Tag Archives: London

Yesterday Threw Everything At Me

I had kind of a crazy day yesterday.

It started with an exam in Quantum Field Theory. Painful, but I think it didn’t go too badly. Had a bite to eat, then it was straight into some last minute revision on the Queen’s Lawn for the second exam of the day in Optical Communications Physics, which was actually sort of pleasant, in a slightly strange way. Less like the hideous mental assault which constituted my other exams, anyway.

To celebrate, Rowan, Susan and I took a trip to our customary haunt — Nando’s — and proceded to consume chicken. It was delightful.

After that, I decided to take a trip into central London to grab some comics at Forbidden Planet, and as I was strolling up Monmouth Street I walked past none other than Neil Gaiman, award-winning fantasy writer and graphic novelist. By the time I’d realised it was him he’d already walked past me and gone round the corner. It took me a few more hours to realise that I was in fact carrying in my bag a copy of his “Sandman” graphic novel “Dream Country”, and that asking him to autograph it would have been incredible. I later found out via the wonder of Twitter that he would have signed it if I’d asked. Never mind!

So yeh, went to Forbidden Planet, grabbed a new Buffy comic and a Penny Arcade book, and went and sat down on a wall just up Shaftesbury Avenue and read my purchases for a while, and watched the world go by. I don’t spend nearly enough time in central London, which is a shame because I love it dearly; it’s so full of life and bustle and remarkable buildings and architecture and it goes on and on in all directions.

Rather than go home, I decided to take a bit of a walkabout. I set off east towards Holborn, passing whichever way took my fancy.

The first thing I discovered was what looked to be the entrance to an underground tramway.

A disused and gated tramway under the streets of London

I wonder how long it’s been since it was used, and where the other end of it surfaces, if it still has another end.

I wandered over to where a section of street had been blocked off by Crossrail signs. This old building, a sign on which read “The Ivy House” was abandoned, encircled by signs exhorting me to visit the site office. The building across the street bore the likeness of, and a dedication to, John Bunyan. It too looked decayed and abandoned; I turned the corner into a desolate alley, and leaned to look through some railings; through them smelt of damp and decay.

The building was apparently called “Kingsgate House”, and despite appearing to be derelict, somebody still seems to be in habitation, judging by the light and the open window.

It appears that I’m not the only one to find this building interesting.

Places like this fill me with wonder, make me think about their history, why they were built, and how they fell on hard times. I wonder if Crossrail is doing any good to this little microcosm of Holborn at the moment; I must confess that apart from the Astoria, I’d never really considered the impact the building of Crossrail would have.

I turned north, and found that Warner Brothers keeps replicas of the Hogwarts house insignia in the Foyer of their offices.

From there I wandered into a residential district, near Great Ormond Street hospital. Houses draped with the flag of St. George, people in bars, drinking and chatting, the beautiful chattering sound of people enjoying themselves wafting over the streets. I walked down an alleyway that passed through a building, joining the street through a crack in the facade of a shop. Behind this was tucked a little house, sounds of a party coming from inside.

It was getting late, so I headed in the direction of Russell Square tube station, marvelling at water fountains, and a house draped in lights for some unfathomable reason. I came across a park called Coram’s Fields. The sign above the gate read “No Unaccompanied Adults”. I thought this was marvellous.

Back On The Radar

It’s scary how Twitter has really become my primary way of squirting infomation out into the world. Sadly, it usually means that information is squirted out in ephemeral chunks of 140 characters, which is hardly ideal.

Anyways, stuff what I’ve been doing.

We did indeed figure out somewhere new to live, a flat near Acton Town tube station with a living room. It’s pretty much the furthest out I’ve lived so far, but the good tube links makes it not exactly onerous to zip into central London.

I’ve somehow filled time with a bunch of activities: finished up the new Fencing Club website which I encourage you to visit and join because it’s awesome, went go-karting (which I guess Dickie won? I forget), signed up for Spotify Premium so that I can use the iPhone app, went to see Coldplay, Jay-Z and Girls Aloud at Wembley, met friends for drinks (many times), moved down to London, sorted out phone and Internet, finished my Literature Review, bought my own fencing gear, fenced in a proper competition against another university, etc.

It’s weird because it’s the like the second week of term and I already feel sort of rushed. Haven’t quite gotten around to properly tidying my clothes away, so I’m still sort of living out of a suitcase. If I don’t do it soon entropy is just going to take over.

Reading:

Started a whole bunch of things, not sure when I’ll finish them. Half-way through Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, started on Naomi Klein’s No Logo, a chilling account of the power of brands, and I’m really getting into the Sandman graphic novels, written by Neil Gaiman. They’re dark and twisted, wrapping themes and motifs around events; although as one of the writers of Lost puts it, “when we run out of ideas and do the same things over and over, it’s a motif”. I’m mostly reading it on the tube, but it’s bloody hard to resist the urge to just go read it now.

Anyways, see you later all.

Housing

Sometimes you just have to vent, and it really feels like that time is now.

A few weeks ago, we generally thought we were sorted. We had a 7-bedroom house in Parson’s Green all lined up, deposit down, move-in date arranged, just had to sort out what rooms are for who, how much everyone is going to pay in rent, etc.

Then our leasing agent gets in touch to say that landlord is pulling the house off the rental market, and they’re refunding our deposit and fees.

This means we now have to find a new place to live. In a month. Which means ringing round agents trying to find if there are any suitable places.

One of my housemates has helped by deciding he’s going to live at home meaning we only have to find a 6-bedroom place, but even that is close to impossible now, so we might well have to settle for two 3-bedroom places, which means figuring out how we’re going to split our little group into two.

It’s a horribly emotionally draining experience. I was so looking forward to moving in to our new house, and now I just feel downcast as I think about how we’re going to sort this all out. No doubt too I’m going to have to make trips down to London to see places, and the whole thing just completely sucks.

