Up North

Spent a day or so of the Christmas break with family up North.

In London – the term “up North” means anywhere north of a London town called Watford – although I have to say that this term is used as a deliberate form of ignorance designed to upset “Northerners” who go about life believing that Londoners are completely self-centred and think that the universe revolves around London.

The gateway to “the North” is a the M1 motorway if you’re going by road – or Kings Cross St.Pancras if you’re going by rail.

When we woke up the next morning we discovered that it had snowed overnight. You just won’t believe how excited grown-up adults get when it snows:

Adults become children again when it snows

The car on the right (that you can see a bit of) is ours – the red Mini Cooper in front belongs to my sister.

Sing along to Elvis

Click on the green button below to load the music whilst you are reading:

Sometimes when I’m driving back home from work instead of taking the trains and buses I notice that fellow drivers on the road are singing to themselves in highly animated fashion. And I am not immune to such behaviour myself. The car I borrow belongs to Ms.79 – and recently she has been listening to an Elvis Presley CD in the car. I think she has some sort of secret admiration of Elvis. Secret because she doesn’t like to admit it. Personally I don’t think there’s anything to be embarrassed about.

Now I’m not really a fan of Elvis (a bit before my time really) but I have to admit that there are a few catchy tunes that evoke memories of a childhood watching Elvis movies on a black-and-white TV in the late seventies. A bit like watching “Bollywood” films on those days too – they were of a very similar genre I suppose; all very wholesome and family-friendly.

So – driving home tonight I could not help but to sing along to some of Elvis Presley‘s most famous tunes on the CD that I found in the car. I’m sure you have done this yourself – OK it might not be Elvis – but I’m sure you must have sung along to something in the car – with not a care in the world!

This is the sound of a British Indian guy living in London – singing along to the sound of a deep-South American dubbed as the King of Rock’n’Roll – in a Vauxhall Corsa on the A40 heading towards the Hanger Lane Gyratory in West London during the early evening of a deep and dark December .

Apologies in advance for my tone-deafness and inability to synchronise to “the King’s” words – but he sure does have an infuriating habit of stretching out the lyrics in a really unpredictable fashion – making it extremely hard to sing along with any degree of perfection – but I think I made a brave attempt anyhow.

(Click on the green button above if it’s finished downloading.)


Like practically everyone else in my neighbourhood at just after 6am – everyone in my house was woken up by a very loud bang. I was convinced that a car or truck had blown up outside the house or something. I jumped out of bed and went to look out of every window – but all I saw was just fog illuminated by the street-lamps in the darkness – and nothing out of the ordinary. So I then wandered around the house trying to account for anything inside the house that might have caused the noise – but nothing.

A couple of hours later I found out from someone elses blog that it was a massive explosion at a major fuel storage depot in Hemel Hempstead – which is 22 miles further North West from where I live in NW London. The BBC is reporting around 35 injured – mostly minor – with a few seriously. I know that place very well – as I used to work in Hemel Hempstead several years ago. There are reports of people panic-buying petrol for their cars. (Sigh)

One very curious thing is that this explosion was heard (and felt) over 100 miles away in several different parts of the UK. And some people from Netherlands and Northern France have also reported hearing the explosions too. “Experts” on the TV and radio are talking about unique atmospheric conditions that made it possible for the sound to travel such great distances. e.g. sound waves deflecting from a cloud layer at a certain height.

Jalebi Line

It’s my local London Underground line. It’s what I use to go downtown – and it’s what I use to get home when coming back from town. It’s coloured silver on the tube map – and was inaugurated as a new tube line in 1979 as a tribute to the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Last year was the Silver Jubilee (25th anniversary) of the Jubilee Line – and Diamond Geezer did a fantastic travelogue special on his blog covering every station on the line – and a photoset of that blog series is on his Flickr.

Not as extensive a tribute from me, and a only a year too late – here are two cameraphone objects of the Jubilee Line:

The very first Jubilee Line train of the day – 5:30am – Kingsbury Station
(Someone called Gypsy Rose calls this photo a favourite!)

At first I thought the picture was rubbish. But after I got a message from Flickr that Gypsy Rose had made it a favourite I looked at it over and over again – and now I think it looks quite nice. There is something about the camerphone fuzziness that gives the picture a “painting”-like feel.

And next up is a video. Again: from a cameraphone. Only this time, it wasn’t intentional. I was holding my mobile phone in my hand getting ready to take a photo of the wonderful escalator “cavern” at Westminster tube station as I was headed down towards the Jubilee Line platforms. What I didn’t realise was that the video record mechanism had been triggered and was recording me walking down. Well – my feet anyway. When I played it back – I quite liked it – so didn’t just delete it. Here it is.

Going down the escalators at Westminster Tube Station
(Westminster station has a futuristic “cavern” area as part of the Jubilee Line extension)

It was recorded on my cameraphone as an MP4 file – which is a container format for MPEG4 compliant multimedia components – in which most 3G mobile devices will deposit video and audio in H.264 and AMR formats respectively. Most up-to-date media players (Real, Quicktime, Windows Media etc) will play such files – but not all “consumer” edit-suite apps (like Windows Movie Maker) or video sharing services (like YouTube) will support the format. Which is really annoying. And most of the software tools out there for doing coversions you have to pay for. Luckily though – there is an open source initiative at Sourceforge called MP4cam2AVI where you can download a very handy utility for converting MP4 files to AVI – which you can subsequently use in most edit-suite tools and video sharing websites. The only problem is that the tool will not be able to convert the audio part – so your video will come out silent. Which is OK if you are dubbing something else onto the video – e.g. music. No problem for me.

Peds Zing

Just some random stuff. Been spending too much time in traffic jams between Slough and North West London. It’s always a bit of a disappointing anti-climax to find out after an hour of slow crawl down the A40 going home in the evening outside of the rush hour that the thing that caused the massive jam is just a broken down van on the first lane of a three-lane stretch of the highway near Greenford flyover.

I don’t like driving – but when I have to there are a few things that keep me sane. Club Asia on the radio is one. Which you can also listen to on the Internet now. London’s fastest growing radio station. And for some reason – I am finding that when I am in the car – I prefer the sound quality on AM better than the sound quality on FM . I can’t explain why – but AM radio just sounds better suited to driving than FM.

Whilst sitting in a traffic jam the other day I had a flashback to some time when I was living in the US a few years ago when I first observed a road-sign at an intersection which had the words “Peds Xing”. I was completely flummoxed as to what the sign was about – and of course I was reading it literally – pronouncing it “Peds Zing“. Later I figured it was American road-sign code for “Pedestrians Crossing”. But every time I think of my times driving in the USA I think of Peds Zing.

Here in London we have BUS LANEs. In Manhattan I remember there being LANE FIREs. NYC drivers obviously always read the words painted on their roads backwards.

Top deck of my bus

Some bus drivers on Route 79 can’t be bothered to turn on the heating in the bus. That really annoys me. Especially as it’s been really cold lately – like sub-zero on some days. But I don’t feel too inclined to ask the bus driver to turn the heat on – just in case other people on the bus think I’m a bit of wimp.

I’ve noticed that more and more kids/youth on buses are playing their favourite music out loud on their mobile phones these days. Using the loudspeaker capability so that everyone on the bus can hear. I think this is annoying to fellow passengers – but I don’t really mind. Although the music is often quite tinny sounding – I think it livens up the atmosphere a little. Especially if the music is good enough to get you tapping your foot. But most of the time it’s incomprehendible rap or really embarassing Indian “filmi” tunes.