Who has got the cure for the sit-at-home blues? Ask Dr Grabthar. Now with bigger, easier to read font!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Been a pimp so long I knew Ghandi when he had an afro

Wooo, it's been a while since I brought the pimp game*.

First I'll pimp myself: The Dropkicks are back podcasting. We've got new people, a slightly new format and a brand new editor/producer. It is seriously wicked. The podcast will be up at the end of the week.

I also need to pimp the fact that the movie I penned with Mike has been released to an unsuspecting public. Night of the Hell Hamsters will be showing at a Horror Film Festival near you, soon (offical website to be upgraded soon, if not by now). The NZ premiere was held behind closed doors to a select few at Peter Jackson's Park Road Post. Seriously flash.

Jessica, who starred in our brilliant 48hour film and was one of the chosen few last night, has entered a competition on Jump Cut. She made a film and now needs people to see it and vote. (Just so you know, voting requires a free non-spam registration). Needless to say that she is super-talented and when she's famous you can say "I helped her get where she is today".

Here's the film. Here's the pitch: Carmen's menial afternoon is interrupted by some freeloader trying to impress his girlfriend. Carmen isn't having any of it and takes the argument to her brother Sal in her mother tongue.

*Note: this is a sad attempt at being "street". Do the kids still say "street"?

Play 'em at the same time!

If you weren’t sure that I was correct in asserting that New Zealand rugby is in the hands of idiots, then this surely will make you believe.

The Wellington Hurricanes have a Super 14 home game against the Auckland Blues on February 16. This also happens to be at the same time as the New Zealand day/night one-day cricket international against Australia. Well that’s no problem; fans can just choose which sport they like more, right? Cricket or Rugby, you decide

Well, both games are scheduled to be played at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium.


How about Wellington play Auckland the next night? This is what Wellington wants to do, except this leaves Sky TV without Friday night rugby. All the other Super 14 games are held in South Africa or Australia that weekend, so no changing another team’s schedule either.

Of course all the Hurricanes have to do is play in Palmerston North or New Plymouth. I am actually against travelling home teams (teams with more than one home stadium). Teams need a solid base for home game advantage to really be effective. But in this case, someone screwed up and it seems only fair that the Hurricanes drive a few hours up the road and play in Palmy or the Naki.

Personally, cricket bores the hell out of me but they do not have an alternate venue, the Hurricanes do. Also it is an international cricket match against a bubble-gum rugby match (albeit a possibly interesting one).

How hard is it to sort out a 14 team competition? Why do New Zealanders NEED a Friday night game? The Aussies don’t seem to mind watching the cricket, though probably because they are more likely to win.

Again I have to say, why do New Zealand (and SANZAR) rugby bosses believe that quantity equals quality? A few (11) years ago there would not had been a clash between rugby and cricket, because they had different seasons. Now rugby starts in February and goes until November (which means I got my per-day calculation wrong in my previous post).

The business plan for changing the Super 12 into the Super 14 seemed to consist of one line: More of the same. The plan for the Air New Zealand Cup seemed to be interesting: salary cap; expansion teams; separate pools. Then it all fell into farce when the regular season was announced: More of the same; wait until Round 2 for good rugby. The only good thing so far has been a change in Ranfurly Shield ownership and the fact the Northland has been able to win some games.

Perhaps they needed to look at increasing the QUALITY of the competition (both Super 14 and Air NZ Cup) rather than just giving us more games. More games of course mean more money, but surely that wasn’t a factor in the decision? In fact it can’t have been because with the current format fewer and fewer people are attending games.

The current administration (and this includes large amounts of pressure from Sky TV) want to overrule Graham Henry’s plan to keep a selection of All Blacks out of the 2007 Super 14. Just to increase gate sales and TV audiences.

We are currently in a greater crisis regarding rugby than losing the 1996, 1999, and 2003 world cups.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

In My Prime

Isn’t fun discovering things? Learning new stuff about your world? Like this morning I discovered that I am in the top ten Google hits for dozen primes in the Gaussian integers. Wow.

