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The day after the noxious Polly Toynbee wrote an unpleasant hatchet piece in the Guardian which probably did wonders for Boris' chances in the London mayoral race, Greyarea points out today's ludicrous piece by Mike Read (and the splendid comments thereon). It's difficult to avoid wondering whether this is a parody, or perhaps some more sinister and cunning plan to bury Boris by praising him. Either that or, err, Mike Read is just a complete cock.

I do find Boris amusing, and am generally of the view that he is far more intelligent than his deliberately constructed persona suggests. But I don't particularly like the man. Trouble is, I intensely dislike Ken as well.

Apropos of something a bit different, Liberal England asks why on earth either a back bench committee of MPs or HM Government should concern themselves with how local authorities satisfy their statutory duty to collect rubbish regularly. If central government doesn't allow local councils to decide how they collect people's rubbish, what will it allow them to do?.

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From the ever-fertile brain of Nou, as a byproduct of something else: London Tube Line stations plotted against Google satellite maps.

That link shows the Piccadilly Line but the others can be found either by fairly obvious URL-munging or by selecting the line here, selecting the map option at the bottom of each page and then choosing map, satellite or hybrid as you wish. Or see all of them at once here.

In other news, I feel like shite.

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Shit. Building semi-collapse on Commercial Road. Thought the Mile End was busy outside. Any of youse work out what building this is?

Splendid

Dec. 13th, 2006 06:23 pm
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Someone has created an anonymous journal to preserve for posterity yesterday's bizarre account of "My Tornado Hell" in the London Evening Standard. It takes rare genius to cause me to lose sympathy for someone who has, after all, seen their home destroyed, but she almost manages it... Every sentence a gem, though the narrow frontrunner is probably:

"He said we could stay in a hotel. Adrian explained that there is only one hotel in London: Claridge's. Simon did not demur. And he loved what's left of our specialist-polished plaster walls".

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Not an entirely obvious combination but it pretty much sums up yesterday for me.

First came the Bombay Sapphire Glasshouse, which has been in Exchange Gardens behind Liverpool Street for the last few weeks - yesterday was the last day so I was keen to catch it. This is a travelling exhibition of (a) the things they put into Bombay Sapphire and (b) the results of their annual competition for glassworking artists to design a martini glass, with various other glass exhibits into the bargain. Fascinating half hour or so, wandering round and looking at the designs dotted around the greenhouse, with the help of one of the best Cosmoplitans I ever remember having (not that I'm in the habit of remembering Cosmopolitans, I should admit). Had the place pretty much to myself as well, in the mid-afternoon.

Despite having a tad more gin later on with people from a certain lawyers board (if I start on gin it is important I stay on gin, else everything goes Horribly Wrong) I managed to avoid both being seriously drunk and, more significantly, seriously depressed when I turned up at the Barbican in the evening for Natacha Atlas and Mercan Dede. I booked this as part of a fit of ordering Barbican tickets a while ago (a fit so great that my Barbican Membership more than paid for itself with the discounts it gave in that order alone): I've been trying to force myself back into the habit of going to random things. I live near enough the Barbican now that I can walk home if needs be and alongside the major concerts and plays there's always a load of reasonably priced obscure things.

This was one of them: the opening of the second year of the Barbican's Ramadan Nights festival (timed to coincide with Eid al-Fitr). I originally booked the cheapest seats in the balcony and assumed when they rang me up to say I'd been moved to the Circle for free that tickets weren't selling well. That may have been so at the time but in the event the night was sold out, balcony included. I call that a Result.

More to the point, I've seen loads of fabulous concerts at the Barbican over the years, across pretty much the whole range of music. I have never, ever, seen a packed out Barbican Hall on its feet (and on the chairs) dancing to, err, whatever you call a cross of traditional Sufi music -instantly recognisable to anyone who's watched the dervishes whirl in Istanbul, or wherever else they whirl (with two semazin - whirlers -, female ones somewhat surprisingly, who kept going for 20 minutes straight, and a muezzin flown in from Istanbul) and electronica. Utterly phenomenal. (Particularly when the lights were cut, and all you could see was the luminous strips round the foot of the semazin's skirts.) That was Mercan Dede, the second act, an Istanbulite who lives in Canada, basically a DJ backed by oud, kanun, clarinet and drums.

