Wednesday, 19 December 2007

i am legend

his face is familiar. as he climbs from a silver car an earring glints in the lights, flickering like a strobe. he smiles at no-one and smooths down a crease in his jacket. calmly he hides a wince as the december cool pokes a finger under his shirt with exploratory depth. acting, i guess.

hollywood teeth.

i expect he has spent most of the day in front of a mirror with a thousand well paid amazons stroking and carving and licking where possible. there is a response in the area that i don't quite understand. i spend the next ten minutes pondering it as i walk away, buffeted by latecomers desperate to glimpse his million dollar smile or his pristine wife.

they could just wait for tomorrow's edition of london lite, if they could stand the words.

it is noisy back there, and camera flashes are busy using up expensive batteries. it must be a little weird for him.
if he thinks about it.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

i'm no superman

he thinks he's clark kent or something. hair, glasses, suit and tie all measure up. There is a giveaway though. underneath it all, he's a couple of feet shorter than me and about half as wide.

his tie is left only half done like he was in mid-change in a phonebox when he got the call from the tube.

it may be a fake tan, but i'm not so sure. he seems the type though.

if it were twenty years ago he'd be shouting down a big grey breeze block of a phone, struggling with the weight of its solid polycarbonate aerial. this would continue even into the tube system to keep everyone in the know about his business expertise, wealth and self-belief. today, instead, he covers the cover of his spy book with a dorothy perkins bag.

he maintains a puffed up chest in order to make him appear bigger and more solid. the breath control needed for this results in a constant look of concern.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007


he is enormous. before we settle in opposite seats we stood by each other with him towering above me as far as the roof allowed. tall and wide and thick. he has grown his hair long, thrown carelessly into an elastic banded horses tail.

i count 10 badges on his donkey jacket, each a weird tribal or comic book design apart from one pink ribbon. one has fallen off leaving just safety pin and some glue.

his head is slightly over sized for his features. his eyes are no where near symmetrical.

he is studying a badly written paper that will have been handed to him by some guy dressed in purple. there is an ironic smirk on his face as if to say "these guys are terrible journalists, but this is a free paper."

his fingernails are long and his arms are more hairy than average.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

who are you?

there is a split straight through his thumbnail, looks like he has taken a sharp knife and slowly & carefully sliced a ruler straight line from base to tip. dark brown dried blood marks it out.

it is not worrying him. he sits with legs wide apart, a large sized paperback open on his lap and his arms following the direction of the pages so his elbows stick out beside him and into the burgundy haired woman on one side.

the book is old, second or third hand from an old musty bookshop or riverside table sale. if the bookmark tells the truth; he is a fast reader and has zipped through maybe a hundred pages on this journey.

i think he is an artist. there is a tiny speck of paint on one trouser leg and none of his clothes match.

i never get to see what book he is reading, he dives from the train at the last moment before the doors close at kings cross.

Monday, 3 December 2007

girl, interrupted

She finds reasons to avoid reading her novel. Constantly she picks it up, reads a line or two and places it back on her leatherette handbag with the relief snakeskin pattern marked out by grease stains. Gabriel Garcia Marque one hundred years of solitude is written on its cover. She attempts to look interested as she skims over a story that skims over a family skimming through time.

With her topcoat buttoned high and her dry straw hair doing their best to cascade over her shoulders; there is but a glimpse of a victorian blouse.

She looks intensely at the route map above my head. Then, with a sigh, heads back to dusty lands and tiresome generations.

She has a pointy face. All features lean forwards in a constant hasty distain. Her engagement ring looks homemade.

I wonder if anyone will ever notice me writing about them like this.

Sunday, 2 December 2007


He clutches an empty espresso cup, holding it near his face as though to smell the remaining frangrance. His hair is slick, ginger deadened by products fighting to hold it against his head.

He has clearly spent a great deal of time trimming his beard into its perfect shape.

He looks american.

Clothes betray each other. A red striped sports top, african necklace with the manufactured tooth of a pretend animal, Tight jeans hold things in place and bulge awkwardly when he crosses and uncrosses his legs. The biggest contradiction covers his feet in enormous black leather and
metal boots, all buckles and studs and architectural steel structures.

Black ray-ban shades are proudly displayed, resting on his forehead and each time he removes them to clean last five minutes dust he reveals two temporary ray-ban scars just above his eyebrows.

His eyes are dark. Like a raven.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

jazz, delicious hot, discusting cold

rare it is, that a band is greater in the flesh than on the disc.

before cutting the vinyl you can bend and sway the voice, edit the eclectic keyboard, re-drum the faulty drum. steppe by steppe you can piece together a puzzle of good versions with a PC or MAC until your track be perfect. e'en a bad lady recording of girls out-loud miss-firing and stuttering like a spoilt collection of old bangers can be spoon fed into a computer box like an EVENTIDE MODEL H3000-B, H3000-B+ and B/LT ULTRA HARMONIZER®, and everything can be pitch-perfecticided.

this happens pop-freaks. deal with it.

but the run-of-the-mill can be replaced. thankful, i am. now & again you can be jumped upon by a pack of musical hounds with talent falling from every stitch. duke special runs and jumps into this category with by far the best live act i have come across. whilst their music on the compact disc is a fine rendition, you haven't grasped the duke and his merry band of merry men until you've merrily leaned upon their stage.

i miss them when they're gone. i first encountered them at a little known music festival in cheltenham about 4 years ago and desperately attempted to get everyone i knew to join me as the gig slid. they couldn't. some of them were hundreds o' miles away. but then begun my love affair with duke special.

duke special is led by himself, the duke. strongly irish husky tones surrounded by eyeliner and dreads atop a bright red military coat, pouring out unique rocky folky da-da and a hint of mesmerinsing heart. the duke is backed up by a tiny plethora of personable musicians each more talented than the man before and after him; and picking up more than their body weight in different instruments over the course of the evening. a recent addition to the team is that of ben castle on soprano/alto/bass saxomaphone, trumpetteering, clarinet, vox and all round gentrification. yes, he is roy castle's son.

for me personally, and not surprisingly most other audience, the shows are completed by the drummer. no ordinary drummer this. a man who has taken to calling himself "temperance society chip bailey" fulfils the da-daist regions this band ventures into. a phenomenal drummer and percussivist, with a set of snares and toms and cymbals and woodblocks and weird hitty things that would rival a dusty bric-a-brac shop, this ol' chap performs the music.

duke special on stage is an act of theatre.

and there is the music; opening up a soul-wrenching world of fantasy, original, orchestral walls of noise, playful to the end, cutting lyrics and - dare i say it? - beautiful tales of love and hope and the people who have both and neither.

i love this band. go and see them. buy and hear them. they are like nothing you've seen before or will ever see again and they make the world a little bit better.


why is the most beautiful girl in any club trying to sell me a small
expensive drink?