Bet you guys didn't realise that this blog was such a vital part of the scientific community.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

This is a Sports Blog

[For those of you waiting for photos, I apologise. If the photo upload tool for Blogger crashes for one more time I’m gonna…well, probably just swear under my breath. But photos are coming!]

I tried to keep abreast of local sport while I was away in foreign lands and I have to say: What the hell have you done with rugby?!?!

Dom answered: Ignoring it. It’s boring. [I am] totally over the silly ANZ Cup pools and repechage rubbish. There have been two good games out of about 40. Auckland v Waikato (the draw), and Wellington vs Canterbury (the last ten minutes, 6 of which were minutes in extra time, Boomzing!). And its not just that the All Blacks haven’t been playing, its just that we have been fed a steady diet of weekly rugby since mid Feb[rurary]. I need time to recharge the rugby batteries. And we still have the ANZ Cup play-offs and final then the Southern hemisphere Teams tour to the Frozen tundra of the Northern Hemi[sphere].

You know, here is something I never thought I’d say on this blog: New Zealand is terrible at rugby.

Wow, that was tough. But it is naturally not the players nor national squad about which I speak. I’m talking about the organisation of the sport and how it is run here in New Zealand.

Fans turned away in droves from the NPC finals last season. The semi between Canterbury and Otago was barely watched. The final between Auckland and Otago was watched by only slightly more. What was the reason?

By this stage of the season there had been 69 Super 12 games and 47 NPC games (not including preseason matches). On top of this was an international season of six tri-nations matches and a test against Fiji. Then there was a certain Lions tour, 11 matches in the space of a month.

So you can forgive a public that might be a little tired of rugby come the final of the NPC. Oh, and after all of this the All Blacks still had their Grand Slam tour (4 games and a night of boozing in London).

But 2005 was an anomaly. Surely the next year it’ll settle down. Nope.

By the time the final whistle of the Air New Zealand Cup blows, there will have been: 91 Super 14 matches; 70 Air New Zealand Cup matches; 9 Tri-Nations matches; and 3 Internationals. And then there is another 4 internationals.

So in 2005 we had 138 matches. In 2006 we have 177. That’s an increase of 28%! And there was a Lions Tour and a Grand Slam last year for goodness sake! Over six months 177 games is almost one game every day (0.96 games per day). How many people think that the NZRU is going to see a 28% increase in profits? And there definitely isn’t a 28% increase in interest.

Games like Canterbury v Hawkes Bay and Auckland v Manuwatu. On the FIRST WEEKEND of a new competition? Who organised that crap? 45-0, 41-10. That is NOT interesting rugby. Why not start the expansion teams against each other or against lower

So what will people watch? Apparently people will watch rugby on a Thursday night. (Actually, no they won’t).

Thursday night rugby is a freaking terrible idea. Now, not only do we have 177 rugby games a year we also have it 4 days a week! Teams are now running ragged trying to prepare for a Thursday game. Of course unions would have agreed to this at the start of the season with the NZRU, and so wouldn’t mind. Well actually, no. The unions were against it, as were the players. Former All Black captain and all-round good guy Tana Umaga said publicly that he didn’t like it. Punters don’t like the format either. Having to be enticed to attend games with free Sky rugby channel packages.

So where did this idea come from? Where else, but the place that brought you the utterly ridiculous Super 14: SKY Television. Or rather News International. We have let a media organisation tell us when and how we are going to play our games. Remember that they also account for those 91 Super 14 matches. Those awful awful awful Super 14 matches. You might remember a little team called the Force?

I have to end this rant now, but first let me point out that the NFL tells media agencies what they can do with the games and when the games are going to be played, not the other way around. The NZRU needs to take the game back!

More soon. Mahalo.

Friday, September 22, 2006


The last post is supposed to be choka with photos but blogger wont load the buggers.
I'm working on it.


