Monday, August 30, 2004

Update on local Grand Designs

Back in May I mentioned the local Grand Designs house.

Well, it only recently came to my attention that they were written about with great self-publicity in

23 May 2004 Mail on Sunday article.

Read it and judge yourself. The economics of the venture are much as I had suspected back then. And look what kind of people have the jobs and the salaries to afford this sort of risk.

The house is now semi-occupied but appears to be 80% finished.

Bank Holiday Monday

Woke up feeling great! Best since before the mugging. I wish I could bottle the recipe for feeling like this. There must be at least 340 other days in the year when I'd do well to have some on the shelf.

So what possible ingredients might they be?
  • The Olympics are over. Well, they were fantastic entertainment, and finished in excellent style, and perhaps like any good party leave you with a sense of wellbeing to take away with you.
  • Or it could be two-thirds of a bottle of red last night? All those anti-oxidants, and the time-tested potency of the grape to revive the human spirit?
  • Or it could have been the distracting company of D in Highbury over Saturday night?
  • Or it could be the fresh Atlantic weather that is fluctuating between rain and blue sky over cycles of ten minutes?
  • Or the brightest moonbeams last night, that I've seen around these parts in yonks. That full moon was glowing so starkly that it must have blinded what few owls are left in South East England!
  • Or it could be the unexpected final rebound after rotting with depression for 5 days at my experience of being mugged.

Who's to know? Wish I did though!

Thursday, August 26, 2004

My Mugging, The Killers, and the Cemetery

Finished Warlock, after rotting for two days.

Time to leave Behind
The East End Mind
and the London Blind.

Was mugged in Vauxhall/Kennington on Monday night. I was unscathed in body. My shaken animal self was calmed by the phone and the discussion boards. What was left could not be expressed in English but stewed in my inner cauldron.

This happened after going to see the Killers. A Las Vegas band that is overhyped by critics. The twentysomethings of the chattering classes were gathered like parasites in the black bowels of the Forum in Kentish Town.

I learned everything I ever wanted to know about cremation on Sunday. At the City of London Cemetery's 100th anniversary of their Crematorium. Large ovens that swallow coffins and burn them at 800 degrees, reducing years and years of life into little boxes of ashes.

3 successive events that seem to spell out an omen. Thence switching the mind into a state not describable in written form.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Dragon Flies in a very Wet Summer

This week I was quite surprised to see dragon flies buzzing around my back garden. This might be the first time I have ever seen them here, and they must be attracted to my little pond, which has reached just about the perfect organic balance this year. I was checking out Garden Safari, and they seem to be Hawkers, about 2.5 to 3 inches long. They must be the Migrant Hawkers, because I can't believe such large dragon flies could have emanated from my tiny pond, where the hungry Goldfish and Koi pretty much scour the pond clean of bugs.

Their visit must have something to do with this extraordinary wet weather we are having this August. I have never seen a summer on the Wanstead Flats, where the long wild grass was so damp. Usually, every year, bored schoolchildren set fire to the grass in patches, just to await the visit of Fire Engines. These fires are not actually desirable for the wildlife. What can I say, except that kids in East London are reflections on their parents, who usually have no respect for Wildlife and Greenery. Last Summer, which was the hottest driest summer on record, one of these fires was the biggest I ever did see here. There are quite a few dead large hawthorns that stand as evidence of this, near the south side of Alexandra Pond (the pond alongside the Aldersbrook road).

In fact, the amount of wildlife in this area has noticeably declined in the last ten years. I haven't seen a hedgehog in years; the magpies don't nest nearby anymore, and blackbirds don't nest in the back garden either.

People don't seem to care anymore, either. It does seem that the Back to Nature movement of the Sixties is also dying of old age, alongside with all the liberal ideals and problems that arose from that generation.

Hazelnut Thief

I just caught a handsome man collecting the hazelnuts from my hazelnut trees. More testament to the fact that I have grown a desirable garden, whereas other people like my next door neighbours just abuse theirs. I want to eat my own hazelnuts though, and last year I had most of mine stolen. So I went out and told him that I wanted them. He apologized in an East European, maybe Albanian accent.

Oh God, London is just too much. That you have to guard your hazelnuts from people who don't have enough respect to ask you first, is just incredible.

Enemies, Londoners, Antipatriots...

Enemies, Londoners, Antipatriots
Lend me your Fears.
I come to bury Geezers
Not to Raise Them.