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

new slang

the shins' albums are a collection of songs that can envelop you and coax you into feeling all warm & cosy with wistful unexplainable melodies and nostalgia and thoughts of charlotte from your year 9 art class whose eyes were like moonlit lakes. listen to them and "they'll change your life" as natalie portman's character says in Garden State.

the shins hardly ever tour, and tickets to their gigs are as hard to come by as a date with the aforementioned charlotte (or natalie portman for that matter - even more's the pity). However my good buddy 'the whackwit' fluked some earlier this year & I managed to step out of work early enough to sample a pint of swedish pear cider before they played.

much as i love their recordings, i have to say i was a little disappointed by the live show. i suppose i was hoping for that enveloping sound, i was hoping to stand in a room of music swaying slowly with my eyes closed in a room of sober, like-minded individuals. not so my friend, not so.

there seems to be a tendency that when bands like the shins perform live, they feel they need to 'liven' up their music, make it noisier and apparently more exciting. it's a shame, because the reason I like them is precisely for the mellowed demeanour of their recordings. if you distort the guitars and put the volume to 11, you destroy the mellow, and replace it with something resembling a bad cover band. though I hate hate hate to say it about a band that I otherwise love, that's a bit like what happened here.

perhaps slightly more unforgivable was the performance itself. the chaps pretty much bluntly refused to engage with the audience, simplifying the show to standing there and churning out the music with next to no personality showing through, bar david hernandez on guitar who jumped about a bit. i love this band, but sad to say it, left this gig feeling a little bit cheated.

Friday, 2 November 2007

working nine to five

just a little message to all my loved ones:

i'm sorry i haven't really been very responsive of late and haven't replied to any emails or text messages very much or at all. it's not that i'm actively ignoring you, it's just that i've been at work. "at work?" i hear your questions, "but surely there are evenings and weekends that you could've spent not ignoring me.."

nope. i've been working evenings and weekends too. it's stupidly busy here at good old central hall, busy like a hungry cannibal in an asylum. unfortunately the stupidity will continue for about another four weeks, but after that i'll be able to have some sort of social life again and actually meet up with you. so that'll be nice. if you do happen to see me please forgive the way i look, i probably haven't slept.

hope to see you soon, i miss you all. cheerio for now.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

tripping over

Some of you may remember that earlier this year I embarked on a trip across Asia that included:

Some unwanted attention from the armed Chinese police force
Narrowly avoiding getting kicked in the brain by a horse
The most beautiful places in the world
Nearly breaking down in the desert
Breaking a vintage motorcycle
Indirectly killing a sheep
A dangerously cold lake
Avoiding tornadoes
Pooing into a hole
Eating a snake
A large beard

I wrote every day I was away and finally I have managed to commit my entire journal to the digital world, just for you. Amongst you all; you will have varying levels of interest in my adventure, but you now have a choice whether to read about it or not. You can do so by clicking on this bad boy:

my trip of my lifetime

Due to the nature of web logs it’s all back to front with the last entry first, if your level of interest is high you’ll have to forward to the older posts first.
If you have a medium level of interest you can just dip in randomly and read it in any order.
If you have a low level, you might as well have not read that.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

touch-a-touch-a-touch-a-touch me

we live in the future


The One Million Masterpiece Arts Project

i done a picture for the million masterpiece arts project. you should too, it is fun and stuff, innit.

The One Million Masterpiece Arts Project

Sunday, 21 October 2007

funny girl

my top ten funniest people:

10. Stephen Fry
9. Peter Kay
8. Harpo Marx
7. Sarah Silverman
6. Nick Frost
5. Lee Evans
4. Spike Milligan
3. Chris Morris
2. Bill Bailey
1. Peter Sellers

'kay, bye

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

liar liar

there's a bit of turmoil in west london. firstly, today i heard that the base of the once great standard in superior broadcasting (BBC television centre) is teetering on the edge of selling out and the miracle doughnut that is television centre may well be sold. SOLD! to someone. who knows who, probably for about £300 million.

due to the unique way the BBC is funded, er...
we're going to sell it.


but i was left stunned today by a far more ridiculous slither of news from the world of world class telly. it's all come from the incredible inflation that recently occurred in the press over the supposed phone in 'scandals' uncovered by the infallible newspaper journalists of our liberated country. i thought at the time, as i do even more now, that the whole thing was blown all out of proportion. suddenly it became unbearable to the british public that TV might bend the truth slightly, on occasion, in order to better present a program.

most unthinkable (according to the broadsheets) was the idea that a when a few phone-in competitions had had technical problems the show producers decided to grab a member of the production team to stand in as a competition winner (thus retaining the beats and rhythms of the show) and donated the prize to charity. i guess the journalists - speaking for we general public - think what should have happened was a presenter come onto screen and said, "sorry, something's gone wrong so we're going to forget about the phone-in and improvise for the 3-and-a-half minutes that was originally dedicated to trying to get some quality viewing out of a muffled conversation with a sniveling semi-retarded ten year old... um, so connie.... how are your teeth today?"


who gives a post-dubbed-squirrel-fuck if they have to bend the truth every now and again? by all means refund the bankrupting 75p everyone spent on their phone call because their opinion mattered so much they 'simply had to pick up the phone' but don't - for god's sake - let it ruin the future of quality broadcasting. as it may well do.

yes, really.


how about this:

today i heard that programmes like Top Gear are facing a shake up where they won't be able to 'lie' as much. yes; i used the word lie because that's what the idiots at the helm if this idiotic process have deemed a necessary word for it. for some reason top gear (and many other shows too, i use this only as an example); top gear, an ENTERTAINMENT show has been attacked because it takes it too far making us think that 3 completely different cars can arrive after a 4000 mile race within 5 minutes of each other.

for a start: what absolute moron would ever think that this is exactly what happened? what mind-numbed oblivious fool would ever consider the idea that week after week the antics of the three presenters racing and rallying and building and breaking, and always ending in a photo finish, could ever be the complete unabridged unadulterated truth? ever noticed the fact that it's E.D.I.T.E.D.?


secondly: why the hell would we want to see the actual practical result of each activity? i'd put money on the fact that it'd be utterly boring TV. if skilled directors and editors want to chop and change some dull footage of old cars driving about a bit so that i can spend an hour escaping into a fantasy world full of intrigue and wit, bloody let them. that's why i watch entertainment shows. to be entertained. the clue is in the name of the genre.

today i heard that CBBC presenters now have to say "here's one we made earlier," because they're not allowed to imply that it was solely them and not a researcher that stuck the sparkly star on the box. i mean seriously, that's not just putting the cart before the horse but sending it careering down the hill and into the river before even waking the horse up. as if a four year old child could give a spun shit about who actually made that particular prop when they have the joy of pritt stick and glitter ahead of them.

i hope the people who are encouraging this "honesty" gain some perspective soon. if not, i worry that we might be heading towards the news being presented from a big grey room, the floor covered in cables, by two people in t-shirts and no makeup reading from some slightly creased bits of A4 paper.

that is if we can see them without any lights on.