She’s flying over Wellington harbour,
Oriental Bay is standing there in the sunlight,
And they're playing a tape for the landing,
Speed bonny boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward the sailors cry,
No, She didn’t want to stay there,
She's on her flight,
She'll be standing on the same ground as we are,
Tomorrow night

Tomorrow night (Harry Sinclair/Don McGlashan)

Well those lyrics aren't quite correct. For starters I’m not a girl, we approached from the south (i.e. not over Oriental Bay), and the song was Green Onions (though not the Booker T and the MGs version). Apart from that I like this song (Tomorrow Night by the Front Lawn) for homecomings.

It reminds me about New Zealand in a strange way. Like the last time we came back from Europe we marvelled at just how good pineapple Frujus are (very, very good). This time the revelation came at Christchurch airport (where the flight from Tokyo lands). I went to the café near my gate and walked up to the register and had they following conversation:

Girl: Hi there. What would you like?
Me: Could I have a long black and a steak and cheese pie please?
Girl: Sure.
She understood me, it was amazing. The phrase “long black and a steak and cheese pie” means almost nothing overseas, but here in Godzone, by crickey, it holds real weight*. But this is not the event that told me I was home. No, it was the second part of the conversation:
Serving Guy: You want sauce with your pie bro?
Me: Cheers ears
Serving Guy: Good on ya

Damn near brought a tear to my eye that conversation. To me it said “Welcome home Hadyn”. The whole thing would’ve been perfect if the pie and coffee hadn’t been shit.

But enough with the green, green grass of home; let’s talk about foreign lands and peoples.

Like an Oscar speech I need to start with the “thank you”s. Aoife, Steve, Jessamy, Dave and Katie, all of whom were hospitable and helpful beyond compare. Be it for mooching accommodation, taking us to cool bars or just speaking French when we couldn’t, thanks.

* it means “this weirdo drinks coffee with his pies”.

Bar Stories:
On the advice of Mike, we went to the John Snow in Soho. The only pub in the world named after a mathematician, apparently (I think he might actually be some kind of biological-statistician). Either way it’s a good story. Dr Snow mapped the outbreak of cholera in London and realised that it clustered around one particular well pump. He got the pump shut down and the cholera stopped (in the simplified version). It proved that cholera was a waterborne pathogen and opened up a whole new branch of biological science. Wicked. The pub sits on the site of the original pump (so don’t order a water) and a replica pump was placed down the road a bit. Note: the street was originally Broad St, but the name had “wick” added to it to distinguish from the many other Broad Streets in London.

I wrote about our best bar experience in Paris at Bob Cool. What I didn’t mention is that we went out drinking every night in Paris. We actually had a local bar called Petit Soleil. It can be seen behind the metro station in the photo to the right. On our first night we cautiously entered, apologised to the staff for our lack of French (Pardon, je ne pal pas francais) and ordered the easiest thing: Deux Bieres. In France beer comes in two sizes: large and small. We went for large, twice, and then a small one each. A large beer is 750ml, a small is 250ml. And French beer is like Belgian beer, very very nice and very very potent.

As we staggered home we passed a building with the following sign: Centre Opthomologique. I have to say that when you are drunk, the word Opthomologique is the longest word in the world and almost impossible to say. It may also cause you to laugh uncontrollably.

In Japan we didn’t do much in the way of bar-hopping as alcohol is stupidly expensive (NZD$10 for a regular beer) but we did Karaoke. The place was called Big Echo and was in the fashionable Shibuya district. Big Echo is actually a chain store and we found dozens during the next few days. They are multi-storey buildings with dozens of rooms some with windows that look onto the street (the karaoke scene in Lost in Translation was filmed in a place like this). You get your own little room with a couple of wireless mikes and a BIG book of tunes. The trick with karaoke is to be very drunk and so we ordered some $10 dollar beers and got to it. There are photos of what occurred but these are under heavy embargo until, well, forever. In a place like Big Echo it’s hard not to think that the staff have got cameras in the room and are down at the front desk laughing hard at your best Elvis impersonation. Perhaps it’ll show up on YouTube one day.