The evil that Londoners do, Lives After Them
The good is often Turd Wit Heard on Phones

Londoners need to buck up. They need to expect each other to buck up. They have to get out of their little fantasy worlds and ghettoes. I'm so glad it's been already described so well in Cyber-Satan's posting, that I don't have to say any more.

Mutton, Mutton, Everywhere and All About is the Stench

I think it's important to know and understand the things in the world around you that are available to be eaten, to try them all, and encourage them to be conserved and produced in the highest quality. In other words, I think everybody should respect food, and where it comes from.

Throughout my entire time in Britain, one appalling and stunning inconsistency in the understanding of food has persisted to this very day.

Mutton is to Lamb
Beef is to Veal

but the British Food God says,

Thou shalt Scorn Mutton

Thou shalt Savour Lamb

Thou shalt Relish Beef

Thou shalt Abstain from Veal

What are the reasons for this?

The typical reproach is: "You are an evil cruel human if you kill a baby cow to eat Veal"

I am of the understanding that this fashion arose in the early Seventies, and
was driven by animal lovers who all jumped on a bandwagon together, as people
used to do in those days. It was considered inhumane to take a calf from its
mother before it was six months old, or something like that. (I look forward to
getting more accurate information).

The tritely accepted wisdom is: "Oh No, you wouldn't ever want to eat Mutton, it's disgusting. A nice bit of young Lamb is much, much tastier and more tender".

This fashion supposedly arose in the Fifties when Good Housekeeping was the
ambition of any self-respecting housewife. Mutton, previously the ingredient of
flavourful stews in British and Irish culture, was deemed unfit for consumption
by anybody with any class or breeding.

Wait for the irony: Lambs therefore are taken away from their mothers at an age of as I recall, NINE to TWELVE WEEKS!!!! And guess what, this is about FOUR weeks younger than the age at which lambs in New Zealand are slaughtered.

Consequently, in any butcher shop or supermarket in Britain, you can buy only lamb, yet you cannot find mutton. None of this has changed anywhere except where immigrants have settled, where they have been opening their own butcher shops. This has grown fastest in areas with immigrants from Muslim cultures.

I personally used to love eating mutton, (Ginger and Mutton stew in winter, YUMMY!) and have long ago ranted to anyone who would listen, that I want the right to be able to purchase mutton at my local Tesco's or Sainsbury's.

In the ghetto of North Newham, the world has completely turned on its head. Manor Park used to have 18 butcher shops in the Fifties, so I was told by the very last of those butchers, which closed down two years ago at the corner of Romford Road and the Broadway. In their place are a few halal butchers, where you can buy all the mutton you could possibly want, but you won't be able to find bacon, ham, pork sausages, or anything to do with a pig. I like bacon even more than I like mutton, and this hardly seems like an improvement to me.

My neighbours are not so multicultural as I would like them to be. From all 3 sides, the only cooking smells that ever seem to emanate are overpowering GUSTS of mutton. I smell so much mutton nowadays, that I don't even need to eat it.

And guess what, if you're feeling a bit ill from a bug, the stench of mutton really IS disgusting. So it was today, all over my back garden, so I couldn't get away from it. I think I will try burning incense sticks outdoors, if this continues.

My opinion of mutton, you see, has now come full circle. Life really is a Joke, it really is, yessirree.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Give them a Home, and what do you Get back?

I haven't mentioned my next door neighbours since my Posting in March. It's quite interesting to think back to that time, when I was still mourning the death of the previous occupant of the house, who died almost a year ago at the age of 84.

Strange isn't it, that you can mourn your neighbour sometimes more than you can mourn your own family members? This was confirmed to me back in Toronto, when the next door neighbour to my parents came to visit. She had not seen my terminally ill Dad for several months and burst into uncontrollable tears at the sorry sight of his condition. She confided to me separately a few days later that she was very upset by it, yet she herself had her own parents in India to worry about.

Anyway, back to my new neighbours, who still occupy a fine 3.5 bedroom terraced house, refurbished to 2004 standards, in one of the most attractive areas of Newham with more fresh air and greenery than should ever be taken for granted.

They could have been worse, they could be better. The children are constantly throwing all sorts of things around their back garden, which is not maintained at all other than being very occasionally strimmed. They speak English very well: "Fuck Off" can be heard quite frequently to be exchanged between the boy and girl, who seem to be ages 11 and 9 respectively. They once asked me politely if "Please could I pass their ball back over the fence to them".

