Where there's a Willesden there's a way

Monday, January 30, 2006

The long goodbye #2

After a very strange, but very cool six months, the time has come to say goodbye. My flatmate's heading back to Denmark tomorrow, and she'll definitely be missed. And not just by me...

When you get a flatmate off the internet, it's safe to say that anything can happen. My friends assured me that she'd probably be a psychopath, and I'd definitely be dead by the end of the week. So I was probably very lucky.

Actually, I was very lucky. She's been a very nice, very chilled out flatmate, and a good laugh. And contrary to Mog's prediction, she hasn't pillaged anything.

In fact, she might just be the perfect flatmate. The house has always been spotless, she's introduced us to a lot of cool people, and I've even started drinking Carlsberg. And when she's gone, the place will probably fall down in a week. We're pretty grubby boys, really.

The good news is she's probably coming back in six months. She's got to- I've got her stereo. And if I've learnt anything from the work situation, constantly saying "you can't leave" doesn't really have much effect. Believe me, I've tried.

So bon voyage to her. A midafternoon flight, some scary sounding exams and life in small town Denmark awaits her.

And as for me, the next flatmate arrives Wednesday. She's from the Czech Republic.

The long goodbye #1

There's a sense that the department's lost its head, and a collective gloom hangs in the air. I'm going to wish that I hadn't told them I was leaving.

After the chaos of last week at work, I suppose today was always going to be a downer. And despite the fact that getting out of bed this morning remains the hardest thing I did all day, I applied my usual monday morning philosophy: if the feet are moving, sooner or later the head's going to follow. And by the time I got to the cafe I was positively cocky. Right up until the point I landed heavily on the pavement. Pulling myself up was the second hardest thing I've had to do today.

As I sat at my desk cradling my bruised and scabby elbow, I was aware of an eerie silence in the office. I've seen this a few times; all it means is the team's depressed. It's not the recurrent client crises and intensely challenging work they do; it's the fact that the organisation isn't backing them up any more, and seems more obsessed with the latest flashy intiative than any attempt to actually support the workers and get on with things. I feel like it may be terminal.

On top of that, I'm working quite hard on the handover. I'm trying to work out how many of the things I've learnt and figured out *really* have to be passed on. And as I'm not going to be replaced, I don't even know who that's going to be.

I just wish people wouldn't say "you can't leave" quite as often. They're probably right.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

In custody

"Um, OK, and can I ask what the fee is to release the vehicle? Thankyou very much. I'll be there as soon as possible."
My flatmate's starting to rock back and forward gently, and I doubt he even knows he's doing it.
"The good news, mate, is that your car hasn't been nicked. The bad news is the council want 215 pounds to give it back."
"What? Bastards!"
"Pound's in Wembley, I'll come with you."
"I'll fucking kill em."
"I'll do the talking."

I was just enjoying a lie-in late yesterday afternoon when my flatmate stormed into my room.
"My car's been nicked!"
"Are you sure."
"Yes I'm sure. Come and take a look."
There was only one thing to do as a man in this situation. I put on my shoes, and walked out into the street, where I paced the length of the street before returning with a serious look.
"You're right. It's not here."

Whilst my flatmate freaked out in the kitchen, I decided to ring the council on a hunch. Maybe for some inexplicably reason they'd towed it away. And I was right, it was an inexplicable reason. Brent insist that the parking bay at the far end of our street was suspended on Friday for a 24 hour period. I hadn't seen a sign indicating this, and evidently, neither had my flatmate. So credit card in hand, we set off to Wembley to get his car back.

The area round Wembley stadium looks a bit different these days. Brent Council decided that Faded Industrial Zone just wasn't really working for them any more, so they've gone for a new look; Moonscape. We picked through piles of rubble and half demolished buildings in the savagely cold wind, potted roads winding their way through acres of freshly ploughed, frozen earth in the middle of the city. With only the Wembley arch and the occasional slanted lamppost to guide us, we drew our coats up to our necks and shivered to stay warm. It's hard to tell how long we walked for, but out of the night a bedraggled stranger stopped us.
"Do you know where Pyramid House is?"
"The car pound?"
"They stole my car. It had everything in it. Even the baby's coat." He gestured to a shivering woman clasping a tiny baby to her breast.
"They got us too friend. Walk with me."