Monday, 8 October 2007


on a recent trip to the local cinema i was strangely and disconcertingly entertained by the tactics of the kino security team. i only caught one small snippet of speech as two very large muscled black guys walked a comparatively tiny little man out:

very well spoken,

"i'm chucking you out this time, but if i catch you doing that again i'm gonna take you out the fire escape and beat the shit out of you."


Saturday, 6 October 2007

return to oz

which witch is which?some people have a strange, extreme and uncontrollable reaction to famous people (and not-so-famous people but those who still somehow end up being classed as 'celebrities'). just because a person is in the public eye, for some people this makes them frightening, perfect or god-like. i'm sure you've seen clips of girls losing balance and crying in a curled up state of hysteria just from coming into view of the beatles.

i witnessed something similar today, when i scored amazing seats (dead centre, front row) for this evening's performance of wicked. due to bad planning on my part, i needed tickets to a show at the last minute and learned that the victoria apollo theatre releases the front row to anyone who queues up in the morning. so there i was with the die-hard fans standing in the cold; hoping to leave with the best tickets.
the pro
: which i did.

the con: we ended up sandwiched between one guy who was seeing the show for the 50th time. yes, fifty. that's about £2000 he's spent in his life on seeing the same show over and over again. holy hell. and he was there on his own so he kept talking to me, asking how i was enjoying it, every time said with a desperate hopeful fear in his eyes that i might have found any fault in the show.

on the other side were what i have called "the teenaged wicked cheerleader squad." noisy as a football crowd. after every song cheering and whooping and giggling like they were in a primary school playground and a boy had just waved at them, crying 'that was aMAZing' like daddy had just bought them a ferrari because their horse was ill. pretty terrifying reaction to anything, let alone a song that they've heard a thousand times.

as for the show itself, it was good. a nice bit of escapism, visually and technically stunning with the best costumes i can ever remember seeing. not a bad story and a fun idea creating a prequel to a classic, although i have to say i don't think it worked trying to recreate the wicked witch of the west as misunderstood, rather than the traditional bad guy. that aspect didn't sit very well with me, though the actress playing her was effortlessly fantastic.

i don't remember any of the songs, apart from the fact that one of them was called 'defying gravity.' the only reason i know that is because the cheerleaders wouldn't shut-up about it.

it was enjoyable, just not one i'd see again. definitely can't see myself spending £2000 on future tickets. jeez. avenue q on the other hand....

Friday, 5 October 2007

the last crusade

there was a point where i thought my ears would bleed i was laughing so hard.

i hurt all over

monty python's spamalot. apart from starring a woman who has the most amazing singing voice i have ever heard, by an absolute mile... this show is the most i have laughed in a 3 hour period. ever.

brilliant, go and see it.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007


what a joy and privilege it should feel to get tickets to a sold out show, sitting in a private box, to see a man widely regarded and record breaking in the world of entertainment and comedy writing. always modest, humble and understatedmany think of ricky gervais as a genius, the funniest man in britain, nay e'en the world. he's rocked the charts with his podcasts, he's won countless awards both sides of the atlantic and his stand up show "fame" is the fastest selling comedy show of all time.

so sitting there in a box with the troubadour and shoelace, we expected the roof to be blown off of the royal albert hall. it was a packed house, full of adoring fans. but to be honest, the show failed to strike the bell at the top of the applause-o-meter. it was good, don't get me wrong. very good in places. a gag about princess anne offering him cornwall was my particular favourite, closely followed by a pantomime questioning the validity of the phrase 'going commando.'

he did endear himself to me a great deal, though. i've previously written that i wasn't convinced by his approach and attitude to all things serious, ie: charity work. but he spoke at length and was very honest about the work he's done and became a much nicer person in my perception. just a shame he couldn't fill the 14,000 seat auditorium with the energy that someone like lee evans has managed in the past.

he was good, he just wasn't 7 baftas and the albert hall good.

Monday, 1 October 2007

what the world needs now is love (sweet love)

al salaam alaikum, readers! literally the day after i wrote about misconceptions of religion i ended up being involved in a press conference to announce the launch of the 'islam is peace' campaign which seeks to about bloomin' timeprovide an open, transparent and honest source of information about who muslims actually are. none of this bigoted propaganda that the more extremist fraction like to broadcast, but a voice for the average everyday follower of the islamic teachings. not freaks or idiots or dangerous, but people who condemn the actions of those few.

about freckin' time, i say. a high profile campaign to help desist the mistrust of 2 million british citizens is long overdue. well done chaps.

my favourite sentiment of the press conference was spoken by dr. hany el banna OBE (president of islamic relief worldwide)... he said "this is not about defending islam or christianity or judaism or any other religion, religion is above us, god is above us." one of the major misconceptions of religion is that religious people are filled with contempt for anyone who follows a different set of teachings. it's thought that there is a hatred between them, even more than between believers and atheists. i guess that's understandable from the israel situation. but the whole world is not, look at it
(israel is actually that tiny red dot in the middle of the map.)

doctor el banna's sentiment grounded the thought that this isn't the majority case. actually there is a huge respect between faiths, a constant dialog between faith leaders and even social integration in faith groups. shock horror. perhaps it's not about competing for god's attention, but understanding that people have been brought up in different cultures and learned to respect god in different ways. personally i think no religion is 100% right or wrong, what matters is that we understand there is something more powerful than us and accept that it might have an effect on how we live our lives.

what matters even more than that is being excellent to each other.

but a really stoopid onemaybe i'm wrong and actually david icke has it sussed.

anyway, i applaud the work of the islam is peace organisers. and if you don't think you know everything about islam, you couldn't do much wrong by clicking on the logo and having a bit of a read.