What distresses me most, though, is that despite having the tenancy to a home that has a market value of £240,000 and which has been provided to them by Newham Council by virtue of their position on the Homeless List, they have no regard or appreciation for the very fresh air and greenery that they are so fortunate to have been given. I wonder how all those key-workers in London for whom affordable Housing is so difficult to find, would feel if they could see what I see.

I heard the little girl two weeks ago having a tantrum in the back garden (well, it doesn't look like a garden anymore, so adjust your mental image to something akin to a neglected yardspace). She was screaming, "I HATE GRASS! I HATE GRASS!"

The front garden of the house is large yet completely ignored by the parents. I have never seen the Dad do anything physical around the home: he appears fit, smartly and comfortably attired, yet I have never seen him even put the rubbish into the bin.

Consequently the front garden has become a rubbish yard. Last Friday, I returned to find that they had thrown a single mattress willy nilly onto it, together with so much cardboard boxing that appeared to be from new flat pack furniture for two bedrooms. Plastic wrapping and styrofoam scattered over the front "garden". A few days later the kids were throwing the styrofoam pieces about and snapping them to make noise. Did it occur to them or their parents to put it into the wheelie bin? No. In fact on Bin Day, they seemed scornful that the bin men had left the bin only just inside the garden gate. So scornful that they spent the next 24 hours following a detour around the wheelie bin that was blocking their own garden path. They eventually figured that they might as well move their own wheelie bin themselves, off the garden path to its usual home by the front door. Only 24 hours to take the initiative to "lift a finger", and they have two healthy children and ample visitors to help them out as well.

Almost one week later, and it still hasn't occurred to them that they could at least pick up the styrofoam pieces and plastic wrappings, and cut up the cardboard boxing, and put it all in the wheelie bin. You have to wonder if they see England as a place that they can treat with contempt. In any country in the world, children from a young age are taught to pick up after themselves, yet here we have two healthy adults and two children, who seem to think that England will pick up after them.

I rang ARHAG , which as I mentioned before is the African Refugee Housing Association Group, which has the 15 year Lease from Newham Council to manage and tenant the property. One Mr. Khan was very understanding, and mentioned that it is a terrible problem nowadays: that although you can give them a good home, you then have to expend considerable effort to give the tenants instruction and remind them of what are really simple responsibilities. He was going to instruct the Housing Officer to have a word with my neighbours. Unfortunately, the Housing Officer is on holiday in Ethiopia at the moment. (Interestingly, I had already decided that my neighbours were from Ethiopia, because I'm pretty good at amateur anthropology, and living in Newham, I have plenty of opportunity to practise this little hobby.)

Oh surely there must be thousands of tenants that are far more deserving than they? I have not noticed yet that either parent works, but they are not destitute or disabled, and not without a social support network of visiting friends. (Indeed I dare say that they have more visiting friends than I do!) Their attitudes are also apparently from a higher class background in their original country where they disdain physical or manual work.

What is the Housing Allocations policy in Britain, and when is it ever going to be made more fair?

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Domestic Cats and Wildlife

I recall that domestic cats are in the Top Ten of animals that are responsible for the demise and even extinction of wildlife and rare species on our tiny overused planet.

Not a surprise at all, really, which is why I wish cat-lovers were regarded in a similar light to smokers.

Last Saturday was a fine sunny morning, and I thought to myself, "I will walk barefoot on my lawn today, because I haven't felt the grass between my toes this year".

It was a lovely feeling, until:

SQUISH! Cat Shit!

Thank goodness I was in a good humour to start with, otherwise I would have decapitated any cat that dared cross my path that day, and then boasted about it on National Television to the RSPCA.

One of the neighbours a few doors down has a black-and-white cat that takes advantage of the fact that I have the most organic, nature-friendly, wildlife-friendly, comfortable garden in the area. This cat THING refuses to take the hint that she is not allowed on my territory.

I've noticed that cats are often owned by women as substitutes for having children. Well so they should be allowed to do as they wish, but rarely does anybody dare point it out to them. The extent to which some "baby" their cats can be considered unhealthy.

Should cat owners take responsibility for what their cats do beyond their own house and garden? I think so. Dog owners are responsible for the behaviour of their dogs when they take them out on a walk. They are required to stoop and scoop. Why should cat owners be allowed to let their cats use other people's gardens as their preferred toilet?

