Archive for August, 1904

Keeping cool for humans

Miles of airconditioned space – plus the smell of fresh books: Waterstone’s Gower Street, coming out of the lift, basement level, Malet Street end.

Basement level, Gower Street end, the smell of fresh coffee.
Sally Crawford

Wild creatures of London series

You may not know this – possibly because we haven’t told you – but London Metblogs is embarking on a small but perfectly formed series on the wild creatures of London: the bee; the fox; the newt; the cockcroach. Those creatures who share our metropolitan view of life and have eschewed the boring countryside. The series will be intermittent.
Riaan’s up for it are you not, Riaan. And, my dear livinglikeadisaster (no, no, no, Unlucky Man, I mean), you can look forward to bustards if we spot any.
PS: contenders should be free-living – i.e. no zoo or house species.
Pip, pip

London Pigeons, Part II: Keeping Cool

Pigeons cooling off in a rain puddle.

Hot weather, pigeon action photography

It’s been an absolutely brilliant weekend weatherwise in London. Plus 30 degree celcius and lots of sun causes those Londoners that decided to stay in London for the weekend to come out on the river, visit the parks and generally enjoy the greener side of London, of which there is plenty on offer.
I thought I’d post a nice pic of the river with some boats about but this pigeon thought it would be a MUCH nicer photo with him in it. So there.
– Riaan

Does the UK really love Nadia from Big Brother?

nadia_lge 2240_nadiawins_1

Introducing Nadia Almada, until this past December was a Portuguese gay man, and thanks to surgery, is now a straight Portuguese woman. Almost 4m people voted her the winner of this year’s Big Brother in the UK, which finished Friday – with 75% of the vote. I actually found myself moved to tears by her wild nervous reaction when she found out she won, because the main reason for her being there was a desire to be accepted as a woman, not from who she used to be.

In my wildest dreams I never thought a transsexual would be accepted by most of the UK public for much of anything. In truth, a lot of the tabloids didn’t know what to do with themselves when covering her popularity in the house – lots of mentioning of the Portu-GEEZER (fnaw, fnaw) in that tiresome play on words the papers provide for what they picture to be their typical readers. Yeah, there may be a transsexual character on one of the most popular soaps here, but she’s played by a woman, so is clearly not a threat to ratings. when the hostess of the show told evicted that she was a man, most of them were startled but were totally accepting, because they knew her as she was, not by what she used to be. But the hostess’ giddy revelation to housemates that Nadia used to be a man was really tacky, and she received loads of complaints about how she depicted her from other members of the public, only changing her tune in the 9th week of the show.

So did Nadia win because the voting public is incredibly tolerant of transsexuals, or is that too simplistic of a view? Here’s what I’ve figured out about British traits since moving here 12 years ago:

– they have been taught that making fun of foreigners is acceptable, because its just a bit of a laugh

– they tend to always support the underdog in any competition

– they tend to have a laissez-faire attitude towards eccentricity

– they are progressive when the law sometimes forces them to be

– young people (20 and under) are incredibly accepting and encouraged by people who are different in some way

So some conflicting views there. I am sure the votes that Nadia got were from loads of different demographics – any gay men and clued-up women I knew voted for Nadia because of her general queer and different identity. Younger people who watched it probably voted for her because she was genuine, and very capable of sticking up for herself in front of some of the nastier characters in the house. She also has no typical British control over her emotions – she can veer from hysterical laughter to hysterical crying in about 5 seconds – and seeing that kind of behaviour is refreshing for a lot of the public who tired of the poseurs and media whores in the house.

But on the other hand, using “fag” and “poof” are still incredibly common among schoolkids as the ultimate insult, gay people are still generally discriminated against outside of just a few major cities – so imagine how transsexuals would be treated, and like gay men depicted on TV 20 years ago, always as suicidal or dying of AIDS or both, there is no noticeable depiction of transsexuals anywhere.

I would like to think that the country has grown up a bit in general. Things have changed so dramatically here – where London used to feel in the dark ages socially (there was a popular theory when I arrived here in 1992 that if you don’t sleep with American gay men, you won’t be at risk of catching HIV) ease of travel and the internet have made a lot of people more aware of what is going on around the world. Younger people typically are far more aware of different types of people than their parents could ever be. So someone like Nadia was voted for despite the fact she is different, maybe this is what made her so appealing in the first place.