Before him we had the equally stunning Natacha Atlas (once of Transglobal Underground, some of whom still work with her) doing Arab-Western acoustic-fusion (she's half-Moroccan Sephardic Jewish (I hadn't realised the Jewish part until I looked her up right now, though I did notice a dash of klezmer in the mix: she made occasional political comments which made clear her sympathies lay with the Lebanese in the recent war), brought up in England) backed by a ten-piece band: those two together in the Hall went on until well past 11 and then there was DAM, Palestinian rappers, in the foyer for those who wanted. One of the best random 10 quids I ever spent: both acts very recommended to anyone who thinks they might like that kind of thing.

Odd mixture of an audience: lots of youngish people of middle-eastern extraction (not many of Bangladeshi/Pakistani origin so far as I could see), lots of beardie world music types and a fair sprinking of people who just go to things at the Barbican randomly. I leave it to others to decide which of the latter two fits me better...

All in all a better Friday than I'd have had doing dull old Werk.

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The war for the London local newspaper-reading audience between Murdoch and Associated Newspapers (with special guest appearance by Ken Livingstone) doesn't really interest me much, because they're all shite, free or otherwise. The only local newspapers worth reading in London are the real local ones, West End Extra and the Camden New Journal and similar, or the Ham & High if you insist on paying. As Martin pointed out a few days ago "If the Standard is the Daily Mail with the bigotry partially sawn off to make it palatable for a cosmopolitan audience and the Metro is the Standard with the news sawn off to make it palatable for the tube then Lite stuffs the sweepings off the floor of Heat into the Metro." (Actually I have a vague memory of Joff and Brendan originally developing this line of argument ages ago.) It only remains to add that thelondonpaper is also shite. And don't even start me on the nationals, tabloid or broadsheet, we could usefully lose the lot as far as I'm concerned.

Still, I almost bought the real Standard on coming out of the Tube just now. It's difficult to resist when the headline on the boards is "Double Life of Evil Architect". Fabulous. I mean, what do evil architects do? Design mobius stairways? (Or to look at the question another way, aren't all architects evil by definition?)

But I resisted. In the end, it's more fun not to know.

In other news, I am semi-reliably informed by A Man I sort of trust that my laptop motherboard is slightly fried due to a rubbish fan. This is really not good, and for a start means I can almost certainly kiss goodbye to any ideas about further holidays before spring.

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Hundreds of sole protestors.

But the protest has had its critics, with Tory London Assembly member Brian Coleman calling them "sad, mad and bad".

"Is this really the image we want to give of London - tourists whose income we rely on for the jobs and prosperity of our city?"'

"Bugger civil liberties, think of the tourist trade?" And in what universe would the tourist trade be adversely affected?

What a tedious cock.

"It's not a matter of free speech - it's a matter of a proper way of running a world city."

Wrong.

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The entire tube appears to be completely broken.

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The Standard headline is "Hottest Day [in london] EVAH [recorded?]" and it appears the National Grid are warning that electricity demand is hitting supply and we can't have any more from the French cos they need it, sorry. ETA:BBC in slightly less doom and gloom mode than Standard shocker

London is certainly reminiscent of Athens right now. I am off to the roof with my laptop and some gin.

ETA: 97.3/36.3 near Gatwick, says the BBC.

British temperatures this week have exceeded such holiday destinations as Malta, Athens, Bermuda and Rome.

The previous hottest July day was in 1911, when Epsom, Surrey, reached 36C. The highest UK temperature recorded was 38.5C (101.3F) in Faversham, Kent, on August 10, 2003.

I remember that day in 2003. Today is much better: less humid. Actually there's a pleasant cool breeze on our roof at the moment.

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I missed this: Bow Street Magistrates Court, the most important magistrates court for England and Wales, heard its last case the other day. Next thing it'll be the Bailey. Or the RCJ...