One last bar story (I didn’t realise I had so many). We were taken by Jess and Dave to The Foundry on Old Street, it’s an arty bar filled with recycled furniture and, well, art. So we get there and are told that the bar has just, this second, closed. “Bloody hell”, I thought, “how uncivilised”. Anyhow, Dave said that we had to see the basement. Down there we discovered a huge spinning floor (lots of fun) and art. Lots and lots of art. Good stuff too. In the other room there was a photography exhibition about mining and a table. Around the table were a small group of people. One of them was a drunken Irishman arguing with a drunken Brit about the Israel Palestine conflict. Very arty.

Tales from the Crypt:
A kiwi we met in Paris said that travelling in Europe was a good place to learn your ABCs. Another Bloody Church/Cathedral/Crypt/Castle. This is the cynical way of saying that Europe (including England) has a boatload of history. Most of it involves blood, and lots of it.

We did a brilliant Jack the Ripper walk through the back streets of Old East London. Moving in and out of the Square Mile we traced the steps of the Ripper with a world expert on the subject who was consulted for the movie From Hell. The old city is so close, claustrophobic and still quite dark in the evening and the walk had a strange ambience about it, very creepy. At £6 each it was possibly the cheapest tourist thing we did and one of the best.

London’s streets seemed to have soaked up a lot of blood and this morbid feeling hangs around emerging in strange events. The Marble Arch was near our first hotel, they found a body under it the first day we were there. The papers are full of people, families, who are murdered by relatives. Advertising hoardings remind the citizens that “knives take lives”, you see Londoners like their stabbings.

It was the mysterious old blood soaked London that interested me. Pagan temples, Masonic rites, secrets, conspiracies, pirates. I went to the Masonic Temple which is near the British Museum. I don’t know what I was expecting but I definitely was NOT expecting a gift shop. Nor guided tours twice daily. Nor photos of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy after party, held in the grand hall. Nor for that matter an exhibit about how the Norwich Karate Club became the Norwich Karate Club and Masonic Lodge. ::Sigh:: Where’s the mystery?

I had dubbed London at one point “The City of the Dead”. We had just been to Westminster Abbey, which is very impressive. But it is also chock full of dead people. Then later we went to St Paul’s Cathedral, again full of dead people. The city of London is also full of the bronze faces of dead people; statues fill every green space and stand at nearly every corner. Plaques on buildings tell you where (famous) people died. The masonry of buildings is often the grotesque faces of demons or worse. Even the boat ride to Greenwich was full of stories of tortured pirates, dismembered corpses and men trapped inside sinking ships.

On the Ripper walk the city seemed to close around you as the guide described how the victims were “cut open from the vagina to the breastbone, her insides taken out and placed over her left shoulder” etc etc. Small talk about the Johnny Depp film stopped after the first description, and there were five victims.

Of the many monuments to the dead in London there were a few that weirded me out. These were the monuments to the British soldiers who died in New Zealand. This is during what we kiwis call The Māori Land Wars. So these were monuments to people who came and killed some of our ancesters. The American who we met in Bob Cool (above) was half Apache and completely understood everytime he saw monuments to those great frontiersmen and leaders like Custer. I don't think it's quite the same but weird nonetheless.

The City of Light (no the other City of Light):
Tokyo blazed at night with neon and LCDs and sometimes just the pure energy of the people. The city buzzed 24 hours a day, and I mean literally, there was no such thing as an empty street. Even after 10pm in Akihabara long after all the shops had shut and the tourists had left, there were still people out on a Monday night drinking or playing video games or pachinko or sitting in internet cafes or playing music on the street or watching music on the street. Tokyo never stops.

Beside one of the stations on Tokyo’s Yamanote line (it might be Ebisu Station, but I can’t remember right now) is an original station that was uncovered in renovations of the new one and restored as a museum. The old station dates back to the late 1800s - early 1900s. The guide book noted that what the Britons use everyday to get to work the Japanese consider an archaeological treasure.

