Where there's a Willesden there's a way

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Catch up with some pictures!

Well, in case you hadn't noticed I've been a little quiet lately. At least when it comes to blogging. So here it is in three paragraphs.

It was Meg's birthday on Thursday, which resulted in a night out in an incredibly trendy West End restaurant with a tiny tiny lasagne on a huge white plate for dinner. There were two girls in the group who were finding my jokes hilarious, so of course I did what I always did with an audience and a few glasses of wine. My story made them laugh, but it was what one of them said in response to my story that really brought tears to my eyes. It was "I still...I learning...the English?". Wild!

I went to my old job on Friday, and had one of those curiously uplifting days that reminds me what side I'm on. What that means is that I saw three people cry in quick succession (two colleagues, one client) and finally got to fix something I'd felt terrible about. I had to close a client when I left the last job, and was annoyed that I hadn't been allowed out of the office to tell him face to face that have a new social worker. But I finally got the chance to talk to him on Friday, and after introducing him to my replacement shook his hand and wish him the best for the future. I'm starting to realise how important the right ending is, for both client and worker.

The first one of my close friends to get married came round last night. It's what's known as a "semi-arranged marriage", and although I wasn't expecting his engagement it was reassuring to know that I'd have two years to get used to the idea. So I was very surprised to receive an invitation dated next month. Sure enough, the religious ceremony isn't until 2007, and it's only the civil ceremony, which doesn't really count for anything. Except the eyes of the law. Of course, we went for the age old danger combination last night of men, alcohol and fire. At 3am I was just musing on how I was still sober having polished off three bottles of wine when my friend landed on the fire. I decided that was probably a good time to put him out and call him a cab. I'm fairly certain he got home alright.

Oh, and I knocked the "26th letter of the alphabet" key off my computer. Which means this blog now has to be a Letter after Y Free, um, area. Up until that sentence I hadn't even missed it.

That wasn't too tricky was it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Oh dear I'm in a dead spot!

Somehow having a new gadget isn't cheering me up that much. This must be serious.

[NB- my new gadget does tend to cut posts off, I've just discovered. It was all about technology failing to cheer us up and all connected to Iris. I'm sure it was very interesting. -Doafw]

Monday, May 23, 2005

I'm feeling quite smug about my new phone. That's probably why I've been taking a lot of picture as pointless as this one today. It's 1.3Megapixels (whatever that *really* means), and I'm slowly getting the hang of the other functions. Who knows, I might even start posting movies... Posted by Hello

Friday, May 13, 2005

Give in to Terror!

My route home takes me under the railway bridge at Cricklewood, one of the dustiest, noisiest, dirtiest places I know. And definitely not a pleasant place to die. When I walk through there, I tend to turn the walkman up, keep my head down and look for hazards. And in the mornings, pray that a pigeon doesn't drop a poo in my coffee. And if they do, that I'll notice.

As I was walking through there tonight, being Friday 13th, I was more paranoid than usual. Especially as there was a battered old Fiat Uno with a rope sticking out the top of it. It was clearly abandoned, and behind pulled up a police car with flashing lights. As I walked past, I saw something that gave me the creeps- the whole car was full of blue building waste bags, packed tightly together across the front and back seats. Laid across the back seat were also some scaffolding poles which had taken on a suddently lethal air.

I hurried under the bridge as soon as possible, and headed down the road, keen to get away from the area. Suddenly, ludicrous as it may seem, I expected an act of terrorism to shatter my quiet and safe world.

Then I realised just how ludricrous that really was. And just how much fear is driving everyone, myself included, to paranoia and the eventual destruction of our way of life. Because if I'm scared walking by a car packed with blue plastic bags and scaffolding poles, next time a man in a robe with a long beard gets on my bus, maybe I'll get off a stop early. Then I'll be supporting ID cards. And voting New Labour. And that way lies totalitarianism.

Explaining why the only thing the opposing sides in the War on Terror have in common is this: they want us to be afraid. And clearly they're doing a very good job of it.

The Beast of Borehamwood

Sometimes I think my colleagues are losing it, particularly when I mention pets and the talk immediately turns to Big Cats.

Yes, Big Cats prowling round the fields that protect the rest of the South East from Borehamwood, maiming innocent wildlife, small dogs and maybe, just maybe, the occasional innocent child. If a resident of the town even sees a cat this week, immediately people start seeing wild beasts everywhere. I was wondering why that was, until I saw this report in the Borehamwood Times.

"There are fears that a leopard-like cat is on the loose in the fields of Borehamwood after the carcass of a swan was found hanging from a tree."

Briefly suggesting that Borehamwood might just be a pleasant place to live, the report goes on to say that
"Danny Bamping, founder of the British Big Cat Society says it is possible the swan was killed and taken up the tree by a big cat — either a leopard or a puma.
He said: 'There's no other animal in the British Isles that could've taken that swan up a tree.'"

Of course, it's only in the final paragraphs that a slightly more likely explanation arises, as the report gives a cursory nod to an actual expert from the RSPCA.

"Our main concern is that youths were involved. We've seen them do a lot worse — and it's not just youths. A swan was stoned to death by adults."