i'm writing a lot about religion lately aren't i?
next week: HINDUISM! party on dudes.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

god gave rock & roll to you

funny wizard manbill bailey is currently doing a couple of nights at the riverside studios, a 'pre-stadium tour' testing out some new material with small audiences before cradling it in front of big crowds. probably a good plan with his particular brand of dungeons & dragons garden shed based whimsy that much of his comedy is themed upon.

he is a very funny man. i did laugh at him muchly. to that point where your face becomes painful and it's better to stop laughing or you might sprain a face-muscle. you will not be able to guess where i'll head eventually with this blog.

should've worn a bigger badgemy two favourite observations were these:
from the killers song all these things that i've done a section sees them repeating the phrase "i got soul, but i'm not a soldier." nice little phrase that. but made up of two things that are completely disconnected. you might as well say "i've got ham, but i'm not a hamster."

my idea was "i've got a badge, but i'm not a badger"

secondly, bill talked about george bush. quite a lot actually. he appears to have had a recent switcheroonie with his focus and rather than basing all his comedy on owls and the west country and wooden panels, has become a lot more political. he described president bush leading america as something "pointless and harmless and stupid on top of a much more dangerous thing" . . rather like a bobble hat on a leopard. or a tanktop on a scorpion.

emotive and probably successful advertising. oh yes, and exploitative and disrespectfulthis bought up the point that america is starting to teach creationism over evolution in schools, which very quickly led to a debate about a book called the god delusion which seeks to disprove the existence of god and the pointlessness of religion. bill sought to get audience members to shout out summaries of the book, probably hoping for something like: the god delusion contends that a supernatural creator most likely does not exist and that belief in a god and religion, qualifies as a delusion, which the writer defines as a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence.

"christianity is stupid!" called out a drunk woman in front of me, helpfully.

i thought i'd paid for a comedy show, but in another situation i would've perhaps said "anyone who spends enough time and energy researching with a specific point and direction and a talent for the written word could probably write an intellectual book that encourages it's reader to believe every word, polarising their opinion and closing their mind to any other alternative. rather than creating a readership that is accepting of other opinions and ideas, he creates a group of people that are completely unnecessarily militant in their anger against anyone who happens to disagree."

the idiot’s guide to acceptance and humilitythat reminds me of something. =>

see, i told you you wouldn't guess where i was heading with this.

i've written about this subject before, but the down point of last night's gig has incensed me somewhat to comment on the idea again. you see, this book is one of the culprits that joins a long list of sources that cause way more problems than they supposedly seek to solve. it's a trend of the media to exclude religion and people of religion, to turn the average responder against the idea of faith. religious people are publicly displayed to be freaks, or idiots, or dangerous. in modern times, the latter is an easy portrayal and probably sells you a lot of books or airtime.

what annoys me is the focus on the fraction of religious people that are freaks or idiots or dangerous, the reason being "because it's good telly." the normal person with faith, 99.9% of christians, muslims, jews etc. are harmless and reasonable and just living out their life in a way that makes them happy and comfortable. but there's no point in writing a crime thriller about andrew macintosh who has a wife and two kids, has never raped or abused anyone, never committed murder or any acts of terrorism but does run a church hall youth club every saturday and takes his family to church on a sunday morning before going to his mum's house for roast lunch.

here's a question for you: the 0.01% of human beings who are freaks, idiots or dangerous.... where would you rather they were?
a)within a social community (religious or otherwise) who are most likely trying to help them and guide them towards a more reasonable life outlook, possibly seeing they have psychological disorder and seeking out specialist help.
b)at home, alone and unmonitored with only their damaging psyche for company.

thought so.

islamic fundamentalism is to islam
as the ku klux klan is to christianity

whatever you believe about religion, the truth is that the vast majority of people with faith are not militant and angry and seeking to destroy everyone else. they're just living with a quiet respect for their god, with a comforting feeling that there is something looking over them who has a bigger plan that we as humans can never comprehend. i'm pretty comforted by that. it's my belief that is the truth. that's what helps me live my life as a good person. but i'm not you, you probably have a different way of doing it and that doesn't bother me in the slightest, as long as your aim is to be a good person. if your aim in life is to be an arsehole we probably won't get along very well, and i won't feel any kind of loss at that.

written by geniuses, believed by idiotsunfortunately, there is a huge cross section of society that read, see or hear something and instantly believe and accept it without considering their own beliefs, the beliefs of the people around them or any additional research or evidence around the subject. these people watch the news and accept it as the whole truth and nothing but the truth. even bbc news, with it's aim of indifference and unbiased reporting can only broadcast a portion of the events of the world. if you don't believe me, try and summarise the entire iraq war in three minutes... go! it becomes a sort of "me tarzan, you jane" reporting.

"israel good, palestine baaad."

i'll finish with an analogy that interests me:

three people are blindfolded, led to an elephant and encouraged to touch it. the first is a christian. he says that the thing he feels is long and muscular and bendy so it must be some sort of large snake.
the second - a muslim - says he feels something wide and vertical and round with a rough surface. it must be a tree.
the third is an agnostic. he feels a solid surface with a rough texture but from where he's standing he can't feel any edges or get the idea of what shape the thing is.

there is a fourth person. he's an atheist, but he's in a different zoo and there aren't any animals there.

of course, it could all be lies

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

call me the breeze

on my way home today a busker was playing freebird. now there's a track that will without fail make you feel good.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

(you drive me) crazy

it would be unfair on my friends if i kept this piece of genius youtube video from them after getting so much enjoyment out of it myself:

aw, bless 'im

Monday, 10 September 2007

Thursday, 6 September 2007

sugar and spice

something nice happened today

maybe some more nice things will happen as a result

that would be nice

Monday, 3 September 2007

what a wonderful world

here we go again

sometimes you go to gigs, and it's more than just a gig. it's more than standing in a venue watching a bunch of performers construct music in front of you. it's more that seeing the inner workings of how that song you like is made. it's more than passive reception of soundwaves.

the polyphonic spree look like a cult. their songs echo the attidudes of hippies and free love in the sixties. and there are a lot of them. but the similarities are not real, there's no evidence of blind drug-fuelled stupour or suicide pacts. what there appears to be is a bunch of people who have found the exact place they want to be; making great music with the people they love; and through this, they've fallen in love with being alive in a wonderful world.