We went to Akihabara for electronics, like veryone else, and so we played the crazy computer games. We quite liked the one where you play traditional Japanese drums to the beat on the screen. We kinda good near the end but not as good as some (like the dude who played both drums at the same time). The also had whole parlours full of those claw-pick-up games. I say with some pride that I was able to win Amy a cute little bear, as all men are required to do for their ladies. It would have been more impressive and masculine if the attendant didn’t have to help me by placing the bear just so and explaining where to place the claw.

Good Eatin’:
Londoners seem to survive on sandwiches. Which is actually quite nice and very British. I’ve never ordered sandwiches in a pub before, and I still haven’t, but I have been there when someone else has. When we thought about it, sandwiches appear frequently in Victorian literature. I know the Sherlock Holmes was always ordering cold meat sandwiches that he could stuff into his pockets.

We also tried a London “Gastro-Pub”. These are pubs with gourmet chefs who try different things with traditional pub meals. We decided on the Anchor and Hope. Amy had puffball (a type of mushroom) and I had lamb shanks. I find it so hard to go past lamb shanks and this came with a spicy tomato salsa and whole olives. But I feel regret that I didn’t go for the roast pigeon.

Tokyo was crammed full of tiny little eateries. They would seat about 10 or so people and came in two types: Skewers (yum) and noodle bars (also yum). Sushi bars were usually of the “sushi train” variety and always had a queue outside at lunch and dinner time, even if other places were open next door. As such we didn’t eat sushi. We did have a goodtime at one skewer place. We acquired a drinking buddy who kept filling our drinks. You see in Japan one cannot pour oneself a drink, it must be poured for you. Good times, even if we don’t all speak the same language.

Paris was easily the best place to eat though and for one good reason: Frites. Or to be more specific, frites applied to hot meat baguettes in order to create: GYROS. Gyros are food from heaven (though they usually come via Greece). It seemed a little bit of a copout that my favourite thing to eat in France was Greek food, but they were SO GOOD! To make a Gyro for yourself follow these steps:

1. Take a real baguette (crunchy outside and soft inside, not the crap ones from New World) and add tomato, lettuce, mayo, hot chicken/lamb/falafel and chilli sauce (if you like chilli sauce)
2. Lightly fry French fries (pommes frites) in olive oil
3. Add frites to baguette
4. Laugh at the sucker not eating a Gyro

They can also be made in pitas, a variant of which my friend got hooked on while travelling around Morocco.

Naturally this wasn’t the only thing I ate in gourmet Paris. On our last night I had rack of lamb with beans and sautéed potatoes and Amy had baby chicken with cheese sauce and salad. Both were excellent as was the wine.

Is it irony that the only country where you don’t tip had the best service? Both London and Paris has a quiet and subtle type of tipping. Japan, as far as we were aware didn’t. Hence in Tokyo the service was magnificent to the point of being ludicrous and in London and Paris the service was less than exemplary.

I would like to excuse Paris though. In Paris we had a surly waiter who swore under his breath, was rude and took ages to take our (and other people’s) order. I tipped him because goddamit that’s what I want in Paris! Surly waiting staff. In London (and you get this in New Zealand as well) you have people in coffee shops looking at you like you are scum. How dare you ask for help, now give me a tip! To be fair it wasn’t all like that and we actually got some good service (especially in the pubs).

Actually in one pub (perhaps this was another Bar Story) I was yarning to the barmen while I waited to order. One of them was pouring two pints when he turned around, grabbed the lime cordial and poured a dollop in each. “What’s with that?” I inquired. “Takes the bitterness off”, he replied, “Normally the ladies have it, though this time it’s two blokes”. He nodded towards two gents standing at the far end of the bar. I couldn't help but laugh, I didn't want to say that British beer is quite bitter.

Best Dressed:
I’m only going to consider people with taste because every nation and culture has those for whom taste does not exist (for example the Chavs of England). Actually London is a very fashionable town. Even outside Soho and other prettier areas, London has some very well dressed people. I was also most impressed by the suit shops of Old and New Bond St.

