Exit 6

It was the third time visit to a house on Birdcage Walk that marked the first time I got it right: Exit 6 At Westminster is the most efficient route to the destination. And a real treat of audio, visual and olfactory tapestry too; from brutally concrete and bare metal cavern, via passageways with walls asserting “Heathrow Obviously” along their entire length, up and out towards a surface of pompous grandeur embellished with modern global citizenship, spatially unaware and bearing camera phones and selfie-sticks.

The telephone boxes over here are the most heavily utilised in London I’m sure.

Let’s go to work – from Exit 6 towards Birdcage Walk

It’s sometimes hard to believe that the theme park that is Westminster is where some serious stuff really does get done.

Elusive Optics

Waiting for an all-stations Westbound Met Line train on the platform at Moorgate tube station; strange globular prism-like and reflector-like fixtures spotted on walls and columns in strange locations. Some above head height, some at about knee height. On the opposite platform as well. They’re obviously participating in some sort of optical detecting and sensing, but it’s difficult to work out what exactly.

I conclude for now that the orange glows and light beams are detecting trains and/or people. Counting trains and people, perhaps by the breaking and un-breaking of light beams. Some kind of automated surveying. Why Moorgate? And why some other stations, but not others?

Later and across the river, there’s a Foyles bookshop set into the frontage of Southbank Centre. It’s the first time I’ve been into Foyles since the early ‘90s. In fact the first time in a Foyles that’s not *the* original Foyles on Charing Cross Road which I remember fondly for the pre-Amazon-era, primal running up and down stair-wells in my springy Hi-Tecs, dodging people doing the same. And many misspent hours hiding in quirky corners reading books (as opposed to buying them) and marvelling at the small, but expanding, range of O’Reilly technical manuals that were just oh so hard or nigh impossible to get hold of anywhere else at the time. Those were the days.

These are the days of the empty hand.

Victoria Embankment from Southbank around half-hour after sunset.

The Foyles on Southbank could have been a Waterstones or a WHSmith. Made a mental note to visit the relocated Charing Cross Road one.

Mean streets

Someone famous once said:

“The maxim of the British people is ‘Business as usual’”

Sometimes it’s reassuring to know that in these darker, sterner days such wisdom would temper the goings-on on the mean streets of London town.

Appeal for witnesses
(On the pavement somewhere near Great Portland Street, London.)


4G vs Broadband

Tech talk warning:

Stuff happens. Just before Christmas:

My old Samsung Galaxy S3 died on me. A complicated scenario in our household resulted in a couple of Sony Xperia smartphones being acquired and shuffled about.

We have 4G coverage from the mobile phone company in our house, and these Sony Xperia smartphones have 4G chipsets in them.

We also have Broadband in our house, the old non-fibre-optic kind technically known as ADSL 2+and like most people do, our smartphones connect to our home WiFi whenever they’re within range. The belief that it’s much faster (and cheaper) than using “mobile data” inside our home.

So, I thought it would be informative to do a quick test:


Both smartphones running an Android app called Ookla Sepedtest. Both side by side. One on 4G, one on WiFi home broadband.

The result is astonishing.

The 4G network is more than twice as fast for downloading (32 Mbps on 4G vs 14 Mbps on WiFi), and more than 14 times as fast for uploading (17 Mbps on 4G vs 1.2 Mbps on WiFi).

Wake up call

It takes a simple man to realise that things haven’t been the same for quite some time.

They say that “content is king”, but I’m never quite sure whether this refers to vaguely-interesting subject-matter or if it refers to a kind of happiness – or satisfaction  – i.e. fulfilment. As in contented. Round here it’s almost certainly not the former. And, well what can one say about the latter other than I must have gotten carried-away daydreaming for a long time at the very back of the upper deck.

Five years on: the smartphones are smarter, the definitions are higher, and the streets are busier than they’ve ever been before. But it’s nice to know that after all this time,  right at the very heart of this everyday mundanity is a story that’s just waiting to be told.


(Turn up the volume and press the green button for a musical accompaniment to the narrative of this ending. Then fix your eyes and focus on infinity on the lights on the front of the bus for a moment.)

Route 79: Creeping through the night.
(Taken with my cameraphone in Kingsbury, London NW9.)

Standards deviate. Often. And especially this year. And when they do you carry on. As you do. And you do. Neglect is an accusation often aimed at the interlocutor, but in your case it’s me who bears the burden of lacking. For you’re always there when I look over my shoulder. And never there when I’m waiting in hope. In the dark, the wet and the cold. The last twelve months have had me dreaming too much and consequently I cannot account for any, nor much, of. It.

Is this how it’s destined to be now?

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Let’s hope that 2010 will last on the memory a little more than this year, and that loyalties return to those we care the most for once again.

(Music is Wonderland by London-born singer/songwriter Raissa Khan-Panni, a song with which I fell in love with in the serendipitous act of being kept on-hold for far too long on the telephone to a Customer Services helpline. Click here to find the track on Spotify.)

The best things in life are free

Oh my oh my, have you seen the weather?

Futures made of virtual insanity now always seem to be goverened by this love we have for useless, twisting of our then new technology, but if “manners maketh man” as someone said then you would know your history and you would know where you’re coming from. So have pity on those whose chances grow thinner, and just remember to always think twice. (Do think twice.)