Not somewhere I ever appeared, or, frankly, was ever likely to appear, but it seems a sad loss. Also, frankly, by and large I find Victorian courtrooms rather better designed than modern ones.

Time

Jul. 7th, 2006 10:25 am
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I doubt I'm the only Londoner who looked back this morning to see what they wrote a year ago today. Not that I needed reminding. I meant to be in the office on time that day, taking my usual tube route of Northern Line to Kings Cross and changing there to the southbound Piccadilly, aiming to be in the office sometime between 9 and 9.30. Instead, probably as a result of a fair amount of whisky the night before, I woke up late, was in the shower when it all kicked off, and spent the rest of the day desperately hitting redial and waiting for the phone network to come back up, checking the rollcall community someone brightly set up. Along with vast numbers of others who overslept, went in early, arrived on the platform just as the Piccadilly train pulled out and swore. Many people rolled lucky dice that morning and our lives go on, probably changed little if at all. Others didn't.

I don't really have anything to add to what I wrote last year. I didn't personally know anyone who died, but two good friends of mine lost friends: the way London works an awful lot of us are only a step or two away from people personally affected. My thoughts with them and all who lost friends and family that day; and with the fantastic Rachel (writing this week on the BBC site again as she did in the aftermath last year, and a contributor to The Sharpener as well) and all the rest of the survivors and others living with the mental and physical after effects. And with the memories of all those who went out that ordinary July morning, with their hopes and fears and dreams and worries and thoughts about relationships and money and what they watched on television last night and the book they were reading and whether they were going to get a seat on the tube and would people please just move down the carriage and did the man next to them know about deodorant and what a rubbish advert that was opposite them and... and.

And never came back.

Update

Jun. 8th, 2006 11:34 am
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Nephew is apparently improving, platelet count, which I understand should be 100+ is now at 70 something, as opposed to 31...

Not out of the woods yet but definitely more positive.

Went to see Brief Encounter at The Scoop (the odd open air auditorium next to the GLA Building) last night, fabulous as ever. And still somewhat surprising to me that it could be made and be successful when it was. Completely failed to find Ksta, found Cybik instead by complete coincidence. Then realised that I had no bike lights on me...

Yes, I have given the weather and the fact my Oystercard monthly ran out last Friday, taken my life in my hands every day since and cycled in. Getting the hang of central London cycling now, the only bits I really don't like on my route are the Aldgate junction and the Bank, and I'm gradually finding rat runs round both of those. Not sure how long this will last, and suspect the health benefits are more than offset by the pollution, but still, I missed it more than I expected when I came back from the Channel Islands.

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So asks Steve on The Sharpener (which you should all be reading, except for the bits written by, err, me - at present that should be "bit" really, but more will come). And why not? Actually maybe we should go back to the days of permanently itinerant government. That would keep them out of trouble.

(On the water-shortage point, I have just asked Thames Water for a meter. I had forgotten how outrageous the cost rated domestic water supply was in London. This is ridiculous, says he, gazing out at the grey skies (yes, I know, too late to save us from the drought etc etc.)

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"You're barred. You're too boring to be in my pub."

Another London legend heads off into the sunset. I noticed as I walked past the Coach and Horses, Soho at lunchtime that the appointed day has finally come: it's closed this lunchtime, re-opening at 5.30 this evening under new management after 60 years.

The Telegraph has an account of the last night under the old management and some of the printable collected sayings of Norman Balon. Though not "fuck off and stop winding me up" to Princess Margaret on the telephone, or "what would you like, sir" to Peter Cook 30 seconds after throwing him out for being too drunk: Cook walked round the corner and in through the other door. Or whatever it was he said to Margaret Thatcher when Paul Foot took her there for a drink (remarkable, but true).

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Pictures of the Sultan's Elephant now here. Plus Martin's here, Steve's here, Sana's here, Anna's here and lots of others tagged with the obvious.

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I am vaguely ashamed to admit that my interest in and enthusiasm about The Sultan's Elephant is vastly greater than in the London local elections...