Europeans always dress very nicely, hence I felt like a bit of a touristy nob by walking around in a tshirt. One night however I fitted in perfectly. Amy must’ve as well because a Frenchman bowled up to her and began to ask for directions.

Tokyo men have a preoccupation with three piece thin suits and pointy shoes. I love the suits, very rock and roll, but the shoes! Bleck! We went shoe shopping and there was a fella in there trying on some new shoes to go with his (very nice) thin grey suit. The shoes were also grey and had points that must have extended a good 10cm from where his foot ended. He looked like the world’s best dressed pixie. Naturally he bought them after getting the thumbs up from his girlfriend.

Despite all of the warnings about “the giant effect” (being to big for Japanese sizes), we were able to find plenty of things we could fit, and sometimes on sale because they were “strange sizes”. I almost blew our entire trip budet in the second-hand stores of Harajuku. I found a store that made Eyeball Kicks look like Supré. It wasn't easy to walk out with only one item, so we turned around and bought more things.

I think I can wind it up now. We went to three of the Big Four cities (the only one we missed was New York) and had a brilliant time. I left my baby in London to work and start earning Stirling. But she’ll be back around Christmas. Until then I’ll get back to sports (what have you guys been doing to rugby while I’ve been away!?!).

Friday, September 15, 2006

Gay Paris

That title is always funnier if you say it in a kiwi accent. To explain the last post about the bar, we went to Paris for five days last week.

I love Paris. Paris is awesome. We last went in 2000 just before Christmas. It was cold and crisp, the dog crap on the sidewalk was almost frozen solid (almost) and there were lovely Christmassy things around. This time it was the end of summer/beginning of autumn and the days were warm and long. The grass was soft and lovely to lie on. We did only two really touristy things: The Louvre and Versailles.

If you can you need to go to Marie Antoinette’s estate at Versailles. She had made a little fake village at the bottom of her grounds around a little lake stocked with fish. It is like your own private Disneyland. We, like other couples, sat on the warm grass near the lake and just enjoyed the view (NOTE: Blogger just "ate" my photo of it, I'll see what I can do later).

The Louvre is the Louvre. We lined up early but there was no real hurry. Some guy behind me on the escalator seemed really impatient. As we got off he ran (RAN) around me to get to the ticket queue. He got his tickets exactly 30 seconds before I did. I suppose he HAD to see the Mona Lisa and Venus De Milo and do the Da Vinci Code tour before lunch.

The hot weather meant that there were large numbers of people lounging on the banks of the Seine. We joined them for an hour or so. It was really nice and something I can’t imagine doing on the Thames.

We wandered for hours down the narrow streets past hundreds of bars and eateries enjoying the feeling of being in Paris in the summertime. On the island of St Louis we stopped and got Gelato. Actually we waited in line for ten minutes for Gelato, which was well worth it.

Later we had a great experience with a surly French waiter. Very stereotypical, cursing under his breath. Also similar to Tokyo there were massive stores dedicated to comics frequented by everyone from geeks to housewives to businessmen (I got some Asterix figurines, placing me in the “geek” category).

I found a great bookstore (also in some little alleyway) where the books were piled to the roof and three stacks deep. I asked the owner about a design book and he handed me some by a similar artist. I realized that I couldn’t pick up the books he had just pit beside me because I couldn’t turn around in the narrow passageway of book stacks. Brilliant!

Only a few more days now. So my next post will most likely be from Wellington.

Bar Bob Cool

We just found this great bar which I think is called Bob Cool, but I could be wrong. It’s down an alleyway in the normally tourist clogged St Germain. Which alleyway? I don’t know. We weren’t in the best of senses when we left. I did manage to snap this shot of the bar though (right).

We went in for one reason: Happy Hour. We left three or four happy hours later. The main reason for this was the bar flies: an American who worked at the bar, a sozzled Brit and a happy French barman. The American served us and then sat down next to us and spoke about his life. He had been a doctor in Mexico after moving from his native Texas, now he lived in Paris as an artist and part-time barman. I have a feeling that the British guy owned the bar but he was almost incoherent at times.

