London, Munich, Slough

Busy week for me. Monday started with the usual 79 bus down towards Wembley – the first leg of my journey to work. Hopped off at the main bus stops on Wembley High Road – looking to hop on to an 83 towards Ealing Broadway. The stops here are right in front of a politically-correct, council-commissioned “spray-can art” style mural depicting the vibe and harmony of multi-ethnic Wembley that has coloured an otherwise ugly facade to a car park right behind it. (Click here or here to see a glimpse of it from previous blog entries.)

Interestingly, the mural has itself not been defaced significantly by “real” graf artists in all the years that I have known it to be there. Although if you look up close, a few illegible “tag” scrawls can be spotted on various parts of it. Whilst “tags” are everywhere you look round my part of London – it’s very rare to see “statements”:

Bad spelling and incorrect pluralisation.

Later. At Ealing Broadway. Having just missed a train I paced up and down the platform whilst waiting for the next one. I couldn’t help but notice a couple of blokes at the far end of the opposite platform. Strange place to be standing waiting for a train – as the carriages never pull up that far down the platform. The camera bag and tripod bits gave it away; I had spotted trainspotters!

I am truly amazed by the this extraordinary interest in trains that some people have. They seem to record the movements and serial numbers of every train that they see – and these days they even take high-resolution, wide angled and telephoto zoomed multi-megapixel digital images of them. Amazed. My trainspotters seemed to get very excited by a freight train coming their way.

I’ve never seen trainspotters at Ealing Broadway before.

A bit later on in the day I was in Munich. And killing time the next morning by loitering outside the hotel whilst I waited for a colleague to finish breakfast before we called for a taxi to go to the office.

I’ve stayed at zillions of “business” chain-hotels all around the world. Hiltons, Holiday Inns, Marriots, Sheratons etc. You name it – I’ve done ’em all. And they’re all the same. And the rituals I undertake when staying at them are so routine, I’ve ceased trying to understand why I do them. And always in roughly the same order: First thing when I get to my room is to familiarise myself with the light switches – like which switches operate which lights. Saves a lot of trouble later on. Then I take a good look at the wardrobe configuration. Locate the spare pillows and blankets – take them out and put them on the bed. The Corby Trouser Press. Take the clothes out of my bag and start hanging them up. (And get irritated by those hangers that have no curved hooks on them – as if anybody would actually steal hangers from hotels!) Then go work out how to switch on the TV – and to use the remote control. Find the BBC World channel – and leave it on there. And finally the bathroom – lay out my toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush and moisturiser. Smile at the cute little towelettes that all hotels seem to have next to the washbasin – you know: they’re about the size of a handkerchief. I’ve never worked out what these are supposed to be used for. I’m always impressed by the way the little bottles of shampoo and conditioner are laid out too. The little round soap wrapped irritatingly wrapped in paper – I always take the paper off at this point. And how there’s a always a tissue-dispenser on the side of the sink. And how the spare toilet roll always seems to have its end tissue folded and tucked into the roll in a triangular flap. I also take the “thick” towel that’s usually hanging on the side panel of the bathtub – and lay it down on the floor. That way – when I get out of bed and stumble into the bathroom for a shower the next morning – I won’t get cold-shock on my feet from the ceramic tiled floor. The piles of heavily-starched white towels. Why is it that you only ever see white towels in hotels? And even the largest ones are never large enough. And finally – I take the “do not disturb” card hanging on the inside of the door – and hang it on the outside – and as I close the door – I peek at the view through the little wide-angled spy-hole into the corridor outside – admiring at how you can almost see right round the corner.

Business Hotel in Munich. They’re all the same – wherever you go.

Back in Slough, the massive Tesco that was – is being rebuilt into an even bigger one. And it’s coming up remarkably fast. But the construction work that surrounds it has caused pedestrian chaos – the pavements are all ripped up and there’s dust and dirt everywhere.

Forced to use the walkway underpass into the shopping centre into order to get to the office – I find myself ocassionally walking into the monstrous bus station. Large advertising hoardings grace the side walls of the inside of the bus station – and I was taken by one of them earlier today. It’s a poster advertising the AA. That’s one of the bigger car-breakdown and rescue services that operate here in the UK. They are currently campaigning that they have more patrols than ever before. A picture of a breakdown truck with an army of smiling AA workers on a long trailer. It’s a fascinating poster – because from far away, the AA staff in the picture look very anonymous. It’s only when you get up close to the poster do you get to see all the individual faces. And because these large posters are made up of many rectangular segments pasted onto the hoarding – they aren’t always hung 100% aligned. You don’t notice the misalignments from a distance – but close-up, any errors in the alignment are very noticable indeed. Unfortunately – this particular poster had segment boundaries that cut straight through the faces of the smiling AA staff.

The squashed faces in the front-middle made me laugh!
(The poster misalignment makes them look happier.)

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