What's more likely? A puma or cheetah roaming wild in the green and pleasant fields of Borehamwood, picking off small animals on its way. Or a series of burberry-clad ratboys pouring off the estates of one of Hertfordshire's most deprived towns, searching for property, pets, people -anything- to hurt and destroy in an expression of impotent and hopeless rage against poverty, boredom and the world in general.

You don't have to spend much time in the town to find the most likely explanation. But maybe the real Beast of Borehamwood is just too scary to really imagine.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Mount Unpleasant

I know I was *very* drunk on Friday, but I think I was onto something with my pergatory metaphor concerning my current employment situation. To those of you not obsessed by Dante, this was the mountain of contrition and absolution, where the repentent sinners spent aons trapped in nothingness, waiting for their chance to move on to something better. I may have missed out some important details, but that's the basics.

I've spent the whole week in the office, fighting with our lousy computer system, and have spoken to one client all week. Life's far too precious to waste any of it stuck in this suffocating boredom. It's only when I describe the old job, my old caseload, responsibilities and misadventures that I really get excited when it comes to work. Damn I need to be a social work assistant again.

I've put in another application against my better judgement, but until I pass my driving test there doesn't really seem much point. But you never know, in the six weeks it takes to shortlist and interview, there's a (small) chance I might just pull this one off. After all, I could take it another three times by then.

I know I keep on saying this, but it's not going to be easy to leave my colleagues and friends in Borehamwood. But every day I spend stuck behind a desk makes it very slightly easier.

Irony-Free Zone (First left off the studio roundabout)

I was browsing the magazines in Tesco, minding my own business and hoping my day might be an irony-free zone. An article took my interest, so I reached for it, and received a startlingly strong static shock from the magazine rack.

Here's the article...

Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Mouseville here we come!

Mog had been gently suggesting that it might be time for me to turn out my food cupboard. My cupboard, like the room, have been occupied by three different people in the last twelve months, and although I've finally moved into the bedroom, I'd only really been occupying the first three inches of the cupboard. The remainder was occupied by uncharted depths of herbs, spices and teas, reflecting the different tastes and superior cookery skills of Mog's past two flatmates. Mog had mentioned it several times during the week, so on Friday I finally got round to it.

I was discovering things I never knew I owned; Dhal and whole black peppers jostled with chai teas for space, and as I reflected on this and picked up a packet of peanuts of highly questionable vintage, I was a little surprised to find a little mouse at the back. He'd evidently been living there for quite a long time, as suggested by the droppings under his makeshift house of loose spaghetti, or I'd just really scared him.

Being the man of the house, I felt the adrenaline rising in me, and promptly slammed the cupboard door and went outside for a cigarette. Mog was explaining why I really had to kill it; I was explaining kharma, suffering, and the fact that the little fellow was probably a guy who'd said that in a past life. And I certainly wasn't up for spending my next life in a North London kitchen.

"I'll do it", she offered, wearing her Inner City Teacher look. I backed away, and said I'd deal with it in my own way. Some moments later I was in the kitchen, wearing heavy shoes and gloves, shovelling the now-inedible contents of the cupboard into a binbag and backing the mouse further into a corner. I felt I was making progress in persuading it to run out the back door to freedom, when it scampered to the other side of the cupboard and hid behind some dinner plates. I really should have moved those first.

Mog came in to see how I was handling the situation, and was less than impressed. "I'm trying to persuade him to jump out the cupboard and go out into the garden."

"This isn't an amazing mouse, and I don't think he's getting the idea."

"Maybe he is, and this is how we're going to make our fortunes. Like in that film."

"Do you have any common sense at all?" Mog had noticed that I was staring into the middle distance with a smile.

"Shu shu shu" she said, rubbing her fingers together as if she was counting money. "This always works, look. Shu shu shu". Stuart, as I'll call him, had poked his nose out from behind a soup bowl, and was starting to edge towards Mog.

"Shu shu shu" she continued, silently picking up a wooden spatula with her free hand. "Come to me, shu shu shu."

"Don't listen to her. She's bad news."

"Shu shu shu. That's right. Over here. She shu shu."

"Look, who's more likely to kill you? Tough teacher, or nice social work assistant?"

"Yeah, cos social workers never killed anyone. Shu shu shu."

"We'd probably just forget about you and leave you to starve. She's holding a wooden spoon. Run. Run."

"Shhh. Shu shu shu."

A loud noise from outside sent Stuart scampering under the dinner plates. Mog made a cup of tea, and left me to it. She came in a bit later.

"Is it dead yet?"

"I'm having a coffee. He has to think about what he's done."

I enjoyed a very nice Latte, which kept me awake all the way to Luton that same night. I returned a while later, explaining the situation to a more sympathetic, less lethally minded Meg. As I arranged some humane mousetraps and a book in the cupboard in a way that was strategically brilliant, the mouse suddenly leapt from the cupboard, flying four feet horizontally and leaping at least five feet downwards. It hit the floor, rolled, and vanished into the uncharted depths behind the kitchen cupboard. We looked stunned for several minutes, before I set about hoovering the shelves and removing all traces of all its previous occupants.