there were 22 people on stage. guitars, percussion, brass, harps, strings and more singers than you might think you'd ever need... out of every one of them poured love and energy and a downright thrill of being there, on stage, in that moment, with their friends, belting out music that absolutely refuses to let you feel a moment of sadness or worry. the symptoms of this experience could - i suppose - grant them the 'cult' label; because a new feeling came over me, unlike any band i've seen and enjoyed before, i desperately wanted to be part of this one. i wanted to be there, in that group. they looked like they were having as much, if not more fun, than the audience. and not in a bad way, because i've barely seen a gig crowd so wound up and excited.

the spree performed in identical outfits, though not their usual hippy love-smocks. dressed in black button tops not disimilar to kim jong il's outfits apart from the embroidered symbols of love, they appeared on stage through a heartshape cut out of a curtain by Tim DeLaughter, the 'leader' of the band. i hadn't heard the new album and didn't know half of the songs in the set, but it didn't matter. they played for about an hour, a wall of sound declaring the wonder of the world and the miracle of life and how everything is beautiful when we all love eachother. i couldn't help but be whisked away to this fantastic-reality, dreaming of the simplicity of life in the arms of a loved one laying in a field in texas.

especial detail that made the gig for me were the six female backing singers on risers that had choreographed some sort of "avril lavigne teenaged angst-ridden rock kitten style" dance to every song. very sexy.

when they were done, the crowd wanted more. they wanted more love. without desisting the cries for more the band had to reappear - this time in their love-smocks - and encored for over half an hour. they kept going and going, driven by the audience's appreciation. never outstaying their welcome. we loved it. even the 15 minutes where no music was played, instead to the sound of roaring applause the entire band paraded through the audience shaking hands with the public. stalls and balcony. in the end they even had to finish on a song that they hadn't rehearsed or played in six months. brilliant. absolutely brilliant. shot the evening straight into my top five gigs, without doubt.

oh yeah, and you haven't lived until you've heard nirvana's lithium covered by a seven-member choir, two keyboards, percussion, bass, cello, two guitars, flute, trumpet, trombone, violin, viola, french horn, harp and a lead singer that is part rock legend and part witch doctor.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007


also, because we were at a festival i got a temporary tat (a necessary process for anyone at a festival, methinks). i've wanted a tattoo for ages and can't decide where or what to get.

thoughts please....

(why must i be) a teenager in love?

well, they done it again, they did. the cast of return to the forbidden planet '07 pulled it out of the bag and absolutely blew the minds of everyone around them; the audience's, the organisers' and mine. this bank holiday the faith, hope and gaffertape theatre company kicked ass twice with two more performances of the musical that we put together in 5 days earlier this month.

we'd been asked by greenbelt to perform after wowing the punters and overfilling one of their venues last year. they gave us a venue twice as big this year, and we managed to do the same. 700 people queued and sat for over three hours in scorching heat to fall in love with - what i think are - the greatest, most hardworking, most loving group of people i will ever meet. we had to turn 200 people away there were so many.

and the guys didn't disappoint. i and the other gaffertape leaders will find it hard to accept any responsibility for what happened within that marquee on saturday and monday. it was all the performers. they stormed through the best performance ever seen in the 14-year history of gaffertape, and blew the seams off that tent. i'm so proud.

it's slightly odd declaring that i love a bunch of teenagers and miss them like a mentalist. but i do. they are amazing, and i'll be a-counting down the days until i see them again.

get rich (or die tryin')

i'm not going to make a habit of continuously picking out and commenting on the faults of popular culture. i like doing it, those who've regularly read my blog and/or know me well know that i could quite easily churn out a list of a hundred things that bug me about the falsely named pop-'cultural' world that surrounds us. i do like doing it. it's like a release and helps me get through the day.

and we all like the sound of our own opinions don't we?

but i won't do it every time. the last post was. this post is. sometimes that's just the way things pan out.

and so here's the reason for this post:
kanye west came to my venue yesterday to do a gig organised by vodafone. i'm not a big fan of his music. i liked golddigga, but to be honest the rest sound far too similar; a bit of rap interspersed with some sample from some old track that he's found in some record collection. but while i may not be a huge fan, i expected him to put on a pretty good performance full of energy and spectacle.


pretty much the worst gig i've ever seen. nothing to do with the music, although it sounded pretty awful. this wasn't the fault of kanye, but the fault of his PR guy and sound engineer; an american who - without irony - introduced himself as 'hotdog.' yuh. from that moment on i couldn't take him seriously. he was a dick, but let's not dwell on him other than this conversation between one of the girls from the orchestra and him:

HARPIST: hi, um... hotdog. is it possible we [the orchestra] could have some more light on stage? we can't see our music, and it's just quite dark
HOTDOG: that's hip-hop

what a penis. turns out his first name is brian, which might explain reverting to hotdog.

so to the gig. it was due to start at 8pm. no sign of kanye. not at 8.15, 8.30, 9.00... eventually at 9.20 june sarpong arrives on stage to lull the booing audience. a struggle for her without a personality to rely on. but after an awkward ten minutes she says "now the moment you've all been waiting for, the most exciting thing in music right now, ladies & gents... KANYE WEST!"

the crowd goes wild.

the band kicks in.

the lights go crazy.

... and everything fizzles out.

a few more minutes. apparently he had left the venue at 8 without telling anyone. he never explained why. why should he?.. he's kanye west.

then it all starts up again and on he comes, churning out one of his songs. and the gig has commenced. kind of. he doesn't make it through any song. constantly he stops in the middle of a track and says something to the effect of "i'm going to start again from the second verse." which he does; with the production crew staring in confusion and disbelief at each other. it's being recorded 'as-live' for channel 4. after 3-4 stop/start songs the director is practically pulling clumps of his own hair out.

it was horrible. a masterclass in how not to do a gig.
some things you really shouldn't do (that he did anyway):

  1. attempt a televised gig without really rehearsing
  2. make a big deal about forgetting your own lyrics and restart the song
  3. add new bits that throw off your band
  4. try to improvise with a clearly unprepared 30-piece string orchestra
  5. tell the audience they are "boring" and should "try to look more interested"
  6. suggest that the audience don't recognise a real star when there is one right in front of them
  7. try and do a costume change between songs and when you don't have time, tell everyone to stop over the microphone
  8. stop the gig to have a nonsensical rant about your bitter rival 50 cent
  9. stop doing songs to talk through the process of writing your latest hit single...

it was at that point that the audience realised they were bored and began leaving. without exaggeration, at least a quarter of the audience had left well before the end of the set. about 500 people.

it was like watching a car crash happen in slow-motion. it was terrible. the organisers and i stared together in disbelief as the entire event slowly ground to an expensive mess. i thought it was very funny, myself. tammy, the production manager didn't seem to agree. maybe she was thinking how they were going to turn about 20 minutes of good footage into an hour long special for t4, to be broadcast on the 2nd september. gulp.

man, it was embarrassing. but not surprising when you attempt to work with someone who is clearly
98% ego and
2% tasteless expensive clothing.

i was reminded of this video. not only is the final revelation a piece of brilliance, but the angry indecipherable rambling leading up to it is quite something.

and i'm not the only one who agrees:
and i'm sure there are plenty of others...