The British Winter

So Autumn started almost two weeks ago. Hmmm.. I thought it seemed darker.

If like me you suffer terribly in the dark days of winter, then you should be just as wary as I am of the movement of seasons. Britain has dark winters, which although not terribly cold compared to Russia or even Germany, are made even darker by persistent cloud cover over the winter months. The Netherlands has similar conditions, while the Scandinavian countries have even more depressing winters.

This is a fact not sufficiently explained to or understood by the millions of people from sunnier climates that once belonged to the British Empire. I can personally vouch for my experience, that no amount of hearsay about the British winter can possibly prepare you for the reality. The grimness of a sunless British winter is something you can deny and ignore for maybe the first few years of your residence. But in the end it envelopes you and tests your genetic suitability to this part of the world.

Modern Technology, cheap central heating, double glazing, and cheap flights to escape to Spain or India may extend the survival of this climate by those that aren't blessed with:
  • plenty of skin fat,
  • storages of Vitamin D,
  • skin that allows enough of the little sunshine into it, to allow the manufacture of Vitamin D
  • Intestinal digestive systems that allow higher absorption and assimilation of Vitamin D from food sources
  • Bodies with a low surface area to volume ratio (i.e.rounded, stocky and plump bodies)
  • brains that thrive on the Aural as opposed to being dependent on the Visual
  • Any other genes from people who have evolved in Indoors/Cave civilisations. This can include those where the women are kept indoors all day as part of the culture.

I am blessed with none of these. To put it scientifically, the British Winter fucking scares the shit out of me. I know it will be the death of me, and every winter I wonder if this will be the one. Whatever people call it, Seasonal Affected Disorder or whathaveyou, I fucking, fucking, fucking, fucking, fucking, fucking hate it.

So it's time to batten down the hatches. Summer's gone. Winter's coming. I am going into battle.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Definition of Summer

The season of Summer starts on 6th May and ends on the 5th August.

The English language and the body of knowledge known as science, clash in ridiculous chaos when it comes to something as mundane as defining Summer.

What is summer? My pocket Oxford says it is the "Second or Hot SEASON". It says that a SEASON is "one of the divisions of the year associated with a type of weather and astronomically begins in the 4th week of December, March, June or September". Look around on Google and again there is an astronomical definition that Summer begins with the Summer Solstice and ends on the Autumn Equinox.

This is science? This is language? It's ridiculous enough to permit an 11-year old illiterate child from one of Britain's failing schools, to go and stand on a University Campus and start laughing at the academics.

Should it not be obvious that Summer is the one quarter of the year whence the maximum possible (i.e. without cloud cover) amount of daylight reaches the Earth's surface ? Then there is a consistent definition of summer on every latitude of the Earth, except on the infinitesimally exact line of the Equator.

This would mean that the 91 and something days of summer begins about 45 and a half days before the Summer Solstice. In other words, Summer starts around the 6th May, and ends around the 5th August, with the exact time and date varying up to +/-12 hours from GMT depending on your timezone.

To define Summer as the 91 and something warmest days in the year makes the summer season dates completely variable according to latitude and local climate. In fact, the closer you approach the Equator, the more variable the results of these dates. Not to mention that even in Britain, the variation between microclimates on isolatitudinal lines could cause the "start of the warmest season" to vary as widely as 3 weeks.

To use the astronomical definition of summer, which says that the summer season starts at the summer solstice, completely ignores any consideration of trying to ascertain which are the most Solar - Energized days of the year. The sun's main usefulness is as a source of Energy to the Earth. To define Summer as beginning on the Summer Solstice, would require that Spring is defined as beginning on the Spring Equinox. This would mean that Spring and Summer, as seasons would have equal levels of High Total Solar Energy reaching the Earth. This would also mean that Winter and Autumn would have equal levels of Low Total Solar Energy reaching the Earth. From this point of view, the year is divided into only two portions.

From a language point of view, this defeats the usefulness of defining a Season. The purpose of a classification of seasons is to divide the year into more meaningful discrete equal segments. Four distinct Seasons are more meaningful than two.

See what I mean about the mess of the English Language and Basic Science? I wonder who is in charge of the English Language, these days. Maybe not Oxford University, maybe Google?