We spoke at length about the universe, ufos, history, art, faking your own death, fishing, cultural differences, sport, you know the usual stuff. After a few beers we stumbled off to have a brilliant Greek dinner (yes, I know Greek food in Paris) and then stumbled back to have a bottle of Champagne. The guys were so friendly that they even bought us drinks! I had a caiparinha that damn near blew my head off. All in all a great night out.

So if you find yourself in Paris go to Rue de Schmumblemumblemumble (it’s somewhere near the fountain of St Michel) and find Bob Cool (if that’s what it’s actually called).

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The List

Before we came to London Tom gave us a list of things to do. Today is our last day in London before we head to Paris so I’d thought I’d give you the run down (Tom’s parts are in bold).

The American Bar at the Savoy: exemplary Martinis served by waiters in white tuxes (tuxen?)

We go all dressed up and went last night. It is a very glamorous art deco style bar. Tom is the Martini expert, and I can’t say that I like them all that much so instead I had my drink of choice: Caiparihnas. Man they were good. Previously the best one I had had was at Havana, but this was beautiful. So smooth and tangy. We sat opposite a group of very fancy ladies who drank sparkling mineral water behind a large pile of Chanel bags. When we left we took photos of each other outside, thus revealing our class status. The waiters’ white tuxes were pretty cool.

Spitalfields: markets, curry, Jack the Ripper, diamond geezers, vintage clothes and Brit-Art groupies.

We didn’t do this exactly as Tom intended. Instead we did a brilliant Jack the Ripper walking tour taken by one of the world’s leading experts in the subject. Walking around the Old City and East End at night is pretty creepy in itself; it becomes magnified when you are listening to the story of a serial killer. Along the walk are various temples and Masonic buildings, oooooooooo conspiracy. This was kind of cool because the next day I went and toured the Great Masonic Temple. The mystery of an ancient society is stripped away somewhat when you see they have a giftshop. It ends up looking a little like a group of guys who get together to drink and wear frilly aprons.

Sir John Soane's museum: a weird collection of art and artifacts within a mind-boggling spatial experience

This is one of the highlights of my entire trip so far. The place is crammed full of pieces of art and adornment from around the world (possibly stolen). Every piece of wall space and most of the floor and ceiling are covered in these pieces. False tombs are created outside using parts of Turkish temples, Greek statues and Roman walls. And it’s free! I rated this slightly higher than the magnificent British Museum.

Tate Modern: a bit of a cliche, but the Turbine Hall is breathtaking in itself and there's a whole room dedicated to Rothko

We haven’t been in yet, but the outside is fairly cool. Oh and we got to see Peregrine Falcons perched on the chimney thanks to the RSPB.

Moroccan food: just about anywhere in Bayswater does great stuff (mmmm, tagine kofte), and even a prissy non-smoker like me was tempted to try a puff on the shisha

We went to do this as one of our first things in London, but all of the Moroccan places were shut! We had a great Indian meal instead. So no smoking for us.

Borough market: (insert drooling sounds here)

Missed it.

Raymond Revue Bar, Soho: boobies with class (apparently)

Nope, not here either.

The Jubilee Line Extension: every station was designed by a different architect, and most are stunning

Doh, three strikes. However the Gloucester Rd station has a great art exhibition on the station walls at the moment.

Lock & Co Hatters, St James': will you have the pith helmet, the silk topper or the superfine Montecristi Panama?

Um, four strikes? I did go to a cool hatter in Tokyo. I spent ages trying on hats (also the place was air conditioned)

Neal's Yard, Covent Garden: full of hippies, but a surprising and charming little space

Ah Crap! Five strikes.

Old Bond St: no, you can't afford anything, but it's fun to dream

This is where Tom’s list turned evil. We walked down New Bond St to Old Bond St. We could afford maybe one or two things on the New one but, as Tom points out, nothing on the Old one. But I wanted everything. Amy had to pull me away from the beautiful suit shops. Sigh.