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

the x-files

csi: crime scene investigation is a popular show watched by over 100 people around the world. despite never being bothered before, there was nothing good on telly this evening so i thought i'd give it a shot.

i will now add it to the list of "nothing good on telly," on a par with casualty, but with a bigger budget. and slightly more predictable. with more stereotypical characters, cliched script, rushed ending, cheesey story and dull, long, wordy scenes.

but that was just one episode.

the theme tune is good though, "who are you" by The Who. good choice. you don't get many of them from jerry bruckheimer.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

do you wanna be in my gang?

through the Power Of Facebook, i've just come back from a birthday party of someone who i haven't see since a-levels. 10 years ago. which was nice.

very amusingly, it turns out that there has been a rumour amongst all my old school friends that i'd disappeared and joined a cult, and i wasn't allowed to contact my friends or family. how that came about i have no idea. but i find it very funny.


Thursday, 9 August 2007

space oddity

it feels a little bit like all the energy has been removed from my body. for the last few days, every time i've turned up at work the first comment has been something to the effect of "goodness me young fellow-me-lad, every day you look worse than the last, young fellow-me-lad." or something very similar.

there is a very good reason. it's the same reason that i haven't really blogged anything for a good while.

i bin busy.

but doing awesome stuff is way better than writing about awesome stuff, so .. um, yep, totally okay with it y'know.

last week i done a thing that makes the tiredness worthwhile.

some of you may remember last year i worked with some kids doing a show at the greenbelt festival. well, it was a long time in preparation, but we done another show.

about 40 of us gathered together a week ago last sunday, 7 leaders and 30 odd young people aged between 15-22. our task: to prepare, produce and perform return to the forbidden planet in a... week.

auditions on the sunday evening. we casted overnight. then rehearsals began first thing on monday and from then on it was an intensive week of crazy spacedoods, rockin' spacechoons, dancin, singin, playin, buildin, not-sleepin and all things you can think of relevant to musicals and space.

and after 5 days, we put on a show. saturday and sunday. and i've never been more proud of anything i've done, or anyone i've known, than the 3 hours of sunday afternoon spent behind my tech-desk driving the show and trying to concentrate on what i was doing, when in front of me a bunch of my favourite people knocked the socks off the audience. an audience who i think expected very little. who had gone to a show thinking that all you could produce in a week would be someone on a piano and 30 young people singing songs together. if this is true, then they must've been blown completely away.

physically, we had an amazing set, staging, lighting, sound, big projected graphics, incredible costumes and a props list as long as mr. tickle's arm. but all that was just decoration. within all this fancy looking stuff were a full rock 'n roll band with brass section, and the hardest working musicians you'd ever meet (i've worked with professional musicians - they are lay-zeeee). then on stage, a selection of the finest people you'd ever be lucky enough to meet. they pulled it out of the bag, put on a jawdropping performance. i'm still amazed they did it to such a standard. brilliant singing, absolutely hilarious comic acting, full-on dance routines, with a shakespearian script no less! especially when i spent most of the wednesday before the show thinking "we might not pull this one off."

but by golly we did. and a tear of pride did reach mine eye.

to the guys of faith, hope and gaffertape 2007 theatre week: you rule. you absolutely rule. you rule, you rule, you rule. each of you made for one of the best weeks i've ever had. you worked so hard and ended up with an undeniably flappin awesome show, way way more superb than anyone could've expected. i miss you all. you rule. you absolutely rule.

and the BBC said this

Wednesday, 25 July 2007


lordy me, this is definitely in the top ten weirdest things i've ever seen.

and i've seen some weird shit.

1500 prison inmates in a filipino jail, dancin' ...


Tuesday, 24 July 2007

from dusk til dawn

man, i'm busy at the moment. for those of you who regularly read (rumour has it) i'm not yet pushing up daisies or anything - just my social calendar seems to have exploded and i'm never in anymore.

it's quite nice.

my bank account disagrees.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

ghost rider

for a long time now, i've wondered how brian harvey managed to run himself over with his own car. perhaps this video will help us understand.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Saturday, 14 July 2007


if no-one has yet coined the phrase "splash mob" for the events today in hyde park, let it be forever known that i invented it.

thanks to facebook, today a dry(?)run of next years BIGGEST EVER WATER FIGHT! started at 1300hrs. i was there, and i looked like this:

it was going to be much bigger, but expected bad weather and a security alert got it canceled. still, about 100 people turned up. if i canceled something and a hundred people still turned up i'd be quite impressed. it was brilliant.

i love london. roll on next year when maybe all of the 100,000 people that said they would come won't be put off by a bit of rain and some bombs.

Friday, 13 July 2007

singin' in the rain

i don't listen to the radio. generally it's rubbish and plays the same 10 tracks over and over again interspersed with some gobby lout and his-her mates jabbering on about big brother and eastenders. i tire of that very quickly.

if only we could bring back john peel.

today i found out that the number one song is an urban song about an umbrella. i looked it up on youtube to find that its another meaningless rap meets nonsensical droning songstress computer generated song about letting a boy join her under her um-BER-ella ella ella ella.

there's so much awesome music out there, how is this number one?!

Monday, 9 July 2007

fred jones pt. 2

sequel anyone?

Thursday, 5 July 2007

the best things in life are free

last night i spent the evening with a colombian girl with the energy of a stick of dynamite filled with beans, a polish goth and a mongolian girl who is scared of the countryside, a russian girl who had a stroke in her early twenties, a retired gay methodist minister and sunni muslim security guard who got so hysterical after falling in love with a blond girl on the other side of the pub, we had to leave.

i love london.

sometimes the random hand you're dealt is unbeatable.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

black diamond

oh yeah, the other thing i did yesterday was buy a car. this little beauty:

ooh, mr. strong

except "little" really is the wrong word. it's a big-mclarge-huge of a car. possibly too big, but look at it! it rocks. and hopefully keeps rolling as well. for a long time.

it is a bit old, but it looks kick-ass so i guess i just said "i'll have it" and handed over a wad of cash. i'll ignore the fact that it's a vauxhall. it's a 'diamond' (?) edition 4x4 with a limited paint job in pearlescant black that changes colour depending on the angle you look at it and the sun. it's got a 2.2 litre engine and a tow-bar and power steering and leather seats and a little bit of dog hair in the boot and an mp3 stereo and alloy wheels and electric windows.

on my very short street there is now weirdly 4 big black jeeps. mine, a cherokee, a range rover sport and a hummer. mine is the second biggest and it's the best colour. i feel i rule enough.