ETA: Some pictures from lunchtime here.

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I am in my London office, which is nice. And the weather is better here, which is also nice.

I had to get up at 5 to be here, and the office for which I personally pay City of London style rent (literally, in the last round of rent-reviews we lost the battle over what the comparables should be) is full of other people's junk. Which is less nice. Heigh ho.

Thanks for all the kind words and thoughts on yesterday's post and by email etc.

Because I can't be bothered to do a separate post, Hilzoy on Obsidian Wings on the Maher Arrar decision:

Apparently, one of the counts could have proceeded had the Court not found that the national security questions it raises require that it be deferred to Congress or the executive. The courts, according to the decision, lack the foreign policy expertise to decide such questions, and therefore they should be left to the "political branches" of the government.

I think this is just wrong. Article VI of the Constitution states that "all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby". We have entered into the Convention Against Torture. Article III of that Convention states that "No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture." There are very substantial grounds for believing that someone rendered to Syria, as Arar was, would be tortured, even leaving aside the possibility that we asked the Syrians to torture him. We have therefore violated one of those treaties which are, according to the Constitution, the law of the land.

This means that the extradition of Maher Arar is a violation of the law. It may also have foreign policy implications, but it does not thereby cease to be a violation of the law. And while conducting foreign policy may not fall within normal judicial expertise, reading laws, and determining whether the facts in evidence warrant conviction under them, is exactly what judges do. If determining when conduct violates a law and when it does not does not fall within their purview, I have no idea why on earth we bother to have them.

You What

Jan. 20th, 2006 01:14 pm
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Pilot whale spotted in the Thames, above London Bridge.

ETA: now thought to be a northern bottle-nose. This is what I mean about the BBC making silent corrections, see?)

ETFA: Snowmail comments as follows:

This is a day when television simply cannot resist a sensational picture story. For the first time since records began in 1913, a whale has found its way all the way up the Thames past the House of Commons to the salubrious wastes of Chelsea. It’s a northern bottlenose whale. My amateur observations suggest that its size and lack of barnacles render it a relatively young whale -- this is added to the theory that its mother is somewhere off Southend.

It's a sloane whale, isn't it?

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Being in London, briefly, for a short trial, has brought home to me that I'm uncomfortably rootless at the moment. I think feeling a sentimental rush of familiarity and love for the concourse of Victoria Station as I came in on the Gatwick Express on Saturday morning can be put down to having to set the alarm for 4.30 to catch the red-eye (incidental side-memo to self: just because you live at one end of the airport runway, it does not necessarily follow that you can easily walk to the terminal with your bag packed with heavy files and the like...). But I went up to Primrose Hill just now to see if any mail had escaped the re-direction net and was slightly taken aback by the extent a month away, and not having the flat to return to, can generate enormous home-sickness.

Frankie has been known to accuse me of being a vagabond, and to some extent I am. But I don't think I like this feeling.

Not that I have any regrets about what I'm doing of course, and actually I did yesterday go and see my mother, so I have been to the one place that remains more "home" than anywhere else this weekend. But I don't belong in Jersey yet, and I don't enjoy feeling like a stranger in my own city.

Still, for a few days I have access to my books. Shame I have a trial on and have to spend the time reading witness statements really.

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I wandered over to Soho for lunch, mainly because I wanted to buy coffee beans on the way back.

As I walked down Greek Street, I passed the always-open doorway opening onto a flight of stairs next to the betting shop, with if I remember rightly a card bearing an arrow pointing to the dubious delights of "Monique" or some such just inside the door. And a rather fat man came out, buckling his trousers.

"Ooh, I'm a good fucker, man," he felt the need to tell me, with joy.

"Congratulations," I said. And we went our separate ways.

In other news the Radio 5 Live Sports Extra audio stream is continuing to be flaky. Heigh ho. Maybe I should try the Radio 4 LW one.

ETA: There's a rumour going round of a news report that the ravens have left the Tower. I can't find it and am pretty sure this is bollocks though.

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