Just go walking: start anywhere between Hyde Park and the Tower, and go wandering for a couple of hours, and you're bound to stumble upon all sorts of surprising historical and architectural gems (as well as several dozen Big Issue sellers)

This is a great suggestion. Doing this we passed hundreds of beautiful old buildings (most places here are older than the nation of New Zealand), and statues and parks and interesting people and smells (that last bit wasn’t sarcasm, I was talking about restaurants etc). The sandwich bars and the relatively warm temperatures have made for some lovely lunches down these streets. London’s alleyways are also not to be avoided. They often house pubs and eateries (or even more green space) that you never would have imagined.

So sorry Tom, I’ll try and do better next time.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Tube Stories

As filler I thought I would relay to you some stories of my journeys on “the tube” here in London.

We had checked out of our wretched hotel in Bayswater (the Blakemore, don’t believe their lie-filled website) in the morning. We left our bags to pick up later with a surly concierge. How surly? The man swore at cellotape.

We travelled to Camden via the excellent British Museum (or as my friend Jim described it, the place where Britain keeps all the stuff they stole). Having been told horror stories of stealthy pickpockets we did a quick circumnavigation of the markets and headed back south to meet Andy at Embankment. We had a couple of beers with him and headed off west to grab our bags and then back south to Tooting Bec to meet our friends Aoife and Steve with whom we were staying. We were supposed to meet them at 7. It was 7 when we arrived at Paddington. Paddington is very far from Tooting Bec.

The tube here doesn’t have cellphone coverage. This may sound obvious, as the trains are travelling three or four stories below the ground. However, in Tokyo every train had coverage, no matter how deep it was. This meant that while we were inside the stations or the train we were outside the world of communication. No one knew where we were or how long we would be. This turned into a problem when we became trapped at Charing Cross.

Train after train came and went through that cursed station, all full to the gunwales with people, which would’ve been fine if it wasn’t for the large suitcases we were carrying. Each train would pull in and the door would open, the mass of humanity within glared out, eyes red from the grime and booze of a Friday evening. The trains are rank with smell of sweating flesh and everyone’s armpits are raised to face height. I had to keep making dashes to the surface to text our friends to tell them where we were (the situation worsened when my other friends reached the pub where we were supposed to be). In total we were in the underground for two hours.

A night out drinking (and shouting a few rounds in way of apology to patient friends) soothed our jangled nerves somewhat. Though the next morning brought its own surprises, I had suffered from what I learnt is common for Londoners: The Black Snot. Beneath my nails was black, in my nose was black and more than likely my lungs are blacker than if I had smoked all night. This city will literally get under your skin.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

London town

I was quite mean to London in my Wellingtonista post. London is a lovely old city. Man, is it old. Something happened everywhere at sometime. Every small piece of green is accompanied by a statue of someone be they actually famous (Churchill, right) or someone you’ve never heard of before (Baron Gilbert of Sussex, not pictured) they all have a statue, basically if you lived in London a long time ago, you get a statue.

Today we went to the Sherlock Holmes Museum. This meant comedy photos galore. It also revealed something about the British psyche. They strongly associate Holmes with Jack the Ripper. Beside Sherlock Holmes fridge magnets and deerstalker hats sat books about Jack the Ripper and the museum itself has notices up implying that the police asked the detective to help solve the case. I think that perhaps they wish he had somehow. That while Jack was stalking Whitechapel murdering prostitutes, hot on his heels was Holmes, magnifying glass in hand.

It’s also raining today. The temperature is far from tropical but I suppose London isn’t the best destination to get a tan. The rain seems to suit London, it’s a far more winter town than a hot summer one (especially considering the reports we’ve been given of the recent heat wave). The tubes don’t have air conditioning and are sweltering even in these mild conditions. Speaking of the tube, I saw the best movie-based t-shirt while riding the Bakerloo line yesterday. It said: {snakes} Î R2. It reminded me of Jo.

More later, but here is a picture of Bodicea

Friday, September 01, 2006


For those of you who have been waiting patiently for a post I just put one up on Wellingtonista.

More to come here soon