Our sad convey stumbled through the back streets of Wembley. In time we were joined by others, all of whom told their story of loss and pain. We tried to stay in the streetlamps, huddled together for warmth, driven on our mission by the cries of the young. After what seemed like forever, we arrived.

I doubt any of us will talk about what happened next, but an hour later my flatmate was in his car, running the engine and the heater as the giant security gate slowly opened.

By a weird twist of fate, we had to drive home pretty fast. If he didn't get to the Parking Shop to renew his permit by 6.30, they would have taken it again by midnight. Posted by Picasa

To geography and trade

A hammer turned up in my back garden Friday night. I'd dismiss it as one of those random things that happens in Brent, but hammers don't tend to get over six foot garden walls by themselves. What if the police are on the lookout for a Willesden Hammer Killer, and this is the sort of thing that they really want the public to tell them? On the other hand the conversation could go something like this.

"Hello, I don't know if I should report this, but there's a hammer in my garden."
"Lots of people have tools in their gardens sir."
"Yeah, but this one's different. It's definitely not mine."
"You mean someone put it there?"
"Well, they don't get there of their own accord. Are you looking for a hammer killer at the minute."
"Are you saying you've hurt someone with it sir?"
"No, but someone else might have done."
"Has someone injured someone with it sir?"
"I was hoping you might know that."
"It's very important for crime to be reported sir. Are you afraid?"
"I am now. I'm just saying you might be looking for a hammer killer, and if you are, this might be important evidence. I'm just trying to help."
"We'll look into it sir. Can I have your name and address."
"Um, I'd rather you didn't."

Anyway, a search on BBC London shows three murders linked to Willesden in the past fortnight. None of them specifically mention hammers, but I'm going to put it in the shed, just in case. Posted by Picasa

BBC Heaven

As I'm signed into the BBC Club, I can't help but do it again.

"I can't believe they rejected our pitch. I really feel like there's a need for a daily soap set in an ordinary street in Manchester." I'm getting a few looks by this time.

Yep, Friday night was spent at the BBC. And when you've got a generous mate who works there, you get to see all the bits of the building ordinary people don't. Like corridors. Offices. And air conditioning plants. But having been raised by the Beeb and on my first visit to White City, all the fun I needed to have was in my own head. This was how I imagined it going.

"What's through this door?"
"I wouldn't open that."
"I'll just take a peak."
"OK, I see your point. Now what's through here?"

Or later in the bar.
"What're you drinking? Oh, Terry, thanks mate, pint of Kronenberg would be lovely. Who's your friend? Tinky-Winky- It's been a while. How's the custard business going?"

Obviously the reality of TV centre is a little different, but I was in my element. Bizarre flights of fancy aside, I had a serious reason to be there. My lovely buddy had also managed to get me tickets for the filming of the pilot of That Mitchell and Webb look. I'd never actually heard of it before, but it definitely deserves to become a series. I'm sure there must be a free slot between all those repeats of Changing Rooms for something that funny.

Got out of the BBC bar at 11, the myth of Auntie not quite ruined for me. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Do we have to get out of this place?

I'm having flashbacks to a conversation with Northern Nurse, when she told me about a nightmare. "You were standing in front of the team and told us all that you'd got another job and were leaving. And I was having to pretend to be really happy when inside I was thinking -shit!". That's because I'm standing in front of the team telling them I've got another job and I'm leaving.

To be fair though, Northern Nurse isn't pretending to be happy for me. But we're both thinking - shit!