But it really is an acrobat. And assuming it wasn't fatally wounded in the escape, this mouse could be how we're going to make our fortunes. I can see it all now.

Mog had a lethal look about her that evening. I'm going to hide all the wooden spoons.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Yes, it really happened

...and in case you don't believe me about the Luton thing.

Looking back on it, although going out last night was a bad idea, going to Luton was a great idea- with a 2 hour wait for the train, I got to spend 50 minutes of those on a warm train. Very sensible. What was less sensible was falling asleep near Radlett, and waking up at Kings Cross at 3am.

I didn't get home until 4, and now I'm not feeling too great. And looking at the blog reminded me that I was on about Dante quite a lot last night. Just in case my colleagues didn't think I was nuts, you see. Posted by Hello


It's 130 in the morning and I'm a very long way from home.

I'm heading North through Luton and Harpenden with my brand new denim jacket. Luton's probably a bad idea, given that I live in Cricklewood, but I'd rather head at high speed in the wrong direction than spend 2 hours at St Albans waiting for a train. It's really cold, you see.

Dante said that Pergatory wasn't about feeling pleasure or pain, but the sheer absence of both. Apparently that combination, if experienced for long enough, was enough to absolve any sinner. If he'd sat out on St AIbans Station for an hour, he might just have understood.

I'm still heading at speed in the wrong direction. And I found the jacket abandoned on a staircase. Now I'm implausibly stuck in Luton trying to get home.

l think I'll make it sooner or later. But I definitely think that when faced with that dilemna between going out on a Friday night or, just once in a while, staying in and watching some tv, I should stay in sometimes.

l need to get home. I'm really cold....

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Stake in the Future

I found a leaflet on my doorstep this morning from the Liberal Democrats saying "Good Morning", and the Mayor of London was outside Willesden Green station handing out leaflets. I want this to happen every day.

Yes, it's Polling Day, and all day I've been handing out red clothespegs to disillusioned Labour voters. We remember the war, tuition fees the dome and all those other great errors of judgment. But in marginals like Watford, you really have to hold your nose and vote Labour.

Of course, in other parts of the world you have to walk miles and brave armed militias to vote. I only had to travel to Watford and back, but I still feel like I've gone that extra mile or ten to exercise my democratic duty. So I can feel a bit smug. The ideal situation is a small Labour majority and a big gain for the Liberal Democrats. And here in Brent East, it's looking good for the Lib Dems.

The offices are home to a polling station, and there's been a steady trickle of Borehamwood residents trudging in and out. No queues, and definitely no fights. But in the short space of time I was in the loo, I missed out on seeing the Monster Raving Loony Party Truck, which pulled up outside the office window in a short blaze of dancing, music and loudhailers. I missed the first bit of excitement in this town for a long time.

It's quite exciting though. I like this.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

A Great Night In

Thanks to Meg, a quiet night in became a tour of Soho's achingly hip, achingly gay bars and clubs last night. It was a warm up for my birthday, you see.

We started with modest drinks in The Yard, where Meg met up with his friend Chaos as I stared at the video screens around the bar. They were featuring pictures of London's cool set, with graphics indicating the makers of their shoes, jackets, hats etc. All I could think about was Nathan Barley, and then I realised that this was his territory.

Afterwards, we went into Barcode, the sort of bar where you can go several hours without seeing a woman. It took the pressure off a bit, I felt, and I went up to the bar to get the first round in.
"I'll have a JD please", said Meg with a slightly intimidating smile.
"Are you sure you'll be OK?" said Chaos.
"I'll be fine", I replied.

As I went up to the bar, I did my usual tactic of finding an empty space no more than a few inches wide, and leaning one hand on it, thereby reserving a place at a very busy bar. As I leant waiting to be served, I felt a stroking on my shoulder. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a smartly dressed man gesturing towards a door. For a moment I considered exploiting the situation to get a free drink, before realising this was probably a bit dangerous. So, being English, I decided to just turn away and ignore it. This was a bad strategic move.

I handed Meg and Chaos their drinks with a smile.
"I got chatted up" I said with a grin.
"And you're happy?" said Chaos.
"You come here all the time, and I've been here all of three minutes. You'll not believe what an ego boost that was."

A while later, as we leant in the corner and chatted, the same man walked past. He deftly weaved past the other two, before squaring up to me, and half colliding and half rubbing, he passed me very slowly.

"You both saw that, right?"
"He's drunk", they both chimed.
"No", I said, "that was the same guy who chatted me up earlier. At the bar. He started making, um, contact there too."
"Why do you care?"
Well, I said, warming to my theme, this is the big lie my people* like to tell when we go to places like this. That we're not gay, and that's why we're keeping out of the way, but if we were, we'd be the hottest property on the dance floor. As there's no obvious way of testing this, it makes us feel better about ourselves, and any time we get chatted up by another man it boosts our belief and, therefore, our egos.
"He was so drunk" said Chaos.

A while later we headed downstairs to the dancefloor. On the way to disprove my theory, we all saw the same man sitting on the stairs, struggling to speak as two bouncers tried to carry his slumped form out of the doors.

"Alright, so maybe he was a bit drunk...."

*metrosexuals, apparently