Especially because people went and left the country on holiday and work because they thought that everything was fine and we were all ready.

I’m so angry at the landlord it’s just beyond belief. I’m angry that nobody thought it might be wise to give us more warning that the place might be being sold and not rented so we could have kept our options open. I’m angry that this kind of shitty behaviour is apparently legal.

Now, I have to go to bed so I can be up early to ring round landlords and estate agents to see if any of them have anything left.

The Library Café

Ah, what an establishment. Open late, on campus, easily competitive with anywhere to eat in the near vicinity…

All you need to get coffee (a must for any long-term revision session) and food is a short trip downstairs from the library proper, and all (well, most of) your bodily needs will be satisfied. The food’s also actually not bad – I’m quite impressed with the pepperoni pizza.

It’s also great in non-revision times, ’cause it’s pretty much the only place you’re allowed to eat and drink while sat  at a computer. There are also booths each with a big flatscreen on the wall, which I’m sure will be excellent for working on things like projects next year. Mostly so far I’ve only used one for playing the Wikipedia game; the aim of which is to challenge your opponent to navigate from one Wikipedia page to another e.g. Beef Wellington -> World War I by following links. That one is actually pretty easy. Answers on a postcard.

Anyways, I ought to hit more revision. I still don’t know enough about Nuclear and Particle physics, sadly.

Dylan

Last Saturday the O2 Arena played host to the latest leg of Dylan’s never-ending tour, and I happened to be there, quite by chance.

Well I say that, it was actually quite difficult to get there, because over the weekend the Jubliee line was undergoing upgrade works; this is quite a problem, as the Tube is pretty much the only practical way to get to the O2, otherwise it has pretty much the worst transport links in the world.

In the end, we had to get a Tube, a train, and a rail replacement bus service, and it took probably the better part of two hours. Getting back was equally as difficult, but there we go.

Once we’d all met up and taken our seats, we waited for the show to begin. Dylan was announced by someone saying that he released some of his greatest works in the 90’s – not an ausipicious start.

He came out and launched into Maggie’s Farm. This is where things started to go rather downhill; there were no video screens, so Dylan was rather an indistinct blob in the distance. Also, at some point in the last few decades he seems to have lost the ability to sing; rather the lyrics were growled out, a short phrase at a time. This lead to a curious effect where there quite a few times where he was actually out of time with the music. The lyrics also suffered from some pretty bad intelligibility problems, so I had a hard time understanding what he was, erm, growling.

Then there was the music itself; often he’d be halfway through the song before I recognised it from the lyrics. What was performed bore no relation to the songs I knew and loved. Also he talked to the crowd exactly once, to reel off the names of the members of his band. Because apparently he doesn’t play the guitar himself any more either.

I can understand that maybe if you’ve been playing and touring as long as he has, you’d get tired and sick of the whole business; I could understand that, but do it on your own time. Sir Paul McCartney is from the same era, and he still manages to put on an incredible show.

Honestly, to play the Devil’s Advocate, I had a lot more fun going to see Coldplay at the O2. They must be sick to their back teeth of playing Yellow, but you bet it comes out at every show, and they make it look they’re actually enjoying themselves. Also, Chris Martin just seems like a nice guy, whereas Dylan just came over as a bit of a twat.

We Will Rock You

Wow, almost completely forgot to write about this. I really would have thought that by now I’d be getting good at this blogging lark. Really not so much.

On Wednesday last week, my Mom and sister came down to London, and together we went to see the musical We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre near Tottenham Court Road, where it debuted in 2002.

As you may or may not know, it’s one of the recent-ish trend of making a musical where all the songs are drawn from the back catalogue of some musical act, e.g. ABBA with Mamma Mia, and in this case, the music of Queen. As such, the plot is mostly an elaborate attempt to string these songs together into something approximating logical consistency. I say ‘approximating’, because some of the terrible convolutions necessary to make these things fit together are pretty extreme.

A basic outline of the plot is that it’s half past the future and for some reason (something to do with creating a bland cultural conformity) all non-computer-generated music has been banned. A rag-tag band of rebels, the Bohemians, are seeking out the Dreamer, someone who can (for some unexplained reason) hear rock music in his head. It is prophesised that the Dreamer will find the last remaining electric guitar and use it to rock out and save the world (“Planet Mall”) from the evil clutches of Globosoft and their evil CEO, Killer Queen.

If that sounds terrible, that’s because it is. To say that the whole experience gave me flashbacks to Christmas Panto at the Birmingham Hippodrome would be insulting to panto – the acting was pretty bad, the jokes fell amazingly flat, some of the costumes (for instance women wearing what were essentially leather bikinis) felt just out-of-place and exploitative, and the whole production just gave off an overwhelming stench of camp crap. The amount of Queen hero-worship was also utterly cringe-worthy. Sure, they were a good band, but you can’t spend an entire show making them sound messianic without looking completely ridiculous.

Furthermore, the amount of fourth-wall stretching references to contemporary music and events just helps to reinforce the impression of bad panto. No, we don’t need characters called “Lilly Allen” or “Britney Spears”, however funny that may initially appear.

What I did find extremely odd was the response of some of the rest of the audience, who loved bits I found just terribly akward. Some of them actually stood up to applaud at the end, which was utterly unnecessary.

There’s also a terrible irony in complaining about the soulless commercialism of modern music by creating something as utterly crass as this to wring money out of the Queen back catalogue. I do wonder if the huge piles of money that this show must be generating help Dr May et al. sleep better at night.

If you’re contemplating watching We Will Rock You, don’t. Spend your money on a Queen album or three instead. The only commendable portion of this production were the songs, and frankly your money is spent a lot better listening to the originals.