Monday, August 16, 2004

LA3 & Norwich

Dawn has broken and it's only 5.30am. Getting home on the bike, arriving at the Ridley Road and Capel Road Junction, the dawn was just breaking pinkly over some cloud ribbons in the sky over Aldersbrook, and with the streetlights shining underneath, it made for a beautiful scene.

Absolutely enervated. There is nothing like dancing to fully entertain both the body and the mind. I am reminded of the 30th May posting. Is it really that long since I've been for a good boogie? And then coming home feeling that all the world is well and exactly as it should be?

The state of wellbeing took a few hours at the LA3 to percolate through my every extremity. And charged with confidence, I hailed a particularly handsome young man, who showed some interest in me earlier when I whizzed from the basement dancefloor, past him, to the upstairs dance area. Rather more handsome than I would usually dare to approach in a bar situation, where I am most self-consciously uncomfortable about "scoring". I was astonished then to find myself walking all the way to Bethnal Green in his company, wheeling my bicycle along. We stopped at the Bagel Bakery for Hot Salt Beef Bagels. Utterly divinely delicious especially after a dance workout, and he paid! Then upstairs to his flat for a Nescafe Gold Blend moment, where I wisely insisted on keeping things to the Exchange of Phone Numbers, since I felt this could blossom into an enjoyable relationship.

David said he was very impressed with my choice of chat-up line: "you're so cute that I think it would be fun to just watch Telly with you.." I guess it says something about those of us who have been there, done that, and know how valuable it is to be able to enjoy the mundane things in the company of the right person.

The LA3 was not bad. The upstairs was about 80% full, but the downstairs never managed more than 25% full. The DJ's downstairs were pretty bad to start with, until the second one later brought out some ravey house tracks. Upstairs the music was consistently funky and groovy, but the mass of shirtless bodies soon made the air very hot and sticky.

But the Club Staff? What a motley bunch of foreign students with no customer appeal at all! 333 is a fully straight club most nights of the week, but in trendy Shoreditch, I am appalled that they would hire such dullards to work in the place. If it were not for the upstairs DJ, the whole club would be about as exciting as a visit to a Tesco branch in London.

The Olympics started on Saturday, and the TV coverage has been my entertainment for most of the weekend. The swimming contestants are as ever physically glorious. The bantam weight-lifters are astonishing and inspiring. The synchronized divers are like watching Couples in Perfect Love.

Maybe this was why I declared Sunday to be a caffeine-and-cigarette-free day. Then I had a 3 hour warm up culminating in a jog. You would think that cycling 85 miles means I should be fit, yet being able to jog one mile and a half without much rest stops is still a far greater aerobic challenge for me. My body is just not designed for running, so I was delighted to find that I actually managed to find my wind, with my whole self falling into a satisfying rhythm and a total sweat.

I got back from Norwich on Friday, and stopped at Audley End on the way back to London. The kitchen garden at this English Heritage site is one of the finest and best maintained I have yet seen in England. I was overwhelmed. There was also the original hothouse, with tomatoes and sweet peppers growing taller than I have ever seen them. And many, many Espalier Apples in more varieties than I have ever seen. I wouldn't be surprised if they have an important chunk of the National collection of apple varieties.

Norwich and Norfolk was a relief from London. P was a good enough host, and I saw quite a lot of things that I wouldn't have otherwise. On Sunday evening we were at Waxham with Andrew, had a swim off the beach, and went to the most flawless pub I have been in for many a moon. Was it on Monday or Tuesday that we went to Great Yarmouth in rainy weather? What an amazing place for CHAV spotting. On Monday evening I was introduced to THE downtown pub. On Tuesday we saw Spiderman. On Wednesday I swam and sunned at Holkham, where the walk from the parking lot through the pine forest is itself a treat. We stopped at Wells which unusually has a frontage that faces a river, with nothing across the river except an open marsh that apparently gets covered up at very high tides. We had tea at the gayest place I saw all week, in Blakeney, which looks like a mini-version of Wells, then enjoyed the Constable-type view from the public path on its eastern knoll. At Salthouse (or maybe it was Cley), where there is a stream (running parallel between the coast road and the sea) with a funny low bridge just big enough for the ducks and waterfowl to swim under, we had a walk around the the church.

On Thursday, having given up on the weather, the downtown shopping, and the idea of going to the gym, we headed to Wroxham and at the Tourist office the useful lady suggested we check out the Boardwalk at Barton Broad. The walk was amazing! I never realised that the Broads were England's answer to the Everglades. We stopped on the way back in Horning, which was a beautiful watery boat-lined location for our pub meal, where Dark Mild was available and easy to down.