Yep, after three years, my time in the team is coming to an end. That's because I'm moving to a London Borough to go and be a Community Support Worker*. So my time behind a desk is coming to an end, as is my time in Borehamwood, and probably my time with my colleagues and friends there. I've never (voluntarily) left any job before, and I could never tell what seemed weirder- the idea of leaving that place, or of still being there in another three years. But lack of career progression, and more recently the council's insane leadership moving us to Apsley, has pretty much forced my hand. And there's a strong sense of an ending- I don't think I'll be the first person forced out by the council's bizarre policies and projects and the whole team are looking at their options. So one phase of my life is very soon coming to an end, and another, hopefully exciting, phase of my life is about to begin.

I'm optimistic, scared, pleased and upset. I wish things didn't have to change in life, and that I could stay where I'm comfortable and happy. But I'm not that sort of person, and although I won't feel as comfortable in the new job for a while at least, it's time to find out what else I can do.

It's going to be a tough couple of weeks though. Maybe I should have waited until my last day before I told them.

*Subject to CRB check, medical, and Manager not mentioning the tippex incident in my reference.

Northern Lights

Feeling in need of escape from Willesden, headed up to Oxford last weekend at the kind invite of Mr Fusion. Soon to be Dr Fusion, you know the one.

Saturday was supposed to be an in-depth look at Oxford's world-famous Pitt Rivers museum, home of an endless series of bizarre objects, from shrunken heads to weapons and religious artifacts. The shrunken heads are particularly popular with the kids. Unfortunately, despite spending several hours there, it turns out we'd barely scratched the surface. I was in the room for 2 hours before I realised there was a gigantic trimarine suspended above my head.

The Pitt Rivers is essentially one room, with two galleries (sadly closed at present), however, it's a pretty big room, and stuffed full of artifacts that it starts to do funny things to the senses. That may have just been my hangover though.

The museum is also rumoured to be the home of the His Dark Materials trilogy, which took over an entire fortnight of my life a few months ago. Mr Fusion is similarly into the series, and the museum was part of a larger tour of the places featured in the book. It's a shame Jordan College doesn't really exist. Every so often in the museum, you see objects that might just be related. The bottom-centre picture has to be the althimeter.

Very nice weekend, and nice to catch up with Mr Fusion before he disappears to his new home in the South of France. Anyone got a TGV map? Posted by Picasa

Guerilla Gardening. In suits.

Two men pulled up in a car around the back of my office earlier on in the week. Smartly dressed, and clearly prepared, they stepped out, pulled out a Christmas tree from the back, planted it, and drove off again.

They didn't get the impression they worked for the council. But the tree's still there. Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 02, 2006

This is not a good place to squat

The sign on the door is far from welcoming. "You will be removed immediately by legal means." It was nice of them to put the stress on legal.

I'd been past St Stephen's in Hampstead once or twice, but having the good fortune to lose my way in the area, it was nice to get a bit of time to take some pictures and have a really good look. Even the most commanding building can fall on hard times.

Things are looking up since I last came past. The masonry's stopped crashing to the ground, and it's now certain not to fall down. And the (undated) sign says they're just 250,000 from starting the last phase of the restoration.

Glad I got some pictures of it like this though. There's a sad beauty that the restored church won't have. Posted by Picasa

Very solstice-y

Freak gust of wind produces very natural-looking Christmas decoration. Very pretty. Posted by Picasa

Should I be worried about this?

Cleaning the curtains in Danish flatmate's room reveals an unexpected surprise.... Posted by Picasa

Bring it back

It wasn't all bad news on the tubes this Christmas. For me any way.

London Underground apologetically suspended the Jubilee Line for a few days, so to compensate they added Willesden Green on to the Met line. Which for someone who lives in Harrow and has family in Northwick Park, Harrow and Watford, was very very handy.

Of course, they unexpectedly withdrew it a few days later, leaving me in Finchley Road and feeling very daft. So I'm starting up a one man campaign to bring the Met line back to its spiritual home. And my home of course. Posted by Picasa

Hope you all had a good Christmas!

 Posted by Picasa