I wish her all the best and hope that her dream is fulfilled, that the woman she always wanted to be is the person that is understood and accepted by everyone who meets her.

Further to Rose and I taking time off in the garden . . .

On Thursday, when I took time out of the office to show Rose around Regent’s Park, in a certain place, we found a gardener.
He was trimming the edges of one of the beds by hand, using one of those long-handled clipper things, quietly giving the garden a softness impossible using a powered tool.
As we passed his gardening trolley, we heard – quietly from a radio he’d placed inside one of his plastic gardening buckets – the sound of a Bach organ work.
We sat and contemplated the beauty of the created garden, man and nature working together. (Spinoza knew of this long before we did.)
What I wanted to say also is that this was not a special place per se. It had been created and made special by the respect accorded to nature here; the cooperation between man and nature here.
The sound of Bach against that background quietness was not a special sound per se. It had been created and made special by the respect accorded by Bach to, let us say, the ineffable (and for Bach, most certainly, that was God); the cooperation between man and that ineffable.
I did not wish to intrude upon the gardener’s devotions so I did not take a photograph.

The London Loo Papers, Part II: Time, Gentlemen, please . . .

Blogging on the subject of London’s public loos/conveniences/bathrooms came about as a result of the announcement last weekend of the first offspring application of the iPod.
A unique aspect of London life has been singled out for distinction: the state of London’s public loos. They are now part of a multimedia toilet guide called the pPod.
Somewhat in contrast to the rather cool elegance of the male loo shown earlier (may I refer you to the blog of 29 July), here is shall we say an informal facility that belongs at the opposite end of the pee spectrum: street urine.

Street urine is shown top to bottom, as follows: descending the steps from Oxford Street; the loo corner; close up of loo corner, showing fresh midday specimen; what is that man in the white shirt doing now . . .?
Longer pub opening hours will be wonderful for all but will not help these poor chaps. It might be useful though if pub landlords/ladies were to announce ‘loos, gentlemen, please’ at closing time.
Pip, pip
Next up: women’s loos

London 2: Not working on hot days

Friend Rose arrived on my doorstep unexpectedly yesterday so what could I do other than leave the interns in charge and take time out.

Rose backed by the colour of the herbaceous borders, Regent’s Park.
Visit your nearest park soon.
How to get to Regent’s Park
Site for foodies

London 1: Working on hot days

Off screen: me cracking the editorial whip. The office runs on Evian water, frequent breaks, ice-cream and deadlines. What’s new.
Left: Emily protests some editorial point of logic while Caroline keeps her counsel; right: they settle down to work: they’re good girls. Mike is nowhere to be seen though . . ..


London, in case you don’t know, is undergoing a revolution.
Having allegedly invented the underground train network (if you’re really, really interested, look here), like many sports, we’re finally acknowledging that we’re, like many sports, crap at it.
So our esteemed Mayor is, among others, deciding it’s far easier to get us on to buses instead.
And it’s therefore thanks to an intense recruitment drive that our streets are, indeed, infested with more buses, and the lowlife that have responded to the incentive to drive them.
Which – don’t get me wrong – is good. Because I use buses more. Regularly. And it helps get me round our big city quicker.
Yet you can’t help noticing the descending quality, along with the increasing quantity, of bus-drivers.
Too many are controlled by the apparently addicted to tourettes-like ‘accelerate/brake’ school of driving.
Start. Accelerate, quickly. Stop. Thunder forward. Review mayhem in mirror. Brake, sharply. Accelerate, again unnecessarily quickly.
Whatever happened to ‘Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre’?
I only report this because, of course, I personally was only minutes ago subject to the nearest I can describe as a reverse gravitational field as descending the steps of the Number 12.
I grant you this experience was not interesting, nor revelationary, but through its sheer unpleasantness I feel dutybound to report its dangers.
We Brits (well, English, specifically) are either tarred as hooligans, or constantly drinking tea with the Queen, so it seems London’s Bus Drivers are taking the safe middle-ground.
This has got to stop. I could have taken someone’s eye out. So just ask our drivers take more care.

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