I did go to Brighton Pride, but I was so exhausted by my bike ride to get there, that although I witnessed the day, I was scarcely alive enough to enjoy it. It was definitely more commercial this year, but Preston park was still quite a lot of fun. And the weather was unbelievably and almost unbearably hot and sunny.

Surprisingly, the pub/bar scene in Brighton on the Friday night before their Pride day, was not especially exciting.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

London to Brighton by Bicycle

My first ever long cross-country bike ride in Britain, (I've only ever done Normandy), and my first cross-country alone. My longest ever bike journey. I did it!

The 13:30 Brighton Service from Manor Park, calling at East Ham, Beckton, Woolwich, Eltham, Mottingham, Bickley, Keston, Biggin Hill, Westerham, Crockham Hill, Crowhurst, Lingfield, East Grinstead, Forest Row, Danehill, Bletching, Chailey, Offham and Lewes, departed from my front door. Due to night darkness, bicycles could not serve the Lewes to Brighton section. A replacement service on the train was still running at 22.42 pm.

On Friday morning I was thinking of how to get to Brighton for Saturday. Friday was a stunningly beautiful Mediterranean hot day. The whim of cycling there began at about 11 am.

As you get older, the things you have done before, have become things that you take for granted, and no longer excite you. It is the things that you "feared" when you were younger that become challenges which excite you. But to pursue them with impetuousity is necessarily and fortunately tempered by wisdom and experience of failure. Finding the balance between "following an impulsive urge" and "being careful to have a risk-free plan" is always the challenge.

So veering towards the impulsiveness, my mad idea grew very quickly. A check of my road map. A few route alternatives briefly considered. A few things thrown into my panier. Money. Thoughts of how I might be able to give up and turn back if it didn't work out. And I had to be off.

Getting out of London became such a burning desire! Even getting out of Manor Park and East Ham seemed like chains falling off my brain. What a damn ghetto North Newham has become. It was amazing to see completely different people types in East Ham South, for example sunbathing in the park by the Thames.

Over the Thames on the Woolwich Ferry. Up to see the grand Artillery buildings in Woolwich. Over the Common. Being utterly astonished at Eltham, because it looks like a nice place to live, with some very independent shops in its parade.

From Mottingham I took side roads through Bickley to the A21, after which I ceased to be a tourist and became more aware of my mission. The road became obviously non-urban here, which actually made cycling feel strange and a bit scary to me. It was a scorching hot afternoon and dressed skimpily, I still had to be careful to stay cool, hydrated, and not be burnt. Frequent stops throughout the afternoon, meant I didn't arrive in Biggin Hill until about 4.30/5.00 pm where I took another long stop and decided I could still turn back if I had to, but might as well go for it.

The A233 comes down a steep winding hill, called Westerham hill, then to run over the M25 and further down into Westerham. It was rush-hour and there were far too many open-topped sports cars with London's Spoilt Adults racing down the hill around the curves, aiming to take advantage of some serious Friday evening country pubbing. I had serious misgivings here, worrying about being not seen on the other side of a blind corner, worrying about hitting a hole or a bump or a fallen tree stick in the road. So it was a wasted downhill run that made me once again wishful for a ten-speed racer, whose cycling crouch allows a more effective braking response than a traditional upright 3-speed bike.

Westerham is a very pretty town, and is obviously on the map for many tourists. The B road down to Edenbridge calmed me down a bit, but then I wished it was a little faster, for its road surface left something to be desired for a cyclist, and it was winding and a little bit hilly. Pleasant enough to cycle along, I was finally thinking about time, and having reached the half way mark to Brighton, I was committed to the entire journey. Now I understand why good cyclists go for the faster "A" roads - they might be busier, but they can in some ways be safer.

So I avoided Edenbridge and headed into the country lanes. This was the first True Countryside I had yet seen so far on my journey. The first livestock - long-haired cattled; the first wildlife - bunny (not common) rabbits. It was beautiful, but I was already past able to linger and soak it all in.

Working from an ordinary AA roadmap is of course not very clever, and I seemed to be doing circles trying to find my way to Crowhurst, since signs were not posted at many junctions. Eventually I saw signs for Lingfield, without ever knowingly been in Crowhurst. Now I can't even remember what Lingfield looked like!

