does he do it?

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Bryher Campsite

It's my first posting from work. I should be writing stories but my mind is elsewhere - having just got back from holiday, 'tis all I can think about.

Bryher Campsite was my destination, and this beach, Rushy Bay, is a few minutes walk from it.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

The longest day

As I write, the sun is setting on the longest day of 2009. I should be outside watching it, but I've just come back from a long and unpleasant train journey between Penzance and London.

The attached photo is from two days ago at the south-western tip of England, the Isles of Scilly. This will be the last place to get dark this evening - but it's too late to get there now, sorry.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Chopper to the rescue

The "ludicrous and unnecessary disruption", as Boris Johnson has called it, has begun - no tubes in London until Thursday night.

Luckily, I have the next two weeks off work - meaning I'm not one of the three million commuters affected.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Sum, sum, summer summer murder

It is becoming normal to carry a knife if you're a young person. This is according to a report by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, which highlighted the "arms race" that exists between rival gangs in Britain.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than London, where 22 people under the age of 20 were stabbed to death last year. The latest fatality was 17-year-old Jahmal Mason-Blair, a promising footballer, who was stabbed in the neck in Hackney last month.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

High rises for orange dogs

High rise tower blocks such as this were supposed to provide much-needed housing in overcrowded cities. Until now, the option of living in a high rise extended only to humans.

According to the BBC, 40-feet towers could be built above Leeds' canals to provide a habitat to the city's foxes, birds and bats.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Tamil protests in London

The Tamil protest at London's Parliament Square continues despite the Sri Lankan government announcing the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. 

As many as 5,000 people have gathered in an attempt to persuade the government to mediate the release of those detained in internment camps in the north of Sri Lanka.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Personified cigarette

A discarded cigarette mimics the relaxation he - and it's definitely a he, look at the Elvis haircut - gave to his puffer.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009


This would have been quite the metaphor pre-credit crunch, but thanks to the ongoing "economic downturn" [shudder], the colours in this painting look that little bit brighter. 

Some six million Brits plan to holiday domestically this summer - with a further 14 million overseas visitors set to join them. Wonder if the apprentices/apprenti helped?