Saturday, 30 June 2007

day of the triffids

'twas the pride march in london today. plenty of lovely glitter and artificial neon feathers. and rainbow coloured cowboy hats. and it's always nice to witness a slightly overweight middle-aged man with grey pubic chest hair and a-nothing on but a leather pouch and cap. i decided to assert my heterosexuality and instead of taking in the gays, took in some musical theatre.

suddenly seymour is feeding me to a.. oh...a rgh....with a good little bunch we saw little shop of horrors in it's new home in the ambassador's theatre. i love independant film, there is a soul that goes into a labour of love. it doesn't matter that there isn't enough money or the backing of a big studio or list of enormous hollywood stars begging to be a part of it. sometimes it's a little shoddy, sometimes one of the characters is played by one of the carpenters (wood, not folk), but the film is all the better for it. more homey. more joyful.

little shop cradled that idea in it's arms and let it free on stage. a bit rough around the edges, a bit loose on some of the performances, but presented with so much charm that all is immediately forgiven. by far the stars of the show were:
sheridan smith - the girl from 2 pints of lager and a packet of crisps, who despite her background in that show is completely engaging and sweet and convincing. even my hard-hearted bro-in-law said he'd lost track of the world around him in her performance of "somewhere that's green."
the three chorus girls - who stole the stage from anyone whenever they were on it.
mike mcshane and andy heath - between them turning a polystyrene and fabric prop into an hilarious living character.

sometimes you can really tell that the cast love being in a production, that they loved making it and they love performing it. the last big thing i saw was we will rock you and the cast looked bored the entire way through, with good reason actually. not so with the little shop cast. they were definitely having a whale of a time, and letting us in on their big in-joke.

wicked, so it was.

the one major downfall was alistair mcgowan. his dentist character was intent on causing pain to his on stage patients and any discerning theatre goer. i'll be nice and say he was fine. many of the audience seemed to enjoy his bits, but i guess they haven't seen steve martin do it. or my friend alex.

Monday, 25 June 2007

my fair lady

over the weekend some of my friends from work went to ascot to watch some horses run a bit.

my boss and i felt it right that we should construct hats for them out of gaffertape. here are the results

(mine's the one on the left)

Saturday, 23 June 2007

road trip

i'm trying to buy a car. i don't have a car, so i want to buy one. there aren't any car showrooms in walking distance, so you need a car to get to them. but i don't have a car. i want to buy one, but i need one to get to a place where i can buy one. then i will have one so i can drive to a place where i can buy one.

car sellers missed a trick there. they should build showrooms in town. they might even get a few impulse buyers.

it's times like this i think i shouldn't have crashed my motorbike.

today i learnt about the existence of this:

i wish i could do it. i've been to some of the places, but i'd gladly go again.
it's for charity, and it'll be incredible. i'm both impressed and jealous.

Friday, 22 June 2007

old boy

i'm triply excited that the troubadour will be moving to london in the next few weeks (via india).

"hurrah!" say i.

Monday, 18 June 2007

back in black

note the new title format. a new chapter of life, a new chapter of into the neon sun. now all posts will be named after movies or songs. yup yup.

so it's pretty weird being back. we finally got home on saturday night after about 20 hours of flying. jet lagged is what i am. my eyes feel like flappy bits of heavy curtain fabric and i would love to sleep. but if i give in... the jet-bugs will get me and eat my limbs or something.

people said the holiday would change my whole outlook on life, that i will come back a different person. i imagined a hunched hobo-like creature with a long beard and a gnarled walking stick. perhaps a bat would live in my hair.

this is unlike what actually happened.

i don't feel changed particularly. i was pretty chilled out before the trip and i'm pretty chilled out now. i did learn a few things about the world around me. i learned that electricity pylons will ruin a good photo in every country. i learned that the word 'toilet' can also refer to a hole in the ground and two planks of wood. i learned that under the right circumstances i will get a bit of a tan.

i was presented with questions about the life i lead. in this country we have a bloomin' privileged life with luxurious options at every turn. is that necessarily better than a buddhist lama who has little or no worldly possessions or home comforts, but lives in a state of complete mental satisfaction and clarity?
are our home comforts necessarily better than a man who moves his home around one of the most beautiful countries in the world, eats the vegetables and meat that he grows himself and spends his free time riding a horse through the scenery?

i guess i look at my nintendo and my dvd collection and think, "yes, they are better."
and running water is awesome.

but at least i now wonder about it.

i think of the world as a smaller place now. looking at a map of the journey i see that we traveled a quarter of the distance around the globe, on land. before, it seemed a ridiculous idea, too far for sensibility. but now i've done it. and it was quite easy. the world is a smaller and a more accessible place. not just geographically; but because we went into the middle of nowhere, to some stupidly remote places and still we met people who we shared a common understanding. we might not share a language or way of life, but we all share the same needs. we all need food, we all need a place to lay our head at night and we all need the company of other people. or goats.

i learned that i can grow a serious beard.

i learned that 5 gigabytes of photographs is a lot to go through at the end of a holiday.

i learned that i can sleep on a moving vehicle after all.

it's funny the things you forget when you go far away for a long time. there are things you miss that you don't realise until you get back. the smell of rain on hot tarmac, takeaways, a proper cold beer, women's perfume, high speed internet, the feeling as you walk through your door at home after work, english radio, cars approaching from the right.

i think it's good to be back, but i don't know yet.