I carried on through Felcourt to East Grinstead. There while sitting on a roundabout, I noticed a cycling path signed for Forest Row, and went for it. I soon found it was part of the Sustrans network, and a cyclist passing by told me to follow it all the way to Forest Row because up ahead was a beautiful section that was once a railway line. No kidding! The near perfect cycling ride ensue - a perfectly graded downhill run through quiet and trees.

From Forest Row I followed the A22, which must have been easy, although I have no recollection of it now and took the A275 towards Lewes. This stretch of road is a cyclist's dream... smooth, perfectly sloped downhill run. I thought I would reach Lewes in no time. I was looking at Ashdown Forest and marvelling at the beautiful Pine trees.

The sun was already setting and I was having to hurry, but again it was forcing me to be careful. I hadn't gotten as far as I would have liked - only to the entrance of the Bluebell Railway, opposite which there was an Arla foods factory. It was pitch black night very soon after, as the moon had not come up yet.

Where was it that I saw a Security Training Unit? A very obnoxiously out of place building compound with a company name that made me think, "Oh, this is where private security firms train people for work in places like Iraq".

At North Common, the intersection of the A272 and A275, I had already been cycling in total darkness for what seemed like forever. LED bike lamps are superb at making you visible to car drivers. They are not adequate for lighting up the road, its bumps, its holes, any rocks or branches that might litter its side. I instinctively kept my speed down and hugged the white line as much as possible.

The pitch black road down to Lewes was lit up only by top-of-the-range Country Pubs whose parking lots were graced with expensive cars and weekend playboys. It was already after 10 pm when I went off the A275 to follow the road into Lewes town centre. Another long downhill stretch, which I really didn't want to have to go back up again. I was decided there and then, and thank goodness there was a train at 10.42 into Brighton.

75, 80 miles? Not bad for a kid who in school was physically so bottom of the class, I couldn't argue with being called a weed. And coming off the train at Brighton, two teenage boys and a girl pointed at me (Get a look at that) and started laughing at my bike and my attire. But now I know why they do it, and enervated but fatigued, I just replied to them with my body: Yes, I heard you, and I'm ignoring you not because you annoy me, but because it's your opportunity to broaden your mind, and not my responsibility to teach you.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Tuberculosis in East London

Well it's official. I live in the tuberculosis capital of Britain (read BBC news article). As if it's any surprise, since I have always suspected the old-style employees of Newham were Communists intent over the last decade on their hidden agenda of creating multicultural anarchy.

So next time I am in the depressing GP clinic that I have to go to, where very few of the patients sound like they have been in England long enough to say a coherent sentence in English, I suppose I shall have to avoid the people who cough and splutter in my direction.

Nick Ferrari on LBC radio was discussing the topic this morning. Of course, he is a Devil's Advocate kind of provocateur rather than a bigot of any real substance. He was trying to ask whether TB is at its greatest in East London because of some of the immigrants here. In an issue that is plainly of public health importance, even he had to be careful to avoid offending the politically correct.

There was talk of the spitting and gobbing in the street that some cultures seem to regard as socially acceptable, and which is plainly evident in some parts of East London.

There were counter arguments that the TB numbers were due to "poor housing in East London". Poor housing in East London? Compared to where? There has been so much investment in social housing in Newham and East London, that you will undoubtedly find areas of England and Scotland that have much poorer housing. In East London, the newest and most refurbished homes are given to people who get to the top of the homeless lists, which generally favours homeless families, such as my next door immigrant neighbours. So why are TB levels rising in East London, wherease they are not rising in the other "poor damp overcrowded housing areas" in Britain?

Without any pussy footing, the real reasons for dangerous TB levels in Newham are that:

1. The TB is imported by new immigrants
2. Longer term residents who have family links in poor countries with TB prevalence often have movements back and forth to those countries, and import TB themselves or through their guest visitors.

Does Britain actually health-screen its immigrants before they are allowed into the country to take up permanent residence? That has been happening in Canada since the early Seventies. Why not in Britain?

When will Britain ever have a coherent immigration policy and process, that attends to pragmatic necessities without arousing knee-jerk cries of Racism?

See also British Medical Journal%3A Detecting tuberculosis in new arrivals to UK - Letter to the Editor

Blonde jokes aren't funny

A North American friend of mine keeps emailing me blonde jokes. I've had to tell her to stop. Replace the word "blonde" with any other kind of racial or physical stereotype, and these jokes would raise hackles. Most of these jokes are bad anyway, and the creation of such awfulness indicates "envy of blondes" that has risen to diseased levels. Read for yourself:

Did you hear about the two blondes who froze to death in a drive-in movie? They went to see "Closed for the Winter."