When I walked out this morning, I don’t believe what I saw:

If you say run, I’ll run with you.
(Taken with my cameraphone in Kingsbury, London NW9.)

One hundred million bottles washed upon the shore. Where do we go? Where do we go now? None but ourselves can free our mind, because to the heart and mind, ignorance is kind:

Music makes the bourgeoisie and the rebels.

So let me take you to a place where membership’s a smiling face and if you want to make the world a better place then take a look at yourself and make a change …

Stuffed Peppers

There are some things in life that just have to be experienced. And in my opinion, roasted stuffed peppers is one of them. A perfect way of using up leftovers from your cooking the days before, especially if what’s left over is a spicy dish that is “dry” e.g. consisting of rice or mashed up potatoes.

Stuffed pepper. Yum.
(Taken with my cameraphone in my kitchen)

Click here for a brief description of what to do if you want to savour this wonderful dish. Enjoy!

August happenings

Where did August go?

Some things that happened: I went to Westfield London shopping mall (and I actually liked it.) Our local Woolworths (Kingsbury Road) has become a fruit and veg shop called FruitAsia. And I travelled several times on the Jubilee Line from Kingsbury to Wembley Park. Click on a green button below to get some visual perspective into these events.

Some random happenings in August.
(All pictures taken in London with my cameraphone.)

Hace Madrid

Somewhere not too far South of London is a suburb called Madrid. Click on the green button below to travel there and back with a small selection of snaps from my mobile phone. Turn up the volume, close your eyes, and hope that this is just imagination.

Photo slide-show: Click on green button to load, and to step through pics.
(All pictures taken in London & Madrid – and with my cameraphone of course.)

Features images from Barajas Airport Terminal 4, Plaza de Castilla, Metro de Madrid and Telefónica’s Distrito C office complex.

Invincible rubbish

When you see bits of litter in the street being blown around by the wind, there is nothing of consequence to ponder. But when someone places their fast-food rubbish on the floor in the middle of a busy railway station concourse, it really stands out. And although the place might be teeming with people, everyone just carefully walks around it, making otherwise inconsequential rubbish become stronger and more invincible by the minute. When you’re waiting 20 minutes for a train, you can’t help but be captivated by the magnificence of it.

Rubbish standing out, and being walked around.
(Taken with my cameraphone in London’s Paddington Station)

Beautiful Slough redux

It’s been over five years working in Slough for me. And like many, I try my hardest to be a transient in this town; rarely venturing out for a walk at lunch times. However, on the occasions that I do, I really quite like it. Slough is blonde. And Slough is beautiful. And when blonde and beautiful are multiple, they become so dull and dutiful.

Click on the green button below, wait patiently, turn up the volume and take a walk through the Queensmere shopping mall in Slough one weekday lunchtime.

Mingling with the citizens of Slough.
(Taken with my cameraphone in Queensmere Shopping Centre, Slough)

Examine closely every single person you see in the video loop. Imagine. Be them. There are an infinite number of stories in there.

Music is Rotterdam by The Beautiful South, released 1996.

More of my Slough in Pictures here: Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

2 Meg vs 1 Gig

Way back in January, the UK government produced an interim report titled “Digital Britain” which sets out some “actions” that the UK authorities should take in order to deliver state-of-the-art communications facilities to the citizens of the nation. What astonished me was that inside, this report (action number 17 on page 12 to be precise) talks about ensuring that everyone in the UK has access to at least 2Mbps Internet by the year 2012. Astonishing because almost the very next day, the Korean government announced that their citizens will have access to 1 Gigabit per second Internet by 2012.

It’s often all too easy for some people over here to dismiss the significance of this by arguing along the lines of Korea (like Japan) being some far off place where things are somehow different and don’t really apply to the rest of the world. Easy until you see that one of our closest neighbours, France, already leaves us way behind in today’s connected world.

However, walking down my local High Street the other day I saw something that made me realise that it’s not just massive government commitment and spending that’s gonna speed up our Internet connections in the future. It’s going to be about finding solutions to practical all-too-common problems like this:

A kerbside cabinet used to deliver communications to people’s home. Vandalised.
(Taken with my cameraphone on Kingsbury Road, London NW9)

The M1 & Pizza Dough

There is a motorway that heads north out of London called “the M1“. It stretches almost 200 miles into the northern suburbs. It can be quite frustrating when you’re crawling along in a major traffic jam on this road. It’s frustrating because you know you could be doing up 70mph instead. However, even when you’re doing speeds like that it can be quite stressful. Because unlike bus travel, you can’t just relax and admire the view; you have to stay alert and have your wits about yourself. Music with some solid Rhythm, Dohl and Bass will keep you awake.

It’s in between times like that, that I like to de-stress by doing something theraputic. Cooking is theraputic. It’s creative, harmonious and sensual. Nothing epitomises the theraputic nature of cooking than the making of pizza dough. It is an act that can only be performed gracefully and lovingly. Driving up and down the M1 to the making of pizza dough is like what bhangra is to a filmi love song.

Making pizza dough is an extremely theraputic act.
(All clips taken with my mobile phone on the M1 and in my kitchen.)

The M1 music is Desi Jatt by the fabulous Miss Pooja (and Harjit Heera). The pizza dough music is the track Silsile Mulaqaton Ke from the 2004 film Bardaasht. (You can hear the full song from an old article on these pages from ages ago.)