Friday, 15 June 2007

ending on a high: two vintage motorcycles and the chinese police force service chaps with guns

fast and furious
our final day, our final evening, our final clutch to hold on to the holiday, the trip, the journey, one last amazing memory to take with us back home.

zooooooooomwe wanted to go out on a high so we arranged for a night tour of beijing on a motorbike and sidecar. when it turned up it was a beautiful black chinese-made vintage bike with a 750cc engine and old thick-spoked wheels. within moments we were belting through the busy nightscape with the wind in our hair. matt nestled into the sidecar and i sat perched on the old style spring saddle a head higher than the rider. neon lights and traffic blurred beside us; i have no idea how fast we were going, but it was fast. whipping beside us: hutongs, temples, rickshaws, tienanmen square, the government building.... almost * ... grinding to a halt by the rust coloured walls of beijing's (so, china's) central government building i look down to see a flat tyre. ah.

in hesitant english and hand signals the biker told us he would phone a friend who'd come and rescue us. so we waited as passing traffic coated us in a thick paste of beijing grime and exhaust fumes. caught by the fuzz5 minutes passed, then out of nowhere appears a police riot van and car. a scrabbled conversation quickly follows between our rider and the sergeant which i'm sure involved the question "what are two young westerners doing pulled up against the walls of the government complex with a world war II motorbike then, eh?" it was probably about this moment that matt and i turned to each other and realised that this was the first time on The Big Trip that neither of us had our passport with us. or any form of identification for that matter.

gulp. maybe we'll be on an earlier flight home than we planned we thought. like, y'know, being deported. um. well, we'll see what happens...

"passport please," says the main cop. (the chinese don't use plurals in their language.)

in our very best british colonial voices we say "i'm dreadfully sorry old chap, but we don't have them. they're back at our hostel. i'm. afraid."


he looks us up and down.

"which hostel?" firmly.

i try to remember.

"templeside number two," matt stammers, "xincheng hutong."

i'm trying to think whether this is the name of the hostel or just the street name. or even the general area.

"why no passport?" he narrows his eyes. we point at the bike and shrug. he makes eye contact. he has a notebook out. over his shoulder i see a van full of riot police eyes staring at us. his eppilette badges sparkle in the neon lights; i thought about mentioning it, y'know to butter him up; but a niggling sketchy history of communist regime in the back of my head suggests that might be a bad idea.

"okay," he says, "next time bring a passport."
we breathe out.
they drive off.
our biker makes a 'yikes' face.

a problem to the chinese goverment
another ten minutes later and our second motorbike & sidecar arrives. this time a real WWII one in khaki green livery and ammunition panniers. perhaps it would've been a different story if we'd started with this one and the police had arrived to see it, but onward we went. this rider is faster. and he has a helmet on. i wonder if this was wise.

scream if you wanna go slowertearing up the beijing tarmac, dust in our hair and exhaust fumes in our eyes; but nothing could cover the huge beaming smiles across our faces. this was absolutely the most perfect way of finishing The Big Trip. with a flourish.

so the holiday ended with a screech of tyres as we pulled up outside the hostel nearly 3 hours later. superb.

we nodded at each other, smiled, opened a beer and sat on the step outside our room drowning in adrenalin and memories.


a good one. that smile will stay plastered over my face for a long time and reappear every time i recollect friday 15th of june 2007. people will look at me and think i'm weird.



the previous day and the last day

not your average garden border
the great wall of china was constructed in 1993 under the rule of emperor Keni Ke the stin king. as the final and last in the blood chain of the mun-ting dynasty he was given unlimited funds and even more slaves and told to do something "pretty darn special." he did two things. one was to buy ten thousand tonnes of lego bricks and command two teams of five men to work round the clock and build the tallest statue of a piggy'wiggy the world has ever seen. they can still be found working on it in the fuk mee si dwai ze district, south beijing. they have completed a toe.

oldthe second thing Kenickie did was build the great wall =>

we climbed it yesterday and we couldn't have picked a better day; warm, moist and clear. we chose the simatai section because the other local sections sounded flat and touristy and, most probably, recently refurbished. we wanted old and steep and - if possible - a bit unsafe and broken. which is what we did get.

there's not much to say about the wall further than what you can see in the pictures. it's long, it's a wall, it has towers two bow-shots apart for easy defense, some of the climbs and descents are as much as 80° steep and much like climbing a cliff face. 'twas rather treacherous, to be sure. for the first half i was accompanied by an old mongolian lady who latched onto me and talked constantly in semi-understandable my mongolian girlfriendengrish about the history of the wall and how she had no job and would i buy some of her great wall souvenirs. she called me 'beautiful' and fanned me from the heat and humidity whenever i stopped for a break. i bought a t-shirt.

did you know the great wall is ever-so-slightly sloped towards china (away from mongolia) so that any rainfall fell on chinese farmland?

it is a wonderful sight to see; certainly something that everyone should make time for. one of those 'must do before you die' type things, like swimming with dolphins or owning the shawshank redemption on dvd. it's a hard walk, so steep on occasions we were convinced we'd see a sticky end. it's hard to believe that the old warriors used to march the wall in full armour, and in the summer too. they must've been built like tyrannosaurus rexes.

very oddly, the 10km walk along the simatai section of the wall culminated in a 1km death-slide from halfway up a mountain over a reservoir and onto a small boat that took us to a bar. a perfect and authentic end thought i.
”death slide over that mister”

and so today. The Last Day. tomorrow all we will do is get up, get a taxi and go to beijing international airport for a 15 hour flight back home.

white cloud temple, beijingwe took it easy. caught another temple; the white cloud temple, thus named for the busy crowds of people burning incense and paper birds. incense sticks fat as parsnips creating a low laying mist over the grounds, you could smell it from a block away.

then to silk street, where market stall holders whistle and shout and poke and pinch and grab you just to get your attention, once done they immediately expect you to buy something: a leather jacket, trainers, a lacy thong. i have quite tired of this marketing technique. a shave and a haircut… etcadvertising doesn't work on me back home where university trained minds put adverts out to play with my emotive responses, so minor injuries attempting to bully me into parting with my money stand very little chance of working. with my patience gone i have taken to any or all of the following retorts:
  • shouting "NO" while walking swiftly away
  • shouting "NO" in their face
  • barking
  • raising a fist as though to lamp them one
  • trying to sell them my t-shirt/trainers/underwear (a firm favourite)
  • screaming
  • telling them i am an art student and inviting them to my gallery

the noisiest place i have ever been
two slightly odd observations i have made about the difference of the chinese culture to the british. in brit-land lorry drivers put brightly coloured bits of plastic on their wheel nuts so they can see if any are coming loose and immediately tighten them. this avoids a quarter-ton wheel flying off on the motorway and killing someone. in china they tie a red ribbon to the wheel for the 'good fortune' of it not falling off.

secondly. in beijing it is not only acceptable for a couple to wear matching clothing, but t-shirts are produced to allow a couple to adorn themselves with two separate halves of the same picture. when they walk arm in arm, the picture is complete. we saw one couple (young 'trendy' people too) each wearing a complimentary side of a big red love heart. ohmygod. if only they had been walking the wrong way round i could have put it down to irony but oh no, this was serious.