Why did the blonde resolve to have only 3 children? She heard that 1 out of every 4 children born in the world was Chinese.


A blonde hurries into the emergency room late one night with the tip of her index finger shot off.

"How did this happen?" the emergency room doctor asked her.

"Well, I was trying to commit suicide," the blonde replied.

"What?" sputtered the doctor. "You tried to commit suicide by shooting your finger off?"

"No, Silly!" the blonde said. "First I put the gun to my chest, and I thought: I just paid $6,000.00 for these breast implants, I'm not shooting myself in the chest."

"So then?" asked the doctor.

"Then I put the gun in my mouth, and I thought: I just paid $3000.00 to get my teeth straightened, I'm not shooting myself in the mouth."

"So then?"

"Then I put the gun to my ear, and I thought: This is going to make a loud noise. So I put my finger in the other ear before I pulled thetrigger."


Did you hear about the near-tragedy at the mall? There was a power outage, and twelve blondes were stuck on the escalators for over four hours.


A blonde went to an eye doctor to have her eyes checked for glasses. The doctor directed her to read various letters with the left eye while covering the right eye. The blonde was so mixed up on which eye was which that the eye doctor, in disgust, took a paper lunch bag with a hole to see through, covered up the appropriate eye and asked her to read the letters. As he did so, he noticed the blonde had tears streaming down her face. "Look," said the doctor, "there's no need to get emotional about getting glasses.""I know," agreed the blonde, "but I kind of had my heart set on wire frames."


A blonde was shopping at a Target Store and came across a silver thermos. She was quite fascinated by it, so she picked it up and brought it over to the clerk to ask what it was. The clerk said, "Why, that's a keeps some things hot and some things cold." "Wow," said the blonde, "that's amazing....I'm going to buy it!" So she bought the thermos and took it to work the next day. Her boss saw it on her desk."What's that," he asked? "Why, that's a keeps hot things hot and cold things cold," shereplied. Her boss inquired, "What do you have in it?" The blond replied, "Two popsicles, and some coffee."

Monday, August 02, 2004


There was a blue moon on Saturday night, being the second full moon in July.

It was rather beautiful, especially when seen hanging over the rolling hills of Hampstead Heath. Cycling at night is a luxury of summer. The fumes of London have dissipated, while the cool night air is a haven from indoor stuffiness. With only one layer of clothing, the night temperature is ideal for feeling the air whizz over your body as you hum along on your own body's mechanics.

Astonishingly at dawn, there was fog on the Wanstead Flats. In July? There had been none in the Lea Valley, where perhaps the greater dampness kept the air just warm enough. But that just makes the Wanstead Flats special.

I went to Soho Pride yesterday evening and had a fabulous time. Met up with AJ, then bumped into R and D. There was a buzz on the streets that you don't find often, and it was just nice: not decadent, not over-exuberant, but the optimistic beginnings of jubilance. The music coming from the DJ at Archer/Rupert Street was sensational, and a Salvation-type crowd were making the most of it. Over on Soho Square there were stalls, a street bar and a bigger dance area, but was less impromptu. Also bumped into X, who was putting on for his own benefit his usual masquerade of narcissistic self-confidence. I wonder if it was a trait honed on the gay scene in the late Seventies/early Eighties. Looking back at what I saw of those times, it wouldn't be surprising. Physical/sexual narcissism was certainly a characteristic of that era.

M reads this, but what the hell.... We met up on Thursday and went to places that can't be described on a generic blog. One of his great pluses is the ability to read emotions and having the interest in reading them. Emotional communication using a wide vocabulary from the dictionary of human life is something that I always have found sadly lacking in other men. When it comes to emotions, most men are the equivalent of Sun Readers. Not that I have anything against Sun readers. In Emotional Dialect, the reader equivalents of Broadsheet newspapers often delude themselves into being fully apprised of the goings on in the world, when in fact they can be even more insular than the Sun reader. For there are those who can read, but are afraid to be fed information that they don't want to know. These are the men that each are an island.

I don't know where it will go. To a special friendship, hopefully. We'll play it by ear, live it for the moment, do it for each other's benefit and should it go or need to stop, so let it be.